One of the most relished traditions of the holiday season is the cinematic custom of seasonal films. Good holiday films have the classic conventions we associate with this time of the year. Dysfunctional families, loneliness, generosity, and the ubiquitous “Christmas miracles” that pervade the stories told in these films.
Inevitably, this time of the year we’re also besieged with cheesy Christmas movies that rely on hackneyed storylines, slathering on some sentimentality to tug at your heartstrings. All resulting in cringe-worthy films that find their home on the Hallmark channel.
TheElizabethian has compiled a highly subjective but trustworthy holiday film list that varies in genre and tone but all share one quality—they don’t suck.
1. A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is a humorous, refreshing Christmas tale about the the plights and misadventures of Ralphie, a 9-year-old boy growing up in the 1940s. We switch between him dealing with the school bully and convincing his father and Santa that he should get the gift of his dreams–a BB gun.
Will Ferrell stars in this lovable, light-hearted comedy as the man-child elf, Buddy, who finds out that he’s human and sets out on a journey to find his real father (who happens to be on Santa’s naughty list). There’s great comedic friction between Buddy, the embodiment of Christmas, and his cynical father, and you’ll enjoy Buddy’s adventures as he spreads Christmas cheer throughout New York City. And, of course, there’s an awesome rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Zooey Deschanel.
3. It’s A Wonderful Life
The classical Christmas movie canon isn’t complete without It’s A Wonderful Life: a movie that has shaped many that have come after it. If you’re one of the rare people who still haven’t seen it, a man who wishes he had never been born is visited by an angel who shows him how life would have been if he had not existed.
4. Happy Christmas
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
6. The Night Before
For 10 years, best friends Isaac, Chris, and Ethan have spent Christmas Eve together. Now, they gather for one last Christmas full of shenanigans and debauchery before Isaac becomes a father. To end this annual tradition, they plan on searching for the exclusive parties of all holiday parties The Nutcracka Ball.
7. White Christmas
If you’re not a fan of retro films, you might like this one. It’s sprinkled with Christmas classics like “White Christmas”, swanky dance numbers, and of course some good ole romance.
8. Rare Exports
This movies explores the darker version of Santa Claus, who is an evil entity and not the familiar jolly grandfatherly figure. On Christmas Eve, during a mountain drilling project Santa Claus’s tomb is unearthed. Children start to disappear from the Fins. Villagers look to capture the malevolent Santa but must also contend with his elves.
9. Fiddler on the Roof
A musical that people who aren’t into musicals may enjoy. It’s a film adaption from the Broadway musical, focusing on Tevye’s trials and tribulations of his family as he tries to stay true to his faith, deal with daughters who want to go against tradition and marry for love, and oppression of the decree from the Tsar that expelled Jews from their homes.
10. Santa Claus
Scott Calvin accidentally kills Santa Claus, and as a result, he unwillingly becomes the next Santa Claus. Along with taking on the responsibility of his new job, he also undergoes a supernatural physical transformation into Santa Claus, which creates awkward situations in his professional and personal life.
11. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Kevin McCallister is left behind again when he loses track of his family at the airport and boards the wrong plane. He finds himself in New York City alone, cons his way into a 4-star hotel, and repeatedly outwits the films’s villains, the Sticky Bandits, to try to prevent them from robbing a toy store.