by Mike Brock
We’re coming down to the crunch time. That’s OK, though, because we are just getting to the good part. One of the best seasons within the season. Yes, this very vigorously researched, peer reviewed, and scientifically tested* article will focus specifically on “Christmas Movie Season,” one of the best by-products of Christmas. (For the purposes of this highly researched paper, Christmas Movie Season runs from December 9-December 27. Or December 28, depending on how long you want to egg nog it.)
Sure, you can lament the commoditization of the actual reasons for the holiday, or the recent price of balsam fir, but there is still a lot to look forward to around Christmastime. Family, friends, gift giving, reflection, time off work and school, Mariah Carey every eight minutes, but there is something unbeatable and universal about Christmas movies. They might even have superpowers. It doesn’t matter where you come from, how you celebrate, how old you are, there is a Christmas movie for you. You can forget about them for 11 months, and then they fly right into your consciousness and plant a big fat smile on your face.
Unlike your birthday, which reminds you of how old you are getting every year, Christmas movies remind you of how young you used to be. Each one is a happy beat in your annual circadian rhythm, kind of like “pah rup pah pum pum.”
I hope that you get a whole bunch of big fat smiles under the tree, but just in case you need a little help, here are the “12 Movies of Christmas.” Enjoy.
A Christmas Story (1983)
The Leg Lamp. The tongue frozen to the pole. The Red Rider BB Gun. These are the images of our youth, and Ralphie Parker is every single kid who looked to Christmas as a refuge from the harsh realities of adolescence.
Perfectly Paired With: Chinese Food
When To Watch: This is great movie for a Saturday afternoon in December. It’s on TV every year, but check out the sequel, just released last month on HBO Max, too.
An instant classic, starring one of the biggest comic stars of this generation, a beloved actor from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and a guy who killed a bunch of people in The Godfather. For all of Will Ferrell’s success and the huge selection of hilarity he’s unleashed on the planet, his character in ‘Elf’ may end up being the one that aliens revere as a guiding and defining light on what used to be humanity. Thousands of years from now, extra-terrestrials of all shapes and sizes and colours will use ‘Elf’ as a direct archeological reference to what used to be the human race. (Now that would be a great idea for a Christmas movie!)
Perfectly Paired With: Spaghetti smothered in maple syrup.
When To Watch: A few days before Christmas. The energy, the laughs, the soundtrack and the familiarity we have with this movie means that it is a perfect one to have on in the background when you’re trimming the tree.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
A series of vignettes put together in the same way our brain puts together our recollections of yesteryear. Tobogganing with reckless abandon. Vague stress that your parents try to shield you from so it doesn’t ruin Christmas. A full septic.
Perfectly Paired With: Cans of Schlitz.
When To Watch: Poker night.
Home Alone (1990)
John Hughes directed this masterpiece which perfectly balances the innocence of youth and longing of loneliness with unrelenting and brutal physical violence. It’s a lot of fun.
Perfectly Paired With: Popcorn and egg nog milkshakes. Sorry, popcorn. AND egg nog milkshakes.
When To Watch: With the whole family, over Christmas.
Charles Dickens wrote that “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.” Bill Murray knows that, and the remake of the reckoning tale of Mr. Scrooge is coughing and sneezing up both.
Perfectly Paired With: Scotch, and Scotch Tape.
When To Watch: A good one to have on in the background when you’re wrapping presents.
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
I was born in 1973. This movie came out less than a decade before I got here. It was the first Christmas movie most of my generation remember, and it is still on the go to list for toddlers and young families. The stop-motion animation is charming in its simplicity, and the origin story of the most famous reindeer of all answers a lot of questions about life that I still refer to. Although, I still don’t eat carrots.
Perfectly Paired With: Box of tissues and a stuffed animal.
When To Watch: This is the perfect movie for when you’re asked to look after your five-year old niece.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Like Ferrell’s ‘Elf,’ this performance by Jim Carrey defines his talent for a lot of folks, especially of a certain age. Mr. Grinch is a monster, he’s got garlic in his soul. There are accusations that he may be a toad stool sandwich.
Perfectly Paired With: A Gingerbread House.
When To Watch: Right after Home Alone.
Die Hard (1988)
Christmas office party goes wrong.
Perfectly Paired With: Anyone who says this isn’t a Christmas movie.
When To Watch: The only Christmas movie that is acceptable to watch outside of Christmas Movie Season.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Charlie Brown and his pals are forever the same age. Locked in that sweet spot when kids have the best memories of Christmas, and their dreams never change. A touchstone story for anyone.
Perfectly Paired With: A hockey sweater.
When To Watch: Whenever things are moving just a little bit too quickly.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
I have a little scrap of paper that I carry in my wallet. I wrote it down one year after watching this movie. I wasn’t having a particularly happy time, and this movie touched me in a way no other had before, or has since. The note, just like the one given to George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart’s character in the movie, says: “Remember no man is a failure who has friends.” The spirit(s) in this movie are what Christmas is all about.
Perfectly Paired With: A night cap. Something classy and old-timey.
When To Watch: There is only one time to watch this movie, and for the last 20 years I have watched it religiously at the same time every year. Christmas Eve. Late. After the kids have gone to bed, and you’ve put out the snacks for Santa and the carrots for his reindeer. Hopefully there are big, fluffy snowflakes falling outside.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Goofy. Muppets. Music. Bright colours. Good, clean, fun.
Perfectly Paired With: Toddlers who need to be distracted.
When To Watch: When your friends come over for some “Christmas cheer” but they have toddlers who need to be distracted while you enjoy each other’s company.
Polar Express (2004)
Christmas should be the dreamiest time of the year, and not just for kids.
Perfectly Paired With: A desire for hope.
When To Watch: When you’re thinking about doing some thinking.
White Christmas (1954)
My favourite quote of all time is from Maya Angelou. She said something like, “Nobody is going to remember what you said. Nobody is going to remember what you did. Everybody, though, remembers how you made them feel.” I knew that this movie was one of my mother-in-law’s favourite Christmas movies of all time. I asked her how it made her feel. She said, “It makes me happy, because of Bing Crosby’s singing.”
That’s more than good enough for me.
Perfectly Paired With: My mother-in-law.
When To Watch: Whenever you want to feel happy.