10 great holiday movies

Published 2:50 pm Thursday, November 5, 2020

It is that time of year when certain traditions really come to the forefront of people’s minds.

Extended and immediate family members reunite, epic feasts are prepared and blessings are counted.

For many, nestled among those traditions is the one where many sit down to take in a cherished holiday movie.

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This is something I really enjoy doing each year, but honestly, most of the films I tend to watch with family around the holidays aren’t necessarily holiday-themed movies but rather all-time favorites that we choose to watch around that time of year, like Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (extended editions, of course).

But for the sake of this list of 10 great holiday films, I will stick to overtly holiday-related examples as well as movies that feature the holiday season as a notable piece of context in the story. Story summaries and film information comes from IMDb.com.


An angel is sent from heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed. James Stewart stars as that frustrated businessman, George Bailey, in this 1946 film directed by Frank Capra that is an enduring classic. Simply put, this list would have been incomplete without this film.


This is a drama focusing on the period in Mary and Joseph’s life in which they journeyed to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. This 2006 film directed by Catherine Hardwicke is not completely accurate to the biblical account and leaves out the key context for why Christ had to come. However, it is still a well-made, worthwhile family-friendly film that gets a great deal right about this all-important story that tells what Christmas is really all about. It stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Oscar Isaac.


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. Directed by George Seaton, who also wrote the screenplay based on a Valentine Davies story, this movie is another enduring holiday classic from the 1940s. It was released in 1947.


An 8-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. This is the first film that came to my mind when I was forming this list. When this film came out in 1990, I was almost the same age as the troublemaker played by Macaulay Culkin. I loved the film then and still do now. It was directed by Chris Columbus and written by John Hughes. (It’s sequel is cool too.)


On the outskirts of Whoville lives a green, revenge-seeking Grinch who plans to ruin Christmas for all of the citizens of the town. This 2000 live action film directed by Ron Howard features an outstanding performance by Jim Carrey as the Grinch. Before he redeems himself in the end, the depths of his despicableness were hilariously captured in great lines like this one that outlined a planned event on his personal schedule, “Solve world hunger, tell no one!”


Ebenezer Scrooge, a curmudgeonly, miserly businessman, has no time for sentimentality and largely views Christmas as a waste of time. However, this Christmas Eve he will be visited by three spirits who will show him the errors of his ways. There have been many different adaptations of this story, but DenofGeek.com describes this 1951 variation, originally titled “Scrooge,” as arguably the movie version to which all others are compared, adding that Alastair Sim is absolutely superb as Scrooge. The film is directed by Brian Desmond-Hurst.


A father vows to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas. However, every store is sold out of them, and he must travel all over town and compete with everybody else in order to find one. This 1996 film directed by Brian Levant features Arnold Schwarzenegger in a great role as the aforementioned father.


After discovering he is a human, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole decides to travel to New York City to locate his real father. Will Ferrell stars as this man and, together with director Jon Favreau, created a modern Christmas classic out of this beloved 2003 film. It also stars James Caan, Bob Newhart, Edward Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Peter Dinklage.


When a man inadvertently makes Santa fall off of his roof on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place. Tim Allen, already a household name as the star of TV’s “Home Improvement” when this 1994 film came out, stars as the recruit to take Santa’s place. The movie is directed by John Pasquin.


Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand each other, without realizing that they are falling in love through the mail as each other’s anonymous pen pal. Many may not be familiar with this gem of a film, but more should be. Released in 1940 and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, it boasts outstanding performances from James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan and features an excellent story that comes to a crescendo on Christmas Eve. Those who have seen Nora Ephron’s 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail” will recognize the story.