This week kicks off the beginning of the holiday movie season. Every year about this time we see a new crop of Christmas-themed movies for children and families. The networks also bring out the holiday classics. Christmas movies are so ingrained in our lives that watching them each year has become a tradition in itself.
My first date with my husband was to see the movie A Christmas Story, which has become a contemporary classic from 1983. Why would a quirky family from the 1940’s touch our hearts in such an enormous way? After all, they resemble pictures from MAD magazine as much as anything from Norman Rockwell. I think it’s because the famiy, played by Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Peter Billingsley and Ian Petrella, allowed us to see their faults and silliness alongside their strengths. That’s real. That’s family.
Another classic that is precious to the Christmas tradition is 1947’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed capture your attention right from the beginning. This film takes the idea of a Christmas wish and turns it on its head. It inspires hope. It’s a required course, as a dear friend of mine says.
Miracle on 34th Street is another must-see classic. This 1947 treat stars Maureen O’Hara as a working mom, Natalie Wood as her cynical daughter and Edmund Gwenn as a Santa who must prove his identity to save Christmas.
Another new classic with similar heart is Jon Favreau’s Elf from 2003. Will Farrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan, Ed Asner and Bob Newhart weave together a story fit for any snowed-in night at home.
For musical lovers, there is 1942’s Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire or 1954’s White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney.
Dickens’ Christmas Carol has dozens of versions, each with their strengths. There are animated releases, theatrical editions, and even one feature starring the Muppets.
One of my favorite movie traditions is While You Were Sleeping from 1995. Though no technically a Christmas movie, it takes place during the holidays. Sandra Bullock is always fantastic, and in this one she plays a young woman torn between the comatose man of her dreams, Peter Gallagher, and his charming brother played by Bill Pullman. I like to play this movie while I decorate my tree. I love how Peter Boyle and Glynis Johns steal every scene they’re in.
What are your favorite Christmas movie traditions? Let me know which ones I’ve missed. Tell me about the new ones that you believe will become the next classics.
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!