Merry Christmas, one and all! Today is a day to open presents, crack open the box of hot chocolate mix, and get yourself full of that spirit. Many of us enjoy indulging in the traditional activities of the season–and for my family, that includes watching movies. From ones that are specifically Christmas themed, to those that somewhat compliment the season, here are some of my favorite movies (good and some “so bad they’re good”) to check out during this most festive of days.
10) Defending Your Life
This is a bit of a weird one, so let me explain. Back in my childhood, my parents made some sort of bizarre tradition by popping in this underappreciated classic every Christmas morning, and making cinnamon buns. I still to this day don’t know how it started, but since then, this movie, in my mind, has always been part of my seasonal celebrating. The story is of a guy who gets killed in a car accident (Al Brooks), and finds himself in this weird limbo world between Heaven and Earth. Here he has to defend his life (hence the title) so he can prove that he is worthy of moving forward. During this, he meets Julie (Meryl Streep), a golden example of a human being who is everything he ever wanted back in his mortal life. Cheesy, adorable, and heartwarming, it might not be a traditional Christmas movie, but it is definitely the one that puts me in that comfy spirit.
9) A Christmas Story
Similar to number 10, A Christmas Story is a movie that got put into my family’s holiday morning routine. Some will argue that this film is “stupid” and isn’t really funny–but I am of a certain group that finds it to be a classic. Why? Because even though it’s a story that takes place in the 1930s, it rings pretty true to the shenanigans my family goes through on Christmas and all year round. Scenes like the dream sequences of Ralphie with the BB-Gun, the famous Bunny Suit, and my favorite–“The Major Award”–still hold a special silly place in my heart. Quotable, and never gets old, A Christmas Story will always be part of my cinnamon bun rotation.
8) Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Maybe it is the initial setting of winter at Beast’s castle, or the lingering feeling that B-level sequel has on me, but something about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast reads “Christmas Movie” in big, ’90s letters (even more than Enchanted Christmas itself). From the opening scene, to “Something There,” this movie remains timeless for a reason, and has the spark and romance that I require year round, but especially during Christmas. If watching Belle and Beast throw snowballs at each other doesn’t give you a big surge of holiday spirit, I don’t know what will.
7) The Nutcracker Prince
Once in a while, I like to sprinkle these lists with a movie you might not have ever heard of. Sure, you and the rest of the world probably know the famous tale of The Nutcracker, but I’m sure you’ve never heard/seen this adaptation. What makes this one special are two very important things: it is trying so hard to be of the quality of the Disney Renaissance (and kind of fails, but not completely), and it stars Kiefer Sutherland as the title character. These two facts made this movie easy bait for this ’90s kid, and I was instantly hooked.
But, in my adult years, this is one of those movies I have reserved for private, laughing to myself at the general ridiculousness kind of movies. Honestly, it is pretty laughably bad, but in that adorable way that Don Bluth’s later work is as well. Sure the animation is questionable, and the pacing of the story makes little to no sense, but there is a good movie trying to seep out of the cracks–and that I appreciate. With an ending that’s still pretty terrifying, and my love of the Kiefer, The Nutcracker Prince still makes the rounds for me during the season.
6) Babes in Toyland (’80s)
I’m pretty sure you could have guessed this one. Similar to number 6, this version of Babes in Toyland is a nostalgic trip down bad movie lane. Even as a little kid, I knew this one was questionable at best. But with each passing year, its hilarious cheap quality never stops entertaining me. From the super creeping Barnaby, to the “Academy Award winning performance” of Keanu Reeves as Jack, I continue to find new things in this one to make me chuckle. And seriously, how can you go wrong with Pat Morita as (essentially) Santa? Spoiler Alert: you can’t.
5) Muppet Christmas Carol
In my honest opinion, this is the best film adaptation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, bar none. Why? Because it is the most faithful and has actual dialog from the story, plus Charles Dicken’s actual narration, threaded throughout. I know those facts are silly to think of, coming from a movie starring The Muppets, but its true. Gonzo, Rizzo, Kermit and the rest of the gang knock it out of the park on this one, and with the tunes of the genuis Paul Williams, and Michael Caine getting into the action, this will always be a classic.
4) White Christmas
Nothing says Christmas to me quite like the tunes of Irving Berlin and the sweet sound of Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby singing together. White Christmas is a classic for a reason–it is “AMERICA” in the best way possible, full of heart, adorable humor, and some of the best Berlin numbers ever written. It supplies the best smiles of that era for its genre, and whenever I have an excuse to watch Danny Kaye dance, I’m happy. And even with the questionable history of Mr. Crosby, his chemistry with Rosemary Clooney is electric here, and even when they were talking about eating weird sounding sandwiches in the middle of the night, I was captivated. Dancing, Old School American Pride, and Christmas–this is what film is made to capture, a specific cheery moment in time–and White Christmas does it best.
3) The Polar Bear King
Sometimes there are movies you see during Christmas that though they aren’t directly about the holiday, always symbolize the season to you. So in a theme similar to number 10, The Polar Bear King is definitely one of those kinds of films. I was very young, and my mom purchased a VHS copy of it for me from Caldors (
yes, now you know my age) and ever since it has become like an old, slightly crazy friend, that I invite for the holidays over and over again.
The plot is essentially based on the fairy tale Kvitebjørn kong Valemon, but has some small deviations here and there. What stands out the most is the amazing (for the time) puppetry by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Though to some it will seem dated, to me its magical and nostalgic to the core and I think for fans of fantasy and similar films like Labyrinth, there’s clearly a charm to it. It is definitely aimed at kids and shows in its limited dialog and overly abundant narration. But regardless, it’s still a lovely little movie to enjoy, one I never get tired of.
This is another one that some will debate if it is, indeed, a Christmas movie. And considering I put it on this list, I definitely have always viewed it as one. Hook might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly is mine. Why? Well it’s got a lot going for it. For starters, it’s one of the few interesting adaptations of Peter Pan that expands on the story, but doesn’t lose the “Pan Feel” like the new movie Pan did in the worst way possible. Also, this is easily one of Robin William’s best performances. He’s having the time of his life here, and is so charming (
and dare I say oddly attractive?) that you can’t stop looking at him, particularly when he embodies his true self. Dustin Hoffman was the perfect choice for Captain Hook, and disappears into the role. And of course the tiny things like Rufio, the Lost Boys, John William’s underrated score–seriously, this gives me all the feels, and just happens to take place during the most magical time of year. Bang-a-rang for sure!
1) Little Women (1994)
Though not taking place only during Christmas, something about Little Women perfectly captures the feeling of the holiday for me. There’s such a warmth and beauty to this adaptation, which has to do a lot with the casting. Maybe there was something in the water in 1994, but every single person in this movie seemed to work together with the rest of the cast flawlessly. From Winona Ryder as Jo, to even (slightly annoying) Kirsten Dunst as young Amy, everyone was at their best. Oh, and there’s also young Christian Bale and an adorable Eric Stoltz–can’t go wrong with those choices either. But casting aside, the story embodies everything I love about Christmas–the bonds of family, even though rocky, never go away and neither does the heart and magic of this movie.
So those are my favorite movies to watch during Christmas! What are yours? Comment below and give us your list. Are any of these movies on there? Have you seen any of them? Did you ever buy an awkward amount of Furbies at Caldor’s? Tell us all your Christmas feels. And until next time, Happy Holidays, readers!