Saturday, December 17, 2016

My Christmas movies recommendations

A CHRISTMAS STORY is my all-time favorite holiday movie. I’ve seen it probably fifty times, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched it from the beginning to end in one sitting. Like most people, I catch the annual 24-hour marathon on TNT or TBS or one of those networks with a “T” and see various segments at a time. Usually, by the end of 24-hours I’ve pretty much seen the whole film, albeit disjointed.

But there are other Christmas movies I recommend as well.

DIE HARD certainly. A company Christmas party goes bad but like Santa saving the day, Bruce Willis sweeps in and kills a lot of people.

LOVE ACTUALLY – Eight different stories interweave in this delightful romantic comedy (although it's much maligned). You’re bound to be charmed by at least three.  And you get Keira Knightley before she felt the need to change her body image.

BACHELOR MOTHER – Okay, this is an obscure one. 1939 starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. A screwball comedy set in a department store filled with misdirection and confusion. Warning: Ginger doesn’t dance.

BAD SANTA – Very dark comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton as a Santa who robs stores. People either really like it or they loathe it.  Sort of like with IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.   The sequel is coming out this year.  Can't speak for it. 

SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS – All you need to know about this 1964 sugar plum is that 8-year-old Pia Zadora plays a Martian child.

ELF – worth it for Bob Newhart alone.

HOME ALONE – A John Hughes classic. The Macaulay Culkin “AAAAAAA!” movie that is still funny year after year.

STALAG 17 – Most people don’t think of this Billy Wilder classic set in a World War II German Prisoner of War camp as a holiday yarn, but it was set during a Christmas season. And it is a phenomenal movie.

SUSAN SLEPT HERE – This 1954 comedy starring Dick Powell and a very young Debbie Reynolds is one of my favorites because it takes place in my neighborhood and I think you can see my house from Dick Powell’s balcony. I don’t know if the movie’s any good. I’m always just looking out the windows.

There you go. I know it’s a short list, but if I see one more Scrooge reboot or fantasy with Jim Carrey in make-up I think I’ll vomit. Oh, and one final warning: There are a lot of bad Christmas movies and a lot of bad comedy movies but MIXED NUTS might be the very worst of both. It’s the “Aunt Edna’s Fruitcake” of holiday films.

What are your favorites... and least favorites? 


BA said...

I'd mention BRAZIL. The Christmas present theme stays through all the explosions and comedy."Confess! If you hold out too long you'll jeopardize your credit rating."

YEKIMI said...

We've re-opened a closed theater and ince it was built in the 30s/40s [no one is sure] we decided to go retro and are showing "Santa Claus Conquers The Martians". Watched some of it last night and thought to myself "uh oh......"

rclay24 said...

Christmas in Connecticut, the original, not the remake. And the Season never starts without Clark Griswold.

slgc said...

I've never been a huge fan of A Christmas Carol, but my daughter introduced us to the Muppet Christmas Carol recently and pointed out something sweet. Towards the end of the story, once Scrooge has had his epiphany, Beaker offers his scarf to Scrooge. This scarf is the first Christmas present that anyone has ever given Scrooge, and it's a very touching moment.

And within Scrooged,the show promos at the beginning (The Night the Reindeer Died and Robert Goulet's Cajun Christmas) are hysterical.

Miracle on 34th Street straddles the line between being a Thanksgiving Movie and a Christmas movie. Of course, only the 1947 b&w version is acceptable (with a very young Natalie Wood!). There are actually a lot of very cynical scenes, like the judge's political advisor explaining to him in chambers why he can't rule that there's no Santa Claus and the Post Office employees realizing that they can dump their dead letters to Santa at the courthouse - the film has a very cunning sense of humor!

Sue Dunham said...

A match for Bad Santa is The Ice Harvest, also starring Billy Bob Thornton.

VP81955 said...

"Remember the Night" (1940), the first of four Fred MacMurray-Barbara Stanwyck collaborations (all in different genres -- romantic comedy, film noir, Western, drama -- and at least three of them quite good). Fred plays an NYC district attorney who convicts jewelry store thief Stanwyck, but with Christmas coming, he feels guilty about having her spend the holidays in jail, so he takes her to Indiana (both characters are native, IIRC), and romance ensues. When the holidays end, he offers to release her from her sentence, but Barbara -- proving she's turned a new leaf -- agrees to serve her time. A rather sweet piece of Americana, with charming turns from Stany and the underrated Fred.

Bill Jones said...

Gotta put in a vote for "Christmas Vacation." With each passing year, as my extended family gets bigger and bigger, its portrayal of the holidays with extended family is more and more spot-on.

kent said...

A POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, THE LEMONDROP KID, THE GATHERING, (the one with Ed Asner & Maureen Stapleton, not the Waltons movie).

Alan C said...

Muppet Christmas Carol - Michael Caine plays it straight as Scrooge and he's fantastic.

Ernest Saves Christmas - a guilty pleasure.

The Santa Clause - I like the first one but can't stand the sequels.

John Leader Alfenito said...

1988's "Scrooged" with Bill Murray, Karen Allen and John Forsythe directed by Richard Donner. Plus - Bobcat Goldthwait, David Johansen, John Glover, Carol Kane, and Robert Mitchum! Still makes me laugh and mist up a little.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

My personal favorite is THE LION IN WINTER (1968). Katharine Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Anthony Hopkins as a family fighting over women and provinces in between sharing mulled wine and Christmas gifts in a gorgeous setting.

(I suspect this of being Aaron Sorkin's favorite movie because of the number of references to it in THE WEST WING.)

Henry: What did you get me? It's my tombstone! Eleanor, you spoil me.


sanford said...

Big debate as to whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It just happens to take place at Christmas. I think it was one of the first times I had seen the great Alan Rickman. Bad Santa was great. The sequel has received awful reviews.

jcs said...

Well, you clearly picked most of the nuggets. I'd like to put in a good word for KISS KISS BANG BANG (Michelle Monaghan in a Santa costume is a strong incentive to watch.), 80s classic TRADING PLACES (Among the stereotypes: Prostitute with a heart of gold? Check.) and LETHAL WEAPON (That movie just blew my mind as a 15-year-old.).

Stoney said...

Did you know that nine years before "A Christmas Story" Jean Shepherd read his preliminary version of it live over WOR-AM?


Not really a movie but I always look forward to "The Twilight Zone" episode "Night Of The Meek".

mmryan314 said...

My personal favorite to watch during the holidays is Auntie Mame - not really a Christmas movie but one with endearing scenes of Chistmas after the Crash of 1929.Think I`ll haul it out tonight actually.

William said...

"A Midwinter's Tale" directed by Kenneth Branagh is an absolutely charming story of a group of English actors who come together to stage "Hamlet" at Christmas instead of a typical pantomime. It's sweet and wonderfully acted and became one of my must-sees at Christmas when I first saw it almost 20 years ago.

Gary said...

My favorite is THE APARTMENT. Jack Lemmon spends a very sad Christmas Eve alone, getting drunk in a bar. Then he goes home to find a surprise in his bed (but not the good kind).

Ficta said...

Comfort and Joy, 1984, Bill Forsyth movie (there are other movies with this title). Sweet, melancholy, funny, very quirky, Scottish movie about a DJ meditating a war between rival ice cream sellers. Just a wonderful movie. Still not out on home video in the US.

LouOCNY said...

A CHRISTMAS STORY is worth watching all the way the way through on the DVD with the commentary from Bob Clark (RIP) and Ralp---er Peter Billingsly. Nice remembrances, and since Billingsly is now a Hollywood pro, he knows just the right questions to ask Clark as well.

The version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL with Patrick Stewart is good also. Stewart underplays both sides of Scrooge just enough to make him more human.

Kirk said...

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Todd Everett said...

"Gremlins" opens with Darlene Love and features the classic Santa in the chimney story. What could be more Christmas-y?

For some reason, I always haul "Oliver!" out this time of year.

Greg Ehrbar said...

The good:

SCROOGE - 1970 musical with Albert Finney and one of Leslie Bricusse's best scores. The dark irony of "Thank You Very Much" and the 2001-ish Hell scene (which CBS used to cut) are particulary notable.

IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE - Postwar chamber with Victor Moore as a hobo who annually moves into a deserted mansion every year and is joined by a variety of "tenants." Lots of great character actors like Don DeFore, Alan Hale Jr. and Charlie Ruggles.

REMEMBER THE NIGHT - An odd twist on "Double Indemnity," because it reteams Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, this time with another wonderful old Hollywod cast including Sterling Holloway and Beulah Bondi.

THE GREAT RUPERT (aka A Christmas Wish) - Jimmy Durante and his downtrodden family wish for money and it instantly falls from the ceiling, not realizing it's really being thrown down by an animated squirrel. You had to be there. George Pal's feature debut.

BABES IN TOYLAND (aka March of the Wooden Soldiers) - Laurel & Hardy in a movie that's almost as quotable as "Young Frankenstein" or "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." I love Annette Funicello so I can't resist the Disney version too (which by the way is the most faithful to the Victor Herbert operetta).

The delightfully bad:

SANTA CLAUS - Astonishing dubbed Mexican kiddie matinee feature about the devil sending his demons to make children misbehave. Parents used to drop their kids off to watch these things, not realizing how the may have scarred their tots.

SANTA CLAUS AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY - Makes "Conquers the Martians" seem like Citizen Kane. Filmed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Santa's sleigh is stuck in the beach sand for what seems like days (to the viewer), sweats through his red suit, and tells the story of "Thumbelina," shot at a long-closed amusement park called "Pirate's World." The producer also made exploitation films, perhaps with the same cast. Rifftrax has a funny DVD of this.


ELS said...

"RISE OF THE GUARDIANS" is a thrilling action adventure movie for Christmas, with some fun thrown in. It could not be a more epic good vs evil movie, with the power of the children more potent. The voicework is sensational, the actors are tremendous, and the only possible issue is if you don't like animated features. I get misty at the end of this movie every single time.

kent said...

Wendy, I never thought of THE LION IN WINTER as a Christmas movie, but if it is, then I'm with you. I'll still put A POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES with Bette Davis, Glen Ford and Peter Falk right behind it. Gotta love Apple Annie, Dave the Dude, and Joy Boy.

Barry in Portland said...

Thanks to Ficta for mentioning 'Comfort and Joy'. I've been trying for years to find a copy of this wonderful film. Any leads are appreciated.

Donald said...

Shop around the Corner is a joy. It was remade as Youve Got Mail, but don't hold that against it. This is James Stewart's best Christmas movie.

Ray said...

I wrote this before seeing the prior comments. PM me, Barry, I can fix you up.

Sadly, this film has never been released on Region 1 DVD, but We Haff Ways with British imports:

Comfort and Joy, one of Bill Forsyth's best efforts (Local Hero and the even more elusive Gregory's Girl being among others). Set in a Scottish city and radio studio, its Christmas connection other than the title is the title character's sudden holiday breakup- but it devolves into, of all things, a gang war between two feuding ice cream truck families.

Mark Knopfler does the music, and Bill Paterson, mostly an actor from Brit TV, is both funny and touching- and does a mean jingle.

Mibbitmaker said...

Speaking of Rifftrax, SANTA CLAUS and SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS were both done by MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 in the '90s. At least the MARTIANS one is on the DVD The Essentials along with their riffing of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (that one more of a Halloween movie if anything). Most MST3Ks are on YouTube as well.

I'll also second watching A CHRISTMAS STORY from beginning to end, at least for a version of it that may be refreshing after seeing it all disjointedly. I hadn't even heard of that movie until we took it out at the video store in the late '80s. An instant classic!

Anonymous said...

The 1935 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I watch it every year in lieu of going to church and learn more from it.


Breadbaker said...

It's a terrible movie but I have a total soft spot for White Christmas. I used to watch it every year when I was left alone to babysit my sister sometime during winter break from high school. Five years ago, when I had a severe brain injury, it was literally the first thing I could watch on TV with understanding because I had seen it so much. And just this week, we watched it with a grieving and ill friend who laughed uproariously at the corniness of it all and wondered why she had never seen it. It's plot has holes the size of Montana and the sappiness and manipulation of emotions are gargantuan, but it's a sweet movie and Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye could dance!

Andrew said...

I know it's a stretch, since it's set around Thanksgiving, but I would nominate Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. It definitely feels like a Christmas movie at the end.

Zappa the Unholy said...

Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim), Batman Returns, The Hateful Eight, Trading Places.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Kent: Yes, it's a Christmas movie. Eleanor is boated in from the tower she's imprisoned in for Christmas court. They even have a giant tree and cloth-wrapped presents. When the festivities are over, back she goes to jail.


Ralph C. said...

I like the MST3K versions of "Santa Claus Conquers The Martians" and "Santa Claus", a Mexican Christmas movie.

David said...

Mixed Nuts is a disastrous remake of a great French original. So I'd like to add Le père noël est une ordure (Father Christmas is an Asshole) to the list.

Frank Beans said...

TRADING PLACES! A brilliant movie start to finish, and while perhaps not technically a Christmas film, if the extended scenes featuring Dan Aykroyd as a drunken Santa Claus at the end of his rope don't give you the true Christmas spirit, then well, nothing will.

DBenson said...

I remember a big plot point was Bing's girl thinking he was going to exploit and embarrass the old general on TV, not knowing he'd told off the exec who suggested it. Then Bing goes on the air to sing "Who'll Hire a General?", a song that does exactly that, but everybody's happy.

Anonymous said...

Two of my favorite holiday/not-holiday films are The Thin Man (1934) and its first sequel, After the Thin Man (1936). The first is set at Christmas; the second begins on New Year's Eve.

Cap'n Bob said...

Miracle on 34th Street with Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. The Lady in the Lake with Robert Montgomery. This is the one with the objective camera gimmick.

Buttermilk Sky said...

THE THIN MAN. Again, not strictly a Christmas movie, but I would wait up all night for the scene where Nick shoots the balloons off the tree under the baleful gaze of a hung-over Nora. She's clearly hoping he shoots his eye out. And as Norma Desmond would appreciate, no dialogue.

cbm said...

I love darker seasonal movies I guess:
Rare Exports
The Ref

These are both great, and Christmassy, but odd in different ways.

Anonymous said...

I used to love Family Man..then one year, I realized I hated Nic Cage..and wanted to like Tea Leoni but just couldn't watch a white middle class family whine about not having enough...I haven't watched it since..
I just saw The Santa Clause for the first time and was amazed that I laughed at it...I recall the trailer made it look extremely stupid but the puns make it worth my time.

Muppet Christmas Carol and the original Toy Story are my favorite holiday movies.

Random thought, I want to thank you Ken for the gift of music...That Great Big Radio station is really neat..It make great house cleaning music....Thanks for the recommendation...

DBenson said...

Abbott and Costello's "Jack and the Beanstalk" and Disney's "Babes in Toyland" are not especially good films, but they deliver a lot of nostalgia.

"Jack and the Beanstalk" was a staple of local stations during the holidays, a low-rent alternative to Laurel and Hardy's "March of the Wooden Soldiers" (as it was titled in my day). "Jack" is corny, colorful, and a bit cheesy. One really catchy song for Lou ("I Fear Nothing When I Am in the Right"); and a dance following the giant's death that's even funnier than intended.

"Babes in Toyland" is pure boomer-era Disney-ness. Filled-out Annette, the comedy team from "Zorro", cartoony sets evoking Mickey Mouse Club, instantly recognizable Disney orchestrations, and a handful of bizarre Ward Kimball gags to take the edge off the cringey love songs. It feels like a shot of Disneyland.

"Gulliver's Travels" and "Hoppity Goes to Town", the two animated features from the Fleischer Studios, were also holiday staples of local television. The first is agreeable, although all the best stuff is crowded into the first part of the movie. "Hoppity Goes to Town" is a better movie all around, with dandy songs, a slightly busy Capra-style story, and great visual gags. Long unavailable, "Hoppity" (aka "Mr. Bug Goes to Town") is supposed to get a Thunderbean release in 2017.

Also on the animated front, "Gay Purr-ee" was a holiday show for a few years, network and local. It has nifty songs, striking UPA visuals and Judy Garland leading the voice cast. But weirdly, the mock-melodrama story is a bit dark when you pay attention: Innocent country cat goes to Paris in the 1890s; smooth operator has her groomed to be shipped to America as a "mail-order bride".

Some others that attach themselves to holiday memories, mainly from seasonal appearances on TV:
-- "Wizard of Oz", of course
-- "The Golden Age of Comedy" and "When Comedy Was King", a generation's first exposures to silent comedy, and for a long time your only chance to see things like "Big Business" outside a pizza parlor.
-- "Mary Poppins", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", "Doctor Dolittle", and maybe "Bedknobs and Broomsticks". These were all outsized holiday event movies, all fantasies set in a whimsical version of England. "Doctor Dolittle" drags, but the others are cheerful and usually entertaining in their excess.

DBenson said...

And a few specials:
-- "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol": Limited animation when it was still stylish instead of just cheap. Great design work, great songs.
-- "One Hour in Wonderland": A 1950 special, Walt Disney's first foray into television and almost a template for the eventual weekly hour. It opens with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy getting ready to go to the Disney Studio for a party (killing a little time to allow families to settle down, I guess). Once there, Walt uses the Magic Mirror to show animated clips and a number by the Firehouse Fire Plus Two. It's a extra on some editions of the animated "Alice in Wonderland". Heavy duty boomer nostalgia.
-- The Jeremy Brett "Sherlock Holmes" series includes an excellent version of "The Blue Carbuncle", a Christmas eve story involving a goose.

D. McEwan said...

My favorite Christmas movies are Psycho (It's set in mid-December, you see street Christmas decorations as Janet Leigh leaves Phoenix. It's Hitchcock's Christmas movie), Life of Brian, and Gremlins. Also any movie in which Santa Claus is a serial killer.

D. McEwan said...

"Blogger kent said...
Wendy, I never thought of THE LION IN WINTER as a Christmas movie, but if it is, then I'm with you."

The Lion in Winter
is unquestionably a Christmas movie. It's about a family getting together for Christmas and bickering, just like a hundred other family Christmas movies, it takes place entirely on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the castle has Christmas decorations all over it, there are scenes of gifts being wrapped and unwrapped. And it's full of lines like, "What shall we hang: the holly or each other?" (I played Prince Geoffrey in a stage production of it, 42 years ago.)

Anonymous said...

Most of my favorites have been mentioned (a disadvantage to being a late riser), but I would add these four:

Holiday Affair - because nobody plays Robert Mitchum as well as Robert Mitchum, and Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) is a gem.

I'll Be Seeing You - Ginger Rogers in a dramatic role with Joseph Cotton that captures something about the human experience of damaged people in a unique way

A Midnight Clear - Extraordinary acting in this one. WWII movie set in the Ardenne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Joyeux Noel - Diane Krueger (Enough said.) (The Natalie Wood/Elizabeth Montgomery of my world.)

Grumpy Old Men - Oscar and Felix grow old and have Christmas in lutefisk country.

I appreciate everyone sharing--there are a few in here I haven't seen and I look forward to finding some new treasures this holiday season. And, as always, thank you Ken and Happy Holidays!

Keith in Kalama

Rick said...

Great movie. I have it on VHS. I even have a working VHS machine. What I don't have is A TV that has an old fashioned coaxial plug.

Have you tried the so-called grey market for a DVD (iOffer,, et al)?
-Rick Libott

D. McEwan said...

"Donald Benson said...
"Babes in Toyland" is pure boomer-era Disney-ness. Filled-out Annette, the comedy team from "Zorro", cartoony sets evoking Mickey Mouse Club, instantly recognizable Disney orchestrations, and a handful of bizarre Ward Kimball gags to take the edge off the cringey love songs. It feels like a shot of Disneyland."

In essence, it was! The sets for Disney's Babes in Toyland were moved to Disneyland when they finished the movie in 1961, and stayed there in the Main Street opera house until the robot Lincoln was put in there in 1966. I spent time on that set, and in September, 1963, I shot two segments for the Mickey Mouse Club repackaged repeats with Ginny Tyler on those sets, my one day as a Mouseketeer.

It was Ray Bolger that stole the Disney BIT for me, and he is the only reason I ever rewatch it. It's certainly one of Disney's cheapest-looking movies. The Laurel & Hardy version is far more entertaining to me as an adult. Oddly enough, Disney contributed to the L&H version, licensing to Roach the rights to use his Three Little Pigs characters, the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," and allowing Roach to dress up a monkey as Mickey Mouse. Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon are consciously imitating L&H, though the decision to make them supporting villains was an odd one.

BTW, Ward Kimball's insistence that he be allowed to direct Babes In Toyland resulted in Kimball being fired from Disney. Eventually, after he'd crawled, begged and debased himself to Walt, he was rehired, but his position and responsibilities at the studio were much-reduced, and his friendship with Walt permanently damaged, all for that hot mess Babes in Toyland.

Oh, and the Shirley Temple's Storybook TV version of Babes In Toyland (Which was broadcast exactly one year before the Disney version came out, on Christmas Day, 1960), with Jonathon Winters as Barnaby the villain, shot at NBC Burbank, is available on DVD. Jerry Colonna, Joe Besser and Carl Ballantine are all in it.

Todd Everett (again) said...

If we're going to include TV specials, I like "Olive, the Other Reindeer." Some Simpsons people were involved.

Andrew said...

@ D. McEwan: Thank you! I love it. From now on I'm going to tell everyone that Psycho is my favorite Christmas movie.

The Bernard Herrmann score references numerous Christmas carols. You have to listen closely.

Unknown said...


Batman Returns.

Three Days of the Condor.

The Man Who Came to Dinner.

RyderDA said...

KISS KISS, BANG BANG: Brilliant movie; Robert Downey Jr. is awesome and Val Kilmer a great "Gay Perry". Nothing like having your finger cut off in a door being slammed to say "Happy Holidays!". JCS is right.

LETHAL WEAPON: Comes close to DIE HARD for alt-Christmas greatness. JCS is right on this one, too.

ABOUT A BOY: Hugh Grant and a whack-a-doodle kid become friends through no doing of Hugh; fitting at Christmas.

THE THIN MAN: I'm with Buttermilk Sky and PhilosophyMom on this one.

THE APARTMENT: Christmas in the 1960's... the real MAD MEN.

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY: More a New Years Eve vibe, but still Christmasy.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING: Not the best of comedies, but Sandra Bullock pulls it off

BRIDGET JONES DIARY: The best Christmas present would have been NOT casting an American as a Brit.

David in Chicago said...

D. McEwan: I, too, consider Psycho to be Christmas movie, for all the reasons you've listed, plus one more: more than most movies, Psycho is about the importance of family, and how family shapes our lives!

Buttermilk Sky said...

I have two problems with LOVE ACTUALLY: 1. It asks us to believe Alan Rickman would get involved with some little co-worker when he has Emma Thompson waiting at home. 2. It's Chris Mathews' favorite movie.

I notice nobody has mentioned IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. That fell out of favor suddenly, didn't it? Are we all too cynical for Capra today?

Rich said...

Ditto "Remember the Night." Script by Preston Sturges, well directed by Mitchell Liesen. This one sneaks up on you....

Ficta said...

There is a legal DVD in the UK, which you can order from Amazon UK, if you have a way to play it (rip and convert if you know how, for instance).

I am a robot said...

1. The Shop Around the Corner is one the greatest films of all time- certainly Lubitsch's best- and no other holiday film will ever come close to it, unless they get Christ to come out of retirement.
2. Hammond Indiana, the first city east of Chicago- once home to department stores, heavy industries, and vaudeville stops for such future stars as Fred Allen, Burt Lancaster, and the Marx Brothers- was the place where Jean Shepherd grew up, the "Hohman" of his Christmas Story. When the Bob Clark film was produced, they had to shoot elsewhere- nothing was left of downtown Hammond: the theaters and department stores had long been demolished and the industries had fled (leaving their pollution behind). Those driving east from Illinois had no reason to stop besides the town's cheap gas, smokes, and booze- the latter two available at a string of gaudy new casinos stretching from Hammond, through East Chicago, and on to Gary. Trump had his tiny fingers in one of the Gary casinos but things didn't quite work out for him there.

Arthur Mee said...

Shop Around The Corner. Just lovely.

Scrooge -- the Alastair Sim version. There are other decent versions, but this is the standard to which all others are compared.

The Silent Partner. If Die Hard's a Christmas movie, so is this!

Lansing said...

The Ref

If only for this scene:

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

Mothman Prophecies
Eyes Wide Shut
Doctor Zhivago
Harold and Maude
Carlito's Way
Broadway Danny Rose (more thanksgiving)
Last Detail
McCabe and Mrs Miller
The Thing (Carpenter)
Magnificent Ambersons

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

The Godfather

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

Meet Me in St. Louis

Why Shoot the Teacher?

My Dinner with Andre

Once Upon a Time in America

Fanny and Alexander

Dersu Uzala

Makioka Sisters

Anonymous said...

The Bishop's Wife (with Niven and Grant you cannot go wrong)
The Polar Express, Scrooged, A Christmas Carol (1951), A Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf. Janice B.

Pat Reeder said...

"A Christmas Story" is my favorite by far, since I am a Jean Shepherd fan and was waiting at the ticket window for it to come out. I thought it was a classic the first time I saw it and couldn't believe it wasn't a massive hit. It took the world a while to realize that I was right and they were all wrong, but then, that's happened so many times.

I'll also toss in votes for "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "Christmas Vacation." I'd somehow missed "White Christmas" until recently, but my niece and her family love it, so I see it at their house every year and it's grown on me (or as Bob Hope would've said about Bing, it's groan on me). I'll also endorse the Barbara Stanwyck version of "Christmas In Connecticut."

"Love, Actually," though, I just can't stand. That was the point where I jumped off the Richard Curtis wagon. If you want to know why, go to YouTube and look up the "Honest Trailer" for it. They nail everything wrong with it. In fact, you could spend a very pleasant Christmas Eve just watching "Honest Trailers," especially the one for "Les Miserables," which is hilarious, actually.

MikeK.Pa. said...

FUNNY FARM, although not in my Top 5, ranks high among holiday favorites. It's a film I rarely see on TV, but own on DVD and enjoy every time I see it, is FUNNY FARM. It stars Chevy Chase as a NY sportswriter who moves with his wife to a small, idyllic Vermont farmhouse to write a novel, only to find that 1) he has a severe case of writer's block; and 2) the town is not as idyllic as it appears.
The finale occurs during the Christmas holiday and Madolyn Smith, as Chevy's wife, has never been better.

The movie has a pretty good pedigree. It was last film directed by the great George Roy Hill, who directed BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and THE STING. Jeffrey Boam, who wrote LETHAL WEAPON and INDIANA JONES scripts and DEAD ZONE, one of the most movie adaptations of a Stephen King book, was the screenwriter on this film. Movie critic Gene Siskel favorably compared the film to those directed by Preston Sturges, which is pretty high praise.

Straying into Christmas music, a song I never hear played on the radio is THE BELL THAT COULDN'T JINGLE by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. A song co-written by Burt Bacharach.

Barry Traylor said...

A Christmas Carol (1947 with Alastair Sim)
Scrooge (1970 with Albert Finney
The Bishop's Wife (with Cary Grant and David Niven)

Also A Christmas Story and I am one of the people that went to see it at the movies when it first came out. I was and still am a big fan of Jean Shepherd as I was reading his work back in the 1960's in Playboy magazine.

Steve McLean said...

"Monty Python's Lfe of Brian" (Blessed are the cheese makers)

cadavra said...

A few that haven't been mentioned yet:

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS: Hands down the best animated Christmas movie ever, from the Aardman folks. Despite excellent reviews, it got buried by the competition, and Sony has made zero effort to even rebook it for holiday shows. Give it a spin, and remember: There's always time for a bow.

CASH ON DEMAND: Hammer Films made this Christmas-set bank-heist thriller starring Peter Cushing as the bank manager and Andre Morell as the head robber. But it quickly becomes apparent that what we're watching is a travesty of "A Christmas Carol," with Cushing's character as Scrooge. A small gem even without that connection.

DONOVAN'S REEF: John Ford's South Seas comedy starring John Wayne and Lee Marvin as brawling frenemies features a lengthy section set during the holidays,, highlighted by Dorothy Lamour and a group of children beautifully singing "Silent Night."

I don't think the 1994 MIRACLE ON 34th STREET is so bad. Attenborough makes a perfect Santa, Mara Wilson was one of those few kid actors who weren't cloying or obnoxious, and the altered "proof" is actually quite clever.

Finally, I've never understood why IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is considered a Christmas movie. It's essentially a two-hour film noir with a happy ending that just happens to take place at Christmas. (Has anyone ever noticed that Potter never returns the stolen money?) I'm usually depressed after seeing it.

Brian said...

Great topic. Thanks for all the recommendations. I watched "Christmas With The Kranks" yesterday. If you haven't seen it, I recommend reading the book, "Skiping Christmas by John Grisham before watching it. They are both hilarious.

And another vote for Christmas Vacation. Best part is when Clark looses it.

Steve Bailey said...

Preston Sturges' THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, and Denis Leary's black comedy THE REF.

Steve Bailey said...

Preston Sturges' THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, and Denis Leary's black comedy THE REF.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
And on that nobody has mentioned and may even be out of circulation -O'Henry's Full House. Great stars, great stories, great performances.

Greg Ehrbar said...

A couple of things:

• Reportedly, Hitchcock deliberately added the Friday, December 11 date to the titles at the opening of "Psycho" because he saw the Christmas decorations in the footage that the second unit had filmed in Phoenix.

• Six years before "Psycho," Bernard Herrmann wrote the music for perhaps the first-ever musical adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" starring Frederic March for CBS's "Shower of Stars" live anthology.

Kaleberg said...

What about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the stop motion animated version? It's worth it alone for Bumbles, the abominable snowman, and Yukon Cornelius.

There's also The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, also stop motion animation, based on Frank L Baum's wonderfully pagan Christmas story.

Andrew said...

Greg, that's very interesting. Thanks.

I like how in the shower scene one of the violins, instead of screeching, is playing "Deck the Halls."

Chris said...

The best Christmas movie for me is the original Miracle on 34th Street. I loved it as a kid and as I get older, I don't ever lose that joy. It's just too good.

And I'm sorry but I LOATHE Christmas Story with a fiery passion. Partially because I really don't like treacly "weren't things just simpler back then in the small towns..." because I am from a small town and I must have had that particular part of my brain disengaged at birth. I also can't stand the casual cruelty. That kid should grow up to be a mass murderer.

Anonymous said...

Ginger does in fact dance in 'Bachelor Mother' and wins a dance contest for her efforts (though this clip is too short to show the awarding of the trophy):

Greg Ehrbar said...

If you're interested in "Rudolph" and all those Rankin/Bass specials, there's a radio retrospective about the studio that's streaming for the next two weeks at Scroll about 3/4 down the home page and look for "Baby Boomer Favorites."

Marco said...

There's no Christmas Holiday without these:

- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
- Die Hard (plus Die Hard 2)
- Love, Actually
- Bad Santa
- Christmas with the Kranks

Plus a movie nobody except for Germany and Poland may know of: Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel (A very neat Cinderella story)

Nick Alexander said...

The best Christmas movies all came out in the 40s. They all have moments of screwball and earnestness that really resonate: Remember the Night, Holiday Inn, Christmas In Connecticut, Miracle on 34th St, It Happened on 5th Avenue, The Cheaters (really obscure, but as a lover of comedy SEEK IT OUT).

The guilty pleasure I allow myself is Spielberg's _1941_, taking place at Christmastime, with some outrageous set pieces that incorporate the iconic themes of Christmas.

Dana King said...

Another vote for THE ICE HARVEST. Outstanding black comedy from an even better book.

If reference to the above comment from the person whop hated A CHRISTMAS STORY, I watched it again last night with The Beloved Spouse. I don't find it treacly at all. I look at it as more of a gentle satire.

Johnny Hy said...

Andrea, "The Godfather" love it!! Great call!

Scrooged "Look it up in the phone book. If it's not under A then look under P"

The Family Man with Nicholas Cage but the true star of the movie is Tea Leoni and the daughter

And of course Die Hard just for Rickman's "Clay, Bill Clay"

JonCow said...

WE'RE NO ANGELS (1955) a good old-fashioned Christmas Story about three convicts who escape Devil's Island, starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray as the convicts. Ustinov and Ray steal the show with their excellent performances. Supported by Leo G Carroll, Joan Bennett, and Basil Rathbone.


David P said...

Nightmare Before Christmas. Wonderfully oddball and fun.

Question Mark said...

When you consider the talent involved, 'Mixed Nuts' is a contender for worst movie ever made.

Betty said...

I'm one of the few people who can't stand "A Christmas Story." It just drags on FOREVER.

Like a couple of people above, I think my favorite version of Dickens is "Mr. Magoo's A Christmas Carol" but I also like the Albert Finney "Scrooge."

Our local theater plays a Sunday matinee of "White Christmas" every year, so my daughter and I have a tradition of going to that - despite its many flaws.

While wrapping presents this year we watched "Auntie Mame" and "Love, Actually" and my favorite, "Bell, Book, and Candle." And now I'm in the mood to see "Die Hard" but I don't think I own it (yet - think I'll be hitting up Amazon later today).

Patrick said...

Everyone should watch The Ref - its genius!

Anonymous said...

White Christmas
Its a Wonderful Life
A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen 1938(with a very young and uncredited June Lockhart and her parents)

My dad loved A Christmas Story. We would watch it every year.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, everyone

Pam, St. Louis

Joel Perry said...

Don't laugh, Ken. . .how about Reindeer Games? Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Gary Sinise, Clarence Williams III, Donal Logue, Danny Trejo, Dennis Farina. . .even bit roles for Ashton Kutcher and Ron Jeremy (!). How can you go wrong?

Jon B. said...

I didn't get the reference by Ken to Keira Knightley's body image change. Anybody?

Don K. said...

Holiday Inn- Bing and Fred. Introduces "White Christmas"

Miracle on 34th st. (1947)

Christmas in Connecticut (Stanwyck, Greenstreet)

Bishop's Wife (Grant, Niven, Young)

Remember The Night

The Santa Clause

The Night They Saved Christmas (Cheesy 1980's movie with Jacklyn Smith, Paul Lemat, Paul Williams, Art Carney, June Lockhart)

White Christmas

3 Godfathers (Wayne, Carey, Jr. Armendariz)

It's A Wonderful Life

Going My Way