Yes, I love It’s a Wonderful Life. And the Grinch. Of course I've thrilled to the romance of Rudolph and Clarice. Sure, I've laughed at Ralphie's Christmas misadventures. But here are 13 more holiday movies that you might not automatically think of, may not have already seen this year, but will help you maintain that Christmas feeling as you curl up under a blanket with a mug of something warm.
1. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. (1962). My favorite version of the timeless tale, possibly because it’s the first one I saw start to finish. Highly relatable and only about an hour long, it’s surprising faithful and filled with songs I still love today (especially “I’m All Alone in the World”) written by Jule Stein and Bob Merrill, who also did Funny Girl. If you have young kids, this is a great way to introduce them to the story.
2. The Family Stone. (2005) The good son, Everett, brings his intended home for Christmas, and his formidable clan gives her a very hard time. I love Diane Keaton as the matriarch, especially in her relationships with her husband (Craig T. Nelson) and her daughter (Rachel McAdams). It all rings very true
3. Holiday. (1939) I believe this is the Great Kate Hepburn at her greatest, most beautiful and most moving. She’s poor little rich girl Linda Seton, trying make sense of her life. Unhappy and misunderstood within a family she still loves, she’s thrilled when her sister brings unconventional, imaginative working class Cary Grant home for the holidays.
4. The Gathering. (1977) A dying man tries to reunite his estranged and far-flung family for one last Christmas celebration. It sounds maudlin but it’s not. It’s a reaffirming tale about the bonds of family. Much of the credit goes to the credit goes to a terrific cast – Ed Asner, Maureen Stapleton, and Gail Strickland.
5. Christmas in Connecticut. (1945) Barbara Stanwyck is a columnist who pretends to be the original Martha Stewart-style homemaker, but she’s really a hardboiled Manhattan fraud. When, as a publicity stunt, her magazine sends a handsome sailor to her “country estate” for a perfect holiday at home, she worries that the truth will come out and her career will be over. Hijinks ensue. It’s very funny, romantic and smart. Stanwyck was a terrific screwball comedienne.
6. Silent Night, Lonely Night. (1969) A made-for-TV movie that’s definitely not family fare but lovely just the same. Shirley Jones and Lloyd Bridges are two strangers who end up spending Christmas at a New England lodge. Their lives are lonely and complicated, and they find comfort in one another’s arms. A poignant story about how raw our emotions can be this time of year.
7. Die Hard. (1988) It is so a Christmas movie! John McClane makes sure the hostages survive their Christmas party, doesn’t he? And don’t forget the note he pins on one of the bad guys, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho.” I love Bruce Willis, and this is the cornerstone of the faith. Have a torn t-shirt and a smirk ever looked better?
8. Miracle on 34th Street. (1947) The bad old non-believers actually try to have Macy’s Santa institutionalized because he maintains he really is Kris Kringle. Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood are the lovely but hard-hearted mother and daughter at the center of this tale, and it’s fun to watch them come around and embrace the joy of Christmas.
9. The Thin Man. (1934) Like Die Hard, it doesn’t immediately seem like a Christmas movie, but that is the backdrop. The first of the sophisticated, charming series of Nick and Nora Charles movies does take place over the holidays, and includes a very funny Christmas party, where high-society Nora mingles with the friends of her new husband, a former detective with a colorful past.
10. Love Actually. (2003) A fabulous, life-affirming look at love and romance in many forms. There are so many moments in this movie that delight and touch me. Most of all, watch for Emma Thompson’s reaction to receiving a Joni Mitchell CD from her husband for Christmas. She’ll break your heart.
11. The Desk Set. (1957) The 8th of the 9 films Tracy and Hepburn did together. He’s a computer loving efficiency expert. She’s the head of the research department, and she refuses to allow herself or her staff to be replaced by a machine – not this Christmas! They clash, they flirt, they fall into respect and then into love.
12. Meet Me in St. Louis. (1944). The Smith girls love their St. Louis home. Yet their dad has a lucrative career opportunity in New York. What will they do? I love this movie because really, not very much happens. It’s just a beautiful, sincere slice of life. And it features Garland introducing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
13. An Affair to Remember. (1957) One of the all-time great film romances ends with reformed but still bitter Nickie stopping by to wish his “old friend, Miss McKay, “ a Merry Christmas. Why doesn’t she just get up off the sofa and fly to his arms? Hand me the tissues.
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