Well, that time of year has rolled around again already. Darkness falls earlier every evening now, the once brilliantly colored trees have lost all those lovely leaves, and the unmistakably foreboding chill in the air from time to time means winter soon will make its inevitable appearance. The good news, however, is that the holidays are upon us, and no matter how dark, cold, and gloomy it may be outside, the warmth of love glows brightly inside as families gather to watch the incomparable excitement twinkle in the eyes of children and grandchildren as they await the magical visit from Santa on Christmas Eve.
The arrival of Christmas also means that television stations will be airing some of the great seasonal films Hollywood has turned out over the years. Of course, all movie buffs have their respective list of favorites, and I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you the 10 films I look forward to seeing this time of year. No doubt you have seen most or all of these, but they are always worth watching again, and if you haven’t seen any of them, be sure to do so because all of them are true classics. Let’s have a look.
10. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” – 1989
Every year when the Christmas tree goes up in our house, I can’t help thinking of poor Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase), who wants nothing more than to provide a perfect Christmas for his family. But Clark is one of those poor guys who have a black cloud of bad luck hanging over him, and absolutely nothing goes right for him.
His problems with stringing lights on his house and putting up his tree are bad enough, but when his redneck brother (Randy Quaid) shows up, things really get out of hand. This hilarious film also stars Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Be sure to spend a holiday evening with Clark and his family. You’ll never forget the experience.
9. “Bad Santa” – 2003
First and foremost be forewarned that this Santa movie is not suitable for children. In fact, it’s rated R because it is rife with profanity spewed from the mouth of Billy Bob Thornton in the role of the most outrageous department store Santa you have ever seen. Willie (Thornton) is an embittered alcoholic who smokes and swears incessantly and who uses the Christmas season to pose as Santa during the day so that he can rob the department store where he is working by night.
He and his diminutive partner (Tony Cox) have a nice thing going until Willie suddenly learns from a least likely source that he actually had a heart. You haven’t lived until you have see children climb onto Santa Billy Bob’s lap to tell him what they want for Christmas.
8. “Die Hard” – 1988
Although this fantastic action thriller in which Bruce Willis created John McClane, that virtually indestructible New York City Police detective, has nothing to do with Santa’s visit, it qualifies as a Christmas movie because the incredible action takes place on Christmas Eve.
McClane has traveled to Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles, where he hopes to patch things up with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedalia) at a Christmas party, but he soon finds himself attempting to prevent 12 terrorists from taking over the plaza to execute a huge heist. The film is one of the best in its genre, and McClane’s final words to the terrorists are far from “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
7. “Rudloph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” — 1964
Although I’m not a huge fan of animation, no list of great Christmas films would be complete without the 1964 version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” featuring the voices of Billie Mae Richards as Rudolph and the incomparable Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman, the narrator of the story.
Ever since it first aired 52 years ago, this delightful yarn about how a young reindeer overcomes his had “handicap” of a glowing red nose and wins the friendship of his fellow reindeer has been a staple on TV during the Christmas season. If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself, and you’ll see why it’s an absolute classic.
6. “Prancer” – 1989
This heartwarming film would be a wonderful choice to watch with the children on Christmas Eve. Rebecca Harrell is irresistible as 8-year-old Jessica Riggs, who lives on an apple farm with her father, John (Sam Elliott). Her mother died several years ago, and John is struggling to raise his daughter and son and keep the farm going. Despite the tragedy that has touched her, Jessica celebrates life, and she particularly loves Christmas. One day she discovers an injured reindeer, and she soon comes to believe that the animal is Santa’s Prancer.
She cares for the reindeer despite some opposition, and she ends up touching the lives of many in the town, including a reclusive old woman beautifully portrayed by Cloris Leachman. If you didn’t believe that reindeer really know how to fly before this, you will after you watch this superbly touching Christmas film.
5. “A Christmas Story” – 1983
An instant holiday favorite from the day it was released, this wonderfully entertaining film appeals to the youngster in all of us. Set against the backdrop of the 1940s, it tells the story of 9-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), who wants Santa to bring him only one present – a Red Ryder Daisy BB gun. The only problem is that no one Ralphie knows thinks he should have such a thing because he will “shoot his eye out.”
Told through the technique of voiceover ala “The Wonder Years,” the movie is at once funny, moving, and nostalgic. I could really identify with Ralphie because when I was his age, I wore out several of those very guns he desperately wants.
4. “White Christmas” – 1954
No list of great holiday films would be complete without this timeless classic starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.
In addition to plenty of comedy and romance, the film features the marvelous music of Irving Berlin, and the title song as sung by Crosby truly is incomparable. If you’ve never seen this one, you’ve been missing a very special holiday present from Hollywood.
3. “A Christmas Carol” — 1951
Although countless adaptations of Charles Dickens’ marvelous 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol” have appeared on both the silver screen and television, my favorite remains the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim as the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge. Not only does Sim turn in a masterful performance, but the black and white film is much more effective in capturing the atmosphere of the time than are the more modern color films.
Watching the miserly Scrooge learn the true meaning of Christmas through a series of frightening visions, serves as a reminder to everyone what a special time of year it is. This film truly is a timeless classic.
2. “Miracle on 34th Street” — 1947
Yes, children, there is a Santa Claus, and all those with doubts have to do to be convinced is watch this truly beautiful film starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and 8-year-old Natalie Wood. A respectable remake came out in 1994, but I highly recommend the much more endearing original.
Gwenn’s portrayal of the Macy’s Santa, who insists that his real name is Kris Kingle, will make you a believer, and the courtroom scene near the end of the film is one of the most touching moments in the history of cinema. I never miss a showing of this great movie during the holidays, and yes, I still believe in Santa.
1.“It’s A Wonderful Life” – 1946
Movies simply do not get any better than this one, which is universally recognized as one of the best films ever made. I firmly believe that James Stewart is the finest movie actor who ever lived, and his heart-wrenching portrayal of the beleaguered George Bailey in this great movie offers plenty of support for my opinion. If I could watch only one film during the holiday season, this would be it.
Its message about finding wealth in a place other than dollars and cents is timeless, and anyone who can watch the ending with dry eyes just doesn’t have a heart. Directed by the legendary Frank Capra, the film also stars Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, and Henry Travers. Don’t miss this one because it will make you realize just how wonderful life can be.
Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful and joyous Christmas season. Happy viewing!