Yesterday we talked about my favorite Christmas Carol. That was actually fairly easy for me. Even though there are so many great Carols, there is one that resonates so especially well for me, I was able to pick one. When it comes to movies though, I have so many memories, so many pleasant associations, and so many great stories, that I found it harder to pick my favorite. So I cheated. Today’s post includes a countdown of my top ten favorite Christmas movies. I need to lay out a few ground rules though.
First, as soon as you make a top ten list, the ones on the bottom of the list (or top in the case of a countdown) suddenly look as if you don’t like them. Remember this is my top ten of favorite movies and the ones at the number ten slot are almost as fond to me as the ones at the other end. If I don’t like a movie it’s not on the list. If it’s on the list I like it quite a bit.
Second, Ten means ten. There are definitely movies which did not make the cut which I still enjoy.
Third, I reserve the right to make a completely different list next year or tomorrow for that matter. I suspect I’ve forgotten movies I really like, but I’ve based this list partly on what I actually watch each year, or wish I’d watched when Christmas is over.
Fourth: There is nothing magic, or especially wise about my list. It’s only my list and it happens to be on a blog, which anyone can do. You are not only allowed, but encouraged to disagree with me. Frankly you are encouraged to disagree passionately and loudly in the comments below or in your own blog which you then link to this one. Just be friendly while you are being passionate, and remember when it’s all said and done, it’s just a movie, no matter how great.
Dishonorable Mention: I don’t know why I find it necessary to mention this, but probably because it is such a minority position. Dishonorable mention goes to one movie which will be in a lot of top tens. I have never really enjoyed this movie much despite my friends considerable attempts to convince me what a masterpiece it is. Perhaps I just don’t get the humor, but this movie just does not feel like a Christmas movie to me, it does not make me laugh by and large, and I find it more annoying than entertaining. I fully respect your right to like it, and even to defend it in the comments below, but my dishonorable mention goes to A Christmas Story. This is the movie where Ralphie wants a Red Ryder B.B. Gun but no one will let him cause he might shoot his eye out. You know the story. You probably love it. I don’t hate it. I just don’t love it.
And now my top ten list:
Drum Roll please!
The Sound of Music. You probably see that one coming from the title of this series:-) The truth is this is actually way above number ten when it comes to my favorite movies of all time. In many ways this has always felt like a near perfect movie to me. The reason it’s on my number ten slot instead of my number one slot here is because it’s not a Christmas Movie. I don’t know why it’s always associated with the Christmas season, but it is, at least in my head. I guess you can say that fact that this movie made it on to my Christmas list at all is just a testament to how good I think this movie is.
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.
I know it’s dated and hokey, but it’s also kind of brilliant. The look is fairly unique with its stop motion, the humor is quirky and ironic and out of left field. Hey let’s make a movie based on the Rudolph song. Yeah, let’s and our hero can be an elf who wants to be a dentist…what?! It’s iconic. I suspect I’m not the only one for whom this movie has so many good memories and associations and whenever I do watch it, which is honestly not even close to every year, I find it holds up suprisingly well over time.
Miracle on 34th Street, the 1994 version. There’s a reason this is a classic. In some ways I like this better than the older one. I think the actors are amazing. Richard Attenborough is great and Mara Wilson is very cute. What keeps this from being higher in my ranking is the ending. Although both versions rely on a sort of convenient excuse for the judge to make the ruling he wants, and neither is intended to be particularly strong legally, the ending in this one relies on actually diminishing validity of people’s faith (both for Santa and God) rather than on affirming it. A strange sort of resolution for a movie about magical possibilities.
Miracle on 34th street from 1947 because it’s charming and magical and, as I mentioned above, I like the ending resolution better.
A weird side note to this film. It was originally released in May which is why the trailer hides the Christmas theme. If I remember correctly this was not a good idea and the film did not originally do very well in this May slot. There’s a certain magic about Christmas that doesn’t really play without the whole seasonal thing. That’s why we don’t watch It’s a wonderful life in August either!
Santa Claus is coming to Town. Ok, as I see it, Santa is essentially a very specific Superhero and this is the ultimate of origin stories for him. I love this story and the way it’s told. Fred Astaire is great, and I’m so glad that “bumbles bounce!” I also like the surprising quick nod in the middle of the story to the true hero of Christmas. If you don’t remember what I’m talking about it’s time to watch again. (Now if Frosty could have just been made with the same animation, magic and charm as these other two stop motion movies based on Children’s songs. Alas it was not.)
The Polar Express. Actually I’m a little surprised this makes it as high in my list as it does. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great movie but another time it might move down below Rudolph. The animation is stunning in particular. But I”m typically a story guy and the story here is kind of thin. Still as a spectacle it captures some amazing imagery and there is definitely story in that. It’s based on a picture book and it strikes me very much like that. The story is sort of more about what you bring it it then about the way it’s strung together. The visuals are so amazing though that for now it makes it to this place.
The Muppet Christmas Carol. Ok, I have friends who totally don’t understand my fascination with the muppets. Perhaps it’s my childhood, perhaps it’s something stunted in my intellectual growth, but I think the Muppets are amazing. When you combine that with the fact that the Christmas Carol is an amazing story, and that this has become a tradition in my family to watch every year, it holds a very special place in my heart. I think Michael Caine is very good in this, as he is in everything. I think the music is very listenable and I find myself actually tear up at the parting scene between Scrooge and his love. Ok, ok, you don’t have to agree, but I stand by my fourth place ranking for this one and I will thoroughly enjoy Christmas eve when, for the 19th time we watch this movie.
White Christmas: Hey it’s Vista Vision, what more can you want?! I have no idea what that even means. 🙂 Really though do I need to defend this choice. If you hate musicals you will hate this. But coming from a guy who wanted to be Danny Kaye when he grew up, who has produced a college age daughter who listens to Bing Crosby and Rosemarie Clooney as her first choice of music, is it any surprise that this is a family favorite in our house? Even the scenes that don’t work, work in this movie. We still argue with the characters to just talk to each other, when we know that they will never listen to us and if they did the movie would end a lot more quickly. We still scratch our heads at the end of the movie when it turns out they are standing in front of a big barn door easily opened to see all the snow fall. Why exactly is the inn built that way except so we can see the snow fall? Why are they performing in such a venue? It makes no sense, but we love it anyway.
It’s a wonderful life. It’s simple. I love this movie. Every time I see it I love it. I could watch it year round (but I don’t.) It’s theologically wacked, but it contains so much truth anyway. Sacrifice and selflessness are exalted. This reminds me of Mr. Holland’s Opus only in the sense of a man making the choices he really wants to make, all the while thinking he’s being forced into things he doesn’t want. At the end the realization in both stories is that these choices were in fact well made and ultimately are the magnum opus of each man’s life. Jimmy Stewart is truly amazing in this and there are little touches in the story which take their time to unfold and prove so important later on. I like a story which doesn’t feel compelled to rush. (But then I also love stories which are non stop action, so what do I know?)
A Charlie brown Christmas. I love the simplicity, the elegance, the straighforwardness of this gem. What’s not to like? I like to think of Linus still out there somewhere bringing clarity in his matter of fact way to the Charlie Brown’s of the world.
So that’s my list of favorite Christmas Movies. I hope it spurs some memories for you. What’s your favorite movie? Want to defend something I left out or argue about something I included? Please do, I’d love to know what you like and why.