It’s the most wonderful time of the year… when my guilty pleasure of watching my favorite Christmas movies over and over actually passes as normal behavior. What is it about certain Christmas movies that creates such devotion among viewers? I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched It’s a Wonderful Life all the way through.
My husband comes from a family of nine kids, and I first met his huge extended family many years ago at their annual family Christmas gathering. It was more than a little intimidating to meet such a large group of people all at once. At one point during the evening, a few of his siblings popped in a VHS tape of It’s a Wonderful Life, and when they started reciting the dialog along with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, I started thinking that this relationship just might have potential. These were my kind of people! When I learned later that evening that the email address for one of his sisters included a reference to Zuzu’s flower pedals, I knew for sure. I find it hugely reassuring that, all these years later, his sister still has that email address.
Now that our Christmas holiday materials are on display at both library locations, it seemed like a good time to ask staff members to share a few of their favorite holiday movies. Given my own viewing habits, it wasn’t surprising to learn that many of us find comfort and cheer in viewing our favorites year after year. We trust these titles conjure up warm memories for you, too — and hope that you find a few new gems to enjoy as well. Use the links provided to check availability in our catalog.
Jean: “The movie guaranteed to fill me with holiday cheer is Elf. I can’t help but laugh at Will Ferrell’s wide-eyed, over-the-top love for Santa and all things Christmas. Added bonus: this movie falls into that rare sweet spot that appeals to all age groups. Even my teenager will watch Elf without complaint… truly a Christmas miracle!”
Maureen: Maureen is obviously my kind of people, too! Her favorite: “It’s a Wonderful Life has Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and a feel-good ending with the whole town coming together, which still makes me cry. George Bailey is the ‘richest man in town,’ and I’m not talking about money. The Little Drummer Boy is a childhood favorite of mine. It’s stop-motion (still cool and WAY cool then). Simple, but it has a sweet and honest message of self-sacrifice and love.”
David (aka Scrooge): “The Alastair Sim British version of A Christmas Carol because it is dark, at times quite scary, and filmed in glorious B&W! None of that icky treacle from the 1939 MGM version. And no musical numbers! Just Alastair and Dickens. Fa-la-BOO!”
Sonia: “I like The Nativity Story, because it portrays Mary and Joseph as real people, with all their conflicts and doubts.”
Jane: “For an oldie, I love Remember the Night with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray. She’s a shoplifter and he is the prosecutor who generously takes her to spend Christmas on his mother’s farm. It’s a great combination of funny and bittersweet. A more recent favorite is The Holiday, a charming romantic fantasy. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz swap homes for Christmas and Jude Law and Jack Black play the men they meet. Our collection includes a lot of the Hallmark Christmas movies and I have a soft spot for those as well, formulaic as they are. When the pace of life gets hectic, it can be comforting to relax with a movie you know will have a happy ending – kind of like reading a Maeve Binchy novel.”
Sue M.: “My kids and I still have to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas at least once every Christmas season. Only the original, Boris Karloff edition will do, and everyone must sing along with the grinchy songs. And although it has nothing at all to do with Christmas, my daughter and I almost always watch some or all of Singin’ in the Rain together during the holidays, just because it gives us warm fuzzies, and lots of laughs. Finally, I try to watch Amahl and the Night Visitors during the holidays if I can. I can remember seeing it on TV as a child, and it was the first time I remember being enchanted by how music could be used to tell a story. It was also the first time I thought of opera as music I could enjoy. It is still the most accessible, hummable, and blessedly short opera I know.”
Erik/Rob: Erik says “One of my favorite holiday films is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation because nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit (or laughing) quite like disaster striking the Griswold clan. It’s family chaos during the holidays taken to the extreme, and Chevy Chase is at his best here.” Rob definitely agrees on this one: “Memorable scenes, memorable lines…what’s more holiday than the memories?”
Heather: “I have two movies that I love watching during the holiday season: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas. With Rudolph, I love all the music. Burl Ives’ voice is pure silver and gold (ha!) — and it’s just so much fun to cheer on the misfit pair of Rudolph and Hermy. Nothing makes me feel the holiday spirit more than singing along to ‘Holly Jolly Christmas!’ With the Grinch, I just adore the imagery and listening to Boris Karloff narrate the Grinch’s journey from a surly character with a heart ‘two sizes too small’ to the Grinch with a heart filled with ‘the strength of ten Grinches, plus two’! Plus, who can resist ‘You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch’? Not me!”
Ellen J.: Ellen cited National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, too, as it “perfectly harpoons suburbia’s competitive holiday spirit and makes me laugh out loud.” Another favorite: “A Christmas Story (Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra!!) — Ralphie’s family is perfectly dysfunctional and their ill-fated attempts to celebrate a traditional Christmas are hilarious.”
Becky: “The film One Special Night takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that qualifies as a Christmas movie in my book! This movie stars veteran actors Julie Andrews and James Garner, and their on-screen chemistry is what makes this movie such a charmer. The two play strangers who become stranded overnight in a cabin during a blizzard. She’s a recent widow and he has a wife who is gravely ill. Of course, they can’t stand each other at first! As the night progresses and they get to know each other, they manage to find common ground and reassure one another that life is good. Heartwarming and romantic — I love watching this one over the holidays. Does it matter that a couple of the supporting actors are a little cheesy? Not at all!”
Lindsay/Nate: Lindsay reports that “My favorite holiday movie for the past 25 years has been The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring a very serious Michael Caine, who has to sing and dance with the Muppets! There are parts that still make me cry (Tiny Tim! Scrooge’s long-lost love!), but there’s still lots of levity with Gonzo and Rizzo’s commentary and many a Muppet standing in for Dickens’ iconic characters (Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as Mrs. Cratchit, Statler and Waldorf as Scrooge’s old partners). It’s a great family film and worth a watch every year.” Nate couldn’t agree more: “This movie warms my heart every year. The Muppets’ special brand of goofiness blends seamlessly with Dickens’ themes of generosity and kindness. Caine gives my favorite Scrooge performance and the songs composed by Paul Williams are what push it over the edge and make this, for me, the best version of The Christmas Carol ever put to screen.”
Jen/Haley: Jen loves Arthur Christmas, which is “an Aardman Animation film with the amazing vocal talents of James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen (who steals the movie as a tape loving elf), which seeks to answer the question…’How does Santa deliver all those toys in just one night’? Funny, good for all ages.” This one topped Haley’s list of all-time favorites, too, and she especially loves that it is a “laugh out loud movie for the whole family.”
Andrea: “Holiday Inn: It doesn’t get any better than Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire together, plus this movie originated the song ‘White Christmas’.”
Joe couldn’t pick just one! His votes go to Elf, The Muppet Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard and especially How the Grinch Stole Christmas: “He’s a green one, a mean one, and wants to steal Christmas (and their feast of roast beast) from Whoville! Filled with the subversive sense of humor that Dr. Seuss has become known for and beautifully animated. Watch this and your heart will grow larger, too!”
Mark: “When my wife and I got married, Die Hard was the only ‘Christmas’ movie we owned. Comcast had more traditional movies, but we had to pay to watch them. So, we watched Die Hard, and now we watch it every year.” Others that make Mark’s list: White Christmas: “Fantastic music and great dancing. We usually watch it on Christmas Eve.” Home Alone and A Charlie Brown Christmas: “Nostalgic. We can quote just about every line.” The Santa Clause: “We re-watched this a few years ago for the first time since we were kids. We forgot how funny it was! If you haven’t seen if for a while, it is worth another viewing.”
Hmmm…non-stop action, Bing Crosby, adorable kid, Snoopy, and a Santa-in-training. Sounds like Mark certainly has all holiday bases covered! We hope we have you covered, too. Grab a cup of cocoa and your favorite holiday movie from the library — and enjoy!