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I can’t think of anything I love more than Christmas movies. I start watching them the minute they come on the Hallmark Channel in October and watch as many of them as I can get my hands on. Some of them are good, some not so good, but I really don’t care. I will watch any Christmas movie at least once. My daughter shares my affinity for Christmas movies and even has the Hallmark Channel app on her phone, which automatically schedules all the movie on her calendar. 🙂
But I definitely do have my favorites and it’s not quite a complete Christmas season until I have seen all of them. I want to share them with you, in no particular order except for my number one all-time favorite forever.
White Christmas: This is a classic from 1954 and stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt) and Vera-Ellen. Crosby and Kaye play war buddies who have a singing and dancing act and they meet two sisters who also have an act. They all join up to help the general the two men served under during the war. He runs a struggling inn in Vermont but wants to get back into the military.
The plot of the movie involves the scheme to put on a big show and get lots of people to come to the inn. There are some great songs in this movie. The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing. Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye might as well be dancing on air in this number.
Vera-Ellen is, in my opinion, one of the most underappreciated actresses of that era. I’ve heard that her singing was usually dubbed by other singers, but her dancing is incredible. She has the tiniest waist and some of the most gorgeous legs I’ve ever seen on a dancer. She was also in On The Town with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Why she wasn’t more widely famous is beyond me.
Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby singing Sisters is hilarious and they even crack themselves up. And White Christmas is just an iconic Christmas song. This is just a good old-fashioned sappy Christmas movie.
A Charlie Brown Christmas: Classic. Poor Charlie Brown just doesn’t get the meaning of Christmas and is discouraged by all the commercialism. This movie came out in the ’60’s. Can you imagine how depressed Charlie Brown would be by TODAY’S commercialization of Christmas? Linus knows the meaning of Christmas and sweetly explains it to everyone. I love that scene in the movie when Linus says, “Lights, please” before explaining the meaning of the holiday. Gets me every time.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Oh how I love Rudolph. This one came out in 1964. I may be partial but I really don’t think a decent animated Christmas movie has come out since the 60’s. The duo of Rankin and Bass reigned supreme in the genre of stop-action Christmas specials. This one has great songs–Silver and Gold, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, There’s Always Tomorrow,–the list goes on.
Rudolph pairs up with Hermie, a misfit elf who wants to be a dentist. They decide to be “independent together” and meet Yukon Cornelius and visit the Island of Misfit Toys. The toys want Rudolph to make sure Santa comes to their island and picks them up in time for Christmas, in hopes of being loved by a child.
Let me briefly address the reindeer in the room. 🙂 I’ve been hearing about how there is a movement afoot to not air Rudolph anymore because it’s sexist. Detractors cite the scene where Rudolph has run away, his parents are concerned and Rudolph’s dad starts off to look for him. Rudolph’s mom wants to come too but Donner tells her no because looking for Rudolph is “man’s work.”
This movie was made in the ’60’s, which arguably was a sexist era. The social climate of the ’60’s gave way to a feminist movement. I am able to watch this movie without being offended by a possibly sexist cartoon reindeer. 🙂 Yeah, he could have said it nicer, but maybe Donner was concerned for his wife’s safety. It is the North Pole, after all. Lots of icebergs and Abominable Snowmen running around. It is also important to note that Mrs. Donner didn’t listen to him and she and Clarice took off on their own to look for Rudolph.
When I watch Rudolph, (and I grew up in that era) I am not triggered into a sexist flashback because Donner doesn’t want Rudolph’s mom to come help look for him. 🙂 I just love the music and the story line that shows us that it’s okay to be different and we all have talents that we can contribute.
Rant over. On to the next. 🙂
Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Another great animated Christmas movie. This one answers all the questions we have as children about Santa Claus and how he came to be who he is. Narrated by the lovely dancer Fred Astaire, he gently explains to us how all the Christmas traditions came to be. And there’s a great villain–the Burgermeister Meisterberger who bans toys after he slips on one and breaks his leg. In the end Santa prevails and Christmas is saved.
Elf: This movie is one of those that came out in the early 2000’s and quickly became a favorite. Will Ferrell is so goofy and just the perfect choice to play Buddy the Elf. He finds out how he became an elf then leaves the North Pole to find out more about his roots. He’s so innocent and sweet while trying to navigate New York City.
James Caan is perfect as Buddy’s cranky dad and Mary Steenburgen is lovely as Buddy’s kind stepmother. There’s great music in this one, none better than Will Ferrell’s duet with Zooey Deschanel, Baby It’s Cold Outside. The movie also stars Bob Newhart, Peter Dinklage and Ed Asner as Santa. Maybe the reason I love this movie is because it is partially an homage to the Rankin and Bass stop-action movies from the 60’s.
Because of lagging Christmas spirit, Santa’s sleigh is having trouble keeping enough juice to make it around the world in one night. Buddy the Elf has to show everyone how important Christmas spirit is. It’s just a sweet feel-good Christmas movie. “Santa!!! I KNOW HIM!!” 🙂
Love Actually: Let me preface this one by saying I would watch ANYTHING that Colin Firth is in. Anything. 🙂 This movie is one of those with about 150 famous cast members, and a Christmas favorite chick flick. Besides the aforementioned Mr. Firth, it stars Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, the late great Alan Rickman (Snape from Harry Potter), Andrew Lincoln (from The Walking Dead), Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and many others.
There are at least ten different plot lines going on in this movie, all coming together in the end. The soundtrack is gorgeous, the movie is funny, heartbreaking, and sweet all at the same time. If you can sit through Andrew Lincoln professing his love for Keira Knightley with the cue cards without tearing up, you need to watch it again. 🙂 And Colin Firth learning Portuguese to speak to the girl he loves is one of the best movie scenes of all time.
This is a very British movie, and it follows the stories of many different people whose lives are intertwined at Christmas. One word of caution if you’re planning to watch it as a family: watch the TV version on a network channel. The “cable” version or DVD will probably include the plot line that involves some unnecessary sex scenes. You won’t miss them by watching the cleaner version. Whichever version you choose, just watch it and see if it doesn’t become a yearly favorite.
The Family Man: This one is a little more obscure, but is on TV at least once every holiday season. It stars Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni, who were in love in college but didn’t end up together. Or did they? Nicholas Cage’s character, Jack, gets a glimpse of his life if he had chosen to marry Tea Leoni’s character Kate rather than becoming the high powered stock broker he left her to become.
Don Cheadle plays the “angel” who gives Jack the chance to see his life differently. Jack finds himself drowning in suburban mediocrity in New Jersey and begins desperately trying to get back to his life as a single guy in New York City. But as is always the case, he begins to surrender to his life as a married father, and when it comes time to go back to his life, he wants to stay with his family.
It’s a sweet movie that really makes you wonder about how your life would have turned out if you had made different choices. Just like with Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, everything that happens occurs in time for Jack to try to fix everything by Christmas Day.
Speaking of A Christmas Carol, this is one of my favorites too. But I am partial to a particular one. This movie has been made and remade so many times, even with the Muppets! 🙂 The version I like is from 1951 and stars Alastair Sim. And it has to be in black and white. This movie, along with many others, has been colorized over the years. I don’t care for colorized movies. They look weird. Plus, this movie is much scarier in black and white.
We all know the story of Charles Dickens’s character Ebenezer Scrooge and his miserly ways. He hates Christmas because of all the joy and good cheer, and terrorizes anyone who tries to enjoy it. But he is visited by the Ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. He realizes how wrong he has been and transforms into a better person. If you haven’t seen this version, I’d encourage you to try it. It’s pretty true to the novel, and Alastair Sim is hard to beat as Scrooge.
Holiday in Handcuffs: Please tell me you’ve seen this one. 🙂 It came out in 2007 on TV as part of ABC Family’s famous 25 Days of Christmas. It stars Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez. Melissa Joan Hart plays Trudie, a girl who is an aspiring artist who doesn’t quite have it all together yet and is under a lot of parental pressure to do so.
Right before Christmas, she messes up a job interview and her boyfriend breaks up with her, causing her to freak out. She works in a restaurant, and in her despair, she kidnaps Mario Lopez’s character who is a customer there and takes him to the remote cabin where her family is staying for the holidays. She tells her family he is her boyfriend Nick. He tries to resist and even escape several times, but then decides to go along with the ruse once he sees the pressure Trudie is under from her family. There are also some secrets going on with Trudie’s brother, sister, and parents that all come out over a hilarious dinner scene.
“Nick,” whose name is actually David, has a career and rich snooty girlfriend and comes to realize during his time with Trudie that he wants to change his life and do something he loves. I won’t spoil how it all turns out, so I hope you’ll watch this one to find out. I’ve already checked and it’s on Freeform, which used to be ABC Family, several times this month.
Three Days: This is another Christmas movie that aired on ABC Family back in the early 2000’s. It stars Kristen Davis (from Sex and the City) as Beth, and Reed Diamond as her husband Andrew. They are married high school sweethearts who have hit a marital rough patch due to Andrew’s career and possible infidelity.
On Christmas Eve, Beth is tragically killed after being hit by a car. Enter Tim Meadows as an angel, who tells Andrew he can have the last three days back to try to treat Beth differently and give her a special Christmas. But he is not allowed to change any events leading up to her fate. He has to figure out the gift to give her that will save her life. So Andrew spends the next three days with Beth trying to figure out what the gift is. Of course they begin to fall in love with each other again during those three days.
This one is harder to find. They used to show it every year around Christmas on ABC Family, but we recorded it because it doesn’t seem to come on as often as it used to. But if you see it or can rent or buy it, I think you’ll like it.
A Royal Christmas: This is a Hallmark movie starring Lacy Chabert, Stephen Hagan, and Jane Seymour. If you watch the Hallmark Channel, you know there are so many little European principalities we never knew about with errant princes living in America and falling in love with commoners their royal parents do not approve of. 🙂
This is my favorite of all those movies with that story line. Leopold (or Leo, as he is known in Philadelphia) falls in love with Emily, a seamstress who wants to be a fashion designer, and finally reveals to her that he is expected to take over the throne in his country of Cordinia. Jane Seymour is the queen of Cordinia and his icy mother. He takes Emily home to meet his mother for Christmas.
Of course she doesn’t approve of Emily and plots to convince Leopold that Emily would be an unsuitable choice for a wife. She tries to fix him up with a fellow royal girl from his past. As is always the case in these movies, the American is dreadfully out of place with royal protocol, but there is always a kindly butler or valet who takes pity on the American and teaches her the ways of the palace.
Things become very difficult for Leopold and Emily as they realize how different their lives are from each other’s. As with all Hallmark movies though, there’s a happy ending so you can rest easy while watching this one knowing that everyone comes to their senses in the end and agrees that “the American” will bring much needed life to the realm, and Leo and Emily belong together. 🙂
And finally, my all-time favorite Christmas movie, and maybe favorite movie of all time: It’s a Wonderful Life. It is absolutely not Christmas for me if I don’t see this classic at least once during December. Made in 1946, it stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a selfless guy who has let his own ambitions and dreams go by the wayside in order to help other people. Donna Reed stars as his wife Mary, and Lionel Barrymore stars as the evil Mr. Potter, the richest man in town who treats everyone as his own personal minion.
The movie opens with George Bailey contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve because his business is in financial trouble and he thinks he’s worth more to his family dead than alive. His plan is thwarted by the appearance of his darling guardian angel, Clarence Oddbody, Angel 2nd Class.
Clarence doesn’t have his wings yet, and has asked if he will finally earn them if he helps George, and he is told that he will definitely get his wings after this assignment. So he shows George what his town of Bedford Falls would be like if George had never been born. George gets to see how different the lives of all the people he loves would have turned out without him.
His absence affects his mother, uncle, brother, friends, and his wife who ends up a spinster who doesn’t tweeze her eyebrows without George there to impress. 🙂 Clarence tries to show George that he really did have a wonderful life. George finds out what it really means to be “rich” in life.
It is so hard for me to believe that this movie did not do well when it was first released. It has become such a classic and a Christmas movie staple for so many families. This is another one that was tragically colorized in the 80’s but thankfully that trend disappeared and I haven’t seen a colorized version in years. It is perfection in black and white as it first appeared.
This is a story about selflessness and pouring yourself into other people, and redemption and coming to the realization that despite how awful life can seem sometimes, there is always good to be found. If you haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life, please promise me you will watch it this Christmas season.
I know there are hundreds of great Christmas movies, and we all have our favorites. I just wanted to share my faves with you in case you’ve missed a few of these. I would love to know what your must-see Christmas movies are. Please share them in the comment section so that I can check them out! I’ve always got time to watch a Christmas movie. 🙂
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