Here it was, on Oct. 24, and my wife announced the Hallmark Channel was starting that week a “Countdown to Christmas,” an assembly line of Christmas movies that would begin running on Oct. 28 through the holiday season.
My reaction, if I recall, was like a low grunt, the kind you make when getting out of bed. It’s Halloween time. I was in the mood for a little feel-good “The Walking Dead,” or watching Jason and his hockey mask wiping out every love-struck teen at Camp Crystal Lake.
The thought of watching “The Mistletoe Promise” or “December Bride” would be a two-hour test of tedium that would seem more like four. There’s only so many scenes of adults in green sweaters in luxurious dining rooms a man can take.
But that’s not to say I don’t like Christmas movies. I do – during Christmastime, i.e., post-Thanksgiving, or now. Many are a rite of the season, like it’s not officially Christmas until this movie appears. I’m not including the traditional TV specials, but the real theater releases.
There are hundreds of Christmas movies – many forgettable, many classics. But if I were stranded on an island – say, the Christmas Island off Australia – and I could have 10 DVDs of Christmas movies to get me through December, I’d watch them in this order:
10. Black Christmas (2006): With apologies to “Santa Slay,” there’s just not a lot of really good Christmas slasher films. But this is one, and no list should be complete without at least one. Sorority sisters are stalked and killed by the requisite mental asylum escapee right before Christmas when a winter storm has them trapped in the Delta Alpha Gamma house. Good enough that it was a remake from 1974. Climactic ending has killer impaled on a Christmas tree. Feliz Navidad.
9. A Midnight Clear (1992): A vastly underrated war movie of an encounter near Christmas 1944 of a small group of American and German soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge. A moral and sensitive adaptation of a novel that is taut and suspenseful.
8. Elf (2003): When Will Farrell is on, there’s none funnier. The premise that Buddy was raised an elf by Santa Claus only to discover he’s not an elf and returns to New York City to find his family is low-hanging mistletoe for Farrell.
7. Die Hard (1988): In the spirit of “Lethal Weapon” and “Batman Returns,” this Bruce Willis classic most certainly is a Christmas movie. The taking of hostages and takeover of the skyscraper occurs during a Christmas party. Occasionally, you see some Christmas decorations. When John McClane says, “Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister,” that rings of holiday cheer.
6. Trading Places (1983): Again, some purists may argue if it’s a Christmas movie. But Winthorpe is caught planting drugs in Billy Ray Valentine’s desk at the firm’s Christmas party, plus Winthorpe is a drunken Santa Claus stealing food. That’s Christmas. Add to that it may be the best work Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy ever did.
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947): Every time I see this movie, I look at 9-year-old Natalie Wood and think, boy, she grew up nicely.
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989): The best of National Lampoon’s “Vacation” series. So much to like about this one, so much that rings true of the dysfunctional Griswold family. Even today, nearly 30 years later, excessive lights on a house are labeled “Clark Griswold.” I’d still like some glass moose head mugs to drink egg nog.
3. Home Alone (1990)/Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992): I don’t care how many times I’ve seen the original, if the scenes are on of bumbling criminals Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern – aka Harry and Marv – entering the McCallister house, I’m watching. And probably still laughing. Stern, in his own way, steals the movie. In the sequel, Tim Curry, the concierge at the Plaza Hotel, steals the movie in much the same way as Stern. Pretty good holiday fare from writer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus.
2. A Christmas Story (1983): Admittedly, it can get a little tedious on a 24-hour loop at Christmas, but that’s not the movie’s fault. It’s got everything a nostalgic Christmas should be about – from a leg lamp to pink bunny rabbit pajamas, from a Red Ryder air rifle to a Goodyear blimp of a coat. For the record, Ralphie never shot his eye out.
1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946): You know what I want for Christmas? To live in Bedford Falls in the 1940s and sing “Auld Lang Syne” to Jimmy Stewart in his living room. It gets no better than that.
by Jason Boyett
Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.