Watch This: Christmas Movies

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In the latest installment of our ongoing Watch This feature – in which Adam and I give you a rundown on movies you absolutely have to see – we introduce a brand new feature in which Adam or I give you a rundown on movies you absolutely have to see.

And what better way to kick things off than with some seasonably appropriate fare – Christmas movies! We run down our very favourite Christmas movies, and explain why we think you should drop everything and watch them now.

In the spirit of the holidays, Scott’s comments will be in red, and Adam’s will be in green. Festive!

Christmas Vacation (1989)

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Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Randy Quaid, Johnny Galecki, John Randolph, Diane Ladd

Alright, I may be stuck in the 80’s for Christmas movies, but that’s because these are the ones I grew up with, and that makes them the classics to me.

Chevy Chase is Clark Griswold, a tightly-wound family man who just wants to host the perfect Christmas. Of course when you add in the family, the neighbours, and all the hassle of decorating and preparing… the best he might be able to hope for is averting disaster.

Christmas Vacation is a modern classic. If you haven’t seen this movie yet — go now. Do not finish reading this article… it’ll still be here when you get back, and we can wait.

The thing about Christmas Vacation that gets me every time is that despite the story — which is basically about a Christmas meltdown at the Griswold place — there’s a really heartwarming message at the end. I won’t spoil it for you.

Christmas Vacation is the Christmas we all wished we’d had — out of sheer morbid curiosity to see how we would react — but are eternal grateful nothing so awful has ever happened to us. And that we don’t have family members like Randy Quaid and Juliette Lewis.

I used to hate this film, because I found it depressing, but I think that was because I used to be a dumb kid. Now, I see the unfettered disaster of the Griswolds’ family Christmas and I laugh — I laugh because even though the movie is one colossal exaggeration, we’ve all experienced irritating family members and things that just keep going wrong at Christmas.

So pour yourself some rum and eggnog and settle in with the family for some cheap laughs. Christmas can’t be all serious all the time, anyhow.

Elf (2003)

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Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Edward Asner, Bob Newhart

Say what you will about Will Ferrell’s style of man-child comedy, there’s something endearing about Buddy, a human who was raised by Santa’s elves. His wonder and innocence are what really make this movie.

When Buddy learns he was adopted – or at least taken in – by the denizens of the North Pole, he sets out to find his real father, who turns out to be a curmudgeonly publisher with no Christmas spirit. Hilarity ensues.

On the surface, this is a zany “fish-out-of-water” comedy about a Christmas elf in New York. But at it’s heart is a touching reunion story between a father and a son over the holidays. And Zooey Deschanel gets to sing, which is a plus because she’s adorable.

A really good Christmas movie to get you in the holiday mood, and very family friendly.

I haven’t seen this movie yet, but everyone keeps saying how awesome it is… So I’ll totally see it because of YOU Scott.

And you’ll thank me.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Paul Reubens

I hadn’t seen any of this movie until last Christmas, when I was being lazy on the couch at my parents, dozing after eating way too much chocolate, and the Nightmare Before Christmas started on TV. So I watched.

And I fell in love with Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, the man who stumbles upon Christmastown and decides to change things up in Halloweentown. This means kidnapping Santa and Jack using his own special brand of scary to bring “joy” to kids at Christmas… which he more or less completely fails at.

Aside from being a visually stunning film — which it is — it’s also a wonderfully original story with some scary, creepy moments… all in the name of Christmas. Absolutely enjoyable for being so unusual, different, and above all a well-written little movie.

Sure the movie has Tim Burton all over it; but even if you’ve hated everything he’s ever done you’ll be drawn in by the fantastic musical score and the amazing characters. Adam hits the nail on the head when he says that part of the charm of Nightmare is how totally unusual it is. I mean, seriously, who came up with the idea to make a Christmas movie as seen through the eyes of a Halloween movie? Brilliant!

This is a movie you’ll want to share with your kids. A worthy addition to this list.

Scrooged (1988)

Future - Scrooged

Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Michael J. Pollard, Alfre Woodard

Arguably my favourite Christmas movie, ever, is this modern retelling of A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray is Frank Xavier Cross, douchebag TV producer. On the night of his greatest triumph – a live Christmas Eve broadcast of A Christmas Carol – he finds himself in a night of revelations that mirrors the classic tale.

I heart this movie. It’s a great retelling of the original tale that stays true to the source material, while drawing it into the modern day of 1988. And while it is a comedy, it doesn’t lose any of the spookiness, or the meaning, of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey.

This one is on my “watch” list every Christmas, and it never gets old for me.

I LOVE this movie. Love. Bill Murray’s narcissitic capitalist douchebag character Frank Cross is easily one of the more hateable modern versions of Ebenezer Scrooge. But what makes it such a pleasure to watch is that while Cross behaves like a total asshole through much of the movie, he’s extremely likable and the road he rides to redemption — replete with both hilarious and terrifying ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future — is bumpy, filled with thought, doubt and eventually vindication.

Scott’s right it’s still an extremely spooky film, and some parts I used to find downright disturbing and not so Christmassy. But that’s the point: Cross has a choice to make and it means the difference between being recalled a tyrant or a man worth of praise and love.

The funny thing is that before we started writing this, I was thinking I’d go and buy a copy of Scrooged. Now I think I will. Besides, nothing’s funnier than Bobcat Goldthwait wielding a shotgun upon discovering a redeemed Frank Cross.

NOTE: This is also the only movie where I think it’s acceptable to break into spontaneous song at the end.

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8 Responses to “Watch This: Christmas Movies”

  1. Brittney
    December 19, 2009 at 8:33 pm #

    Where was Die Hard? WHERE? That and Die Hard 2: Die Harder are the best Christmas movies, hands down. Yippie ki-yay Father Christmas.

    I haven’t seen Scrooged… but perhaps one day I will PVR it. As for the rest of the Christmas movies… I could take them or leave them. But that’s mainly because I am not the biggest fan of Christmas movies.

    Lethal Weapon is also Christmassy. Where was it?

  2. allan
    December 19, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    I second Brittney, Die Hard and Die Harder are an awesome christmas duo.

  3. Dave
    December 20, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    Batman Returns! The most highly underrated of Batman and Christmas movies I think.

  4. Liam
    December 20, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    I agree with Brittney!
    I took a class on Pop Culture during my educating days (umm…two years ago) and in the class right before Christmas, we examined “Die Hard.”
    Yes, that WAS an awesome class.

  5. bingofuel
    December 20, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    Fine, you big babies, Die Hard is a Christmas movie. ARE YOU HAPPY? You made little Scott C cry!

    Any other awesome Xmas movies you guys can think of? And Gremlins doesn’t count…

  6. scottybomb
    December 20, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    Seriously people. Seriously.

    In all honesty I considered adding Die Hard, but I’ve seen it on a few other lists this year and didn’t want to be seen as following a trend. And to be fair, there’s plenty of other movies that are good that didn’t make this list. Consider it all fodder for a future Watch This section.

  7. Tyson
    December 20, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    Muppets Christmas Carol? Or did Scrooged (also a good one) take the Xmas Carol spot?

    Henry Selick (the guy who did Coraline) was actually the director for The Nightmare before Christmas. Tim Burton wrote it according to IMDB. Neil Gaiman was twittering about him not getting enough credit a while back.

    Quality list though, all good movies.

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