I watch a distressing amount of Christmas movies during the season, so this year I thought I’d share my awkward obsession with you all in the form of a Christmas Movie Advent Calendar! Starting on December 1st, I posted a new holiday movie each day until Christmas Eve on social media with the tag #XMasMovieAdventCalendar. Below is the list of ESSENTIAL(ish?) Christmas flicks.
1. Anna and the Apocalypse
This movie bridges the gap from Halloween to Christmas; part horror film, part holiday musical, all great. Great songs and a great story, this is the way to start off the countdown to Christmas.
2. Holiday Inn
Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby vying for the affections of Virginia Dale in a singing vs dancing showdown. A musical (go figure), this launched Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and “Happy Holiday”.
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Despite bringing to us the absolute creepiest, most depressing Christmas song in existence, the vocal version of “Christmas Time is Here”, the pure nostalgia of this one keeps it on my list.
4. Love Actually
The first of many romcoms to come on this list. It’s hokey and there are too many storylines, but, anytime one of the love stories can end in getting drunk and watching porn, it’s a story well done!
My favorite version of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” (although if you can’t stand Bill Murray in full form, the Muppet Christmas Carol is a close second), this is absolutely hilarious and only moderately not safe for the family!
6. A Christmas Prince
You will know the entire course of the plot before you’ve gotten fifteen minutes into the movie, but that doesn’t take away from a cute story even slightly; if a story is going to be on rails, these are good rails to be on!
7. Arthur Christmas
There’s only so many Santa stories to tell, but somehow this CGI movie ekes out an interesting new take on the “outcast from the North Pole must help Santa save Christmas” impossibly.
This Santa origin story is the most beautifully made one I’ve seen in a long time. Gorgeous animation and a nuanced and enthralling story. This won a ton of awards for good reason. It’s a new favorite of mine.
9. The Holiday
Yes, another romcom. I can’t watch this without wishing that I had Amanda’s movie-trailer announcer for my life. This reinforces my undying love for Jack Black and some good ol’ slapsticky Cameron Diaz.
10. The Night Before
I don’t get high anymore, but I still can’t deny the allure of a well done stoner movie. Add in some Mindy Kaling, Anthony Mackie, Lizzy Caplan, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I cried laughing several times. Definite winner!
11. Last Holiday
I enjoyed Queen Latifah in Taxi and I always enjoy LL Cool J, so I am predisposed toward this movie and it STILL managed to surprise me. Don’t let the fact that it utterly failed in theaters dissuade you, it’s a solid holiday romcom.
12. Frosty the Snowman
The Rankin/Bass special is dated, but Frosty shouting “happy birthday” each time he awakens and Jimmy Durante’s voice gets me past that. Just stop at this one and tell yourself there are no sequels and you’ll be alright!
13. Jack Frost
You had me at Michael Keaton as the lead singer of The Jack Frost Band, but cameos from Henry Rollins, Stevie Ray Vaughn and several Zappa children definitely didn’t hurt!
14. Happy Christmas
If you have a family member like Anna Kendrick’s Jenny, there are parts of this where it’s genuinely hard to watch, but Melanie Lynsky’s portrayal of a beleaguered mom makes it well worth it.
New this year, this is a surprisingly fun take that is actually sufficiently novel that it warrants a 2nd entry for Dickens’ “Christmas Carol”. Ryan Reynolds and a (relatively) understated Will Farrell singing and dancing in a musical!
16. 8-Bit Christmas
Another newbie. It leans heavily on gen-x nostalgia, but that in no way detracts from a fun story well told that lands with exactly the right amount of schmaltz. Come for the Nintendo memories, stay for a beautifully told story.
17. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The 60s version with Boris Karloff narrating and Thurl Ravenscroft singing the iconic song is THE correct version to watch. The 2000 live action one and the 2018 animation are both fine, but this is the right one.
18. The Princess Switch
Get this, two random people are identical twins and they meet. One of them, a princess, wants a break from royal life so they switch. Hijinks ensue. Never seen it before, right? Well buckle in kids! Bonus: sequels PLURAL!
19. A Christmas Story
The movie that firmly affixed “you’ll shoot your eye out kid”, “oh fudge”, and “soap poisoning” in my lexicon and a fear of getting my tongue next to any cold metal in my brain, it’s a classic for a reason!
20. Miracle on 34th Street
My first exposure to this was the 1994 version, which I loved so much I avoided the original. Bad call. Both are great, but Wood’s and Wilson’s takes on Susan are very different. Watch both, but if you can’t, pick 1947’s.
Listen, you can hate on Will Farrell all you want, but his over-the-top thing really landed as a hyper-enthusiastic North Pole elf. As great at Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel were, James Caan, Peter Dinklage, and Bob Newhart made this for me!!
22. Love Hard
The last (and best) romcom on here. A Christmas-themed interpretation of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (one of my favorite plays), Jimmy Yang and Nina Dobrev kill it. Worth it for the reinvented “Baby It’s Cold Outside” if nothing else.
23. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
More Rankin/Bass now with stop-motion creepiness, but this has aspiring dentist Hermey who steals the show. This was the longest running Christmas special in history for a bit, so don’t question it, just watch!
24. Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
I’ve watched this every year during the holiday season for as long as I can remember (save for the “dark years” when I couldn’t find a copy). Smaltzy as hell, but peak Jim Henson, so an absolute winner.
So that’s the list. Not all are high art and some (many?) are more “movies that take place at Christmas” than “movies about Christmas”, but, at least I avoided the Die Hard argument, eh? If you haven’t already shared, what are your favorites?