Every year people debate when it’s socially acceptable to celebrate Christmas – in December, after Thanksgiving, for the entire year? However you feel about it, the list below should come in handy. New Christmas movies come out every year, but few can compete with the classics. So when you’re ready to get in the holiday spirit, gather some friends, break out the gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate, and settle in with some of the best classic holiday movies.
The Best Classic Holiday Movies
Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, a heartwarming tale about the value of friendship and community – what’s not to love? No list of the best classic holiday movies would be complete without It’s a Wonderful Life. Released in 1946, it tells the story of George Bailey, a man contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve, who is visited by his guardian angel, Clarence. After seeing what his community, Bedford Falls, would be like if he had never been born, George realizes how many lives he has touched. But you don’t need me to tell you that! Considered one of the greatest films ever made, It’s a Wonderful Life has been adapted and referenced countless times.
In my opinion, no Christmas would be complete without listening to the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas. This short, sweet film (it’s technically a TV movie) from 1965 focuses on Charlie’s quest to find the true meaning of Christmas. If you have 25 minutes to spare, give it a watch – perhaps with your grandchildren gathered around.
Speaking of animated holiday movies, the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas! aired just a year after the Peanuts’ Christmas special, in 1966. Though it’s been remade countless times (including a new animated version released this year), the original will always be the best. It’s a quirky tale about a grouchy green creature that plots to steal Christmas from the residents of Whoville, a nearby town. Did you know that Dr. Seuss himself wrote the lyrics of the classic tune “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”?
Though it centers on a courtroom drama, Miracle on 34th Street is a lovely holiday film about belief. It captures the spirit of Christmas, as a young lawyer defends a kindly old man who claims to be Santa Claus by proving in court that he’s the real thing. This 1947 flick also stars Natalie Wood in her first major role.
If you’d rather celebrate Christmas with some song-and-dance numbers, White Christmas is probably right up your alley. This 1954, star-studded film features Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen as performers who team up to save a Vermont inn owned by the men’s former commanding general. But let’s be honest, the plot is far less important than the musical numbers, which include a version of the titular song, “White Christmas.”
Fun fact: the song “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin first appeared in another holiday film about an inn: Holiday Inn, which was released in 1942. This is undoubtedly one of the best classic holiday movies, because it’s set at an inn that’s only open on holidays! Starring Bing Crosby (yet again) and Fred Astaire, the story revolves around the men’s efforts to win the heart of a bewitching new performer, played by Marjorie Reynolds.
A Christmas Carol
Frankly, we just weren’t sure which film adaptation of A Christmas Carol to include on our list. The 1984 version with George C. Scott? The 1938 version with Reginald Owen and Gene and Kathleen Lockhart? Perhaps the most deserving is the 1951 adaptation with Alastair Sim, but we didn’t want to choose! After all, what about the Muppets’ version? The one with Mr. Magoo? Or Bill Murray’s Scrooged? If you really want to commit, you could host a marathon to watch and compare some of the many adaptations of Dickens’s holiday tale.
So many Christmas movies revolve around families or children, so it’s nice to have one that’s a bit different. The Apartment (1960), starring the always wonderful Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon, centers around two young single people who work in the same building and attend the same drunken office party. The plot isn’t magical (in fact, it deals with some very serious subjects), but it feels realistic and ends with hope for the future.
Did we forget one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below. We hope that you find time to watch all of your favorite holiday films this Christmas season.
Happy holidays, everyone!
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