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With December already upon us, most of us are getting into the holiday spirit, hanging decorations, planning fancy meals, and purchasing presents for loved ones. One of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday season is curling up on the couch, enjoying a mug of cocoa or an alcoholic drink, and watching a favorite festive film.
Though there are new seasonal movies being released each year, sometimes it’s best to revisit the classics that many of us know and love. Here are just a few favorites that you might want to watch or re-watch this holiday season.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
If you need a good laugh, look no further than Christmas Vacation. Starring comedy legend Chevy Chase, this John Hughes hit follows the Griswold family’s frantic attempts to have a happy, harmonious holiday season. Instead of peace on Earth, however, chaos ensues. From the antics of crazy, motorhome-driving Uncle Eddie (Randy Quaid) to the snobby rage of neighbors Margo and Todd (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Nicholas Guest), this hilarious holiday film is one that will have you smiling from start to finish.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Perhaps no holiday film is as emotionally powerful as Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart portrays George Bailey, a loving, selfless man who has sacrificed many of his greatest dreams for the sake of those he cares about. Despite his good deeds, George has suffered in life and is driven to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. George, however, is saved by his bumbling guardian angel, Clarence, who reveals to him the ways in which he has changed the lives of his family, friends, and acquaintances for the better. If you’ve ever felt disheartened or dejected, It’s a Wonderful Life is sure to bring you to tears, reminding you that your life does indeed matter.
White Christmas (1954)
Sometimes there’s nothing better than watching an old-school Technicolor musical. If you’re in the mood for sentiment, song, and dance, it just might be time to screen White Christmas. Starring singing sensations Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney alongside comedian Danny Kaye and dancer Vera-Ellen, this wintery favorite is guaranteed to have you humming a number of catchy Irving Berlin tunes. Crosby and Kaye portray Bob and Phil, a successful pair of performer-producers. The two soon hit it off with singing sisters Betty and Judy, who are scheduled to perform at an inn in Vermont. When all four arrive at the lodge, however, they discover an empty hotel run, coincidentally, by the two men’s former commanding officer. Ultimately, all four performers team up, scheming up a way to save the dejected general from the threat of a guestless holiday season. Sweet, heartwarming, and packed with musical magic, White Christmas is an escapist classic that will get you into the holiday spirit.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Ralphie Parker, a nine-year-old growing up in the early 1940s, spends his days and nights fantasizing about his ultimate Christmas wish: finally becoming the proud owner of a Red Ryder air rifle. Everyone in his life, however, shoots down his dream, claiming he’ll lose an eye using the dangerous toy. Narrated in retrospect by an adult Ralphie, this hilarious comedy classic highlights the struggles and joys of growing up. From fending off bullies to being caught cussing, almost everyone will relate to Ralphie and his daily dilemmas. Will Ralphie’s Christmas dreams come true, or will he be stuck with Tinker Toys and a football for Christmas? You’ll have to watch A Christmas Story to find out for yourself!
Remember the Night (1940)
Though less well-known than many Christmas classics, Remember the Night is nonetheless a superbly well-crafted seasonal film. Just before Christmas, shoplifter Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) is caught and put on trial for her crimes. Hardboiled prosecutor Jack Sargent (Fred MacMurray), however, begins feeling guilty for locking her up during the holiday season. After posting bail for her, Jack discovers that Lee is also from Indiana and offers to drive her home to visit her family for the holidays. Chaos ensues as the two drive across the country. A visit to Lee’s family home ends poorly, resulting in Lee spending the holidays with Jack’s family instead. Though the two ultimately fall for one another, one big question remains unanswered: Can a respectable prosecutor and a petty crook have a future together? Director Preston Sturges attributed the success of his film to its combination of “Schmaltz (sentiment), Schmerz (pain), and Schmutz (dirt).” To enjoy an unconventional holiday classic, grab a copy of Remember the Night.
Though Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been filmed many times, few cinematic interpretations of this moralistic tale are as enjoyable to watch as Scrooged. Starring Bill Murray, this seasonal classic is both funny and heartwarming. Murray portrays Frank Cross, a miserly, stingy television executive whose selfish actions have begun harming his relationships with his family and colleagues. Frank, however, is soon visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, revealing to him the ways in which his cold, greedy behavior has taken a toll on those around him. In our increasingly cynical, commercialized world, this relatable interpretation of Dickens’ classic tale is a humble reminder of what really matters in life.
Whether you’re in the mood for a heartfelt, family-friendly film or a more mature, laugh-out-loud comedy, there are a number of holiday movies you can choose from, far beyond those included on this list. For more inspiration, check out the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) or the film-centric social network Letterboxd to read reviews and discover other holiday films you might want to watch or return to this holiday season.
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