Christmas movie classic, Its a Wonderful Life. [Photo courtesy of Liberty Films]
A Christmas Story
Based on the semi-fictitious anecdotes of Jean Shepherd, A Christmas Story is really the penultimate holiday comedy. The film possess all the charm of a classic holiday film and frequently combines it with surprisingly dark comedy. Split between its numerous subplots we see an incredible breadth of imaginative period humor. It’s everything classic holiday comedies aspire to be, and that’s why it’s been a staple for the season since its release in 1984.
Miracle on 34th Street
This film’s status as a classic holiday film is well earned. It’s whimsical, witty and best of all ends on a triumphant, joyous note. Revolving around a man who believes himself to be Santa Claus, the film, like one of the other films on this list, takes every opportunity to point out the hilarity of that situation. Great performances and excellent sets pull it all together to make a film that I simply couldn’t not recommend for the holidays.
I certainly recommend seeing A Christmas Carol, my personal favorite being the 1938 version, but I simply can’t say no to Bill Murray and his reimagining of the classic Dickens’ tale. They simply let him loose on a holiday and this is what came out. He carries nearly every comedic moment to excellence and it’s exactly what you would have hoped for from him. The film does have some minor issues with a consistent tone, but Murray makes it more than worthwhile, and the only people I really wouldn’t recommend it to are those that aren’t fond of him; someone who I have yet to meet.
Very similar in concept to Miracle on 34th Street but with the silliness cranked up quite a bit, Elf follows a human who has been raised by Santa’s elves. Luckily for us, that human is played by the six-foot-three and hilarious Will Ferrell. The film is really built around his performance and in this case it works. The role takes great advantage of Ferrell’s comedic overacting and constant energy, reminding us why he was a bright spot in Saturday Night Live back in the 90’s. With a competent supporting cast he delivers what is simply one of the funniest holiday comedies to have been made.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, and Frosty the Snowman
Now I know this one is cheating a bit, but it’s simply impossible to pick between these holiday specials that have been a staple of the season for as long as I can remember. Each is bursting at the seams with cheerfulness, vibrancy and ludicrously catchy songs. Personally, the holiday season doesn’t really feel like it’s begun ‘till I’ve at least caught portions of these films. They’re short, nostalgic and it’s nearly impossible to not grin watching them.
It’s A Wonderful Life
This list is ultimately filled with personal favorites, not bests, but if you ever see a holiday film list that doesn’t have It’s A Wonderful Life in it then it’s simply wrong. The holiday film to end all holiday films, this 1946 film perfected the genre. An inventive idea executed perfectly by an excellent cast giving excellent performances combines with the most unabatedly joyful ending to a film ever, gives us a simply superb movie. Regardless of who you are, this is a film that warrants a viewing with every holiday season.