Christmas movies are numerous and greatly vary in quality and entertainment value – to put it mildly. For every great one, there are dozens, if not hundreds of disposable, Hallmark-style movies. But, there are no shortage of great holidays picks to entertain you and your family this holiday season, so here are some of our own personal Christmas classics!
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Originally not exactly beloved at the time (critics didn’t appreciate the film and audiences seemed tepid about it), it has now become a family classic that is enjoyed every year. It’s become a sort of cult film that transcended its status and circled back to being a major hit for Jim Henson Studios (and Disney who now owns it). What makes this one so great is that mix of whimsy with a classic performance from Michael Caine who played his character 100% serious and direct while surrounded by Muppets. The dichotomy of his performance with the puppets helps create this magic that can only work in the Muppets universe. The music in this film has become part of most people’s Holiday season go-to sounds and the images here are just magical. There’s something comforting about having a Whatever and a rat, or Gonzo and Rizzo, telling the tale of Scrooge while arguing about food.
This is the movie that made Will Ferrell arguably the biggest comedy star of the 2000s. While saying you love it is almost cliche now, it’s actually pretty great. Within all the silliness and the madness of this film, somewhere between Will Ferrell in yellow tights and a store that looks an awful lot like Macy’s lays a story that is filled with love, hope, and Christmas cheer. This movie is more than over-the-top at times, but it’s part of what makes it work. The comedy has layers upon layers of jokes, nonsense, and physical gags giving it something for everyone. Is it a bit much? No. It’s a whole lot of much and it’s perfect that way. The writing by David Berenbaum and the direction by Jon Favreau show that there is a deep understanding that Christmas is not the same for everyone, but it’s always about hope and love. This film is a celebration of family, classic holiday cheer, Santa, and pure silly nonsense that makes anyone watching it happier just for doing so. It’s the perfect first film of the season or first film on Christmas morning with hot cocoa by the morning fire.
Batman Returns (1992)
From the same year as The Muppets Christmas Carol, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and a few other Holiday films, this one is a darker classic that has many absolutely in love with it 30 years later. It’s that odd mix of holidays and darkness, but without obvious horror elements, it’s a comic book film, but it’s also a Tim Burton film with a now beloved and classic score by Danny Elfman, it’s the kind of film that is perfect when one has had enough of all the cheer and all the carols, for when one is looking to just break away from tradition, but is still looking for something that has that nostalgia factor and is a great film. The story here is well-known, Batman must face his most beloved foes, Catwoman and The Penguin, but add in there that it’s set at Christmas time, is insanely dark and gothic even, and that it does not feel cheery or hopeful, and you get the perfect anti-Christmas Christmas movie.
A recent Best Movie You Never Saw – pop this one on and party like it’s 1999! Go is one of those films that seems to fly under the radar, yet it’s a fantastic party film and one that takes place at Christmas. The cast here is what will make most come back to the film or make them watch it for the first time. It includes Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant, Taye Diggs, James Duval, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf, and a bunch more. This film has 3 stories that interconnect so it may feel a bit all over the place, but it all comes together in the end, making it one of those really enjoyable crazy rides. It’s got everything from Christmas music to a trip to Vegas and a drug deal gone wrong to a rave and a hit and run to an MLM scheme. There’s so much in this, it takes a few viewings to fully absorb all of it. The cast is definitely on point and fantastic to watch. The fact that it’s more or less a drug movie that takes place around the Holidays really helps make it an easier watch for those who aren’t all that into the typical Christmas films. You get a wild film with a touch of the holidays to carry you into the season without hitting you on the back of the head with the whole Christmas thing.
Die Hard (1988)
“It’s not Christmas until I see Hans Gruber falling off Nakatomi Plaza” is something we’ve been seeing online for a few years and, honestly, it’s true. Die Hard has become synonymous with Christmas and with corporate Holiday parties. It’s one of those films that is fun to watch once per year and seeing the bad guy get his is satisfying at this time of year in particular. The film itself is an odd mix of action and Christmas music, it’s the kind of film that took the holiday season and made it a simple background for the hostage situation and for our hero to come in and save the day. However, it did this better than most other Christmas action movies and Bruce Willis is at his best here, giving that grumpy hero performance that has become a bit of a signature for him since then. He’s great here, the film itself is entertaining on the first or thousandth watch, it’s a classic these days that is just perfect for cutting through the constant stream of Last Christmas and All I Want for Christmas playing everywhere. Some still believe Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie. Well, they are wrong.
A few runners-up here are The Long Kiss Goodbye, Scrooged, 3615 Code Père Noël, Treevenge, The Brentwood Strangler, and Shazam! Which are your Christmas classics, your must-watch movies this time of year?