Jingle, bells. Jingle bells. It’s that time of year again – Christmas! A colorful swirl of sugar plums and light-strung fir trees and flying reindeer and glowing nativity scenes and fat, jolly old elves. And holiday movies to put us in the mood.
I’ve compiled my Top 10 Christmas movies list before, but tastes change, reappraisals are made and my lists shift slightly. So here is this year’s list:
10) “Holiday Inn” (1942) — OK, parts of this Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire classic may be un-PC by today’s standards. But it still puts me in the holiday mood to hear Der Bingle crooning “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” At this point we will also throw in “White Christmas” (1954), not perfect, but perfectly touching when Crosby and company sing the title song.
9) “A Christmas Carol” — This too will be a catch-all for Scrooge movies. I prefer the 1951 British version with Alastair Sim, a telling that follows the Charles Dickens story closely. Here, we also will add the cartoon versions “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (a 1983 short) and “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol” (1962). Then we’ll top it off with “Scrooged,” an updated version featuring a grumpy Bill Murray.
8) “Home Alone 1 & 2” (1990, 1992) — Yeah, I’m a sucker for cute kids who thwart burglars at Christmastime. Macaulay Culkin was born to play the role of an overlooked child with a resourceful nature.
7) “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989) — Family at its worst and Christmas at its best in this Chevy Chase comedy classic. I want to light up my house like the Griswold home ... but with less chaos!
6) “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945) — Barbara Stanwyck finds love with Dennis Morgan during the holidays while passing herself off as a Martha Stewart-type homemaker. I love the Connecticut setting and romance blooming in a horse-drawn sleigh.
5) “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947) — Cary Grant is a suave angel in this inspirational holiday story. I love Cary’s skating scene with Loretta Young, David Niven’s indignance, and the rediscovery of belief.
4) “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947) — Proof that Santa is real. And Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar to confirm it. While we’re at it, let’s throw in “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), another classic about gift-giving and love at Christmastime.
3) “Love, Actually” (2003) — This modern British classic takes place during the Christmas holidays. With a great repertory cast (Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, et al.), it is, in fact, several intertwined love stories that will make your heart sing: “I feel it in my fingers/ I feel it in my toes/ Christmas is all around me/ and so the feeling grows.”
2) “A Christmas Story” (1983) — Based on Jean Shepherd’s memoirs, this movie captures the nostalgia of childhood at Christmastime like no other. Ralphie wants to find a Red Ryder air rifle under his tree but everybody warns, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” What’s a boy to do to get on Santa’s list?
1) “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) — How can you not love Frank Capra’s holiday tale about George Baily, a man who wished he’d never been born … until an angel-in-training shows him what life in tiny Bedford Falls would have been like without him. If you don’t cry at the end — when George is surrounded by all the lives he changed – and an angel gets its wings — then you might need to take up residence in Pottersville.
We cheated, squeezing in some 15 Christmas movies. Even so, there wasn’t enough room for many other favorites — like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the 1966 Boris Karloff version), Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993), and “The Polar Express” (2004) with lovable Tom Hanks. No, “Bad Santa” (2003) didn’t make the list … but it’s still naughty but nice.
We’ve deliberately ignored those trillion Hallmark Christmas movies in that they were made for TV. And the annual television showing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
That aside, have you got a favorite Christmas movie to add to my overstuffed stocking.