When thinking about it, I'm not sure that there is any time of the year except Christmas and the December holidays that inspires so many new movies. There really are so many movies, that it could create its own genre. Netflix now has its very own holiday section, and many television series go off-air for the month of December so they can make way for all of the classic movies and specials that must be aired to get everyone into the holiday spirit. It helps. It's not until I watch my first Christmas movie that I feel as if the holiday is really on its way. Like Halloween, it is a time of year that I watch the same movies over and over and they truly never get old. It is always tough, because with the time off of work, I like to catch up on everything I might have missed throughout the year, but really just want to see some jingle bells ringing and snow flakes falling (that is a rare sight living in LA). So, here, I make a list of some of the best holiday movies that you should be watching right now.
I wrote this intending to be a singular list, but after writing ten, realized there were so many more that I had missed. I couldn't let this stand, as Cinephile Santa might come and put coal in my stocking, so stay tuned for part two of this list! No seriously, don't be sad if something isn't on here until you read that list, it might be coming. Also, these are in no particular order.
"Smiling's my favorite"; "Bye Buddy, hope you find your dad"; "You sit on a throne of lies"; "SANTA! OH MY GOD! SANTA'S COMING! I KNOW HIM! I KNOW HIM"; "I’m a cotton-headed ninny-muggins". There are so many quotable lines in Elf, it is hard to pick just one…or five. In this comedy Christmas classic, Will Ferrell stars as a man who was raised in the North Pole, but goes to New York in search of his real dad when he realizes he is not actually an Elf. I love a lot of Will Ferrell films, but this is one of my favorites. It is original, charming and sweet. . The entire cast is spectacular, and might actually be Peter Dinklage's best role and yes, that is over his character Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. It was one the earlier feature films Jon Favreau's directed, and he proved his talent quickly.
I'm not usually a huge RomCom fan, but this one is different. A perfect blend of romance, comedy and holidays makes Love Actually not only one of my favorite holiday movies, but one of my favorite movies in general. The best part is that it is a chick flick that even boys can endorse. It was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2004 for Best Comedy or Musical and Richard Curtis' amazing directorial talent is obvious. The film follows the lives of eight different couples and their love lives during the month before Christmas in London. Several stories are interrelated in surprising, yet very natural ways and they all explore relationships and the different types and stages of love. My favorite storyline changes each time I watch it, but I don't think anything can beat the two people who fall in love despite a language barrier. Le sigh.
All (most) of the National Lampoon's Vacation films are classics, but this might be my favorite. In typical Griswold fashion, Clark (Chevy Chase) is a well-meaning man that just can't seem to do anything right. I re-watched it again recently, and realized what a lack of physical comedy there is in movies these days. While Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo are constants of the franchise, this time Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki play the children brilliantly. Randy Quaid shows up as the white trash brother who doesn't really know how to function in society and as always, hilarity ensues. All Clark wants is his family together for the holidays and a house with about a million lights on it. Is that too much to ask?! Yes, Clark, yes, it is.
When first thinking of holiday films, I'm not sure that Die Hard would be one of the first to come to mind, however, it more than belongs on the list. It's Christmas Eve at Nakatomi Plaza and John McClane (Bruce Willis) has gone to meet his estranged wife at a holiday party in hopes of reconciliation. The party is spoiled when "terrorists" arrive to teach everyone at the company lessons about greed. But wait, who will comes to the rescue? Detective John McClane, of course. It was the film that started one of the best action franchises to date, and although it might not make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, it's definitely a film that can be watched over and over again at the holidays. Life doesn't stop for Christmas…and neither does John McClane.
PREP AND LANDING:
This is a fairly recent television special that I happened upon while preparing to watch a lady story (more on that later). I turned it on in the background and within minutes everyone in the room was glued to the show. It was made in 2009 as a computer animated special from Walt Disney Animation Studios and follows a team of elves who are responsible for preparing a child's house in preparation for Santa's arrival. When Wayne (voiced by Dave Foley) is passed up for a promotion he loses his Christmas spirit. After many disasters and Christmas is almost cancelled, he is reminded in a heartwarming way he has the best job in the world (hint: it has to do with making children happy). The production value is stunning and the writing is witty and funny and suitable for adults and children alike. It is available to watch on Hulu, and if you haven't seen it or heard of it, yet take 30 minutes and watch. There is also a sequel that has a different story, but is just as good as the first.
This might be a controversial choice, but I don't care, it makes me laugh. Before every teenager in the world knew Ryan Reynolds, he starred in this movie and it is awfully great. As in so awful its great. Reynolds plays guy who is now a hotshot record executive. He was very overweight in high school and has a lot to prove when he returns to his hometown in New Jersey at Christmas. Anna Faris plays his pop star ex-girlfriend who gets stuck with him and this becomes complicated while he is trying to win over the love of his life. I can't decide if it's actually good or I just watched it at the right time, but either way, watch it and don't be sorry.
Since the 1960s, there is no Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas season that is complete without a Charlie Brown special. It is also amazing that 50 years later, the theme of the special is as relevant now as it was back then. The story explores Charlie Brown's attempt to find his Christmas spirit, as the commercialization of the holiday has stolen that from him. The special is also the origin of the expression "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" that has come to indicate a sad, wilted and not full tree – just like the one Charlie Brown picks out for the pageant. However, in the end, Charlie's friends ban together to remind him that Christmas spirit comes from our family and friends and thankfully restores Charlie's faith in life and the holiday.
You can't do Christmas movies without the classics and Miracle on 34th Street definitely fits in that category. It was nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture. The movie follows the story of Kris Kringle, aka the real Santa Clause. The man is recruited to be Santa at Macy's, but is later institutionalized when nobody believes he is actually the big red guy. His friend and lawyer defend his mental state in court and try to prove he is not crazy. In the end, you guess it, everyone learns about the true spirit of Christmas.
If you have never heard Santa say fuck – you should. Anything but a children's movie, Bad Santa is possibly one of the best and is by far the dirtiest holiday movie around. It is also not common for a Christmas film to also be a crime caper, but Bad Santa breaks all sorts of rules. The story revolves around a miserable and hateful conman (Billy Bob Thornton) and his "little" helper who rob department stores on Christmas Eve. Yes, that is as mean as it sounds. However, things begin to change when Willie befriends a trouble kid. This Santa is dirty, mean and everything that Santa Claus is not supposed to be, which is one of the things that makes it so very incredible.
Macaulay Culkin put his hands on his face and screams. Enough said.