With only one movie to review this week, Reel Reviews presents the best Christmas movies of all time.
Some of these you may have forgotten about, others might surprise. Curl up on the couch with your loved ones and watch one of these classics on the small screen one chilly eve.
– It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). The classic tale of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), a family man who had always dreamed of travelling the world on great adventures, who stayed working at the bank in his small town to raise a family and to help others do the same, by giving them mortgages.
When the richest and meanest man in town (Lionel Barrymore) reports someone has stolen from the bank, Bailey must become mean, trying to track down the missing money. The townspeople notice the usually pleasant Bailey is carrying an unusual burden and pray for him. When Bailey contemplates suicide, an angel comes down to show him what life would be like without him. It’s a lovely tale of how one person can make a difference in this world.
– National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). A slightly less meaningful film, but a lot of goofy fun. Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki join up with Randy Quaid for a quiet Christmas at home. Unfortunately due to Chase’s trademark clumsiness and Quaid’s craziness, everything that can go wrong does in this modern Christmas comedy classic.
– White Christmas (1954). Ex-soldiers Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) team up with Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) and her sister, Judy (Vera Ellen), to help save their former major general’s new venture of owning a ski lodge before it has even begun. Filled with lots of dancing and Christmas tunes, this is a must see for this time of year.
– Love Actually (2003). Set in London, Love Actually follows the lives of eight couples, each with their own set of problems in the month leading up to Christmas. This is probably the best work of writer Richard Curtis, who brought us Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Blackadder.
It’s more jam-packed with stars than Santa’s toy sack: Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley… the list just goes on and on. This has to be Mr. Howe’s favourite Christmas movie of all time.
– A Christmas Carol. There is an uncountable number of films based on the classic tale of the miserly curmudgeon Scrooge, being shown the error of his ways by three spirits, who then betters his life, presumably forever.
Two of them stick out in Mr. Taylor’s memory: If you have young children, I recommend showing them The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), which features the cast made up of your favourite fuzzy characters: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo and the rest, accompanied by Michael Caine as Scrooge. The soundtrack contains a lot of great original Christmas tunes, providing something different than the usual fare. If your kids are a bit older, or the grownups want to have some fun, you can’t beat Scrooged (1988).
Cranky TV executive Bill Murray takes the place of Scrooge in this very funny romp. It might be a bit dated for young people, containing many references to people like Lee Majors and shows like Little House on the Prairie. It is also very PG-13, but it’s probably the funniest Christmas Carol around.
You might also want to see Elf, Gremlins, Trading Places, A Christmas Story, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
– Peter Howe and Brian Taylor are movie reviewers based in Vernon, B.C. Their column, Reel Reviews, appears in The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.