1.) White Christmas (1954)
White Christmas opened the day after Thanksgiving in 1954. The film starred Hollywood A-listers Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. The story follows Broadway performers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis. Together, they up with Betty and Judy Haynes to put on a show in order to save the Columbia Inn. Run by their former commanding General (Dean Jagger), the little Inn is in dire financial straits due to a lack of snow. White Christmas is the ultimate, feel good, holiday film. Add in the memorable Irving Berlin score, White Christmas stands one of the most classic, timeless musicals to come out of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
2.) Love Actually (2003)
Love Actually is a Christmas movie that works all year round. The holiday themed romance features a cast which can only be described as gigantic. The film brings together a who’s who of British cinema, from young stars like a post-Pirates of the Caribbean Keira Knightley, as well as a pre-Sherlock Martin Freeman. When you include already established stars like Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant, and you get an anglophile’s dream cast. While Love Actually is often blamed for a host of critically panned films which followed, at the time of its’ 2003 release, Love Actually‘s complicated and detailed narrative structure was completely unique and original.
3.) March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
Babes in Toyland/March of the Wooden Soldiers stars the legendary comedy team Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee. The world of the story brings childhood nursery rhymes to life. The film follows Little Bo-Peep (Charlotte Henry) as she engages in a mild flirtation with Tom-Tom the Piper’s son (Felix Knight). However, she has a heck of a time keeping those pesky sheep under control. Everything is fine and dandy until the villainous Barnaby (Henry Brandon in a stunning performance) feels jilted by Bo-Peep. He resolves to make everyone’s life miserable, using everything from old fashioned dunking to the nightmarish bogeymen.
The film is only one of a number of stellar movies by legendary comedy team. While March of the Wooden Soldiers isn’t as remembered as some of their other works, it is a fun, enjoyable holiday romp.
4.) The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Jim Henson’s Muppets experienced a golden age during the last third of the twentieth century, and The Muppet Christmas Carol came out during the peak of their popularity. The film is a relatively faithful retelling of the classic Charles Dickens’ story, featuring the Muppets in the lead roles. The puppet cast is supported by a talented group of human co-stars, led by Michael Caine as Mr. Scrooge.
Despite being packed with catchy songs and traditional Muppet humor, the story doesn’t shy away from powerful emotion. Rarely is there a dry eye in the house after actress Meredith Braun sings, “When Love is Gone”. And Caine puts in a well-rounded, intelligent performance as the iconic villain. The Muppet Christmas Carol is also the first film showing the successful evolution the Muppets underwent after the death of creator Jim Henson. The movie established a formula which shaped their movies for the next decade.
5.) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Meet Me in St. Louis is another film which is watchable year round. At the same time, it also holds a special place as a Christmas film. The movie is the first to feature Judy Garland’s stunning rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. The scene is a powerful one. Between Garland’s unparralled vocals, the picturesque direction by Vincente Minnelli, and a young Margaret O’Brien’s emotional performance, there’s not a dry eye in the house as the song comes to an end.
The film follows the Smith Family as they struggle to come to grips with the reality that Mr. Smith’s (Leon Ames) upcoming promotion will take them from their beloved home in St. Louis, to New York City. Together, the family deals with life, love and heartbreak as everything builds to the 1906 St. Louis World’s Fair.
6.) While You Were Sleeping (1995)
This 1990s holiday romance features Sandra Bullock riding a post Speed high, as well as Bill Pullman enjoying the peak of his career. While You Were Sleeping follows Lucy, a Chicago subway worker who rescues the man of her dreams (Peter Gallagher) when he’s pushed in front of an oncoming train. At the hospital, she’s mistaken as his fiancee, and finds herself an unofficial member of his family over the holidays as he recovers from a coma.
The film features not only great performances from Pullman and Bullock, but also from legends Peter Boyle, Glynis Johns and Jack Warden. While You Were Sleeping is a pitch perfect romance, guaranteed to put a smile on your face through even the coldest of winters.
7.) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of the most quotable Christmas movies in recent years. The ongoing National Lampoon’s Vacation series has existed in some form for the last 30 years, and this film shows why. Since its’ release, the movie has become a holiday classic. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation follows Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) in his quest to create the perfect Christmas for his family. However, when his parents and in-laws arrive for the holiday, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a work of comedy gold which captures quotable lines and iconic sequences throughout. There are also a number of impressive performances, led by Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid and a very young Johnny Galecki.
Keep an eye out for actress Mae Questel as Aunt Bethany. A prominent voice actress in Hollywood, she’s best known as the original voice of Betty Boop.
8.) Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone follows Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin), a young boy who’s accidentally left at home while his family goes to France for Christmas. The boy revels in all the late nights and bowls of ice cream he can have while his parent’s aren’t there. However, things shift when he must protect his home against the Wet Bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). However, the men chose the wrong house to mess with. The crafty Kevin sends the unsuspecting robbers spiraling into a dangerous funhouse of elaborate booby traps.
Growing up as a child of the early 90’s, Home Alone is a quintessential piece of nostalgia. Not only does the film feature a stellar performance from a young Macaulay Culkin, but who didn’t want to fantasize about running amok in that crazy house?
9.) Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard is on this list for one reason, the glory that was Alan Rickman. Die Hard follows John McClane (Bruce Willis). McClane is a New York Police Officer visiting LA in hopes of mending his broken marriage. When he surprises his wife at work, McClane is forced to save the day as a group of terrorists (led by Rickman) take over the building.
Looking back on the action film, it has gone down as a classic. It’s narrative formula, while unique for 1988, has influenced hundreds of other movies in the genre. The Die Hard franchise has also gone on to spawn four more sequels of varying quality. However, in his performance as Hans Gruber, Alan Rickman proved himself a tremendously talented actor in his first major film. This role is a must see for his fans.
10.) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Miracle on 34th Street follows a grounded and realistic single mother (Maureen O’Hara) as she attempts to raise her growing daughter (Natalie Wood) in midtown Manhattan. However, their lives are turned pleasantly upside down when Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) enters their lives. The pleasant gentlemen is convinced that he’s the one and only Kris Kringle. Could the man really be Santa Claus?
Miracle on 34th Street is a feel good film, and features stellar performances by its’ leads, especially the likable Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn. Natalie Wood, still just a child, shows why she would grow into a Hollywood power player the years that followed. Miracle on 34th Street is a small, simple little film, which will make you smile. Check out this Christmas classic if you haven’t.