Christmas Movies

The Five Most Essential Movies of Christmas

By Lloyd Larsen — Guest Blogger on My Merry Christmas

The history of film is slowly watering down the quality that was once fairly exclusive to Christmas. Recent releases with Christmas themes such as “The Night Before” has taken the once proud genre of Christmas and cast it as a suspect reason for even making a movie. That is why the following list of essential Christmas movies contains mostly older titles.

Some will brand me old fashion. Or stubborn. Or maybe just old for doing it this way. But if you are a Christmas fan who guards closely not only the sanctity of the season but also holds high the standard of Christmas movie excellence you have to consider these five films the most essential of the season.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life

How does a movie that is not even about Christmas become the gold standard?

It’s a Wonderful Life is considered by most film critics as one of the best films ever. Those are it’s critics. But why do fans revere it so as a Christmas standard?

This movie came from an important era in history. By that I’m not talking world history or American history. I mean family history. It is reflective of a time where family was valued above all else.

This movie vocalizes what many feel about their families and it represents the best of what families are to each other. And that IS Christmas.

Yes, it is a nostalgic look back in time. And yes, it has little to do with Christmas other than having it as a backdrop. But isn’t that what Christmas is to all of us? Doesn’t Christmas drape our lives with atmosphere, energy, love and hope? This movie encapsulates that.

2. Scrooge (1970)

There are great and not-so-great versions of A Christmas Carol.

I pick the 1970 musical Scrooge as the most essential because it is, quite honestly, the most Christmasy, in my opinion.

It is also, for whatever reason, the least known.

Which is odd because the musical Muppet version of the story is wildly popular with younger generations and while entertaining it isn’t half as well crafted as the 1970 version.

I also like that the focus is put squarely on Scrooge, even as to go so far as to name the production after him. It highlights how this Christmas story is about one man and how Christmas changes him forever, albeit through a ghostly lens.

This is a classic story of Christmas and its lessons are endless.

3. Miracle on 34th Street

Though made in 1947 this is a very modern take on Christmas.

It is ALL Christmas, too. The subject is Santa Claus. And love. And believing.

While the focus is on a little girl and an old man I like the fact that it is also a love story.

This movie finds a way to promote all the great themes of Christmas without being preachy. It should be at the very top of every Christmas fans’ list.

4. The Santa Clause

This movie has a clever premise and a lot of laughs. It wraps Christmas well behind the modern realities of single parenting, too.

And it dips itself well into the healthy world of Christmas fantasy.

Christmas is an escape from reality. It is a draw from each of us because it relieves us of the burdens of this world if even for a brief period each year and places us face to face with those feelings of love, family and tradition that we so miss and cherish.

This movie is an original story that takes full advantage of ancient Christmas traditions. It is both old and new. It’s not Christmas without it.

5. A Christmas Story

Though overplayed these days A Christmas Story remains a standard of Christmas because it highlights the reality of family like no other Christmas film.

Who doesn’t see a bit of their own father in The Old Man? And who doesn’t see their Mother in Ralphie’s Mom?

This movie is a series of moments altogether too real. The department store Santa is a nightmare, the use of bad language resulted in a treatment of soap, the listening of Christmas entertainment together on the radio — hey, this is real stuff.

The story is not complex. But this is a movie about us and we can all relate. No matter the age.

Father of 7, Grandfather of 7, husband of 1. Freelance writer, Major League baseball geek, aspiring Family Historian.
  • C
    Chris Yager
  • August 8, 2017
Nice list. I also would include a version of "A Christmas Carol", but my favorite would be the TV movie with Patrick Stewart. Miracle on 34th to be sure, of course it needs to be the B&W version. This also applies to It's A Wonderful Life, which is a staple of the season. But I would change the other two and include The Polar Express and White Christmas.
Naturally we are speaking of movies. If we were to make a list of Christmas Specials (including animated ones), my five would be...
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated)
3. Mr. Magoo's: A Christmas Carol
4. Mickey's: Christmas at the House of Mouse
5. Prep & Landing
  • M
    Mark M
  • August 14, 2017
My own favourites are the Bishop's Wife and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I'd also give the fantastic Die Hard and Trading Places honourable mentions as although they aren't about Christmas, they are still "Christmassy".

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