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What is the best holiday movie of all time? Ask 20 different people, and you’ll probably get 20 different answers. For some, the best holiday movies are the black-and-white classics. For others, it’s not a holiday movie unless they're laughing uproariously . . . or crying poignantly. For many, a favorite holiday movie is the same one, year after year.
The best holiday movies are actually the ones that draw friends and family together during this special time of year. If you need some new movie ideas this holiday season, check out this list of classic, comedy and contemporary favorites. Try choosing a new one to watch this year, and see if it soon becomes a tradition at your house.
Classic holiday movies:
A Charlie Brown Christmas – This 1965 animated film, based on the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schultz, has delighted generations of holiday viewers with its pure, simple message of “Peace on earth, good will towards men.”
Meet Me In St. Louis – Musical lovers enjoy this 1940s musical comedy year after year, starring Hollywood legends, Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien, about four sisters in the days before the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. In addition to musical numbers highlighting the multitalented stars' talents, the movie also features lavish period costumes. Check it out here.
Holiday Inn – This 1940s musical, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, features songs written by Irving Berlin, including the holiday classic “White Christmas,” which won the Academy Award for best song when the movie was released. Check it out here.
Miracle on 34th Street – Starring Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood, this popular holiday film combines the lure of New York City, the beloved Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and a man named Kris Kringle, who claims to be the real Santa Claus. Check it out here.
White Christmas – This holiday standard, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney, was made in 1954 and is based on one of Crosby’s earlier Christmas movies featured on this list, Holiday Inn. The story about two former World War II soldiers includes a later version of “White Christmas,” originally written for the first film. Check it out here.
It’s A Wonderful Life – Holiday audiences look forward to watching this classic year after year for the inspiring story about the dejected George Baily and his guardian angel, who shows him that life is worth living after all. The movie stars Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Check it out here.
Holiday movies that have been remade:
Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas – Whether you prefer the original animated version of the Dr. Seuss children’s book or the 2000 feature film with Jim Carrey as the Grinch, the characters of Whoville and the movie’s message about community and family will charm viewers of all ages.
A Christmas Carol – Choose your favorite version of the perennially delightful Charles Dickens Christmas story, or watch them all this holiday season. The original movie was made in 1938, with remakes debuting in 1951,1984, and a 2009 version starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge. There’s even the 1992 Muppet version for Miss Piggy and Kermit fans. Check it out here.
Little Women – The movie, based on the book by Louisa May Alcott, features charming Christmas scenes, both in the 1949 original, starring June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Margaret O’Brien, Elizabeth Taylor, and Janet Leigh, and in the 1994 remake, starring Winona Ryder, Gabriel Byrne, Kristen Dunst, Claire Danes, and Christian Bale. Check it out here.
A Christmas Story – This beloved Christmas tale is such a classic that TBS plays it for 24 hours straight during the holiday season. From Ralphie’s singular obsession with owning a Red Rynder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle to chants of “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” there’s so much to love that fans of this movie would be happy if it played from Thanksgiving to New Years Day.
Home Alone – Macauley Culkin stars as a little boy mistakenly left at home when the rest of the family departs on a holiday trip. Initially thrilled by the freedom of being home alone, Kevin’s fun soon must end as he tries to thwart two bad men who plan to rob the house, resulting in sidesplitting comedy antics. Check it out here.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - Rerouted flights, a surprise snowstorm, and differing personalities set the stage for this comedy about holiday travel, featuring a straight-laced businessman played by Steve Martin and an ebullient salesman depicted by John Candy. Check it out here.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – Hilarity ensues as Clark Griswold’s elaborate plans for a picture perfect Christmas are interrupted when Eddie and his family arrive in their camper for an unexpected visit. Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid star in this holiday comedy treat. Check it out here.
Elf – Audiences laugh until they cry as Will Ferrell plays 'Buddy', the North Pole elf, and travels to New York City to find his biological father, played by James Caan. During his journey, Buddy doesn’t depart from his childlike qualities or his insistence on spreading Christmas cheer to everyone he meets. The cast also includes Ed Asner and Bob Newhart. Check it out here.
The Polar Express – Based on the popular children’s book, this movie starring Tom Hanks was filmed in 2004 using computer animation. It features an enchanted train ride to the North Pole and the idea that seeing isn't believing.
One Magic Christmas – The 1985 Walt Disney Pictures production stars Mary Steenbergen, whose character isn’t looking forward to Christmas (due to personal problems) until an angel intervenes and helps her realize how truly lucky she is. Check it out here.
The Family Stone – With a fabulous ensemble cast, including Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, and Craig T. Nelson, is a poignant movie about a man bringing his girlfriend home to meet the family at Christmas. Check it out here.
Love, Actually – Set in London during the holiday season, this British romantic film stars Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Emma Thompson. The characters make up ten separate love stories that come together at the end for a touching conclusion, just in time for Christmas. Check it out here.
The Holiday – In this romantic comedy, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet play two women who swap houses at Christmas time due to romantic disappointments. Instead of running away from love as they had planned, they both meet new love interests, played by Jude Law and Jack Black. Check it out here.
The Santa Clause – This family drama starring Tim Allen was so popular that it spawned two sequels. Allen’s character plays a divorced father who is forced to replace Santa Claus and has to convince everyone that he’s the real deal. Check it out here.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly way to entertain this holiday season, why not plan a holiday movie party? Invite others to watch one of these seasonal film favorites. Send movie “tickets” along with the invitations, and let the children on your list know that they should bring (ie: pillows and sleeping bags) Try encouraging everyone to wear their holiday pajamas and robes. Or, invite your guests to come dressed as their favorite holiday movie character, and offer prizes for the best costumes.
Serve concession stand snacks, like popcorn and candy, before everyone settles down to watch the movie. You can even have an intermission to allow your guests time to get more food or visit with each other. You might even want to hold a ticket drawing for door prizes of movie tickets or holiday themed gifts.
After the movie is over, serve hot chocolate and cookies as everyone talks about the film and shares their favorite parts. It won’t be long before your holiday movie party becomes a festive tradition that people look forward to every year.
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