In no particular order.
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol. I fall in love with Michael Caine more every time I see this movie. Wtih a cast of half humans and half muppets re-enacting Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, this musical-comedy has only grown in my favor as I’ve aged. You’re never too old for Muppets. And you’re never too young for Michael Caine.
2. Trading Places. Two elderly executive brothers arguing about nature vs nurture put a broker and a homeless man to the ultimate test by deliberately switching their roles. Dan Akroyd, Eddie Murphy, and a topless Jamie Lee Curtis star in this hilarious satire set during the holiday season.
One of my favorite scenes: Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Akroyd), rendered jobless and homeless, gets drunk and disguises himself in a dirty Santa suit. He then attends his former company’s holiday party and steals an entire salmon, which he proceeds to eat on a bus from the lining of his coat. Disgusting, yet oh-so amusing.
3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) tries to recreate a ‘good old-fashioned family Christmas’ but everything from the tree to the lights to the arrival of a red-neck cousin-in-law makes the month anything but a success.
The combination of the dysfuctional family and catastrophes galore leads to my favorite lines, uttered by Clark: “We’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f@#king Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white @ss down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of @ssholes this side of the nuthouse.”
4. Scrooged. Let’s take a minute to talk about Bill Murray. He’s awesome. I’d never heard of this movie before Dave introduced it to me, and though it’s not my absolute favorite Bill Murray movie, it’s a holiday movie with him. Win.
Yet another take on Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is forced to come to terms with how many people he has hurt to become successful. It’s a little ridiculous. And honestly not that great of a movie. Watch it anyway.
5. A Christmas Story. The ultimate Christmas tale from a child’s perspective, nostalgic for all the faults of the past instead of the rose-colored perfection some imagine. It reminds me of what my parents’ childhood must have been like. You know, if they had one sibling instead of fifteen (okay, Dad has nine and mom six).
The mock heroism of Ralphie as he saves his family with his hoped-for Red Ryder BB gun is gold. And it caused my daughter-hoping husband to say, “It might not be so bad to have a boy.”
6. Love Actually. A romantic comedy teeming with British actors whose lives somehow intersect…how could I help but love this movie? It helps now that my wonderful niece is named after the lovely and genuine Portuguese Aurelia. And that Colin (Kris Marshall) goes to Wisconsin to find love (or something like it).
Every time I watch Love Actually, I root for Harry (played by Alan Rickman) not to screw up his life, but he does it every. single. time. I still blame the skinny, long-necked Mia. Grr.
7. Elf. I think Will Ferrell has the potential to be a great actor. I just hate all the movies he’s in, except Stranger than Fiction and Elf.
Okay, it’s a little corny and over-the-top, but the incessant cheerfulness of Buddy somehow rubs off, and by the end I want to start answering the phone, “Buddy the elf, what’s your favorite color?” Plus, Zooey Deschanel ranks on par with Lauren Graham in my book. Her shower duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Buddy is one of my favorite parts of the movie.
8. It’s a Wonderful Life. The Baileys (Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed) choose love over success in this classic holiday drama. If you don’t like this movie, you have no soul.
Though it would not be nearly as impressive, I always wish while watching the movie that I was given the same gift as George Bailey: to see the world as if I’d never been born. How cool would that be?
The music playing as George runs through the graveyard always gives me chills. And I think this was the first movie I cried at during Auld Lang Syne.
9. The Shop Around the Corner. Another lovely holiday gem starring Jimmy Stewart that I just discovered a few years ago. If you’ve ever seen You’ve Got Mail, this movie is the parent, unraveling a tale about two co-workers who despise each other, even though they’re falling in love with each other via letter.
10. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Short, sweet, and to the point. If you haven’t seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, where have you been living?
The Peanuts gang discovers the true meaning of Christmas in this movie, which contains one of my favorite holiday songs “Christmas Time is Here.”
11. Serendipity. Christmas in New York seems so magical. The movie begins and ends with Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) skating in Central Park. What happens in between is the same as most romantic comedies with a bit of destiny thrown in, but it’s the holiday season in New York that keeps me watching this movie.
12. The Family Man. My brother looks just like Nicolas Cage. Well, I think so; he doesn’t agree. But I think their similarities are a big reason why I love this movie.
Much like Scrooge and George Bailey, Jack Campbell (Cage) is offered a glimpse of what his life would have been like if he chose love over success. The movie begins and ends with Christmas, because that’s when people decide what means the most to them. Except me. I decide on August 7th.
13. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version). I like Jim Carrey, but I don’t like the real-life version of this animated classic. Twenty six minutes of the Grinch, Max, and the Whos are all I need to make my heart grow three sizes.
14. Miracle on 34th Street. (Old and New). Both versions of this movie do justice to what I consider the ultimate holiday tale: a child questioning the reality of Santa Claus.
The heartbreaking image of Santa in jail followed by the rise of New Yorkers to Santa’s Aid always leaves me crooning “I believe!”
15. Home Alone. Before Macaulay Culkin went to Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, he starred in two of the most popular holiday movies of all time. Left alone unwittingly by his parents, Kevin (Culkin) protects his family’s home from two burglars by setting up a series of ridiculous booby-traps.
With plenty of “flingin’ flangin'” curses from the adults and slapstick humor, these movies are just plain fun.
16. The Family Stone. As I mentioned earlier, I did not like this movie the first time I watched it. The unreality of a guy falling for his girlfriend’s sister and vice versa was too much for me the first time around. But the mix of comedy and heartbreak as the Stone family deals with their brother’s girlfriend and their mother’s illness has more truth in it than fantasy.
One of my favorite parts occurs between Ben Stone (Luke Wilson) and his brother’s girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker). He says he had a dream about her, and just when you think a bathroom humor joke is going to come out, the moment changes and he says, “You were shoveling snow. You were just a little girl in a flannel night gown, and you were shoveling snow from the walk in front of our house. And I was the snow, I was the snow. And everywhere it landed and everywhere it covered. You’d scoop me up with a big red shovel. You’d scoop me up.”
17. White Christmas. Most movies that turn singers into actors are bound to have some plot flaws. If you’re a classic music-lover, you won’t mind in this movie. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play two Army buddies that randomly burst into song whenever the occasion allows it.
Their rendition of “Sisters, Sister’s” is one of my favorite parts of the movie. And of course everyone falls in love at the end. What more could you ask for?
18. Mrs. Santa Claus. Everything I love about this movie is mostly nostalgic. I remember watching the taped version at my grandma’s house with my sisters, the unedited commercials including gingerbread cookie men diving into cool whip.
This musical starring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Claus starts when Santa refuses to listen to Anna’s suggestions for a quicker route. She takes the sleigh herself and is forced to land in New York City in the early 1900s where she works at a toy shop and takes on problems such as child labor laws and women’s suffrage.
Since this was a made-for-TV movie, it has taken me years to find it, and I plan to watch it tonight with my sisters. I truly hope it lives up to my expectations.