Christmas movies are a risky proposition in Hollywood. First you are limiting the palpability of watching the movie to a specific time of year and second, these films can be extremely good and become the yearly viewing of many people both on private media as well as over broadcast TV or, they can be forgettable film abortions that are banished to the realm of things that should not exist.
This is my list of my top 5 Christmas movies. Comments are welcome, however, please make them more varied than “Where is ‘Elf’?”
5. Mixed Nuts: Two movies on this list star Steve Martin but this one is always a fun watch. The supporting cast includes some short but memorable performances by Adam Sandler, Liev Schreiber, Rob Reiner, Jon Stewart, Garry Shandling, and Parker Posey. Written and directed by Nora Ephron this film has enough laughs and heart to put you into the holiday mood.
4. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles: The ‘Adult’ John Hughes film manages to combine holiday movie, odd couple, and road movie all in one. The second film on this list with Steve Martin is a classic film in its own right. Martin’s straight man Neal Page played against the warm and humorous character Del Griffith played by the amazing talent of the late John Candy manages to make the farcical situations seem grounded.
3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: I’m going with the Jim Carrey version of this tale. Carrey was born to play the Grinch with his lanky figure as well as his hyper expressive style of comedy. There are enough laughs, mild innuendo for the adults, and heartwarming moments to make any Grinch in the real world feel a few seconds of warmth during the holiday season.
2. Die Hard: There are two kinds of people in the world, those who think Die Hard is a Christmas movie and those who are wrong. Bruce Willis’ first big movie and also the first major role for Alan Rickman, this movie pits Willis’ good guy John McClain against the awesomely wicked performance of Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Those of us who love this movie can’t help but spout off lines like “Welcome to the party pal!”, and “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, Ho, Ho” to confused people who are not in on the joke.
1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: The ultimate Christmas comedy. Forget ‘Home Alone’ because the Griswold family Christmas is far more entertaining than Kevin beating up the ineptitude of crooks with cartoon gags. The second film on this list written by John Hughes, it hits on all of the family tropes from the crazy cousin (Eddy) to the older relatives that make you uncomfortable. There are enough wacky situations and familial tensions that make Christmas a once a year event.
Scrooged: I don’t think any list of comedies can be complete without at least one movie with Bill Murray. It doesn’t matter what phase of his career he is in, he manages to bring the laughs and warmth to any film. Scrooged is a slightly scarier twist on the classic Christmas Story by Charles Dickens, but it is no less impactful, even if the 80’s styles tend to date the movie a bit.