Holiday TV specials are all well and good, but sometimes we need our peace-on-earth, good-will-toward-mankind messages in doses larger than 30 minutes.
Especially after this crazy year. (Rumor has it that even Rudolph had to suffer through a two-week, unpaid furlough and was forced to switch the bulb in his nose to a lower wattage.)
Thankfully, our favorite classic holiday movies are about to hit TV again. Here are our five favorites that are more than 20 years old.
1. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946): Six decades later, Frank Capra’s signature tale — about a frustrated businessman (Jimmy Stewart) learning what life would be like without him — might seem like a Christmas cliche. But try to fight off the tears when Harry Bailey delivers the line, “A toast to my big brother, George: The richest man in town.”
2. A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983): Jean Shepherd’s warped recollections of childhood Christmas seasons in fictional Hohman, Ind., barely makes the cut. It just seems older because it’s set in the 1940s. Thanks to the greatest collection of memorable lines on the silver screen — “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” and “I triple-dog dare ya!” — this is now the unofficial Wonderful Life tradition for the ’80s generation.
3. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947): When you put Kris Kringle on trial for being legally insane, you know this isn’t the candy-cane Christmas fluff you’re used to seeing this time of year. But just wait till the good, ol’ U.S. Postal Service saves St. Nick. (If you dare suggest the ’94 remake is in the same class, we’re gonna go postal!)
4. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944): A St. Louis family sings its way through the seasons beginning in the summer of 1903. Judy Garland stars as Esther Smith, a girl in love with the boy next door. By the time you’ve heard rousing versions of “Skip to My Lou” and “The Trolley Song,” you find yourself sniffling as she sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
5. A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951): There are so many versions of this classic. But if you are looking for one that stays true to the story, look no further than this version starring Alastair Sim. His Scrooge is filled with venom before that fateful night and then filled with joy to have made it through to help Tiny Tim and his family.
Modern holiday flicks worth their mistletoe
Enough with all the black-and-white, syrupy holiday musicals!
If we hear about one more roasting chestnut or watch another lunatic running down the street in Bedford Falls screaming “Merry Christmas” at buildings, we’re going to lose it.
Sorry to come across as an Ebenezer (talk about the most dated name in history; seriously, do you know any Ebenezers?)
What we really want most for Christmas is a holiday movie that lives in the now. To that end, we’ve picked out five favorite holiday movies released in the last 20 years. Chances are these will become classics in time and wind up running in movie marathons on Christmas Eve.
In the meantime, you may have to settle for renting these flicks because they don’t appear on TV quite as often yet.
1. ELF (2003): We still cringe when Will Ferrell pours maple syrup on spaghetti and shovels it down his throat. (At least he had the good taste to fall for the enchanting Zooey Deschanel.) As Buddy the elf, Ferrell dispenses the best holiday advice in years: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
2. LOVE ACTUALLY (2003): This British heart-tugger follows the dysfunctional romantic lives of a group of loosely intertwined friends one December in London. Hugh Grant lends his star power as the lovelorn prime minister. But Bill Nighy steals the laughs as an aging rock star whose only Christmas wish is one more hit record.
3. CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989): National Lampoon’s “Vacation” franchise should have folded its tents after this masterpiece. Chevy Chase reprises his role as Clark Griswold, a father desperate to give his family the best Christmas ever — only to be sabotaged by in-laws.
4. POLAR EXPRESS (2004): Director Robert Zemeckis used motion-capture animation technology to tell the story of a magical train on a journey to the North Pole. Zemeckis used the same trickery for 2009’s “A Christmas Carol,” but it’s too early to say whether that flick belongs on any “best of” list.
5. BAD SANTA (2003): Make sure the kids are all tucked away — better yet, let them sleep over at Grandma’s — before breaking out this R-rated flick because Billy Bob Thornton earned an engraved spot on St. Nick’s “naughty” list for this.
The story of an alcoholic Santa and his thieving “elf” partner is rude, crude and maybe the funniest holiday movie ever.