Deck the Green: Top 10 holiday movies you can’t miss

By Will Ashton |

In a culture so fixated on the spirit of Christmas, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the joy of the season.

Even as the weather gets colder, the roads gets icy and the stores go crazy with overly excessive Christmas items, it’s simply fun to get to enjoy this “magical” time of year.

What’s a better way to celebrate the Christmas spirit than getting around the fire and enjoying a couple Christmas movie classics? Well, besides opening presents and visiting relatives and whatnot.

What’s the cream of the crop of the yuletide season? Here’s a rundown of some of my favorite Christmas movies.

Note: As much as I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, these are technically TV specials, and could only really qualify as short films at best. So let’s just consider them honorable mentions.

10. Die Hard: What kind of man would I be if I were to not include the presence of Die Hard on this seasonal list? While it may be easy to write off this film as simply just an action film of the ’80s, you would be forgetting that A) it’s one of THE action films of the ’80s and B) this film is all about the Christmas season. Behind all the profanity, explosions and gunplay, Die Hard is about the family and the spirit of being with the ones you love during the holiday season. All right, perhaps this is not the main message of the film. But it’s there, and the movie is still awesome. Plus, you can watch it just in time for the latest film in the series, A Good Day to Die Hard, comes out this February.

9. Bad Santa: Apparently, my list is not starting off so family-friendly, but no matter. In what is widely considered to be one of Billy Bob Thornton’s most iconic roles, the bad boy’s comedic talents are easily what make this film work so well to become something of a raunchy Christmas classic during the past decade. While definitely mean-spirited, Bad Santa also has a heart, as well as a ton of belly laughs. If you prefer your Christmas a little dirtier, look no further than Bad Santa.

8. Gremlins: While it does feature Phoebe Cates’ character telling perhaps one of the worst Christmas stories ever, the whole of Gremlins is too wonderfully gleeful and darkly playful that it oddly plays well next to its Christmas setting. Who doesn’t love little Gizmo? If you haven’t seen this classic, and you like your Christmas fun a little darker than most, then make sure you check it out.

7. The Muppet Christmas Carol: Who can capture the love and joy of the Christmas season as well as the Muppets? Starring the legendary Michael Caine as Scrooge, despite the countless renditions of this tale being told on the silver screen, this is the one that is the closest to my heart and the one that I find has the greatest re-watch capabilities. Now that the Muppets are back (thank you Jason Segal!), visit, or revisit, this holiday joy.

6. A Christmas Story: Admittedly, this was not a film that I enjoyed from the get-go. The film’s rather mean-spirited style of comedy didn’t strike me as a child. Yet, now that I am grown up (sort of), I can look back at this classic and truly appreciate it for what it’s worth. The movie isn’t about Ralphie’s quest to get his “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle;” it’s about looking back on why Christmas is so special, despite all the hang-ups of family embarrassments and woes of the season. It captures that essence of childhood naiveté so well, yet it also eclipses the nostalgia of looking back at your childhood with love and shame.

5. Arthur Christmas: Easily the newest film on the list, this modern-day classic was criminally underseen last year. Now that it’s available on DVD and Blu-Ray, what better time to check out this great little Christmas movie than now? Oozing with wit and cheekiness, it’s actually able to bring back originality and legitimately funny humor to the Santa Claus story. Plus, it has tons of heart and passion for the season. If you haven’t seen — or heard — of this one yet, make sure you see it this year.

4. Miracle on 34th Street: Undoubtedly among the all-time classics of the Christmas movie season, this tale of a man claiming to be the real Santa Claus and the little girl who unquestionably believes him is remembered for good reason. Featuring an amazing, Oscar-winning performance by Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, it’s simply a great film that continues to deserve its recognition and praise to this day.

3. Elf: Extremely likely to become a definitive Christmas classic for generations to follow, this delightfully original and heartfelt story of Buddy the Elf is a hilarious and charming hit. In what I consider to be one of his best characters to date, Will Ferrell plays an inspired, heart-on-his-sleeve portrayal of keeping the Christmas spirit alive and what it means to have a family during this time of the year.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas: It could be debated that this is a Halloween movie more than a Christmas movie. I included it in my Halloween list as well. But no matter, because it’s such a great movie that it could be played either time of the year. Filled with hilarious dark humor, wonderful animation, a fantastic assortment of songs and a unique cast of characters, this Christmas/Halloween classic is great no matter what time of year.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life: I debated even including this on my list, since Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life are pretty much synonyms for one another.  But at the end of the day, it’s the definitive Christmas classic for a reason. Exploring the life of George Bailey, it demonstrates the spirit of the season without the brass taxes. It does get a little thematic by the end, but ultimately the movie is able to portray the holiday season in all its simple and wondrous joys. Despite being an initial flop at the box office, it’s hard to turn on the TV during the holiday season and not catch at least a glimpse of this movie, and for good reason: It is THE Christmas movie, and may always be.

So sit back by the fire, grab your hot cocoa, and enjoy this assortment of winter classics.


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