Everyone has their lists and opinions and here’s a combination of both – the 10 best Christmas movies (all of which you can rent OR will be shown multiple times before Dec.25 on cable television):
10. – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Despite an overtly Halloween theme, this film, produced by Tim Burton, is very much a Christmas movie and plays well in any year with almost ANY audience (except for the youngest and most timid of viewers).
9. – “The Bells of St. Mary” (1945) – This actually is a double bill since this movie is a sequel of the award-winning, “Going My Way.” Bing Crosby gets to sing and play a baseball-loving priest. If you see one, you must see the other.
8. – Scrooged (1988) – Yes, it is actually demented, with Bill Murray as his kinetic best. But, what I find fascinating, is the parody of network television, as seen through the warped mind of former SNL head writer Michael O’Donoghue, became reality in the form of what FOX has brought to the airwaves.
7. – The Bishop’s Wife (1948) – Talk about star power! David Niven, Loretta Young and Cary Grant is his regal, suave, sophisticated best as Dudley the Angel. The movie was re-made in the 1990s as “The Preacher’s Wife,” with Denzel Washington doing his Cary Grant thing, but it was a vehicle for singer Whitney Houston, who was mediocre, at best.
6. – Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962) – Perhaps the least known and best holiday musical EVER made. It was actually the last time Magoo, the near-blind old crotchety guy, was seen on TV, complete with the wonderful voice of Jim Backus (always known as a comic but should also be remembered as the perplexed father of James Dean in “Rebel Without A Cause”). The original songs (written by Jules Styne and Bob Merrill) were all wonderful and tells Charles Dickens’ story as well as any have done.
5. – White Christmas (1954) – The great director Michael Curtiz, who helmed the likes of “Casablanca,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” did this lighthearted film with Crosby and Danny Kaye. The plot had nothing to do with the original song and was as thin as paychecks these days. But you don’t care; it’s about the music of Irving Berlin.
4. – A Christmas Carol (1951) – No story has been told and re-told more often than this Dickens classic. The 1951 British version, starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, is the best of the lot. But the 1984 made-for-TV Hallmark production, led by George C. Scott, is also spectacular.
3. – Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – The original is always the best and Edmund Gwenn won a well-deserved Best Supporting Oscar as the ultimate Kris Kringle. And note the years these classic movies were made…
2. – Christmas Story (1980) – Director Bob Clark would become better known for introducing the series of movies known as “Porky’s.” But he helmed this wonderful film, based on the writings of the late humorist Jean Shepherd.
It’s SOOOOO very Midwestern, and as a child of the Midwest, I related to almost every scene. Those people living in the South don’t know the pain of getting your tongue stuck on a frozen lamp post.
1. – It’s A Wonderful Life (1947) – Just one of many Frank Capra movies that could be labeled as “masterpiece,” but this is completely different from all his other offerings. In many ways, it is the epitome of the post-World War II genre where the movie moods were much darker than prior to 1940. The film’s star, James Stewart, often was pictured in light comedies or romances, but after the war, and after Stewart’s own experiences, he NEVER really did a lightweight film again.
The central focus of the plot is a man who is trying to commit suicide which is as dark as it gets. The long journey of redemption finally comes to the forefront in the movie’s final 15 minutes, and it’s the final moments that everyone remembers.
Oddly, it was filmed in the dead of summer, and despite its greatness, it lost the Best Picture Oscar in 1948 to another “masterpiece” – “The Best Year of Our Lives.”
Honorable mention – Several comedies – “Elf,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Bad Santa” and “The Santa Clause” – make the honorable mention list. They aren’t Oscar-winners but do have a high degree of originality. Other movies that earned such mention would be “Die Hard” (it DOES happen during a Christmas party), “Home Alone 1 and 2,” and “The Homecoming” – a made-for-TV movie which was the basis for the long-running series, “The Waltons.”
By the way, I do not consider “Holiday Inn” to be a Christmas movie, despite the debut of Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” (the most popular Christmas song ever). It’s about a New England resort only open on … holidays.