While many of us will have to skip family Christmas traditions this month in the name of health, safety and looking out for each other, thankfully there are some classic holiday movies that can help fill the void and provide a sense of normalcy as this craptastic year finalllllly comes to a close.
Here are 8 classics—some newer, some older—you can count on.
Elf – This was the year we introduced our kids to Will Ferrell’s Buddy the elf, and they have wanted to watch his antics over and over again ever since. You just can’t go wrong with this story of a human raised by Santa’s elves who goes in search of his birth father in Manhattan — all while spreading that special brand of North Pole magic, happiness and naivety wherever he goes.
The Nightmare Before Christmas – Another first this year: Despite being a huge Disney fan who loves when the Disney parks make over The Haunted Mansion ride with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme between Halloween and Christmas, I had never actually seen the movie it’s all based on… until last month. And as I expected, Tim Burton’s take on the holiday season is as creepy and weird as you’d expect, as the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) attempts to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, aided by the ragdoll Sally (Catherine O’Hara).
A Christmas Story – This beloved 1983 movie is told in flashback form as the narrator (Jean Shepherd, who also co-wrote the script based on his own life) remembers an epic Christmas when he was nine years old. His misfortunes taught a generation about the dangers of licking frozen flagpoles, Red Ryder BB guns and dressing in too many layers.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – Important lessons are learned in this 1989 comedy as well, as the Griswold family (Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki) goes all-in on trying to best their neighbors’ holiday decorations while surviving their extended family’s visit.
It’s a Wonderful Life – Many people don’t consider their holiday season kicked off until they’ve watched Frank Capra’s 1946 classic about a down-on-his-luck man, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who spends one fateful Christmas Eve getting to see what life would’ve been like for his loved ones if he never existed.
It’s a Very Muppet Christmas Movie – … and this is the Muppets’ take on that very same tale — just substitute Kermit the Frog for George Bailey. Double-feature, anyone?
A Bad Moms Christmas – If your kids have been home and engaged in “remote schooling” since March like mine have, perhaps you’re in the mood for a different type of holiday cheer (along with a stiff drink). Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski and Susan Sarandon have the cure for what ails you!
Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas – After 6 Madea movies, we finally got a Christmas-themed one in 2013. And you’d expect nothing less than secrets being revealed and lies getting messily unraveled when Madea (Tyler Perry) and her great-niece Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford) make a surprise visit to Eileen’s daughter Lacey’s (Tika Sumpter) house in Alabama just in time for the holidays.
What’s your go-to holiday movie?