As we usher in 2009, here is a (belated) list of my favorite holidays films to enjoy over the weekend.
1. It's a Wonderful Life (1947). What list would be complete without this classic? James Stewart is perfect as the quintessential American, George Bailey, who is given the opportunity to see what life in charming Bedford Falls would have been like had he never been born. Stewart himself cited George Bailey as his favorite role - - and with good reason. This is a must see.
2. A Christmas Story (1983). If Life is the classic "serious" Christmas movie, Story is the comedic chestnut. It's the 1940s and Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. In the days leading up to Christmas, Ralphie must run from the town bully, deal with his friend getting his tongue stuck to a flagpole, glory in his Old Man's "win" of a lamp in the shape of a lady's leg, utter the dreaded "F" word in front of his Old Man, see the neighborhood dogs descend on his house and steal the family Christmas turkey and be forced to wear a fluffy pink rabbit suit. Good times for all!
3. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). The supreme Christmas cartoon, Grinch is about a bitter, hateful Grinch (duh) who cannot stand the thought of the nearby village of Whoville happily celebrating Christmas and decides to raid the village, dressed as Santa Claus, to steal their holiday cheer. Boris Karloff (famous for his Frankenstein role in the 30s) narrates this classic.
4. Die Hard (1988). While this film may seem misplaced at first, it does take place during Christmas. Die Hard is the perfect film for those of you who don't care for the sentimental, heartfelt, emotion-tugging films like It's a Wonderful Life. Bruce Willis is cop John McClane, who has a phenomenal run in with a few terrorists, led by Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, atop the Nakatomi Plaza in L.A.
5. Gremlins (1984). If you like adventure for Christmas but would rather pass on machine guns and terrorists, look no further than Gremlins. Billy gets a new pet as a gift from his father, a Mogwai he names Gizmo. Unfortunately, he disobeys the rules that come with owning a Mogwai, and his town of Kingston Falls is beset by vicious little green monsters, hell bent on destroying Kingston Falls and its citizens.
6. The Santa Clause (1994). Tim Allen stars as Scott Calvin, the man who inadvertently causes Santa's demise and must step into the jolly red suit and boots. Scott's son Charlie is delighted with his dad's new job, although it creates problems with Charlie's mom and new husband, as well as with Scott's employer.
7. Fred Claus (2007). Fred Claus is the story of Nicholas Claus (who becomes Santa Claus), as played by Paul Giomatti, and his older, underachieving brother, Fred, as played by Vince Vaughn. When Santa is forced into an audit by an efficiency expert, he needs for Fred to move to the North Pole to help him out. What will happen when Fred must review charts and determine what children have been naughty and what children have been nice? What if Santa is fired?
8. Love Actually (2003). Great ensemble movie about eight couples, taking place in England and France, in the several weeks leading up to Christmas. The stories show the silly, serious and foolish sides to love. A great film to watch with the one you love.
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Tim Burton's animated classic about Jack Skellington, who lives in Halloweentown and is in charge of turning out a scary Halloween each year. Jack, however, has become bored with his duties and wanders off into the forest, to choose a new holiday. He learns of Christmas and decides Halloweentown will take over the Christmas holiday.
10. Bad Santa (2003). The Christmas movie for adults, Bad Santa has Billy Bob Thornton as a conman who poses as Santa, along with help from a friend, in order to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. Leave it up to an 8 year old to teach them the true meaning of Christmas.
11. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989). The third in the Griswold family trilogy and arguably better than the European Vacation, this installment finds the hapless Clark planning on a big family Christmas and running into the usual hijinks.