My husband and I are obsessed. We love movies – enough to watch them over and over and over again, whether they’re on TV or DVD. It doesn’t matter.
So, as of Dec. 1, we started watching at least one of our growing collection of Christmas movies each night. We checked Christmas movies out of the library, and rented a few others. Some are traditional, feel-good, family films. Others – well, they’re probably more appropriate for Mom and Dad to watch after the kids go to bed.
So here it is, our not-so-comprehensive list of our favorite Christmas movies, their basic plots, best lines, and the reason we watch them again and again. (And again…)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
This is, hands-down my favorite Christmas movie. Actually, it’s my favorite movie of all time.
For the uninitiated, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the story of George Bailey (played by James Stewart), a regular guy who – like many of us – feels his life is con-trolling him, rather than the other way around.
Clarence, an angel who needs to earn his wings, is assigned to George’s “case.” One snowy night, Clarence give George a glimpse of what the world would be like if George had never been born.
I think I’ve seen the movie at least 25 times – probably more. And I never fair to shed a tear or two at the end.
• “I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know.”
• “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” (Zuzu Bailey)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
“Miracle on 34th Street” makes me realize that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
The main theme of this movie – commercialism vs. the spirit of Christmas – reflect the same concerns many of us have today, almost 60 years later.
But perhaps I delve too deep. Really, it’s a great story about a little girl – and her cynical mother – who learn to have faith in their imaginations and in people, when they meet Kris Kringle – the real Santa Claus.
• “Your Honor, every one of these letters is addressed to Santa Claus. The Post Office has delivered them. Therefore the Post Office Department, a branch of the Federal Governent, recognizes this man Kris Kringle to be the one and only Santa Claus.”
• “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”
I was a tough sell on “Elf.” I like Will Ferrell in smaller doses, and I figured this movie would include the usual gratuitous jokes about body functions.
When I finally saw the movie, I was surprised – and bought my own copy right away with the idea that “Elf” was one of those instant Christmas classics.
Elf is the story of Buddy, a now grown-up orphan baby who stowed away in Santa’s pack and was raised by elves. As an adult, Buddy heads to New York to meet his birth father – who is on Santa’s naughty list.
• “You smell like beef and cheese, you don’t smell like Santa.”
• “It’s just like Santa’s workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms… and everyone looks like they wanna hurt me…”
White Christmas (1954)
What Christmas would be complete without Bing Crosby singing the title song from this classic movie?
The plot revolves around the adventures of a pair of Army buddies (played by Crosby and Danny Kaye) who team up for a song-and-dance act. They meet up with a similar sister act, and romance ensues.
The four head to a Vermont lodge to do a Christmas show and find that the men’s former Army commander is the owner.
This movie has some fun comic bantering. Rather than listing best lines, I think it’s more appropriate to list the best songs, which are:
• White Christmas (of course!)
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
I saw the most recent version of this Christmas classic, “The Preacher’s Wife,” first – and loved the story – but the original is really the best.
In this movie, Cary Grant plays an angel who attaches himself to a bishop and his family. The bishop has lost his focus and maybe a bit of faith, while his wife tries hard to keep their romance alive.
The snappy dialogue is what makes the original superior to the remake.
• “Sometimes angels rush in where fools fear to tread.”
A Christmas Carol (1951 Alistair Sims version)
There are dozens of versions of Charles Dickens’ story of transformation and redemption – this 1951 version is the classic.
• “A merry Christmas, Ebenezer! You old HUMBUG! Oh, and a happy new year! As if you deserved it!”
• “God bless us, every one!”
The Santa Clause (1994)
Santa falls off a man’s roof – and the homeowner, a divorced dad, becomes Santa’s replacement.
• “We’re your worst nightmare. Elves with attitude.”
Home Alone (1990)
A little boy gets his wish – to have no family – when he is accidentally left behind when his entire family goes to France for Christmas.
• “I took a shower washing every body part with actual soap; including all my major crevices; including in between my toes and in my belly button which I never did before but sort of enjoyed. I washed my hair with adult formula shampoo and used cream rinse for that just-washed shine. I can’t seem to find my toothbrush, so I’ll pick one up when I go out today. Other than that, I’m in good shape.”
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993 – animated)
Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, is bored, so he ventures into Christmas Town – and wants the ghouls and goblins of Halloween Town to put on Christmas.
I love the music in this, and it is one of my son’s favorites. He’d like to see it produced as a Broadway show – someday, someday.
• “And on a dark cold night, under full moonlight, he flies into the fog like a vulture in the sky! And they call him Sandy Claws!”
Family Man (2000)
This is one of my husband’s favorites. It’s a sort of updated version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” – in reverse, as the main character, Jack – a single, wealthy man who lives in a New York high-rise apartment – wakes up Christmas morning to find himself married to his former girlfriend, living in a house in the ‘burbs with a couple of kids and a dog.
Maybe my sweetie identifies with Jack when he says, “We have a house in Jersey. We have two kids, Annie and Josh. Annie’s not much of a violin player, but she tries real hard. She’s a little precocious, but that’s only because she says what’s on her mind. And when she smiles… And Josh, he has your eyes. He doesn’t say much, but we know he’s smart. He’s always got his eyes open, he’s always watching us. Sometimes you can look at him and you just know he’s learning something new. It’s like witnessing a miracle. The house is a mess but it’s ours. After 122 more payments, it’s going to be ours…And we’re in love. After 13 years of marriage we’re still unbelievably in love.”
At least I’d like to think so.
Of course, I identify with Kate, Jack’s wife, when she says, “Jack. Strong. Coffee.”
You just read ‘em.
Somewhat irreverent – but loads of fun:
The Ref (1994)
Denis Leary plays a cat burgler who kidnaps a constantly-bickering married couple.
The dialogue is fast and furious and filled with black humor. It’s certainly not your traditional Christmas movie – but it’s great for some serious laughs.
Best lines (there are really too many to count):
• “Santa doesn’t drink champagne. Santa only drinks milk.”
• “I hijacked my (BLEEPING) parents.”
Die Hard (1988)
The Bruce Willis action movie that started it all – a cop goes to his estranged wife’s company Christmas party, and takes on international criminals.
• “Hey babe, I negotiate million dollar deals for breakfast. I think I can handle this Euro-trash.”
Die Hard II: With a Vengeance (1990)
More Bruce Willis action. Just another Christmas Eve saving the world from terrorists.
• “As I was going to St. Ives?/I met a man with seven wives./Every wife had seven sacks,/Every sack had seven cats,/Every cat had seven kit-tens./Kittens, cats, sacks, wives, /How many were going to St. Ives?”
A Christmas Story (1983)
I remember the first time I saw this movie at the show. I immediately thought of my dad as a little boy, growing up in Chicago. One of the national cable stations shows this one for 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve – and I still can’t get enough of it. It’s tied with “Christmas Vacation” for my second favorite Christmas movie of all time.
• “No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!” Santa Claus: You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
• “Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.”
• “Deck the halls with boughs of horry, ra ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra ra.”
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Clark W. Griswold just wants to have an old-fashioned family Christmas. What’s wrong with that? Apparently, if you’re Clark W. Griswold – everything.
This is probably the most quotable Christmas movie ever – with giggles and belly laughs following every line – especially those involving Clark’s Cousin Eddie. This line pretty much sums up the movie – and many of our feelings after a spending a little too much time with the family:
• “Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here.”
Dicken’s Christmas Carol, turned a bit on its ear. Buster Poindexter and Carol Kane are my favorite ghosts of Christmas present and past ever.
• “It’s Christmas Eve. It’s..it’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we-we-we smile a little easier, we-w-w-we-we-we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be.”
Trading Places (1983)
A snobby, rich investor and poor con artist switch places as the result of a bet between two rich brothers, to see whether the good guy goes bad and the bad guy becomes good.
The bet takes its course, until the main characters get together to plot their revenge.
• “You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”
Those of us of a certain age (ranging between 30 and 50, I would guess without giving myself completely away) grew up just waiting for these animated Christmas specials to come on TV each year.
That’s back when TV specials were a family event. Dad made popcorn, my sisters and I would put on our PJ’s and we’d sit, wide-eyed, in front of the televi-sion.
We could even quote every line and sing every song, even without the benefit of watching the shows over and over on video or DVD.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
You’d have to be a Grinch to not love Charlie Brown and his pathetic little Christmas tree.
• “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”
• “Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Browniest.”
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
I think we’ve all felt like Rudolph, Hermey and the misfit toys at one time or another.
• “Well, some day I’d like to be a dentist.”
• “Hey, what do you say we both be independent together, huh?”
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
I confess that I’m so opinionated about Dr. Seuss that I’ve never seen the more recent live-action version of The Grinch. Sorry – you just don’t mess with the Seuss! And you don’t mess with Boris Karloff, either.
• “All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not. The Grinch hated Christmas – the whole Christmas season. Oh, please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or maybe his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the best reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
There was something scary, yet ridiculous about the Burger Meister Meister Burger that made me laugh as a kid.
• “Toys are hereby declared illegal, immoral, unlawful AND anyone found with a toy in his possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon. No kidding!”
Frosty the Snowman
Frosty was a jolly, happy soul. Until somebody melted him. But then Santa saves the day!
• “Happy birthday! Hey, I said my first words. But…but snowmen can’t talk. Ha ha ha, come on now, what’s the joke? Could I really be alive?”
COPYRIGHT 2006 BY CHRISTINE LUPELLA.