Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and live out the greatest commandment, to love.
Holiday traditions, like baking cookies, trimming the tree, wrapping presents and writing Christmas cards, can be exhausting on top of all the concerts, pageants and parties on the calendar.
Movies are my stress-buster.
Hundreds of festive films center around the Christmas holiday. I’ve compiled my top 10, which I’m sure is a very different list than yours.
10) “Elf” – Will Ferrell plays Buddy and makes this 2003 comedy. Buddy crawled into Santa’s sack as a toddler and was raised as an elf, but years later he returns to New York to find his father. Some of my favorite lines are “Not now, Arctic puffin!” and “I’m sorry I ruined your lives and crammed 11 cookies into the VCR.” The movie came out when I was 12, so I was just the right age to be “Elf”-obsessed. I lost a molar eating Sour Patch Kids while “Elf” played on the big screen.
9) “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – My father has always been a big “Peanuts” fan, so I was subjected to this 1965 film at a very young age. Who can help but dance to the movie’s magnificent jazz soundtrack? Only Scrooge!
8) “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” – The original 1966 cartoon makes my list, not the 2000 flick starring Jim Carrey. (I’m not a big Carrey fan.) I’ve already watched the Carrey version this season because it’s my husband’s favorite – marriage means compromise sometimes. At 26 minutes, the cartoon version is just the right length to make Dr. Seuss’ famous story come to life. The Grinch offers some important reminders: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”
7) “It’s a Wonderful Life” – I’m a sucker for old films, and this one fits the bill, premiering in theaters in black and white on Christmas Day in 1946. My first viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” was in AP English as a senior in high school. We were learning about director Frank Capra and the term “Capraesque,” which critics tend to slap on films that showcase the good in the world. “It’s a Wonderful Life” typifies Capra’s style with a down-on-his-luck businessman, played by James Stewart, coming to realize life, and Christmastime, is about much more than money.
6) “Holiday Inn” – Another oldie in black and white, “Holiday Inn” stars two of my favorite entertainers, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. (Astaire stars in my all-time favorite holiday movie not on this list, “Easter Parade.”) The 1942 film has very little plot, but features toe-tapping musical numbers. Irving Berlin’s famous song “White Christmas” made its film debut in this flick, earning him an Academy Award.
5) “Four Christmases” – I know this 2008 movie is actually awful, but I can’t get enough of it. A couple, each with divorced parents, has to make it to four Christmas celebrations when they are caught trying to escape on a tropical vacation. My favorite scene unfolds after stars Vince Vaughn and Reece Witherspoon are roped into playing Joseph and Mary in a church Christmas pageant. Vaughn’s character lets the fame go to his head, while Witherspoon’s character freezes in fear. The scene ends ridiculously with Vaughn’s character improvising for Witherspoon’s character, swaddling baby Jesus. “Forgive her son, for she knows not what she’s done,” he says before posing dramatically to wild cheers from the congregation.
4) “The Holiday” – I wasn’t expecting much from this 2006 romantic comedy when I first saw it in theaters, despite the star power of Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. It blew me away. I laughed. I cried. Two women prepare to face the holiday season alone and end up far from it. This is the only holiday film I find appropriate to view multiple times each year, any time of year.
3) “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Rudolph teaches kids and reminds adults that even when we feel like misfits, our special gifts are valued by someone. The TV movie was released in December 1964 and still charms me. The stop-motion animation is old-school, but its nostalgia-power is high.
2) “Miracle on 34th Street” – The 1994 version, not the 1947 classic, is my favorite. I first saw it around the time “Matilda” came out, and both films star Mara Wilson, who quickly became the girl I wanted to be or be my best friend. The story is all about believing.
1) My all time favorite Christmas movie has to be “White Christmas.” I grew up on this 1954 musical and have the songs all memorized. I love when Bing Crosby’s and Danny Kayne’s characters stand in for Rosemary Clooney’s and Vera-Ellen’s characters, performing “Sisters” in blue feathers. Every year tears of joy roll down my cheeks as the movie winds to a close. Until next year. Merry Christmas!