My Top 15 Favorite Christmas Movies

This year I spent Christmas Day at home; it was so peaceful and relaxing.  It was the best present I could have given myself.  One of the things I did was to reorganize my movie closet and get it back in shape so I could find the DVDs better.  It also caused me to pause and reflect on my favorite Christmas movies.  Here they are in Top 10 format, which reflects how I feel this year.  This will most likely change next year and for many years after.  Post your top 15 list in the comments section!

15. “Jingle All the Way”

This Arnold-vehicle also stars Sinbad and the late great Phil Hartman.  Hartman’s smarm makes this one funny enough to get on the list above other honorable mentions like “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “Polar Express”.  One of the biggest criteria I have when critiquing art and entertainment is that I have to feel something and I remember seeing this in the theater and getting a touch choked up both at the beginning with Arnold’s character lets his son down and then again when he saves the day at the end.  Try to catch it on cable next year if they show it.

14. “Fred Claus”

This newer Christmas film won me over with a couple of things.  One, the performance of Paul Giamatti as a neurotic Santa Claus is refreshing and his scene where he and his brother Fred, played by the always entertaining Vince Vaughn, get into a snowball fight is so full of genuine emotion yet manages to stay funny.  Kevin Spacey is also in the movie in a major supporting role, but perhaps the most surprising performances come from Roger Clinton and Stephen Baldwin.  I have a feeling that over time this one is going to move up on my list.

13. “Scrooged”

Bill Murray.  THE classic Christmas Carol story.  Carol Kane as a bizarre Ghost of Christmas past.  Bobcat Golthwait in – for him – a subdued performance.  Cameos by Mary Lou Retton, Lee Majors, Robert Goulet, and supporting characters Karen Allen and Robert Mitchum.  Need I go on?

12. “A Christmas Carol”

The George C. Scott version that aired originally on CBS in 1984 is – for my generation – the definitive version of this film.  Is there a better Scrooge than this Scott?  Not that I’ve found.  I was nine when this first aired and I remember being terrified of some of the darker scenes.  Its a true classic.

12. “Gremlins”

This doesn’t make it on most traditional lists, but again this is a gem from my childhood.  Gizmo evoked emotion out of me and even Phoebe Cates’s ridiculous tale of why she hates Christmas causes me to sniffle through my chuckling.  And who doesn’t love to see the little monster get blown up in the microwave?

11. “The Santa Clause”

Tim Allen was much less likable here than he was in Home Alone but that seemed to work.  He is probably one of our more underrated comedic performers because if he’s not pushed to do so, he is a one note player.  But he makes for a great reluctant Santa and so he’s on the list.

10. “Home Alone”/”Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”

I remember going to see the original Home Alone with my grandfather and the other grandkids the day after Thanksgiving.  I was so entertained by the slapstick and John Candy’s polka king warms my heart to this day.  I actually prefer the sequel because Tim Curry is ridiculous in his maliciousness-for-no-good-reason Concierge and I thought the slapstick gags were pretty ingenious in this one (and wildly unrealistic, I know).

9. “Die Hard”

“Home Alone” is the “Die Hard” for children.  I just watched this Christmas night and it never loses its appeal.  Alan Rickman is such a delicious villain and how can you not love Carl Winslow saving the day at the end?  If only Urkel had been the limo driver then the “Family Matters” tie in would have been perfect.  But really, this is the action movie template so many others have tried to duplicate with a solid Christmas backdrop – so it goes on the list!

7. “White Christmas”

Danny Kaye is underappreciated by our generation.  I just saw a clip of this movie where he was reacting to Bing Crosby’s character and his mannerisms were so naturally funny that it just made me smile.  This one goes on the list for the music alone – I heard them play “Snow, Snow, Snow” several times a day on the local radio station all season and never grew tired of it.  What a classic.

6. “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Jimmy Stewart.  Seriously, what else needs to be said?  He was the man.

5. “Miracle on 34th Street”

Im ashamed to admit that I’d never seen this until Christmas Eve of this year.  I don’t know why exactly but it was just one of those “old movies” that I had no interest in as a kid (though I did love “It’s a Wonderful Life” back then, so who knows).  But when Kris Kringle hit that fake psychologist with his cane I felt a kinship with him …as there have been many mental health professionals who I wished I could have knocked some sense into.  What a great movie!  I need to see the modern version to see how well that story holds up …

4. “A Christmas Story”

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” says Santa when he shoves Ralphie down the slide with his boot.  Seriously, this one always played in our house while we opened presents in my young adult years and I never grew tired of it.  The major award, the bully getting owned, the Christmas duck at the Chinese restaurant … its just such a quirky comedy.

3. “Christmas with the Cranks”

Tim Allen on the list twice!  He and Jamie Lee Curtis’s inhibitions in the tanning salon alone earn them a spot on this list but the way they tried to avoid the hustle and bustle and failed miserably just resonated with me in a way that did not with critics when it first came out.  I don’t care, I love it and watch it a couple times every season.

2. “Elf”

I feel like this is the most creatively entertaining modern classic out there.  Will Ferrel makes me laugh even when I don’t want him to, which is true talent.  His convincing naive nature stole the hearts of America and Bob Newhart and Ed Asner and James Caan help keep him grounded.  What a great movie.

1. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

The speech that Chevy Chase gives after he has snapped where he tells the family they are going to have the happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny Kaye (expletives deleted) still makes me laugh out loud – and I’ve probably seen this movie 50 times.  I laugh and laugh and laugh – but I also feel and feel and feel.  We all can relate to a Christmas gone awry despite our best efforts.  We all have weird family members.  And we all have dreams that often times get foiled by life, as in the lack of Christmas bonuses.  This is my favorite Christmas movie and is very high on my list of favorite comedy movies of all time.  If you’ve never seen it, well, you can’t be my friend anymore.

So, I’d love to hear your list!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everybody!

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