I was originally going to call this, “The Best Christmas Movies” or “The Definitive Ranking of Christmas Movies” but then I remembered that taste is subjective, and I think we all forget that sometimes.
I’m a big Christmas movie nerd. In my time, I’ve seen my fair share of them, both popular and not-so-popular, and while I’m always looking for new ones to watch (in desperate times I HAVE watched Hallmark movies, but I need to be in the right romantic, weepy mood) I do have those Christmas movies that I return to time and time again.
Remember what I said earlier about tastes being subjective? My tastes are definitely not everyone’s. For example, controversial opinion here, but I don’t really like It’s A Wonderful Life. Like man, that’s hard for me to sit through in its entirety, as much as I like James Stewart.
Also, I like kids’ movies. And animated movies. Christmas is kind of about being a kid again anyway.
Now, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my favourites:
A Christmas Story
This movie is a runaway classic, with enough mishap and mayhem to make the family at its centre believable. Amazing cast all around, with the same type of overly-dramatic flair we’ll all recognize from when we were younger.
What’s it about? One boy with a dream: a dream to get a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas. Never was a dream so unattainable. Chaos ensues, but the type of holiday chaos you can really identify with.
The first time I saw it – I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe, and I remember thinking: how have I never seen this before? My life was forever changed.
Right, so the thing about Love Actually is, even if you consciously don’t like it, if it’s on during Christmas, you’ll probably watch it. Overrated? Absolutely not. Overplayed? Probably. Still amazing? Definitely.
Every year I forget how much I love this movie until I see it, and then I’m gushing about Colin Firth all over again. (Honestly, the movie needs to be seen for Bill Nighy’s performance as an aged rocker alone.)
What’s it about? A collection of sometimes related-sometimes not stories about Brits that all play out in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Ridiculously sweet and at times heartbreaking. Also, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman are in it.
The first time I saw it – Probably was waaaaaay to young to be watching it, especially during the body double sequences. (You know what I’m talking about.) The whole movie gave me the warm and fuzzies, even if I couldn’t fully grasp some of the concepts that I am (unfortunately) familiar with now.
The Polar Express
FOR SOME REASON every time I mention that I like this movie, someone goes, “Ugh.” WHYYYYY. I get it, okay, it’s pretty strange to adapt a children’s book into a feature-length film, but while some of the action sequences run long, I think a decent job was done. I like trains and I like Christmas. Done and done.
What’s it about? A young boy beings to doubt the existence of Santa, so in the middle of the night, a mysterious train comes to take him on a trip that will change his mind. Based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg.
The first time I saw it – In theatres with my mom, which seems like an age and a half ago now. (2004!!!) It was long ago enough that I was amazed by the animation, and to be quite honest I still think it was pretty dang good for the time.
A Christmas Carol
OKAY BUT THERE ARE TWO VERY IMPORTANT ADAPTATIONS OF THIS STORY:
- The 1951 Version
Why? Because it is amazing. It’s the best no-frills adaptation ever done. Alistair Sim IS Scrooge. The first time I saw it, I only saw the ending. I walked into the living room during the scene where Scrooge wakes up a changed man after his dream. To this day, I think that entire scene is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a film. It made me so inexplicably happy, and I now watch this version every year.
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Why? Do I really need to say? This is the version of the Dickens story I grew up with. I loved it, but I was scared of the Ghost of Christmas Future. Though, I think everyone is a little bit. A little creepy, a lot heartwarming.
I know, I know. Max cheese. But it’s so good. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, my people. Also, can we talk about how Jack Black is actually pretty fantastic in this? While it is a bit predictable, The Holiday is also really, really sweet. It has no ulterior motives other than being about people falling in love, with each other and with themselves.
What’s it about? An American and a Brit swap houses for Christmas, and wind up becoming involved in way more than either of them imagined. Jude Law (who is weirdly tan in this by the way) is there too.
The first time I saw it – With my sister, and now it’s a tradition for us to watch it together because we’re both secret soppy messes who love this type of shit.
Christmas in Connecticut
THIS MOVIE. HAS EVERYTHING YOU NEED. Literally – a zany comedy with Barbara Stanwyck’s amazing wardrobe, Sydney Greenstreet doing his thing, an I-love-to-hate character, a few classic Christmas mixups and the most stupidly handsome, stupidly nice, piano-playing sailor you’ve ever seen.
*pauses for breath*
What’s it about? Elizabeth Lane, a writer working with a pen name and a pretend life, must scramble to convince her boss and a war hero that she is an an amazing cook living with her husband and child in Connecticut when she is, in fact, none of those things.
The first time I saw it – I was with my mom and I was melting into a pile of festive goo every time the sailor, named Jefferson Jones, naturally, did anything on screen.
A great movie with a great cast and, interestingly enough, a pretty good sequel. I won’t speak for the 3rd, but Home Alone 2 is just as good as the first. Chalk it up to a winning formula of Christmas, physical comedy and Macaulay Culkin when he was still an adorable kid.
What’s it about? Eight-year-old Kevin McCallister is left behind on his family’s Christmas vacation to Paris. At first it’s his dream come true, but trouble arises in the form of the Wet Bandits: two crooks out to rob every empty house in Kevin’s neighbourhood.
The first time I saw it – I think it was at a friend’s house, at a sleepover around Christmas, all of us cracking up at the traps set for the burglars. This was, of course, one of the Christmas movies at the time, and I think can be comfortably moved to the category of contemporary classic.
According to my sister, I am obsessed with this movie. And yeah, I more or less am.
It’s just so excellent. The animation is great, the jokes all land, the storyline is genuinely sweet and there is no. unnecessary. romantic. subplot.
What’s it about? The current Santa Claus, in a long line of Claus’, is on the brink of retirement. His older son Steve, a corporate militaristic type is set to succeed him, while the younger Arthur seems set to spend the rest of his days in the letters department. OR SO WE THINK.
The first time I saw it – About three years ago, putting off studying for exams by wrapping presents and watching a movie. In that moment, sitting on the floor of my room with tape all over my hands and this movie on, I felt so ridiculously Christmas-y. I still love to put this movie on in the background when I’m doing any kind of Christmas-realted activity.