Editor’s note: On Thursday we ran a KHTS Big List detailing the top holiday movies, based on responses from listeners. Click here to read that story.
The list below was generated from our in-house movie review writer Chauncey Telese.
Ho Ho Ho! Christmas time is here, a time when we get together with our loved ones, sing carols, enjoy gingerbread cookies, watch Kobe and Gasol play Shaq and LeBron, drink egg nog that can be either naughty or nice, and of coarse PRESENTS! And the whole peace on Earth thing . I personally love Christmas time and part of what I love is the fact that, next to Halloween, Christmas provides some amazing movies that embody the spirit of the holidays. As with Halloween, I’ve decided to rank the best Christmas movies of all time according to me (this means some classic mainstays will be omitted, for I have particular tastes), so without further hesitation…
10. “Jingle All the Way” 1996:
It’s Turbo Time! You read correctly, “Jingle All the Way”, the movie starring our Govenator as a workaholic dad who scrambles to buy a TurboMan doll for his son on Christmas Eve. I know that critics wanted to target this movie for termination but I dare anyone to prove that this wasn’t funny. Watching Arnold take on The Big Show, Jim Belushi, and Sinbad never gets dull, and neither does watching the late Phil Hartman sleaze it up as his divorced next door neighbor. Plus, his son was played by Jake Lloyd, who would go on to infuriate nerds everywhere with his portrayal of young Anakin Skywalker (a performance that made me want to run him over with his pod racer). Moral-of-the-story alert! This film ends on the idea that being a great dad trumps getting the coolest present every time.
9. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”:
I’m referring to the 2000 version starring Jim Carrey though the 1966 cartoon is wonderful as well. As with the above I know this movie was reviled and most critics wanted to take the film out to an open field and beat it like the copier in “Office Space” but come on, this movie was really well done. Ron Howard did the best he could to take this classic story to new heights (he’d end up giving critics the proverbial finger by winning two Oscars for his next film “A Beautiful Mind”) and Jim Carrey was the perfect Grinch. This was my favorite book as a little kid so I did expect quality. The town of Whoville was absolutely gorgeous and Anthony Hopkins (To bad he didn’t do it as Hannibal Lecter but I guess that would be greedy on my part) is the narrator, so how can you go wrong? Your heart would have to be ten sizes too small for you not to enjoy watching this movie with your family.
8. “Gremlins” 1984:
“Keep them away from the light, don’t get them wet, and no matter how much they beg, no matter how much they cry, never…never feed them after midnight”. One of my absolute favorite movies as a kid and it is still holds up to this day. I along with most people would love to have Gizmo as a pet. He was cute, and unlike other Mogwais, he didn’t want to become a Gremlin. The puppetry and effects are brilliant and the Gremlins themselves seem like a lot of fun at bars even though they cause massive amounts of destruction. I loved all of the jabs at the quintessential Christmas icons like “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the Bing Crosby songs, and the way the entire town was supposed to be a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. It has a great message about family togetherness and features the “Snow White” scene. Though that highly unnecessary Christmas speech by a pre-“Fast Times At Ridgemont High” Phoebe Cates about why she hates the holidays keeps this movie from being in the top five.
7. “Die Hard” 1988:
Yippie kai yay mother****** this is a Christmas movie, just not the traditional kind. I’ll skip the plot because it is sort of an unwritten rule that by 2009/2010 everyone who is anyone has already seen “Die Hard”. Why is it a great Christmas movie? Well, it does take place during a Christmas party and John McClain’s wife is in serious jeopardy. Even though they are getting a divorce McClain goes above and beyond walking barefoot on broken glass, getting shot at etc. to make sure he and his wife live to spend Christmas with their daughter. Plus, there is no better Christmas villain then Hans Grubber.
6. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” 1994:
“Making Christmas, Making Christmas la la la”. Like I said at Halloween, this movie is designed to work for both holidays. It shows how Christmas is not just what we see on the surface, i.e. Rudolph, Christmas decorations, and Sandy Claws but instead it’s that intangible feeling we get that makes Christmas so special. Plus its got an amazing soundtrack, the best holiday addition to Disneyland besides the fireworks, and the animation and visuals are stunning.
5. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” 1992:
I’ve seen a million versions of Charles Dickens’ classic tale and this is by far the best one (though Bill Murray’s “Scrooged” is great too). The reasons being that 1. Michael Caine is a fantastic Scrooge because we see the obvious parts where he is angry and hate filled but more so then any other Scrooge, we get to see his human side when he sees himself as a young man. 2. Kermit (I know he’s not a real person) is amazing as Bob Cratchit. We feel the desperate optimism from Kermit as the family worries about Tiny Tim. 3. How can you go wrong with a movie narrated by Rizzo the Rat and the Great Gonzo. The movie is hilarious and never looses the spirit (no pun intended) of the story. The songs are outstanding (especially the old men singing “Marley and Marley” and the set design and puppetry are stunning.
4. “Home Alone”/”Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” 1990/1992:
“This is my house and I have to defend it”. Two of my favorites growing up and I’m assuming I don’t need to go over either plot (waiting…) ok then. These movies are about how sometimes we just wish our family would disappear and then realize that despite the occasional petty argument, we’d rather have that then nothing at all. They are about coming together as a family and reaching out to those that are usually ignored (i.e. the old man Kevin thinks is a murderer and the homeless pigeon lady). They are also laugh-out-loud hilarious and feature Joe Pesci’s best work not involving DeNiro, Scorsese, or dropping the F-Bomb. The traps Kevin sets in both houses are so creative (the Heated doorknob, the paint buckets, the bricks, etc.) and his one liners are quite witty for a ten year old. Plus it features Catherine O’Hara as Kevin’s mom and she is by far one of the most underrated female comedic actresses.
3. “Bad Santa” 2003:
“I’m an eating, breathing, s******, f******, Sandy Claws” This is by far one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Every line, while vulgar, is also side-splittingly hilarious. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Billy Bob Thornton (in his best role ever and I’ve seen “Sling Blade”) is a safe cracker named Willie who works as a mall Santa with his elf partner, and they rob department stores on Christmas Eve. He is emotionally crippled and is rarely seen not drunk or drinking. Willie finds meaning in his life when he meets pathetic ten year old Thurman Murman who believes he really is Santa and allows him to stay with him while his dad is climbing mountains (he’s actually in prison but the kid doesn’t know that). Willie decides to help Thurman because he does not want this kid to go down the same road as him. While this movie is very crude it does have a surprising amount of heart and is the last movie John Ritter ever made. It also features a great performance by Bernie Mac.
2. “A Christmas Story” 1983:
“I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!” This is a timeless classic that captures the obsession we have all gotten over a particular gift and how hard we worked to impress Santa in order to get it. This movie did a great job depicting 1950s America when kids were stoked to get a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring that, to their dismay, asked kids drink more Ovaltine. Other gems include learning that if a package has the label “fragile,” it must be Italian, and the legally binding nature of a triple dog dare. I love this movie, and never complain that it’s the only thing shown on ABC Family on Christmas (I’m serious, it’s the only program on the channel that day). It has so many great moments, the bunny suit, the leg lamp, Ralphie accidentally dropping an F-Bomb (though he thinks he says fudge but realizes he doesn’t), and of course all of his requests for the Red Ryder gun being met with the reply “you’ll shoot your eye out”.
1. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” 1989:
“Oh, the silent majesty of a winter’s morn… the clean, cool chill of the holiday air… an a**hole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer…” The funniest Christmas movie ever, hands down. Chevy Chase’s third run as Clark W. Griswold features the scariest part of Christmas, DEALING WITH FAMILY such as his cousin Eddie. This movie does a great job at showing how you don’t need the classic Christmas to be happy as long as you have family, and the more you try to attain a classic Christmas the more complicated it becomes. Example: Clark drives his family fifty miles into the forest for the perfect Christmas tree, but forgets the saw and the family has to dig it out. His infamous Christmas decorations featuring 2500 light bulbs that are so bright they can be seen from space, and of course his rant after he learns he is not getting the bonus he expected.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!