As I’ve previously mentioned, I could spend hours watching Christmas movies. I even love the made-for-TV classics that feature washed up 80’s TV stars and schmaltzy plots – with exception to The Christmas Shoes, of course. (That said, Christmas Shoes doesn’t meet all of my requirements; it features Kimberly Williams of Father of the Bride (1991) fame and it lacks a schmaltzy plot: Kim dies at the end, from what Wikipedia suggests. The point is thusly moot! But I digress…)
In the midst of the deluge of Christmas crap that will take over our televisions this month, several films will stand out time and time again. I never grow tired of these films, and they never cease to fill me with Christmas joy throughout the season. Without, further ado…
5. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown and his gang warm hearts in this television special, which is one of the first animated features to use child voice actors. This gives a sense of sweetness to the entire production. The music is delightful and whimsical (it’s what McDreamy and I listened to whilst decking our halls this year). The pathetic Christmas tree almost makes me feel guilty for having an artificial tree at the expense of rescuing a similar, dying tree. And Linus’s impassioned speech always helps me to remember what we’re celebrating each year.
4. Die Hard 2: Die Harder
It would not be Christmas without Bruce Willis shooting people. At least that’s how we see it at my house. This is why we likely failed at integrating into Mennonite subculture.. Die Harder follows John McLean as he attempts to purge the airport of terrorists on Christmas Eve. The stakes are high because McLean’s wife is on a flight due to land at the airport and her plane is running out of fuel. In order to bring his wife home safely, he must risk life and limb to take out every last terrorist. They are reunited on the runway as snow falls around them. Yippe Ki-yay!
3. White Christmas
This holiday classic means almost as much to me as a good Turkey dinner. Bing Crosby and Danny Kay make me laugh time and time again as they attempt to bring business into a Vermont inn owned by their former US Army general. The General has fallen on hard times, as it has failed to snow. Bing and Danny move their stage production to Vermont to “practice” while secretly plotting to flood the inn with their Army friends to celebrate the life and accomplishments of the man they admire. The film has romance, comedy, drama, tension, and great music. Perhaps most importantly, the film features the song “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, who had relegated the song to the bottom of a drawer or trunk, believing it to be one of his lackluster works (or so one story goes). No matter who sings “White Christmas,” my favorite will always be Bing’s version, as performed at the end of the film.
2. Home Alone
At one point or another, we’ve all been forced to spend the holidays with family that we’d rather not see. Sometimes the thought of holing up at home, completely alone, seems better than family drama that seems to pop up when everyone is forced to sit together around the table for a holiday meal. That’s why this movie is so great. It appeals to the part within each of us that would love to withdraw and do Christmas our own way. When eight-year-old Kevin McCallister angrily wishes he could spend Christmas alone instead of traveling with his extended family, the Christmas magic makes his dream a reality. Kevin is left behind after the entire family over sleeps and rushes to the airport, failing to realize he hasn’t made it to the airport, let alone their destination. Oops. Kevin then falls victim to Marv and Harry, the Wet Bandits, who have planned to rob his house on Christmas Eve. As Kevin proudly exclaims, it is his house and he is going to defend it. Using all the tools in his arsenal – Kevin builds traps with toys, kitchen torches, irons, rusty nails, you name – it to stop Marv and Harry from invading his Christmas.
This film captured my imagination as a child, and for years my poor father had to dodge the traps I set for him. It wasn’t uncommon for me to build a spider web or leave trip wires around the house. I was quite possibly the most obnoxious five-year-old of all time. Still, one of my favorite moments is when Kevin and his mom are reunited just in time to spend Christmas together.
1. Home Alone II
I’m shocked to find that there is any argument about which Home Alone film is better. In this fabulous sequel, Kevin angrily wishes that he could dodge the family trip to Florida and take his own Christmas vacation, avoiding the hypocrisy of pretending to be a big, happy family. Again, the Christmas magic works and Kevin gets on the wrong flight and ends up enjoying Christmas in New York at the Plaza Hotel. Kevin must dodge a nosy concierge who suspects him of credit card fraud, befriend a crazy bird lady, and defeat Marv and Harry, who have escaped from prison. I find this film far more compelling than the first because Kevin is shown as a considerate person who fights against Marv and Harry to prevent them from stealing money that is intended to go to a children’s hospital. He is no longer in a defensive position; he deliberately goes after Marv and Harry to foil their plans, luring them to his unoccupied Uncle’s house, where he unleashes another set of sophisticated traps. I think this is why I love the film just the tiniest bit more than the first.