“Best” is pretty subjective. When it comes to “best” Christmas movies, however, essential elements usually include: faith, family, generosity, hope, love, and joy. Snow. A babe in a manger. While Tinseltown and Co. crank out “Christmas” movies by the boatload each season, those that stand the test of time are relatively few. (A Nightmare Before Christmas? Seriously?)
Here are my picks for 10 Best Christmas Movies of All Time. In no particular order:
“Every time a bell rings….”
One of the most popular and heartwarming of all seasonal movies, Wonderful was a box office flop when first released in 1946. It gained new life in the 1970s via television. It’s a Wonderful Life was director Frank Capra’s personal favorite. It was also James Stewart’s favorite of all his feature films.
Based on the faith and family-affirming novella by Richard Paul Evans, this Hallmark movie was the highest rated of the season when released in 1995. Stars Richard Thomas and Maureen O’Hara, still luminous in her seventies.
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a song-and-dance-duo hamming it up with Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen in a snowless Vermont. Features a quintessential Irving Berlin score. Okay, so it’s a little short on a few essentials. Like a coherent plot. But who cares? “Sisters, sisters…”
A large family anxiously awaits the return of their father on Christmas Eve. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the Depression. The pilot that launched The Waltons.
A riotous romp through the Griswold family’s “old-fashioned family Christmas.” This 1989 Chevy Chase vehicle is probably best viewed late at night when you’re kind of punchy. A warped sense of humor doesn’t hurt.
Based on Dr. Seuss’s delightful children’s story by the same title. I’m talking of the 1966 animated version, not the Jim Carrey knock-off. Narrated by the one and only Boris Karloff, in one of his final roles.
The 1970 musical version of the Charles Dickens classic. Albert Finney is delicious as the irascible Ebenezer Scrooge.
The original black and white version starring Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn and a precocious Natalie Wood as an epic Santa Claus cynic. Just plain fun!
Fed up with the crass commercialism surrounding the season, Charlie, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and the gang ponder the true meaning of Christmas. A seasonal stand-alone since 1965.
A bishop trying to build a new cathedral prays for guidance. An angel (Cary Grant) arrives, but his guidance isn’t about fundraising. The 1947 original stars Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. The 1996 remake, The Preacher’s Wife, with Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington, is even better.
Did I say ‘top ten’? Okay. I fibbed. The list just wouldn’t be complete without that charming Christmas classic of yesteryear, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Burl Ives is a “scene stealer” as the voice of Sam the Snowman, narrator.
Not technically a “Christmas” flick, but the uncut version includes an opening scene with a star and a stable. Winner of ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture 1959. Note: It’s NOT about a chariot race. Check the sub-title.
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
Starring Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward, British missionary to China. Based on the novel The Small Woman about the true-life story of this remarkable woman who was once declared “Not qualified to serve in China” – and went anyway. She saves the lives of more than 100 orphan children in the process. Not strictly a “Christmas” movie, but a snippet of Luke 2 is included.
A Thousand Men and a Baby
Gerald McRainey and Richard Thomas star as officers of the U.S.S. Point Cruz, whose crew “adopts” an unwanted Amerasian orphan as the Korean War winds down. The crew nurses the baby back to health and tries to find him a family in time for Christmas. Based on a true story. 1997.
It’s just fun. Bob Newhart is a scene stealer as Buddy the Elf’s papa.
2006. The story of William Wilberforce, whose tireless efforts against the British slave trade culminated in the abolition of same throughout the British Empire – some 30 years before the U.S. Civil War. Albert Finney turns in another solid performance as John Newton, the reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, who urges Wilberforce to see the cause through. The film’s title says it all.
A final note: A story featuring a spoiled brat with a smart mouth is not “A Christmas Story.” Got that? And Die Hard is not a “Christmas movie.” It’s just not. Kapesh?
That being said, what would you add?
Photo credit: Techhive