Typically the movie reviews I write for those particular columns on my blog are rife with sarcasm and humor. However this is the season of charity, and as such I’ll go fairly light on the satire here. (Though me being me; count on some) So here, in descending order, are my Top 15 Christmas movies of all time.
Oh by the way, to preemptively answer your two most obvious questions at the outset: the movies listed here are just that, movies; so you won’t see such obvious TV classics as ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, or ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’.
Also, Elf is not on this list because it’s hard to understand how Will Farrell makes more than $2.99 an hour as a comedian. He’s not funny at all whatsoever.
Now, as Casey Kasem might say were he still with us…on with the countdown:
15) DVD of a Burning Yule Log. (4 Billion B.C.) You know, I’d bet you didn’t see this one coming. For those with a big screen TV but no fireplace, this is an awesome flick (or flicker, as the case may be) to behold. You just pop in the DVD, and then read or whatever else by the light of the TV fire and Christmas tree. Some go for as little as a dollar, and come with a flame level setting and optional Christmas music. What sounds like a joke is, in reality, a winner. And no logs to chop or mess to clean up after. You’re thinking about it now, aren’t you? Don’t even try to tell me you’re not.14.
14) Bad Santa. (2003) I’m not all that big into comedy based on vulgarities. It’s not that I’m offended in any way; it’s just that as a humor writer I find it to be mostly lazy and unfunny writing. This movie however, is the exception. It’s funny nearly from stem to stern. Billy Bob Thornton shines as a Phoenix, Arizona department store Santa who uses his job as a cover to scope it out to later rob. He spends most of his off time- as well as his on time- drinking, smoking, screwing and bumbling around. If you’re not easily offended, this movie, helped by a great supporting cast including the late John Ritter and Bernie Mac, will have you laughing till New Year’s.
13) Christmas Vacation. (1989) The third tale of the Griswold clan is the best in the series. This holiday staple, also starring a pre-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, reiterates the time-honored advice passed down throughout the generations: before setting up, always check impromptu replacement Christmas trees for rodents.
12) Funny Farm. (1988) In my opinion, this is the superior and underrated of the two Chevy Chase flicks to appear on this list. At Christmastime a beautiful Vermont town, filled with residents of questionable intellect, band together to fake normalcy to prospective home buyers in exchange for a cash payoff from Andy & Elizabeth Farmer; who can no longer tolerate residing among them. The first time I watched the scene of the drunken, belligerent postman respectfully greeting the Farmers (in front of the new owners) with a linguistically perfect, “Mail, Mister Farmer” in order to obtain bonus money, I nearly fell off my couch laughing.
11) Trading Places. (1983) Outside the time of year it’s set in and Dan Aykroyd in a Santa Claus suit, calling this a ‘Christmas Movie’ is like calling Pepperidge Farms flavored goldfish “seafood.” However on a technicality…here it resides. Through the conniving, manipulative efforts of his sibling bosses and for no legitimate reason, wealthy, upper-crust commodities trader Louis Winthorp III is made to exchange places with broke, slick-talking con-man Billy Ray Valentine. After a short while, Valentine becomes successful at Winthorp’s job once he understands that commodities brokering is merely a more sophisticated form of con-game. When both realize they’re being played for fools, they team up to create a fantastic scheme to bankrupt the brothers while becoming millionaires themselves; with the help of a great supporting cast.
10) Die Hard. (1988) Bruce Willis’s Detective John McLane sends Alan Rickman’s superb villain Hans Gruber into the Oh Holy Night of Los Angeles; amidst a snowfall of ill-gotten bearer bonds.
9) The Muppet Christmas Carol. (1992) Laugh if you will, (and you will) but this gem of a take on the classic Dickens’ Christmas novel that features Michael Caine; among Britain’s greatest, most versatile actors, as Ebenezer Scrooge, simply cannot be overlooked. It also contains a roster of creative, original songs you’ll be singing long after the film’s completed. It contains both suspense & clever humor throughout.
8) The Ref. (1994) If you’ve never seen this Denis Leary comedy starring a relatively unknown Kevin Spacey, the first time you do expect to laugh so hard you’ll cry. Leary is a bumbling cat burglar who, through unforeseen circumstances, ends up stuck refereeing an endlessly bickering couple and their family in an affluent Connecticut shoreline town on Christmas Eve. Completely underrated, it’s one of the best Christmas comedies ever; if not the most tactful. (Only ‘Bad Santa’ is more profane)
7) Love, Actually. (2003) Never has a Christmas movie combined humor, romance and star power in such a way that all genre stereotypes are irrelevant. It’s a ‘Chick Flick’ that is very much suited for guys, too. This movie is a modern Christmas classic. (Featuring a who’s who of English talent: Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley Rowan Atkinson)
6) A Christmas Carol. (1984) The late, great George C. Scott is almost unparalleled as Ebenezer Scrooge. He taught England that, after 150 years, if you really want to showcase the full essence of a greedy, miserly CEO, hire an American and teach him a light British accent.
5) Holiday Inn. (1942) Bing Crosby debuted what is still the top-selling single of all time in any genre, ‘White Christmas’, at his Connecticut Inn that’s open only on major holidays.
4) A Christmas Story. (1983) Nothing catches the essence of a retro-Christmas of yore more so than this fantastically crafted, humorous tale of 1940’s Christmas in America. Along with a young man’s quest for the Holy Grail of Christmas gifts, the “official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Which includes “a compass and a stock and this thing that tells time.” Darren McGavin masterfully showcases both the tough and tender side of parenting a year before portraying a wealthy, sleazy bookie from the same era in 1984’s ‘The Natural.’
3) It’s a Wonderful Life. (1946) The snowy winter scenes of the fictional Bedford Falls, NY (based on the real Seneca Falls, NY) were filmed during a record-breaking California heat wave. This classic film features the legendary Jimmy Stewart as super-nice guy George Bailey, who, after every one of his lifelong dreams are dashed due to his own kindness, becomes discouraged to the extent that Heaven dispatches amiable Angel 2nd Class Clarence Odbody to show him what his family and hometown would’ve been like had he never existed. It ends with the all-time tear-jerking line, “Remember-No man is a failure who has friends.”
2) Scrooge. (1951) There is no question that of all the adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol ever committed to celluloid, Alistair Sim is the quintessential-& best-Ebenezer Scrooge. His performance as the renowned miser is second-to-none, and may never be topped.
1) Joyeux Noel. (2005) This is the amazing true story of the impromptu WWI Christmas Truce across No-Man’s Land between Scottish, British, French & German soldiers over Christmas Eve and Day in 1914. A group of young officers decide they’re not going to fight each other over the Christmas holiday, and instead spend it burying comrades, sharing stories, playing soccer, and exchanging information. When their superiors became informed of the Christmas Truce, all parties involved on both sides were severely reprimanded. The “Great War”; the “War to End All Wars”, was a war over nothing, & cost humanity millions of innocent lives. It dragged on until November 11, 1918; Armistice Day; now known as ‘Veterans Day’. If you can get through this movie without shedding tears, you ma’am or sir, are a better person than I.
God. The Devil. The Bet. The Fate of Mankind in the Balance. Check out my new theological, paranormal crime thriller, Ghost of a Chance.
What if a late 20th Century Jack the Ripper tearing apart a small Connecticut town was the result of a pancake shop bet between God and the devil? Imagine if Satan’s impact on the world in the new millennium hinged entirely on one police officer’s skill in hunting down a ruthless killer…hiding in plain sight. Detective Danny Seabrook is an unwitting pawn in a divine chess match with immeasurable consequences for all mankind. Set primarily in 1995, this action-packed suspense thriller features clever dialogue, humor and romance-with an ending you will never forget.
Chris Gay is an author, freelance writer, voice-over artist, broadcaster and actor. For 7 years he wrote and broadcast a daily, minute radio humor spot in Hartford, Connecticut. He’s been published nationally in Writer’s Digest and has written the paranormal, theological thriller novel Ghost of a Chance, Sherlock Holmes and the Final Reveal, (an original, extraordinary short story on the great detective with a spectacular twist) and four humor books: And That’s the Way It Was…Give or Take: A Daily Dose of My Radio Writings, Shouldn’t Ice Cold Beer Be Frozen? My 365 Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota, and The Bachelor Cookbook: Edible Meals with a Side of Sarcasm & Another Round of Ice Cold Beer: My 365 More Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota. He’s written and voiced radio commercials, authored both comedic and non-comedic freelance articles, scripts, press releases, website, media and technical content, done occasional radio color commentary for local sports, and acted in a couple of movies and plays. His website is chrisjgay.com, and his humor blog can be found at chrisgay.wordpress.com.
Hope Springs (Barfly)