One of the most special things about the holiday season is the music and the movies. There’s no other time of the year where I can sit with my family and watch basically the same thing night after night and absolutely love every moment of it. Also I should note that when I say movie, I am also including TV specials. Basically if it has a Christmas theme, it is in the running to find itself on this list. I am breaking down into two categories, “Nostalgic” and “Comedy”.
- Charlie Brown Christmas—The music is timeless and the story is so valuable to the season. Charlie Brown always gets knocked around by the other kids, but his kind heart prevails. I can’t think of another Christmas program that takes you back to your childhood quite like Charlie Brown Christmas and the next one on the list.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—First, it should be noted that Santa Claus puts in a pretty cruel and mean performance in this one, but he turns it around at the end when he discovers another use for Rudolph’s “malformity”. Rudolph is full of great characters and is a must watch every Christmas for my family.
- Little Drummer Boy—I am not sure about others, but for me, the old Rankin-Bass claymation specials remain magical into adulthood. When I was a kid, I loved watching this one and adored the little dancing lamb that traveled with the little drummer boy. Also, I give bonus points for having a theme centered around the Christmas nativity in this story.
- White Christmas—For many years, I was opposed to this movie because for the most part, it does not contain Christmas themes. However, after watching with my lovely wife year after year, I have grown pretty fond of Bing, Danny, and the sisters. This one has great music and plenty of warm and fuzzy moments. (Note: We always fast-forward through the one weird choreography dance. You know the one I’m talking about.)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas—Over the years, there have been a couple remakes that I really enjoy, but nothing quite gets me in the feels like the original TV special from 1966. If I am having a day where my heart feels a couple sizes too small, the sound of the Who’s down in Whoville singing always makes it grow.
Honorable Mentions—It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, The Year Without A Santa Claus
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation—The PG-13 themes in this one kept me from being able to watch it as a kid, but as I grew older, I loved it. While the Griswold shenanigans and Cousin Eddie make me laugh, I always feel like Todd and Margo (their snotty neighbors) always steal the show. Christmas Vacation is a timeless classic.
- A Christmas Story—Even though this movie takes place sometime during the 1940’s, I think most of us can relate to Ralphie’s experiences in some way. Best line of the movie for me is when the father thinks hard about something crushing to say to his wife after she broke his lamp and he just yells, “Not a Finger!”. This one is full of great characters!
- The Muppet Christmas Carol—Two genius moves made this version of Charles Dickens’ classic novel my favorite adaptation. First, Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge is perfect. Second, Gonzo taking on the role of Charles Dickens himself to narrate the story. I love the music so much in this one that I almost placed it in the nostalgic category because I was only twelve when it released in theaters.
- Christmas with the Kranks—Tim Allen and Christmas movies just seem to work so well, and for me, his performance as Luther Krank trumps all his Santa Clause performances put together. Christmas with the Kranks is the type of movie that every time you watch it, you notice another small detail that makes you laugh.
- Home Alone 1 and 2—When cornered, I would probably say I like the first one better, but both of these are so good. Even with his mischief and creepy ability to set booby traps, little Kevin McAllister always encounters an unlikely person who shows him an unexpected pleasantry about humanity. I honestly believe John Williams’ soundtrack work is the thing that makes the Home Alone movies so classic.
Honorable mentions—Elf, The Santa Clause, Love Actually