A list from the esoteric brains behind Filmhash. If you have a list topic, e-mail us!
We here at Filmhash love Christmas, but some years it takes a little longer to get into the spirit of things. This season is going too fast, but we didn’t want to let it pass by without sharing some of our favorite Christmas films.
Here are some of Jill’s favorites:
A Christmas Carol (1951)
A Christmas Carol is a classic tale that has been remade several times over the last 60 years, but it’s Alastair Sim’s Scrooge that really makes the holidays sing for me. Sim embodies the crotchetiness of the beloved Mr. Scrooge so well, that in fact, I really refuse to see any other version of the story around Christmas time (which probably says a lot about me). And as cliche as it sounds, the timeless black and white quality of the film is bound to take you away to a simpler time devoid of the modern headaches the holidays seem to bring to us all. Note: This film is best watched with Christmas tree lights aglow, snow falling outside, and hot cocoa in hand.
A Christmas Story
If you don’t like this movie then there is something wrong with you. Just kidding. But not really. Ryan doesn’t like this movie. That makes me sad, and somewhere in the North Pole, Santa’s Elves are crying. But I digress. A Christmas Story isn’t for everyone (my parents aren’t impressed either), but I still think it deserves a place on this list. Hell, the Family Channel runs it 24 hours straight every Christmas Day! I love the way the film captures the experience of children at Christmas and the excitement that ensues when in the pursuit of the prefect Christmas present.
The Santa Clause
One of the funniest Christmas movies ever, this modern classic tells the tale of a normal single dad thrust into the role of Santa Claus. The characters are rich and rounded out, and I especially enjoy the performances of Judge Reinhold as a stepdad non-believer, and of course David Krumholtz steals every scene he is in as the head elf, Bernard. I always love explanations for portions of the Santa Claus myths, like the Rankin-Bass Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, and this film wonderfully updates them for the modern era, like “How does Santa get into houses without a chimney?”
A Nightmare Before Christmas
In some ways, this is a perfect holiday film, if only because you can watch it straight from October to December. It basically answers the question: What happens if you take the demented genius of Tim Burton, the music of Danny Elfman, and add the debut of stop motion wizard Henry Selick (marking his feature directing debut). This is a fun, gothic romp through both Halloween and Christmas, and allows for an interesting contrast between how we celebrate the holidays. One of our favorite moments from the film is this musical sequence:
In this newer family film, Will Ferrell brings his manchild comic sensibilities to the spirit of the holidays. Taking plot cues from the classic TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it features a someone who finds out he doesn’t fit into his idealized elf society. Also utilized well is a spot-on supporting cast featuring James Caan, Bob Newhart, and the always lovely Zoeey Deschanel.
And here are some of Ryan’s favorites:
A sort of follow-up to 1942’s Holiday Inn, this film takes its name from the song that won the previous Irving Berlin film the Oscar for best original song. The plot is kind of convoluted (not unlike the previous sentence), and by today’s notions feels pretty contrived. The draw here is the music. Many of these songs are classic in their own right, and Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are some of the best performers ever.
It’s a Wonderful Life
The acme me of all holiday-themed films, I’m not sure what else I can say about this venerable classic. It makes me laugh, choke up with emotion, and rejoice in the joy that is one man’s life. You could write volumes about this film, and rightly so. One of the all time greats.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
There are an almost uncountable number of adaptations of my favorite all time story, and the Muppet version is surprisingly faithful to Dickens’ tale, and full of humor and heart. Like all of the Muppet films it mixes human and puppet performances, with Kermit playing the role of Bob Cratchit, and Gonzo playing Dickens himself, in the role as an active narrator. Michael Caine is an excellent Scrooge, and the “casting” of brand new Muppets in the Ghost roles adds a nice touch of class. Add in some great songs, and you have a classic interpretation of one of the greatest stories ever told.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
We watch this every year in my home, and for good reason. This may be the funniest movie in the Vacation series, and definitely some of Chevy Chase’s best film work. He reprises his role of Clark Griswold, all-American suburban Dad hell-bent on having “the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby danced with Danny fucking Kaye!” Everything that can go wrong basically does go wrong, and really what makes this movie great is that we’ve all had that Christmas. Family makes everything better, and worse, and you just have to ride out the holidays that way. The supporting cast is hysterical, including Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as a yuppie neighbor, and Randy Quaid as crazy Cousin Eddie.
This is a true Christmas classic. My brother and I now watch this every Christmas Eve after my mom goes to bed. It’s simply about a cop who just wants to get his family back together for Christmas, and nothing will stop him. Not even terrorists who happen to be holding his wife hostage. This is one of the greatest action movies of all time, with each sequence feeling inventive some 30 years later. Alan Rickman is also excellent as the terrorist leader Hans Gruber.