Family Favorite Christmas Movies
Christmas movies are as much a part of our Christmas traditions as eggnog and lighting the tree. The best Christmas movies hold up year after year. Animated Christmas movies have the remarkable ability to stand the test of time. They are the movies we remember watching on Thanksgiving and Christmas break in anticipation for the big day. As we get older, the same movies take on new meaning as we understand the underlying sentiment in our favorite films.
Here is a list of animated Christmas movies that reminds of us the wonder of childhood, and promises to do the same for our kids:
- ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ – This 1966 animated film is the only version that captures the sweetness, bite and heart of the classic Dr. Seuss book. Hateful and bitter, a grumpy hermit hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville. Disguised as Santa, the Grinch descends on the village to snatch all their Christmas baubles and gifts. The Grinch is tragic and funny and eventually heartwarming as the true meaning of Christmas is artfully revealed. This is possibly the perfect holiday movie.
- ‘Frosty the Snowman’ – Frosty the Snowman is another timeless holiday special that stands the test of time. Based on the popular song of the same name, a living snowman and a young girl fight to escape a nasty magician after the snowman’s magic hat. Experience the awe of the first snowfall, and the power of kindness and friendship. You may shed a tear but in the nick of time Santa Claus saves the day.
- ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ – This has to be the most adorable claymation movie ever made. Sam the snowman narrates a story about a young misfit reindeer who teams up with a few memorable characters on an unexpected adventure. Burl Ives’ friendly, warm singing voice as the snowman holds it all together. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer remains the king of all Christmas specials.
- ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ – Though the animation is crude, there is something very powerful at the heart of A Charlie Brown Christmas that restores faith. When an earnest Charlie Brown complains about the materialism he sees during the Christmas season, Lucy suggests he direct the School pageant. It proves to be a frustrating endeavor. However, Linus helps him learn the true meaning of Christmas with an amazing speech that still resonates today.
- ‘The Polar Express’ – Based on the beautifully illustrated picture book, this IMAX film makes the best Christmas movie list for its ability to inspire young and old. The story is of a young boy on Christmas Eve, who boards a magical train bound for the North Pole. During the ride the young hero embarks on a voyage of self-discovery. The entire look of the film is visually stunning in the vein of the original illustrations. It leaves you breathless and teaches us to believe in the wonder of life.
More Traditional Christmas Movies
Movies related to Christmas help to create a fun atmosphere and can also teach moral lessons related to Christmas. While everyone will have different Christmas movies that are most enjoyable, there are some that remain favorites:
- ‘A Christmas Story’ is told from the point of view of a little boy in the days before Christmas and on Christmas Day. It shows him doing routine things each day but against the backdrop of the Christmas season with the decorated store windows, Santa Claus, the snow and frostiness, and of course his wish for a Christmas toy. But his parents disapprove of the toy that he desires. The movie does a good job showing the innocence of the Christmas season.
- ‘A Christmas Carol,’ written by noted author Charles Dickens, tells the story of old Scrooge whose only purpose in life is to make money. Scrooge puts making money above his family, friends and everyone who cares about him. His response to Christmas is a grumpy, ‘Bah Humbug.’ He gets a different experience however, when ghosts appear to him and try to point out the error of his ways. The movie’s lesson is about the importance of appreciating people in your life.
- ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a story about hope and the worthiness of all people. It tells the story of a man experiencing despair and self-destruction because he thinks he is of no worth to those around him, and they would be better off if he didn’t exist. An angel grants him his desire and he gets to see what he contributes and what life would be like without him.
- Every Christmas, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ can be seen on television. It asks and answers the question ‘Is there really a Santa Claus?’ The movie is about a man who claims to be Kris Kringle, or Santa Claus, but is not believed, so he has to prove his identity claim.
- ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ is about the Griswold family with Mr. Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, who gets into silly accidents that provide a lot of humor. The movie shows the lives of the family as they celebrate Christmas and the difficulties that arise when their entire family comes to visit for Christmas.
- ‘Home Alone’ is about a large and chaotic family with lots of kids who are going on Christmas vacation. Amid the chaos of leaving on the morning of the trip, one child is left behind and must stay and fend for himself in a very large house during the Christmas season. At first he’s happy to be alone but then two thieves break in and he has to fight them off. The movie shows the importance of family and loved ones. A sequel, ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’ tells of the boy who was left alone going to an aunt and uncle’s home and again encountering the two thieves who are seeking revenge.
- ‘The Santa Clause’ – Divorced toy company executive Scott Calvin (Tim Allen of Home Improvement and the Toy Story movies) is pleased to have his son Charlie for Christmas, though the boy himself isn’t happy about it. But when Santa Claus accidentally topples off the roof of the house and falls with a thud in the snow, Scott finds himself taking the merry old soul’s place and earning new respect in his son’s eyes. When the night ends, the reindeer take them to the north pole, and Scott discovers that by donning the fabled red suit, he’s inadvertently agreed to become the next Santa Claus. The next morning he wakes up in his own bed and thinks it’s all a dream–only Charlie remembers it with crystal clarity. Scott now has to deal with his suspicious ex-wife and her psychiatrist boyfriend, who both think he’s playing tricks with Charlie’s mind, and also with his own out-of-control body, which is putting on weight and growing a prodigious beard. The Santa Clause probably won’t supplant It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street as anyone’s favorite holiday film, but it’s an enjoyable, straightforward family film, anchored by the affable charisma of Allen. There are two sequels to this great movie.
- ‘Jack Frost’ (one of my all-time favorites) Whatever you do, don’t confuse this Jack Frost with the 1997 comedic horror flick of the same name (its tagline: “He’s chillin… and killin'”). This family film stars Michael Keaton as Jack Frost, an aspiring musician, loving husband, and occasionally absent father. Frost’s life is unexpectedly cut short by a car accident, and a year after his death he comes back as – you guessed it – a snowman, to help his family heal. The sudden death may affect sensitive younger viewers, but by the time Frost returns the movie is more lighthearted, and the film’s message is a worthy one. There’s an underlying theme that supports independence, and Gabby isn’t saddled with a new dude by the film’s end. There’s also a good rapport developed between father and son, and especially mother and son. If an audience can take that huge leap of faith to accept the premise (as youthful audiences will no doubt be able to do), this is entertaining family fare.
There are so many more family Christmas movies that have been released in the last 20 to 30 years, that it would take a long time to share them with you. There have been Christmas movies on TV now for at least a week – and usually 3 of them per day, so I thought I’d share this list of more “old fashioned” or traditional Christmas movies, rather than the made for TV ones.