In my last post I talked about my favorite Christmas shows that were an hour or less in length. Today I’ll give you my favorite full-length Christmas shows. I’ll start with “the classics”: movies that I am pretty sure would be on ANY “best Christmas movies” list.
Yes, it’s the 1954 Bing Crosby-Rosemary Clooney-Danny Kaye White Christmas. What else can I say that hasn’t already been said about this one? Wonderful movie, wonderful songs, wonderful cast: it’s got it all!
A Christmas Story. I could probably just stop with the picture: one of the iconic moments in an incredibly funny, heart-warming story. For those of us “of a certain age”, it’s like watching our childhood all over again! Released in 1983, it has been on TV every year since.
Released in 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life is guaranteed to leave all non-Grinchy hearts touched and eyes watered! Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore in a wonderful turn as Mr Potter, a man that makes Ebenezer Scrooge look pleasant. If you don’t like this one, you don’t like Christmas!
Here’s another black-and-white classic, 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street. Don’t be fooled by imitations: there have been several remakes, but this (the original) is still the best. Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn (Ocar for Best Supporting Actor) and a young Natalie Wood lead a great cast in a wonderful story. Need to get in the Christmas spirit? Here you go!
Yes, I think that The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2 are classics! You got a problem with that? 🙂 Released in 1994 and 2002 respectively, and starring Tim Allen, they are funny, clever and really well-done. (There was a third film in the series, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, but I don’t recommend it: it was pretty awful.)
Released in 2004, The Polar Express became an instant Christmas classic. Tom Hanks voices SEVEN different characters! It’s a touching story, beautifully animated, and has some GREAT songs!
There have been countless film versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but there are two that I think are the best out there. I know many people like the Alistair Sim or Reginald Owen versions, but for me, there are only two…..
For me, no one ever played Ebenezer Scrooge better than George C. Scott in the 1984 film, A Christmas Carol. He was positively VILE at the beginning, but his transformation was wonderful (and very believable). This film has an all-star cast, the special effects are well-done, and it’s just one of my favorite Christmas movies!
What do you get when Disney starts with the genius of Jim Henson’s Muppets, adds some great songs, and then convinces Michael Caine to play Ebenezer Scrooge? You get a Christmas classic, that’s what! The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) is a wonderful, fairly faithful, adaptation of Dickens’ story that will appeal to adults and kids alike.
And now for some movies that may not be “classics”, but they’re great Christmas movies!
2011 brought us Arthur Christmas, and if it’s not a classic, it will be! The story of Santa’s younger son Arthur, and his attempt to deliver a forgotten present, is totally endearing. Another all-star cast, wonderful animation and effects, and an incredibbly FUNNY script makes this a movie you’ll love!
In 1997 Disney released (direct-to-video) Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. It’s a fun story, with more great songs just like the original.
The best way I can describe The Star (2017) is to say that it’s a very cute, very faithful animated version of the Nativity story that also happens to be very funny! And lots of voices you know, including Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, and Oprah Winfrey.
OK, the next two might not technically be considered “Christmas movies” by some (but then, there are people out there that still try to convince me that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, so I guess we can’t always agree on everything!) But these movies are about Christmas, and they feel like Christmas movies to me, and it’s my list, so there you are!
Yes, the 2012 movie Rise of the Guardians! I mean, this one covers all kinds of topics: Christmas and Easter, as well as the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost. The animation and effects here are stunning, and we’re talking serious star voices. Alec Baldwin is incredible as “North” (Santa Claus), Hugh Jackman is really good as the Easter Bunny, and Jude Law as Pitch Black is just plain nasty! I watch it every year, and it always feels like Christmas to me!
OK, so The Lion in Winter (1968) is not a Christmas movie: but it’s ABOUT one Christmas in 1183. An historical drama based on the lives of Henry II of England and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, you DO get some real sense of what Christmas was life in the Middle Ages. And you can’t beat the cast: Peter O’Toole as Henry II, Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine (for which she won her third Academy Award), and Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton in their first movie roles.
Finally, I’m going to list some films that you probably haven’t seen…but should! They are all favorites of mine.
An American Christmas Carol, released in 1979 and starring Henry Winkler, is a loose adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, set in Depression-era America. Winkler plays Benedict Slade, but the only difference between Slade and Scrooge is the name! This is a really good film and perfect for Christmas!
There is no easy way to describe Beyond Tomorrow (1940). On Christmas Eve three elderly bachelors are planning a dinner party, but their guests all cancel at the last minute. So each one puts a $10 bill and their business card in a wallet, and they throw the three wallets out into the street. Two young people try to return them and they are invited to dinner. And then the three older men are killed in a plane crash, and return to their house as ghosts. As weird as that sounds, this really is a sweet Christmas movie!
The House Without a Christmas Tree was a 1972 made-for-TV movie starring Jason Robards. It’s a great show about how painful memories can affect Christmas.
The Christmas Candle is a relatively new movie (2013) and features Susan Boyle, who also sings an original hymn in the movie. A lot of reviewers hated it, but I found it totally enchanting. Great story, and wonderful acting throughout.
Return to Cranford (known in the United Kingdom as the Cranford Christmas Special) is the two-part second season of the BBC show Cranford. And you literally can’t get a more star-studded cast! Judi Dench, Tom Hiddleston, Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, and Jodie Whittaker, just to name a few! If the ending of this one doesn’t make you cry, you might be dead from the neck up! This is one of my all-time Christmas favorites!
Well, that’s my list of favorite Christmas movies. In part 3, I’ll talk about my favorite Christmas TV episodes! (Yeah, I’m getting into the Christmas spirit early this year!)
I hope that you’re enjoying these Christmas posts and maybe you can find some new shows to watch this holiday season!