Santa Claus: The Movie
Half Santa biography, half modern day tale. When one of Santa's elves goes rogue and joins up with an evil toy manufacturer, the big guy must come to his rescue.
Submitted by Francine Marie Boylan, Saint Olaf College
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
When you grow weary of cute cartoon Santas and heartwarming holiday films, pop "The Nightmare Before Christmas" into the DVD player and enjoy a twisted Christmas movie.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Chevy Chase is the perfect antidote to too much holiday schmaltz. Watch him bungle around for an hour and 37 minutes and you can sit through three viewings of "It's a Wonderful Life."
A Charlie Brown Christmas
There's nothing like Charlie Brown -and his blind love for a sad, little Christmas tree -to remind you to look out for the little guy during the holidays.
This is the movie that originated the song "White Christmas," which is probably why we still think of it as a Christmas film. Jilted by his fiance, Bing Crosby gives up show business to run a farm only to find that farm life isn't as easy as he thought. He opens Holiday Inn, staging shows only on national holidays and falls in love with his star. But the man who stole his fiance ( Fred Astaire) threatens to steal his new leading lady too.
The Polar Express
Sure, it's a little creepy that every character looks like Tom Hanks (including the young main character). But the magical movie about a little boy who lost his faith in Santa is still required viewing.
A Christmas Carol
True to the book with great performances, this is the best telling of Charles Dickens' classic tale.
Dr. Seuss How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) Jim Carrey had great material to work with when he transposed Dr. Seuss' classic into a live action movie. But if anyone could take on the over-the-top, greedy, Christmashating Grinch, it was Carrey.
You've got Bill Murray, crazy 1980s greed and Charles Dickens. Really, it couldn't go wrong.
Frosty the Snowman
The charming cartoon tale of the man of snow who came to life one day is a required holiday viewing. And Jimmy Durante's narration ensures it will be around for years to come.
Christmas in Connecticut
Barbara Stanwyck is a newspaper columnist who portrays herself as a happily married 1940s Martha Stewart. But in reality she's a single gal who knows more about shopping for furs than cooking, cleaning and sewing. Trouble starts when her magazine invites a war hero to spend a perfect Christmas with her and her perfect family.
Billy Bob Thornton is so bad he's good as a department store Santa with a wandering eye, a foul mouth and a drinking problem. The movie is full of cringeworthy moments but Thornton plays his Santa so bad, you can't look away.
We love this movie not just because of the incredible premise (you forgot your kid?) or the ingenious burglar proofing (blow torch above the front door?). We love it because when left on his own Macaulay Culkin not only danced around in his underwear and ate junk food -- just like you'd expect a kid to -- but he also acted like an adult, buying a toothbrush and decorating the house.
The Bishop’s Wife
Loretta Young is a bishop's wife watching her ambitious husband lose sight of what matters. Then an angelic Carey Grant steps in and uses a little magic refresh the bishop's wife and save her husband from ruin. Don't miss the scene where Carey Grant decorates a Christmas tree with a few flicks of his wrist.
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
It's the E! True Hollywood Story of Santa Claus. How he went from rogue outlaw to beloved toy distributor. How he won the heart of an initially cold Mrs. Claus. And why he runs around with all those elves. This stop-motion animation TV special drags a little, but it's worth it for the narration by Fred Astaire.
These interlocking stories of love lost and found at Christmastime are pitch perfect. Funny and sad with just the right amount of schmaltz, they're enough to make you believe that, at Christmas at least, love really is all around.
Buddy the elf is happy, hopped up on sugar and determined to connect with his real dad, a cynical James Caan. If you haven't watched Will Ferrell pour syrup on spaghetti, you haven't had Christmas.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The classic Muppets taking on the classic Christmas tale -- of course it's perfect! And Kermit was born for the role of Bob Cratchett.
Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" is the definition of the holiday season. And this happy, colorful 1950s musical is the perfect medicine for a holiday season filled with worries and fears.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Thank goodness for stop motion animation, because Rudolph wouldn't be nearly as charming in cartoon form. Somehow the jerky movements and static sets make Hermey the misfit elf, Yukon Conelius the prospector and the Bumble seem timeless. And the songs will get stuck in your head (you're humming “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” right now, aren't you?)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The uplifting story of a little girl who's cynical about life and the department store Santa who teaches her to believe in magic. Favorite scene: Natalie Wood learning to be a monkey.
The Santa Clause
It's every kid's dream: Dad could be Santa Claus. All he has to do is push the other Santa off his roof. That perfect mix of whimsy and mature laughs made this Tim Allen comedy an annual favorite. Who can forget Allen desperately trying to lose weight and shave his fast-growing beard?
It’s a Wonderful Life
Oh, George Bailey! Our hearts break for him every year as we watch him do the right thing and only to be knocked down again and again. If you don't cry at the end -- when George is surrounded by all the lives he changed -- then you might need to take up residence with the Grinch.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Boris Karloff's wonderful narration. Max, the dogturned-reindeer. Adorable Cindy Lou Who. That nasty green Grinch with his toosmall heart. And a feelgood message love and eschewing materialism. How can this NOT be on your Christmas watch list?
A Christmas Story
If you don't know that phrase, or any of the countless other gems in this off-beat holiday movie, then get thee to the video store now. Ralphie's Christmas quest for a Red Rider BB Gun will make you laugh until your funny bone is sore. Don’t miss the leg lamp and the bunny suit!