Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie? It takes place during a Christmas Party but is it really a Christmas movie? Is Trading Places a Christmas movie? Dan Aykroyd plays one of the best and funniest Bad Santas in movie history, but would it be the perfect movie to get you into the holiday spirit? AMC has an excellent list of the 10 greatest Classic Christmas Movies ranked by user popularity. It’s a good list. All of these movies show up on other lists of the greatest or best Christmas Movies. The top movie on their list is It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a Wonderful Life is a perfect example of what Hollywood critics used to call Capra-Corn because director Frank Capra definitely knew how to push everyone’s buttons (or yank on those heartstrings) but he also won three Best Director Oscars and was nominated for three more, including It’s a Wonderful Life.
My own personal favorite Christmas movie is Miracle on 34th Street, the original 1947 version. It’s lighter and funnier and not as darkly emotional as It’s a Wonderful Life but it is a high quality production with some of the best character actors Hollywood had to offer. The courtroom scene is classic. The Bishops Wife is another syrupy Hollywood production with Cary Grant as an angel who falls in love with the Bishop’s (David Niven) wife played by Loretta Young. It’s a light romantic comedy and David Niven’s sermon at the end of the movie perfectly captures the essence of Christmas.
There are no less than four movie versions of A Christmas Carol that are classics, A Christmas Carol (1938) A Christmas Carol (1951) Scrooged (1988) and A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). There are even more filmed versions of Dicken’s classic novel but these four seem the show up on every list of the greatest or the best Christmas movies. Whether you prefer the Golden Age of Hollywood’s 1938 version, or the 1951 English production with the great Allister Sims both are true Christmas Classics. Scrooged is an updated comedy version with Bill Murray as Scrooge and an all-star supporting cast, and while I’ve never seen it all the critics rave over Michael Caine as Scrooge in Muppets Christmas Carol, although it is definitely a kids movie rather than a movie for the whole family.
Musicals were hugely popular in the Golden Age of Hollywood so three classic Hollywood musicals Holiday Inn, White Christmas, and Meet me in Saint Louis continue to make all the ‘best of’ Christmas lists. Bing Crosby sings ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’ in Holiday Inn and White Christmas while Judy Garland sings ‘Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas’ in Meet Me In Saint Louis.
Beyond the ‘Classic Christmas Movie’ it gets tricky as to what captures the spirit of Christmas on film. Gremlins…Really? A Christmas Movie? But the following are some fun Christmas movies that show up regularly on ‘Best of’ Christmas lists.
- Christmas in Connecticut (1945) A screwball comedy with Barbara Stanwyck.
- Holiday Affair (1949) A Christmas romance with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh.
- Three Godfathers (1948) John Wayne is one of three outlaws that find a newborn orphaned in the desert in John Ford’s Western retelling of the three wise men.
- We’re No Angels (1955) A black Comedy for a white Christmas staring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Basil Rathbone. Directed by Michael Curtiz.
- Lemon Drop Kid (1951) Bob Hope.
- Polar Express (2004) Cutting edge animation takes you on an extraordinary ride to the North Pole.
- Elf (2003) Will Ferrell is the human boy accidently raised by Santa’s North Pole elves.
- While You Were Sleeping (1995) Romantic comedy staring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman with a great supporting cast.
- The Santa Clause (1994) Tim Allen signs on as Santa Claus.
- The Ref (1994) Denis Leary is a burglar who takes the Christmas-dinner-from-hell hostage.
- Christmas Story (1983) This one is on its way to being a perennial Christmas Classic.
- Home Alone (1990) A comedy about a boy left at home over Christmas defending his home from burglars.
- Love Actually (2003) 12 days of Christmas in London.
- Bad Santa (2003) Billy Bob Thornton is a really bad Santa.
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) Chevy Chase is Clark Griswold where every vacation is a disaster.
- Doctor Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) Jim Carey is the Grinch.
Ho! Ho! Ho! From Rob and the Staff at the Rogers Public Library.