There’s no shortage of movies based around the holiday season, so it can be daunting to try and pick just a few to watch. Fortunately, I have compiled a list of varying yuletide flicks that are sure to get you into the holiday spirit.
Tier 1: The Classics
- “Home Alone” (1990) and “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” (1992)
Still a riot to watch today, a child accidentally left home by his family outsmarts two clueless crooks with ingenious traps that every kid in the nineties attempted to replicate. Even the second movie is lovable, despite it having essentially the same plot as its predecessor.
- “Die Hard” (1988)
Let’s cut to the chase, this is a Christmas movie, as well as a top-notch example of 80’s action. Bruce Willis became a star from it, thanks to his everyman looks and great charisma, and the legendary Alan Rickman became one of cinema’s best bad guys. All wrapped in a heist plot during an office Christmas party.
- “Gremlins” (1984)
One of the great bait and switches in movie history, the plot has a kid getting a cute furby-type pet for Christmas only for everything to quickly go wrong. A deft combination of genres like family, holiday, comedy, and horror, and the puppet special effects are amazing even today.
- “Love Actually” (2003)
Romance and the holidays seem to go together hand in hand. Here, the many stories of love, humor and heartbreak among a dozen people in England are intertwined as Christmas comes closer.
- “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)
One of the seminal holiday comedies and the strong third entry in the “Vacation” franchise, this movie gets you laughing with its all too close to reality portrayals of awkward relatives, ruined Christmas dinners, and lighting decorations that never work. Yet, it also warms your insides with its ultimate message of the importance of togetherness around the holidays.
Tier 2: The Overlooked Gems
- “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas” (2000)
I know what you’re thinking — a Christmas special surrounding the characters of an animated kids’ show? But it’s full of catchy musical numbers and is surprisingly educational about the ways other cultures celebrate the holidays. If you’re willing to give it a chance, you’re in for a treat.
- “Anna and the Apocalypse” (2017)
An offbeat horror musical comedy that sets a zombie apocalypse in a small British town during the holidays. The songs are well done, and it’s just so earnest that you want to give it a hug.
- “The Christmas Chronicles” (2018)
Most Netflix subscribers likely already saw this one when it debuted a year ago, but it’s still a surprisingly good entry into the holiday canon. Kurt Russell is well suited to the role of Santa, and it maintains a jovial, childlike perspective we could all use in the season.
- “Arthur Christmas” (2011)
Featuring an all-star voice cast and some stellar animation, this is a solid newer Christmas movie that reiterates the value of personalized gifting.
Tier 3: So Bad They’re Good
- “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (1998)
90’s teen heart-throb Jonathan Taylor Thomas quit his role on the hit sitcom “Home Improvement” to jumpstart a movie career, and this Christmas turkey was the result. It involves him embarking on a cross-country road trip to see his family for the holiday, but only so that his dad will reward him for the visit with a vintage car.
- “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964)
A low budget is usually an indicator not to go overboard with a movie’s plot, but that didn’t phase these filmmakers. Aliens from Mars — looking suspiciously like humans in leotards with green paint on their face — kidnap Earth’s Santa so that he can bring holiday cheer to their children instead of ours. Perfect if you’re looking for a truly head-bending holiday film.
- “Saving Christmas” (2014)
Not just an easy candidate for worst Christmas film of all time, it might be the worst movie ever to see a theatrical release. Evangelical actor Kirk Cameron tries his best to convince his close friend ‘Christian’ — groan — about the true origins of Christmas, conveniently ignoring evidence contradicting each of his arguments. Has to be seen to be believed.
- “Jack Frost” (1998)
The premise alone should have been laughed out of the pitch room — a musician dies and is reincarnated as his son’s snowman. It was probably made for kids, but the humor is at the bottom of the barrel, and the CGI snowman looked bad even when the movie was new