I remember running down to the basement of my grandparent’s house as a young child to watch White Christmas over and over and over again. By the time I was six, I knew every word, sung or spoken, even though I didn’t understand what all of the punchlines meant. I knew it was a big deal when General Waverly walked into the ballroom. I wanted to be Betty Haynes when I grew up. And the end? Well, that’s just what Christmas is all about. Decades later, it’s just not Christmas until I watch this classic!
Miracle On 34th Street
This list would be incomplete without Miracle on 34th Street. The original 1947 version is a beloved classic, and I remember my young heart bursting as Natalie Wood found the cane in the house at the end. However, I was a teenager when John Hughes’ remake was released, and to me, it is pretty much perfect. It isn’t just my favorite Christmas remake, it’s one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. Ever.
The first time I saw Elf in the theater, it was lost on me. I was a typical young adult who took herself way too seriously and had no time for silly movies about grown men wearing tights. And then I watched it again several years later, and I got it. How a movie can pull off being magical and satirical and childlike and hysterical all at the same time is beyond me, but it absolutely is. Maybe it’s because I’m older; maybe it’s because I’ve since visited Manhattan several times since. But for every farcical element in Will Ferrell’s performance, there’s an accurate representation of our world that takes itself so seriously. Buddy’s direct polarity to reality is a breath of fresh air I appreciate every single December.
The Santa Clause
The Santa Clause is another movie I didn’t fully appreciate when I first saw it. I was a teenager when this one came out, too, and the one thing I remember most was the Denny’s scene. My parents were recently divorced, and my sister and I were learning how to do the shared-custody thing with our dad. To this day, watching Scott Calvin try so hard to make Christmas Eve magical for his young son – and failing so miserably – makes me laugh and gives me a deeper appreciation for my own dad.
As the years went by, my appreciation for The Santa Clause really grew. I started to realize that, while filled with kids and toys and childlike magic, it’s actually aimed at adults trying to hang onto that wonder in such a cynical world. This has become the movie I turn on as I decorate my tree every year, laughing out loud at jokes I’ve heard 20, 30, 40 times. I love, love, love this movie!
The Polar Express
In my opinion, while The Polar Express is animated, it’s not for kids. It’s a deeply allegorical story meant less for children and more for adults, cynical and jaded. Some scenes don’t feel magical at all and can be downright frightening for younger viewers. But by the time our Hero Boy arrives at the North Pole and hears the bell ring for the very first time, we’re cheering right along with him, which is, after all, the entire point. Furthermore, this movie’s soundtrack has earned a place as a modern classic during every holiday season.
Non-Holiday Christmas Movies
Let’s be honest; we all have those not-actually-about-Christmas-but-takes-place-at-Christmas movies we love to watch every year. For example, my husband continues to insist Die Hard is a Christmas movie, while I strongly disagree. But I have two non-Christmas Christmas movies I love to watch every year:
While You Were Sleeping
Lucy Eleanor Moderatz is a vital part of my holidays. This insanely-quotable romantic comedy that takes place between Christmas and New Year’s won a place in my heart from the very time I saw it. My family and I makes it a priority to watch this one every year. Sometimes at Thanksgiving, sometimes at Christmas. And yes, we’re all allowed to yell out the movie quotes along with the film, because they’re our very favorite!
Sleepless In Seattle
The holidays are only in a short part of Sleepless In Seattle. And yet, I still adore watching Tom Hanks wistfully remember his late wife in the lights of his Christmas tree. By the time the two main characters finally meet on Valentine’s Day, I remember precisely why this is one of my all-time favorite movies to watch at the holidays!
Favorite TV Christmas Movies
Television networks have become a force to be reckoned with as far as holiday movies are concerned. Nowadays, there are probably more TV Christmas movies than theatrical releases, earning them a shout out on our list. We haven’t seen all of them – is that even possible? – but these two are ones we go out of our way to watch every December.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
I’m not even sure which network originated this one, but I adore it! Henry Winkler’s character alone is worth watching it every year. Watch if you want to laugh and be inspired!
Hallmark’s The Christmas Ornament
Of all the Hallmark Christmas movies to choose from, this one is my all-time favorite. It’s a little less about holly jolly and little more about slowly growing hope. But by the time the little twist ending rolls around, I have a lump of joy in my throat. Every single year.
How about you? What are your favorite holiday flicks, traditional or otherwise? Do you stay home alone with Kevin or light up the house with Clark? Do you agree with my husband about Die Hard? Share in the comments below!