With the Christmas season quickly approaching, I started thinking about my favorite holiday flicks that I must watch every year. I made a list, checked it twice, and I came to the conclusion that I don’t have that many Christmas movies that I consider to be my favorites. Yes, there are the classic animated films such as Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, etc., but as far as actual feature length films go, it’s a short list. When you eliminate other films based around the holiday season, but have nothing to do with Christmas (Die Hard, Lethal Weapon) that list dwindles even more (editor’s note: Rocky IV should be considered a Christmas movie. There was no better gift in 1985 than an aging Rocky crushing the communist spirit single-handedly.)
While trying to come up with my top ten Christmas films, I felt bad leaving out the classics like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, and White Christmas, but since I never really got into those films, I didn’t want to add them just for the sake of it. I went with MY top ten. The ten movies I grew up watching, or the ones that have me entertained enough to watch every single holiday season. Some cliché, some expected, and some completely from left field, but all giving sentimental life lessons. I give you.. Ben’s Top Ten Christmas Movies List.
10) The Santa Clause (1994)
Starring: Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd
Tim Allen stars as Scott Calvin, a recent divorcee who inadvertently scares Santa off of his roof, accidentally kills him, then magically becomes the newly recruited Santa Clause. With the help of his son Charlie, who has recently been told by his mom and new boyfriend that Santa doesn’t exist, Scott takes the reigns (see what I did there?) and saves Christmas for all humanity. In the process he re-establishes his son’s belief that Santa does really exist.
Lessons Learned: 1) Don’t stop believing. 2) Do not trespass on stranger’s roofs in the middle of the night.
9) Jingle All The Way (1996)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad
The Terminator shows off his soft side as family man Howard Langston, who misses his son’s karate expo due to being tied up at work. In order to make it up to his son, he promises to get him any present he wants. Howard attempts to make his sons dream come true by going out on Christmas Eve to find the hottest toy of the year, the Turbo Man action figure. Fighting crowds, an evil mailman (Sinbad), and a warehouse full of Santas, Howard does anything in his power (including punching his neighbor’s reindeer) to find the toy and save his relationship with his son, as well as his wife.
Lessons Learned: 1) Don’t procrastinate and always find time for family. 2) If a drunk Santa leads you to a warehouse promising a toy that is sold out everywhere on Earth, do not enter.
8) Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
Starring: Jim Varney, Douglas Seale
Ernest P. Worrell, a bumbling but well-meaning person, helps Santa Claus search for his successor, because failure to do so would mean there would be no Christmas. With the help of a young runaway named Harmony, Ernest desperately tries to convince recently fired children’s show actor, Joe Carruthers, that he is the “chosen one” to be head of the North Pole.
Lessons Learned: 1) Every man has the right to choose his own destiny 2) If you arrest Santa Claus, he will have a jail full of convicts singing Christmas Carols in perfect harmony.
7) Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen
Based on the 1966 Dr. Seuss television classic, Jim Carrey leads the way as the grumpy hermit who hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville. There’s no question Jim was still in the prime of his career when this film was released (just a year removed from arguably his finest performance, depicting eccentric comedian Andy Kauffman in Man on the Moon). I do not think there were, or are, many actors who would have been able to pull off an entertaining Grinch as well as Carrey has done. His ad-libbing abilities combined with his physical comedy still has me entertained 14 years later.
Lessons Learned: 1) Thou Shalt Not Steal. 2) If your heart is two sizes too small, consult a doctor immediately.
6) Elf (2003)
Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan
After being told he’s not a real elf, Buddy (Ferrell), leaves the North Pole in search of his biological father in New York City. While trying to connect with his workaholic dad, who wants nothing to do with his 6’3” son wearing a bright green and yellow elf costume, Buddy tries to spread the holiday cheer to everyone he comes across, including a stunningly beautiful co-worker (Zooey Deschanel.)
Lessons Learned: 1) Never give up and always follow your dreams. 2) It’s okay to disobey all traffic laws and creep in the girls locker room, if you appear to be on the spectrum.
5) Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1990 and 1992)
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern
I decided to lump these two beauties together since they are basically the same film, just taking place in two separate locations. Smart-ass Kevin McCallister (Culkin) wishes he didn’t have a family the night before they all go to France for vacation. He wakes up the next day to an empty house due to numerous mishaps that occur. Long story short, he is left home, and his family doesn’t realize until it’s too late. Meanwhile, two idiotic burglars who call themselves the Wet Bandits, attempt to rob the entire neighborhood and Kevin is left to defend his home.
Somehow, a year later, the same story with same characters takes place, with only difference being it’s set in the Big Apple.
Lessons Learned: 1) Don’t take family for granted. 2) If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. 3) You can’t call the cops from a tree house.
4) Scrooged (1988)
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen
A story about a selfish TV Executive who receives visits from three holiday spirits, teaching him valuable life lessons on the eve of Christmas. My favorite version of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, who’s childhood wasn’t a particularly good one, giving him a lack of appreciation for the holiday season. Murray plays the part to perfection, as expected, but the award for scene-stealer in this movie goes to Bobcat Goldthwait. Sounding like a stuttering heroine addict when he speaks, I can’t help myself but laugh whenever he is on screen. Now put a shotgun in his hands, and look out!
Lessons Learned: 1) Money can’t buy happiness 2) No matter how bad you act towards people, going on live television and apologizing makes things all better.
3) Bad Santa (2003)
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly
A miserable thief, Willie Stokes (Thornton), and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores during the holidays. Trouble arises however, when head of security figures out their plan, and Willie befriends a pudgy, sandwich obsessed kid named Thurman Merman (Kelly) who has many issues of his own. By far the crudest movie on my list, I still find this movie highly entertaining. The interactions between Willie and “the kid,” while very awkward, make this film worth watching.
Lessons Learned: 1) Don’t take no for an answer 2) Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger 3) The amount of lettuce on your sandwich is an important decision one must consider.
2) A Christmas Story (1983)
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin
All Ralphie (Billingsley) wants for Christmas is a Red Rider BB Gun. He goes to extreme lengths to convince his parents, teacher, and even Santa that he will not “shoot his eye out.” This movie, while sounding ordinary, has many scenes and quotes that I often recite. Not just during the holiday season, but I catch myself quoting this movie all year round. Every person that watches this movie has something to relate to. Who didn’t have a toy or game that they wanted more than anything while growing up? Who doesn’t have a stressful family member or two (or six)? This movie has it all from triple dog dares to an incredible leg lamp to Christmas caroling Chinese people.
Lessons Learned: 1) Be careful of what you wish for 2) Your tongue will stick to a frozen pole if applied.
1) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid
The Griswold’s plan on having the perfect Christmas vacation, however family members visiting, stuck up neighbors, and a holiday bonus that goes missing stands in the way. Chevy Chase is great as head of the household, Clark, who’s doing whatever it takes to keep his cool as things slowly start to run amuck in this classic flick. Capping off his stress filled vacation, his demented cousin Eddie (Quaid) kidnaps Clark’s sleazy boss, who decided to cut back on holiday bonuses this year and not tell anyone. Everything else seems to go wrong including a “too full” Christmas tree, a light-bulb eating cat, and Eddie’s full shitter. Just like A Christmas Story, this movie has something that everyone can relate to, including a crazy aunt who makes cat food filled jello mold (it’s lime!).
Lessons Learned: 1) Don’t Assume anything in life 2) Squirrels are high in cholesterol 3) Saying the “Pledge of Allegiance” is an acceptable prayer.
Bonus Classic Clip:
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”
Written by guest author and movie fanatic Ben Sarro