Oh yeah – it’s that magical time of the year again! I’m guessing that at this point, you’ll be surrounded by endless holiday season feel-good saccharine classics, so naturally, I went ahead and made a list of the 12 films that you should definitely be watching this (or any other) Christmas season. I have ritualistically binge-watched most of the films on this list for years now, and it seemed only fair to introduce a proper ranked list this time round. While I’m sure most people this year would be investing their time in either Wonder Woman 1984 or one of those Christmas Prince/Princess Switch movies, I’d still urge you to take a magical leap of faith with me and check out some of the classics as well. So here goes –
12. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Three decades later, the third entry in the ‘Vacation Series’ starring Chevy Chase (and produced by the one and only John Hughes!) is still considered to be an outrageous holiday classic, even though it was never exactly a critical hit. What it does have working for itself is a plethora of impeccably timed jokes – some that stick the landing all too well, and some that miss by a mile. Either way, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has found its way in the list of the festive season cult classics, and I for one, have absolutely no arguments to make against it.
11. A Christmas Carol (1938)
Yes, sure – the Ebenezer Scrooge story has been done to death over the years with countless adaptations, but the 1938 original and the 1951 adaptation – both hold a very special place in my heart. I figured I’d pick the former for this list, because Reginald Owen’s take on the infamous crotchety miser makes for one of the most sincere renditions of the Dickens’ character ever put on celluloid. There’s ample love, passion and holiday spirit on display here to satisfy even the harshest of critics. My verdict – 82 years later, it’s still just as effortlessly magical as it was back in the day.
10. Love Actually (2003)
In what is arguably one of the most popular feel-good, guilty pleasure flicks of the 21st century, we find ourselves following the lives of sixteen principal characters amidst one common theme – Christmas. Granted, the film does suffer from extreme ‘mushiness’, some uneven plot threads, a bunch of tonal inconsistencies and some really forced tearjerker stimuli bombarded right at you (yup, I hate those too) – but if you’re willing to look beyond all those things, perhaps you’ll understand why this Richard Curtis directorial venture is considered to be a festive season cult classic romcom. And even though I’ve kinda outgrown the inherent cheesiness that’s served on a silver platter by this particular genre of films over the years, whether or not Love Actually warrants a viewing from you, really depends on your personal appetite.
9. While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Not without its fair share of cliches, this Jon Turteltaub film starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman is considered by many to be one of the best romcoms ever made. Whether I agree with that opinion, is something I’ll leave for another day. What I cannot deny, is that there is an inherent sense of casual warmth all throughout this formulaic (and rather predictable) storyline – the kind that you just don’t find anymore. Also, I usually rank this pretty high (albeit not at the top) when it comes to my favorite Sandra Bullock performances.
8. Christmas Chronicles (2018)
Yes, this too is a formulaic family entertainer burdened with all the cliches of the genre, but I have to admit that there’s something inherently magical about 2018’s Christmas Chronicles, and till date, I’ve not been able to put a finger on what it is. The most recent entry in this list in terms of its release, this Clay Kaytis directorial feature was one hell of a pleasant shocker when it came out. I had no clue how much I had always wanted to see Kurt Russell as Santa Claus until I unexpectedly crossed paths with this Netflix flick – and boy, is it one of the best versions of the character in recent memory – the whole ‘Santa Claus is Back in Town’ charade performed at the police precinct with all the inmates alone was worth the price of admission for this one.
7. A Christmas Story (1983)
If there’s one entry on this list (other than one at the top spot) which needs absolutely no explanation as to why it’s in my top ten, it’s this one. I can only assume most of us grew up with a certain nostalgia for this saccharine holiday flick following the wintry exploits of its protagonist, Ralphie Parker, played by a young Peter Billingsley. I’m guessing most of the people reading this article would have already seen this film countless times, but just in case if you’ve never crossed paths with this holiday classic – seriously, what the hell?! Frikkin’ watch it already!
6. Elf (2003)
Before Jon Favreau was known for directing the Iron Man films & those couple of live-action Disney remakes (and the recent Mandalorian episodes), he was best known for his directorial ventures Elf (2003) and Zathura (2005), both of which gained a massive following of kiddo fans from all across the globe back in the day. I’ll admit, I watched the Will Ferrell starrer far too late in my life, so I was never the target demographic for this Christmas-oriented film, and yet, I can’t deny that this is easily one of the best family-targeted holiday feel-good classics ever made. Is it the best ‘Christmas Comedy’ out there? Who knows, there are still two strong competitors in my Top 5 – but Elf (2003) sure as hell has the potential to take that title. Also, how fun was it to see Gimbels on screen again, right?
5. Scrooged (1988)
It’s Bill frickin’ Murray. Don’t you dare ask me for another reason for placing this film in my Top 5. Also Karen Allen. Also Richard Donner in the director’s chair. Also, a fun, twisted retelling of the Charles Dickens’ classic. I can’t believe I’m still listing down reasons for you. GO WATCH IT!
4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Released just one year after the top entry of this list, this perennial Christmas classic directed by George Seaton starring the stellar Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, and took home the golden statuettes for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Writing, Best Original Story & Best Screenplay. My annual Christmas viewing routine always begins with Miracle on 34th Street, and I’ve grown to love the film more with each subsequent viewing over the years. Every single frame is pure magic, and it has been so for the past 73 years. Don’t miss this one!
3. Die Hard (1988)
Yeah, yeah – I’m cheating a bit here. A lot of people would argue that Die Hard isn’t exactly a ‘Christmas movie’ but hold on for a second. It may be the greatest action film ever made, yes – but it’s also Christmas-themed, ‘Yippee-Ki-Yay madness’ in its purest form. Plus, for the last twelve years, there hasn’t been a single Christmas season where I haven’t watched Die Hard at least a couple of times. If you ask me, it totally fits the bill. And for people who haven’t seen Die Hard (1988) yet – I envy you. Because I’d give anything to be able to watch Die Hard again for the first time and get my mind blown all over again.
2. Home Alone (1990)
Can you believe this Macaulay Culkin starrer is more than three decades old now? Can you also believe that this film opened to lukewarm reception from critics back in the day? Yep, me neither. The reason why I hold director Chris Columbus in the highest regard is because he brought Home Alone & Harry Potter into my life – and I can’t imagine my childhood being deprived of either one of them. I strongly believe that the first Home Alone film will still be a holiday classic decades down the line, maybe even centuries. It’s the kind of family Christmas tradition we hope to pass on to the younger generations proudly, and pass it on, we shall!
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Speaking of transcendent movie experiences, this Frank Capra masterpiece will celebrate its 75th Anniversary in 2021, and I can honestly say without a shred of doubt that there hasn’t been a better Christmas classic made in all this time to rival this motion picture, and perhaps there never will be one. Watching George Bailey’s life unfold on the big screen is one of those rare experiences in life that I just can’t put on a price tag on. I would strongly urge you to buy the colorised version of this James Stewart-Donna Reed starrer on Blu-ray and fire it up on the biggest screen possible on Christmas Day, because it deserves nothing less than that. It’s pure, joyous festive season magic at its finest – a genuine Hollywood classic that remains untouchable. And it’ll always be my personal favorite.
So there you have it, folks. That’s the Christmas 2020 Recommendation list for this weekend. If you have some of your own recommendations, feel free to send them my way – I’d love to check ’em out. Here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! Cheers! :’)