Plot: The Griswold family's plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.
Every single Christmas, I sit around the television with my family and we watch this movie. It has been a tradition for so long. We first watched it every year on an old VHS tape that contained a version taped from TV. Then we upgraded to that crappy DVD. Now we're onto Blu-ray. And there's a reason why we watch it every Christmas... It's brilliant!
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is my absolute favourite Christmas movie ever. No other Xmas movie has provided so many memorable laughs and such an accurate depiction of the troubles of Christmas we can all relate to. It's more enjoyable and charming than A Christmas Story, far jollier than It's a Wonderful Life, and far better than all those trite Hollywood holiday flicks unfairly unleashed upon the movie-going public each year.
In amongst the hilarity, Christmas Vacation conveys a strong message, as all Christmas movies should. It has nothing to do with the birth of Christ or the Three Wise Men, though - it merely speaks volumes about finding fun and laughter in the little moments that make life special (regardless of any mishaps). Without ever becoming mired in cringe-worthy sentimentality, it also reminds us that no matter what disasters befall us, familial relationships are what truly matter...and one should never light a match near a sewerage drain.
I love this movie. I love it to pieces.
Plot: Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn't quite understand the concept.
Another Christmas tradition in my household is to watch this stunning piece of stop-motion animation. Everything a movie-goer has come to expect from the imagination of Tim Burton is presented here in stop-motion form: it's bursting with visual majesty, populated with lovably morbid creations and filled with ornate Danny Elfman compositions. It's an instant classic which bears the esteemed title of being the first feature-length stop-motion animation picture. Certainly paving the way for other greats like Chicken Run and James and the Giant Peach, The Nightmare Before Christmas manages to capture the undeniable Christmas flavour which is blended perfectly with the maudlin imagination of childhood.
Every frame bursts with visual splendour. Every song is remarkable and memorable. Every character is a wonder to behold. It's also imbued with a strong sense of the Christmas spirit as well. And plenty of heart. This movie is simply brilliant. If you haven't viewed these 75 minutes of timeless animation, you're missing out.
Parents wondering if The Nightmare Before Christmas is suitable for their children should know that the frightening aspects of the picture are nicely blunted by humour and Elfman's music. Jack Skellington isn't the frightful creature one would assume him to be...he's just a misunderstood hero. There are so many enchanting sights and sounds to behold within this cinematic tour de force that there's not enough room for anxiety and fright.
Plot: New York cop John McClane gives terrorists a dose of their own medicine as they hold hostages in an LA office building.
Oh my word, I love every fucking frame of this masterpiece! Die Hard is a smart action film that actually has a script. It has witty dialogue, great character arcs, a solid, innovative plot, fantastic action, breathtaking special effects...and heart. The Christmas spirit is there as well in spades. It's the best action movie ever made, and one of the best Christmas movies ever made.
This is another of my Christmas traditions. Every Christmas Eve I have to watch this movie. No excuses. I don't go to bed unless I've watched it. And wherever possible, I go for a double feature - Die Hard and Die Hard 2. And can you blame me? It has fun action and Christmas themes, not unlike Lethal Weapon which I also love.
Haven't seen it?
Fuck you. Go rectify that right now.
Plot: John McClane is forced to battle mercenaries who seize control of an airport's communications and threaten to cause plane crashes if their demands are not met.
Who doesn't love the Die Hard movies? I understand this second film cops a lot of criticism, but what I still don't understand is why. I love this movie. It has plenty of good violence and action. McClane is still his foul-mouthed self. It's snowing in the movie, which gives the film a better sense of the Christmas spirit. And it's downright entertaining. It's one of the better action movies I've seen. It stacks up far better than PG-13 tosh of recent years.
Whenever possible, I have to indulge in a double feature at Christmastime (as in this movie and the original Die Hard).
Plot: A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve.
"You could never front your own racket and do you know why, Willie? Because you got no discipline, you got zero fucking initiative. You'd fall apart without me. You're just too pathetic for words. You're a fuckin' loser and you fuckin' know it."
Look at the entires above. My favourite Christmas movies are far from conventional. Two violent action movies, a dysfunctional family comedy and a children's fantasy horror movie. What's more logical to put afterwards than a movie which takes a dump on every cherished thing about the festive season?
Bad Santa did not receive its R rating from the MPAA due to one or two uses of the f-word... The whole movie is crude, foul-mouthed, dirty, disturbing and perverted; containing about 150 uses of "fuck" and its variations, as well as several other profanities, sex scenes and explicit sexual dialogue. These characters make Ebenezer Scrooge look like a pleasant, mild-mannered eccentric. If you're in the mood for Christmas cheer, then go rent It's a Wonderful Life again, because Bad Santa is for the crowd who've had enough of Christmas carols and artificial goodwill. It may be true that Bad Santa manages a happy ending of sorts, but the filmmakers have their tongue firmly in cheek even for this final scene of faux optimism.
Bad Santa is a great movie. It's so funny. It's so witty. It's clever and groundbreaking. Best of all, it's dark humour at its best. You may not care about the protagonists who are so far from redemption it's not even worth considering the possibility, but goddamnit it's fun to be in their company!
Another Christmas classic that must be watched everytime the season of giving rolls around.
Plot: An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.
If you don't love It's a Wonderful Life, you're not human. It cannot be put any clearer than that. This is a wonderful movie, brought to life with a great cast, a sharp script and wonderful cinematic techniques. Capra's commemoration of the power of community and defiant optimism is orchestrated with consummate mastery; flawlessly combining laughs, poignant sentiment and exuberant allure with imagination and a beautifully rendered tone. Critics back in the 1940s may have blasted the film for the sentimentality that characterises a Capra film, but it has grown more beloved over the years.
It's a Wonderful Life is an endearing masterpiece that remains timeless in its messages and thoughtfulness. This sentimental and honest motion picture conveys a fantastic story of self-realisation and the significance of a single human soul. It's also amazingly uplifting. There's little doubt that Frank Capra's classic fantasy-drama has become practically synonymous with Christmas, and it's one of today's most popular Christmas movies.
They say suicide rates go up around Christmas. If this movie was shown 24/7 during Christmastime, however, no-one would want to commit suicide. Period.
I love this movie. I watch it countless times once the festive season is upon us.
As a side note, I saw this movie in a cinema in late 2010. The print was absolutely pristine and sharp, and it was presented on an enormous screen. It was a true experience. The crowd was enormous, and their response warmed my heart. They laughed at the gentle humour, they cheered at uplifting moments, and they stumbled out of the cinema teary-eyed. I can never think anything ill of this wonderful movie.
Plot: A murder mystery brings together a private eye, a struggling actress, and a thief masquerading as an actor.
Considering all the other entries on this list and the general avoidance of conventional, saccharine-coated family-friendly shit, you can't honestly say you're surprises to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang making an appearance. This is, simply, one hell of a movie - and one of my all-time favourites.
Okay, so it's not a "Christmas Movie" per se, but the events happen at Christmas. It's like Die Hard in that sense, though the Christmas spirit isn't as potent. Still, that doesn't matter. So, why do I love this movie? Simple - it's hilarious, quotable, rewatchable, enjoyable, fun, awesome and downright entertaining.
As the Christmas season approaches, I have to watch this movie a few times.
A grumpy hermit hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville.
1966's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is not just a charming yuletide classic and a perennial Christmas staple, but also a smartly-written and sharply-narrated masterpiece.
This adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic story remains a model of economy. Within the movie's sleek 25-minute runtime, Jones and co-director Ben Washam managed to generate humour and develop a deep moral of the meaning of Christmas that in no way feels underdone.It's another bonus that the animation is superb. The moving parts are eye-catching and lively, and the imagery is marvellous. The animation was hand-drawn, too.
Not only does the movie boast rich animation, but it also benefits from Seuss' terrific writing. The story touches on the dangers of consumerism, and explores the nature of human compassion and goodwill. It also helps that the film is so genuinely entertaining and charming - Jones and co-director Washam used everything at their disposal to reproduce the heart and soul of Seuss' tale. Additionally, Boris Karloff nailed his performance here as both the narrator and the Grinch. Karloff really understood Seuss' style, and he was able to make the oddball words and rhymes sound perfectly natural. To back up Karloff, there's Thurl Ravenscroft (voice of Tony the Tiger) who sung the "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" song, and veteran voice actress June Foray (The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle) who voiced Cindy Lou Who.
Plot: Holed up in Bruges, Belgium after a difficult job, two hit men begin to differ on their views of life and death as they become used to local customs.
In Bruges works in a similar sense to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: the events take place at Christmastime, but it's not exactly a movie infused with the Christmas spirit. There are no Santas here or people looking to get rehabilitated through learning a thing or two... This is a dark, funny comedy.
And boy what a comedy it is. It's supremely entertaining and tremendously witty. The three lead actors - Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes - are brilliant, and the dialogue courtesy of writer-director Martin McDonagh sparkles with wit. I adore this movie, and I do watch it every Christmas. Not on Christmas Eve, but sometime during the festive season.
Plot: An old miser who makes excuses for his uncaring nature learns real compassion when 3 ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve.
Literally billions of filmic adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol have been produced over the decades. Of these adaptations, most critics consider 1951's Scrooge (with Alastair Sim) to be the best and most definitive. However, in this reviewer's oh-so-humble opinion, director Clive Donner's 1984 made-for-television rendering of the classic holiday tale surpasses the 1951 version in just about every aspect. Benefitting from top-notch performances right down the line and sharp screenwriting, not to mention surprisingly strong filmmaking technique for a TV movie, 1984's A Christmas Carol is a masterpiece of Christmastime cinema.
Roger O. Hirson's screenplay for this A Christmas Carol is a remarkable piece of work, remaining faithful to the source material while at the same time containing various effective alterations. In this day and age, Dickens' original dialogue is dry and vague, and it's at times difficult to grasp exactly what the characters are saying. Hirson clearly took this into consideration. Accordingly, he altered a lot of the dialogue for improved flow and comprehensibility, giving it his own distinctive, poetic spin. Couple this with the outstanding acting, and A Christmas Carol is reliably engaging despite its overly verbose disposition. Additionally, this retelling contains more of the novella's emotional nuances and back-story, bringing about a fleshed-out version that never feels excessively dragged out. Director Clive Donner takes his time during the visions of the past, present and future, giving us a chance to see Scrooge's life journeys and transformations, on top of feeling the warmth of Fred's family and the austere poverty of the Cratchit household. Another effective scene here (which I've not seen in any other adaptation) focuses on a poor family on the street, starving and homeless. They consider workhouses (an option Scrooge supports in the film's early scenes), but the ramifications would be tragic for the family. It's a heart-wrenching scene, and it's terrific food for thought for Scrooge.
A Christmas Carol was made for television, yet it for the most part feels like a theatrical feature due to its lush recreation of London in the 1800s. On top of the authentic-looking sets and costumes, director Donner conducted extensive location filming rather than relying on obvious, stagy studio back-lots. The English town of Shrewsbury was chosen by the makers to stand in for Victorian London, and its lived-in nature further contributes to the production's aura of authenticity. The special effects, too, are impressive by today's standards, most notably the effects which bring Jacob Marley's ghost to life.
If you're unfamiliar with the story of A Christmas Carol and have never seen a filmic adaptation of Dickens' novella, this 1984 version is the one to watch. It's cohesive, it's easy to follow, and at times it's quite affecting. Sure, it's not as fun as something like The Muppet Christmas Carol, but it delivers its humanistic message in an earnest, effective, and at times utterly heart-warming way. This is a marvellous film.
Plot: An uncommonly gentle young man, who happens to have scissors for hands, falls in love with a beautiful teenage girl.
Once again, nobody can call this a traditional Christmas movie. But give me films like this over crap like Jingle All the Way or Christmas With The Kranks. This is a touching, powerful story with real emotion, and the climax happens to take place at Christmastime.
Johnny Depp's performance as the titular Edward Scissorhands is exceptional, while the handling of the material by director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman is utterly magical. Whenever I get the chance, I have to watch this on Christmas Eve.
Plot: A veteran cop, Murtough, is partnered with a young homicidal cop, Riggs. Both having one thing in common, hating working in pairs. Now they must learn to work with one and other to stop a gang of drug smugglers.
Lethal Weapon, like Die Hard, is an action movie which takes place at Christmas. It's also a damn good one, benefiting from awesome action, a great cast, and good one-liners.
There are some great action scenes, all expertly brought to the screen by veteran director Richard Donner. Martin Riggs' unpredictability is one reason why Lethal Weapon keeps the viewer on his seat's edge throughout, while Donner's expert orchestration of the thriller elements is the other. There's a desert shootout, a battle with an armed helicopter, and a lengthy climax involving torture, rescue, and a final face-off against the antagonists. There are plenty of explosions and shootings but, because we like and care about the heroes, the action elements are exciting, not pointless. There were a great many action movies during the late 1980s; Lethal Weapon trails perhaps only Die Hard when it comes to energy, technical aptitude, and white knuckle moments.
Plot: When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.
Nothing says Christmas quite like the classics can. I don't care if they're old or black & white or dated... The classics are by far and away superior to the crap Hollywood dishes up on a regular basis. One picture which ranks highly in the category of Yuletide classics is the 1947 masterpiece Miracle on 34th Street. Anchored by a winning combination of warm, sincere performances, magical moments, and a screenplay that's both sentimental and smart, Miracle on 34th Street should be required viewing on Christmas Eve. Children will find it a rewarding fantasy about the existence of Santa, while older, more mature viewers will be rewarded with an intelligence often lacking in Christmastime entertainment.
The screenplay is very sharp; the tender drama is deftly combined with sly humour (this is actually a very funny movie) and a knowing, biting commentary on the commercialism of Christmas that grows more relevant with each passing year (I wonder what Kris would think about the state of Christmas commercialism today...). Miracle on 34th Street is not some cornball effort that uses the Christmas backdrop as a way to cheaply jerk a tear...it's a simple story of how decency and kindness will win over the most cynical of hearts. Here is a movie that doesn't push the materialistic aspect of the festive season (Jingle All the Way, anyone?) but rather the spirit of the holiday. It is, quite plainly, the Christmas spirit put on film.
Plot: A cynically selfish TV executive gets haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.
It was only a matter of time before A Christmas Carol was modernised for contemporary viewers. Luckily, Scrooged is fresh, ingenious, black and hilarious. Instead of repeating old traditions (the source material has been adapted for countless movies, after all), the filmmakers behind Scrooged tried something new and pulled it off with aplomb. The dark storyline was transformed into a darkly humorous comedy whilst still retaining the signature plot points as well as the message "Do unto others as you would expect them to do unto you".
Scrooged was directed by action-comedy specialist Richard Donner, of all unlikely people. Even more unlikely is that this film nestles into his résumé directly between Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2. Yet, the most unlikely thing of all is that the film works not just as a comic revision of Dickens' story but also as a Richard Donner picture. A number of impressive special effects are scattered throughout the movie, and Donner maintained a brisk pace from beginning to end. By no means is this the definitive retelling of the tale, but it is an excellent '80s high-concept comedy (and there were lots of high-concept comedies during the 1980s).
Bill Murray clearly had a blast playing the character of Frank Cross. The guy is a genius no matter what movie he's in, and he dominated this film with his loud and maniacal performance. Murray has always possessed the ability to exude a combination of smarm, demented charisma and impudence, and he was therefore perfect for a 20th Century Scrooge. Everything he says appears completely natural, and Murray was able to fire off a bunch of brilliant one-liners to great effect.
Plot:The Muppet characters tell their version of the classic tale of an old and bitter miser's redemption on Christmas Eve.
Instead of just mocking Charles Dickens' story, The Muppet Christmas Carol is a straight-faced version of the source material that's peppered with witty one-liners and full of Muppet characters, faithfully retelling a timeless tale armed with classic Muppet charm.
Constantly on the sidelines during the proceedings is the narrator, Charles Dickens, who's played here by Gonzo (Goelz) and is assisted by Rizzo the Rat (Whitmire). The two beloved characters act as a guide through the story, injecting commentary, discussions and even comic relief. The device isn't overused, though, as the characters step aside at key points in the narrative (most notably for the grim scenes involving the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come). Consequently, the film does get dark at times, but that's because this is a sincere retelling of the story rather than a brain-dead parody of it. The inclusion of Muppets, therefore, renders the tale and its messages digestible to children who'll likely be introduced to A Christmas Carol via this film. The Muppets provide fun humour and serve to lighten up the proceedings which would otherwise be dismally boring and hard to comprehend for children.
The likes of Kermit the Frog (Whitmire), Miss Piggy (Oz), Fozzie Bear (also Oz), the Swedish Chef (Rudman) and many other Muppets show up throughout The Muppet Christmas Carol, portraying characters from Dickens' story in their own unique way. Indeed, allowing Jim Henson's glorious creations to roam free here is what makes this version stand out from trillions of other Christmas Carol adaptations.
For lovers of Christmas movies or Muppet movies, or admirers of Dickens' writing, you cannot go wrong with The Muppet Christmas Carol. It's fit viewing for the whole family due to its surplus of heart, humour, charm and wonderful songs. It's a welcome Christmas treat which deserves to enjoy continued prominence as one of the most beloved festive movies of all time.
Plot:An eight year-old, who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas, has to defend his home against idiotic burglars.
To state the obvious, the plot of Home Alone is hardly driven by the Christmas season. Nevertheless, the holiday - particularly its spirit and meaning - plays a crucial role in the film's tone and in establishing the heart & soul of the picture. Additionally, the hustle and bustle of the festive season acts as a driving force behind the plot, and there are a few touching scenes amidst the antics and gags which reflect on the true meaning of Christmas (particularly the importance of family).
It also helps that everyone involved with the film was at the top of their game - Chris Columbus' direction is competent, and Julio Macat's photography is pleasant and yuletide-soaked. Added to this, John William's classic score generates a playful holiday atmosphere, and this led to his umpteenth Oscar nomination. Produced for a mere $18 million, the movie effortlessly encapsulates the feeling of holiday bliss. Home Alone is exceedingly silly but inarguably enjoyable and often very funny, and its elevation to Christmas staple is deserved.
Home Alone is a generally fluffy instance of Christmastime filmmaking which is hindered by a very predictable narrative trajectory, a few absurdly cartoonish moments and a handful of uneven scenes, yet it remains an entertaining holiday classic. It still deservedly enjoys continued prominence as a Christmastime tradition due to its entertainment value and its well-integrated, effective message regarding the importance of family. It's just a shame the film was tarnished by three sequels of declining quality, beginning with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
Plot: When a man inadvertantly kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place.
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