When it comes to Christmas movies, everyone has a list of personal favorites. For your reading pleasure, I have decided to offer you a few of mine. Be warned. Some of the “classics” are not on this list because, truth be told, I loathe them. As for some of the other more … offbeat selections, what can I say? It’s my list. If you want to argue with me, feel free to do so in the comments below.
THE FINEST IN CHRISTMASTIME ENTERTAINMENT:
10. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Clause Conquers the Martians (1989). If you’ve never heard of Mystery Science 3000, all I can say is this: get thee to Netflix! The conceit is simple. A man and two robots are trapped on a spaceship hurtling through the cosmos. To pass the time, they watch amazingly bad movies while offering up satiric commentary of the highest caliber. Truly, a work of art.
9. Die Hard (1988). While technically not really a “Christmas” movie, per se, the terrorists do strike while the office workers are enjoying a holiday party. And if you can’t find some measure of joy in John McClane gunnin’ down some European baddies, well … perhaps you just don’t see the slightly less-than-obvious connections between fighting terrorists and Christmas.
8. The Nativity Story (2006). If you watch this film, and I sincerely hope that you do, you’re probably going to be struck by two impressions. First, you’re going to really appreciate what they were able to communicate about the lives of Joseph and Mary in a Roman-occupied Israel. Secondly, you’re going to wish this movie was so much more than it really is.
7. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). To be clear, we’re talking about the work of the one an only Theodore Geisel as interpreted by the animation of the incomparably awesome, Chuck Jones. If you don’t care for this masterpiece, all I can offer you is this simple warning:you may be in danger of having a heart that is “two sizes too small.”
6. A Midnight Clear (1992). Set in 1944 France, an American Intelligence Squad locates a German Platoon wishing to surrender rather than die in Germany’s final and futile offensive push. Isolated from the concerns of the politicians that control their fate, these two groups of men agree to put aside their differences for the sake of spending one Christmas together. The only question is, can the truce last?
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). This is the very best semi-deranged, stop-motion filmmaking you are likely to see this Christmas season. When Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, discovers Christmastown, he enlists the aide of some rather unusual ghouls, ghosts and goblins to help him celebrate a new kind of Christmas, in a decidedly Halloween kind of way.
4. Gremlins (1984). There is something beautifully subversive about a Christmas movie that so gleefully embraces the notion that the things we so desperately want are often the things that come back to terrorize and haunt us. Materialists and consumerists beware. This surprisingly well-crafted satire is looking right at you and your wanton consumption.
3. Love Actually (2003). Some will find fault with me for including this film on the list. And there is no doubt that one particular storyline requires the viewer to look away rather frequently. But there is something that I absolutely love about this film and its quest to explore the roots of love. And to not include it would be dishonest as it truly is a favorite of mine. In fact, it may just be my favorite dramedy of all time.
2. Elf (2003). Buddy was a baby in an orphanage who stowed away in Santa’s sack and ended up at the North Pole. Later, as an adult human who happened to be raised by elves, Santa allows him to go to New York City to find his birth father, a man confined to the naughty-list. Of all this films on this list, this may be the most quotable. In fact, I dare you to “Say elf one more time!”
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). Repelled by the blatant commercialism that he sees all around him, Charlie Brown seeks in vein to find a single soul that understands the true meaning of Christmas. From sad-sack Christmas trees to Linus’ triumphant teaching in the end, this is unquestionably the single most note-perfect Christmas movie of all time.
SOME HONORABLE MENTIONS:
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). Oddly enough, not one single version of the classic Dickens’ tale was able to crack my Top-10. And in spite of it’s slightly manipulative tugging at the heart strings, I really do like the story. In fact, the Patrick Stewart production is probably my favorite version. But in the end, how can you give the nod to Stewart when this version has Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit?
A Christmas Story (1983). This film’s inability to crack my personal Top-10 truly surprised me. I have always said that this is a personal favorite around the holidays, but when it came time to craft the list, “double-dog daring” and tongues stuck to frozen lamp posts just couldn’t propel this film across the finish line. Still, a fun film worthy of an honorable mention.
Joyeux Noel (2006). On Christmas Eve during World War I, the Germans, French, and Scottish fraternize and get to know the men who live on the opposite side of a brutal war, in what became a true lesson of humanity. When it came down to putting a wartime flick in the Top-10, it was a toss-up between this and A Midnight Clear. And for whatever it’s worth, I’m not sure I made the right call.
ABOMINATIONS OF THE WORST ORDER (from the merely ghastly and grotesque to the apocalyptically awful!):
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). I may never forgive either Ron Howard or Jim Carrey for the inane psychobabble and screechy noise that they needlessly injected into this most whimsical of Christmas tales. They had a wondrous short-story and an even more-inspired animated adaptation to build upon. And what did they do? They strip-mined it of any joy or ability to charm. Shame on both of you, gentlemen. Shame on both of you …
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Ah yes. Here at last, at the very end of our Christmas list, beneath such “classics” as Santa Slay and Silent Night, Deadly Night lays this sentimental mess of a film. If Dickens’ original tale already teetered on the edge of sappy, mawkishness, this film takes the source material and swan dives right over the edge of the cliff into the very depths of sanctimonious, saccharine goo.
Care to comment? Care to argue? The boards are now open …