It’s been a pretty rough year to be an optimistic creative writer. But that’s even more reason to embrace the spirit of the holiday season. To reflect on the values and feelings of the holiday season. So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all, you can still feel that same sense of warmth, caring, and heavy-handed moral lessons just by watching a screen.
So we asked our writers to reflect on their favorite holiday movies and TV specials. If nothing else, at least you’ll have a great “must watch” list for a this weekend. Grab your coziest blanket and a mug of hot cocoa. We’re going in!
Selected by Josh Bard
No matter what the Christian-run media wants to tell you, there’s not a lot of Hollywood representation for the young Jewish boys and girls, especially this time of the year. (Don’t know if you guys saw any of the 20,000 commercials but Mel Gibson is back in a feel good family film!) That’s why Friends did something amazing and amazingly meta when Ross Gellar introduced the Holiday Armadillo, as he taught his young son, Ben, about Hanukkah. Like many young Jews, Ben is inundated with Santa lore and envy, and Ross wants to introduce him to his Jewish roots and its lesser known traditions.
Friends was constantly immersed in snark, so to see an authentic, heartfelt moment, well executed, was an impressive feat. And Ross explaining Hanukkah while dressed as an Armadillo is a ridiculous, nonsensical image and yet not necessarily any more ridiculous and nonsensical than many other stories of the holiday season.
Selected by Zach Straus
10:23 AM – 12/6/2017
I have never seen the movie Reindeer Games.
“But Zach,” you may be asking. “Shouldn’t you have at least seen a film before you call it your favorite Xmas movie?”
“Maybe,” I might respond. “But someone else is inevitably gonna write about Die Hard, and I can’t in good conscience say I love Gremlins.”
Look, you b-holes. I don’t need to watch a movie to know that it’s perfect for me. Check the checklist.
Bad title. Ben Affleck. Santa suits. Charlize Theron. Explosions. Gary Sinise. Intrigue (I assume!). Danny Trejo. A VERY poorly written Wikipedia entry.
I’m gonna sit down and watch this shit tonight. And I’m gonna enjoy it.
3:38 PM – 12/6/2017
This movie is absolute garbage. This movie has everything I’ve ever wanted. This movie is my new Xmas tradition.
Selected by Erin Vail
Santa. Elves. An evil wizard. A disgruntled local leader. A penguin. These are just a few key players in the greatest Christmas movie of all time, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.
The premium Rankin-Bass feature could be called the first superhero origin story: telling the tale of how an orphaned baby boy was adopted by the Kringle elves, raised to make toys, laugh with seals, and leap like deer. He also learns skills like breaking and entering, list-making, and peace-brokering. Not only does SCICTT have a stellar, heart-of-gold hero, it also has an amazing villain: the Burger Meister Meister Burger. This proto-Grinch HATES toys and children, and is so cruel he even makes the town’s children watch him burn a massive bonfire, using their toys for kindle. Also, the town is named SOMBER Town. He’s in no way sympathetic, also! Great villain.
Did you know Santa has a kick-ass sidekick? Well, he does, and his name is Topper. And he’s a penguin who honks. He also wears a scarf. He’s fucking awesome.
There’s also the Winter Warlock, who starts off as an evil, bitter miser but is changed to a generous, benevolent mentor after learning how to walk and also, after getting presents, in the greatest non-Christmas song in a Christmas movie.
Lastly, the film features a killer love story between Jessica, the future Mrs. Claus and town schoolteacher. She teaches Kris to listen…and more importantly, to love. It’s great, except her song is maybe the trippiest in any animated movie ever.
Do not miss this gem when it’s on TV twelve times. And if you do, let me know, and I will reenact the entire thing from start to finish.
Selected by Jesse Stone
Do NOT sleep on the original theatrical version of A Christmas Carol from 1938. It’s in black and white and its haunting AF. And remind your kids that they should not sleep on Mickey’s Christmas Carol. It’s in color and features your favorite Disney characters, but it is also haunting AF and honestly I’m not even sure how they get away with showing it to kids every year.
Selected by N. Alysha Lewis
Music, shaming of children, dancing dogs, weirdly overt Christian monologues—A Charlie Brown Christmas has it all. It was a staple in my house growing up, its length surprisingly close to that of a TV show episode (and not a long one). I guess that makes it the definition of short and sweet.
But in the days of appreciating not-exactly Christmas movies at Christmas—and the sound you’re hearing is people screaming that Die Hard is their favorite Christmas movie BECAUSE IT TAKES PLACE AT CHRISTMAS, SO IT’S A CHRISTMAS MOVIE AHAHA—I gotta say the Harry Potter series. I mean, I change my ringtone to the HP theme in December because it feels like the proper tone for the holidays. And now that I live somewhere with legitimate winter weather, it’s only right to match the magic of snowfall with some literal magic. Accio Christmas!
Selected by John Barnes
So, to be clear, I love a lot of Christmas movies. I truly believe the sweet ones (Muppet Christmas Carol, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, Bob Clark’s charming A Christmas Story) are mandatory watches to function in society. I also love all of the Christmas movies that your worst coworker smugly declares as “the best Christmas movie,” hoping to surprise somebody with the revelation that there are movies with both violence AND Santa suits (Die Hard, every Shane Black flick, Bob Clark’s stomach-churning Black Christmas). However, my favorite Christmas movie is the only one to hit both the beats of childhood innocence and puppetry of the first category and the splatter of the latter; Gremlins is a near perfect holdover from a time where children’s movies were all greasy and mean-spirited. Who hasn’t received a gift worthy of stabbing and microwaving?