Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Holiday Movies

‘Tis the season to be spreading holiday cheer. Hollywood does its part every year by cranking out a host of holiday-themes movies. In this week’s Roundtable, we look at some of our favorites.

Joining us this week is Nate Boss, one of our site’s Blu-ray reviewers. We’ll let him start things off.

Nate Boss

  1. Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ – No, this isn’t the best iteration of the Charles Dickens classic, not by a long shot. But it may be the best version to introduce children to the story with. And let’s be honest, Christmas isn’t for adults. This animated short runs about a third of the length of any other version of ‘A Christmas Carol’, and kitbashes the numerous Disney icons into their logical corresponding roles. The first Disney film to contain Mickey in about 30 years, it’s short enough to stay fast and interesting, rather than drawn out and gaudy like a few other Dickens adaptations. It adds a cuteness factor that to this day has yet to be matched. Disney perfectly utilizes the Scrooge McDuck character (and I truly want to forget the awful that was ‘Ducktales’….wooooo-ooooo) in what may be his defining moment. The movie also nails the “casting” for the horribly annoying Jiminy Cricket as the moral compass/conscience of Disney. With three times as much heart of the Jim Carrey version in less than a third of the time, this oft-passed-over Disney gem is perhaps the only instance where a retelling of a story solely to utilize a stable of characters is actually entertaining, not just pandering.

Junie Ray

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life‘ – I’m going completely traditional here. We watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ every year at least once. I think I could recite it from memory – so many great quotes. It has a fantastic cast of characters and heartwarming storylines. It just makes me feel all warm inside, though I do understand that it’s a bit too much feel-good for some people. If you’ve never seen the stick figure version of the bridge scene, catch it here.

Dick Ward

  1. Die Hard‘ – It’s fine watching normal Christmas movies, but after a while they all start to mush together. Most are a play on ‘A Christmas Carol’ with varying degrees of silliness. “Someone loses their/doesn’t have any faith in Christmas, but then it’s restored/discovered!” Boring. Plus, irrelevant to me, since I’m less about Jesus and Santa and more about spending time with my family. That’s what Christmas is to me, and that’s why it just doesn’t get any better than ‘Die Hard’. Sure, there are explosions and shootouts, but that’s not what the movie is about. It’s about a regular Joe trying to reunite with his wife on Christmas Eve, and that’s as good as it gets.

Drew Taylor

  1. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang‘ – One day I’ll write a book, or at least a collection of critical essays, about the work of writer Shane Black. The book (or collection of essays, I haven’t decided yet) will be called “Cops & Christmas.” Because if there are two things that Shane Black loves, they’re cops and Christmas. Several of his screenplays, including ‘Lethal Weapon‘ and guilty pleasure ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight‘, take place around Christmas, and almost every one of his scripts involves a character who’s either a cop or a private detective (even ‘The Monster Squad‘). But my favorite Shane Black cops n’ Christmas joint is his lone directorial effort, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’. In it, a pre-comeback Robert Downey Jr., along with a pre-puffiness Val Kilmer, uncover a hopelessly complex conspiracy. The time of year, it just so happens, is Christmas. So there are lots of girls in skimpy Santa outfits and a great opening sequence with RDJ robbing a toy store. Like the best, most affective Christmas movies, it puts you into the holiday spirit without you even noticing. Also, it’s one of the most underrated movies of the new millennium. Check it out, you ho ho ho.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

  1. Jack Frost‘ – The instant I finished reading the topic for this week’s Roundtable, the first movie that sprang to mind was ‘Jack Frost’. No, not the Michael Keaton “You da man!” / “No, I da snowman!” kiddie flick that everyone would just as soon forget. I mean the schlocky horror-comedy about a bloodthirsty mutant snowman. When a prison transport truck crashes into a tanker full of experimental genetic acid, a serial killer’s DNA is fused with the snow around him, and he sets off on the sleepy little town of Snowmonton to continue his reign of terror. Jack can smother victims to death in his snow white tummy, he can melt himself into water to duck into locked cars and rooms, he can fling razor-sharp icicles to skewer the townsfolk, and…yeah, he’s pretty much indestructable. ‘Jack Frost’ is most fondly remembered for a then-unknown Shannon Elizabeth being assaulted in a bathtub by a snowman who’s figured out something else to do with his carrot nose. The climax swirls around an arsenal of blow dryers and poisoned oatmeal. It probably goes without saying that every last second of ‘Jack Frost’ is ridiculous, and it’s a movie I’ve tried to force on anyone who’ll listen for more than ten years now.

Josh Zyber

  1. A Christmas Story‘ – This is the perfect holiday movie, as far as I’m concerned. Its mixture of sweet-natured nostalgia with a hint of cynicism hits all the right notes for me, and for a lot of other people too, apparently. There’s a reason TBS runs it in a 24 hour marathon every Christmas. Although it was a box office bomb when it was first released in 1983, the film has grown in stature and claimed its place as a bona fide classic. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” Enough said.

Mrs. Z

  1. Miracle on 34th Street‘ – My absolute favorite holiday movie is ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ – the original 1947 classic version in black and white. It’s a Christmas movie for even the most cynical of holiday scrooges, and proves beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that Santa Claus is alive and well and living at an old folks home on Long Island. It’s charming, funny, and sentimental without becoming sappy. Unlike other Christmas classics like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘A Christmas Story’, it was a hit right out of the gate, picking up three Oscars including one for Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. A very young Natalie Wood shows why she was one of the most sought-after child actors of her time. She’s adorable without being cloying, and smart without being precocious. Maureen O’Hara is fantastic as Doris, a surprisingly modern heroine for 1947. She has great chemistry with John Payne’s Fred. I can’t say enough good things about this movie. What are you waiting for? Grab a cup of cocoa and fire up the Blu-ray.

Now tell us your favorites.


  1. besch64

    In the vein of Die Hard: Eyes Wide Shut. I Watch it every year before Christmas.

    And I don’t know why, but I watch The Fellowship of the Ring every Christmas Eve. It just sort of became a tradition out of nowhere and for really no reason.

  2. I hate it when people list Die Hard, Gremlins, Lethal Weapon and others as their favorite “Christmas” movies, yet fail to remember these movies were not released at Christmas-time…primarily because they are films that happen to take place at Christmas, rather than movies ABOUT Christmas.

    For me, I’ll stick with favorites like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “The Santa Clause” – movies that were acutally intended to be enjoyed specifically during the holidays.

    • EM

      I wouldn’t put much stock into original release dates: “Scrooge” (1951, starring Alastair Sim) was originally released on October 31 (it is rather Halloweenish at times, isn’t it?); and “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947) was originally released on May 2, heralded by trailers that did everything possible to conceal the Christmas setting and theme of the film. Nevertheless, these are bona fide Christmas classics.

    • Just because a movie doesn’t focus on the subject doesn’t make it an invalid choice. In fact, I think that makes it a better choice. The message is there without the ham-handed delivery of movies that shove the whole Christmas thing in your face.

      Take ‘Shaun of the Dead’ for example. It’s my favorite zombie movie, but it’s not about zombies. The zombies are there, but the movie isn’t about zombies. It’s a love story with a side of learning to cope with loss. I think it’s a much stronger film because of that.

      That’s not to say that I’m not a fan of ‘A Muppet Christmas Carol’ or ‘Scrooged,’ but for me, the story of John McClane trying to be with his wife on Christmas – and overcoming extreme obstacles to do so – is as Christmas as it gets.

  3. BostonMA

    It’s a Wonderful Life, all the way.

    i can’t wait to unwrap my intentionally unwrapped Blu-ray copy of it on Christmas Eve or possibly a few days before that.

  4. ilovenola2

    The 1951 “A Christmas Carol” (“Scrooge” in Britain), starring Alastair Sim, is still the benchmark for all adaptations of this classic. Though there’ve been some really good ones, including the George C. Scott tv-movie and, especially, last year’s Zemeckis/Carrey stop-motion entry, the black-and-white classic filmed 59 years ago has yet to be topped.
    I’ll also be watching “A Chritsmas Story” as well.

  5. Callenby

    I disagree on “It’s a Wonderful Life” being too feel good. I love the movie and often tear up at the end, but George Bailey could have easily taken away a different message from his spirit journey: Under slightly different circumstances, everyone you know and love can turn out to be gigantic pieces of shit. Bedford Falls and its citizens aren’t inherently good, they’re good solely because of an external condition, George’s existence. Great movie, but the reason it is so feel good is because it bounces back from such a dark, lonely, unhappy place.

    As far as alternative Christmas films, I love “Brazil.” Take that, Shannon! I can repurpose Christmas-set films into Christmas films however I like.

  6. Jane Morgan

    ‘Love Actually’ is the greatest christmas movie of all time, thanks to Billy Mack and his number one single ‘Christmas Is All Around.’

  7. i have three favorites. Scrooge with Albert finney. i love the look of it and the songs too. polar express. i love the story and since it’s a fantasy , i never had a problem with the faces. and a Christmas story. i was 10 when it came out. didn’t see it at the movies , saw it three years later and loved it.

  8. “White Christmas” is a tradition in my family – we watch it every Christmas Eve.

    The Santa Clause movies are new favorites. Probably going to start digging them out tomorrow.

    My roommate Likes “Home Alone”. If I never see them again, it will be too soon!

    I think this year, I am going to add “Samantha: An American Girl” to the list. CUTE movie! Molly could probably be added as well, but that really revolves more around the war, not Christmas.

    There are tons of other movies I have on HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, Laserdisc, DVD and VHS, but those listed above are to me the MUST WATCH movies of the year.

    OH, and the COLORIZED version of It’s A Wonderful Life. I grew up with the colorized version, and never saw it in B&W until I was in college, so I perfer the colorized one. I am SO happy both versions are on the Blu-Ray release!

    • Oh c’mon Will, ‘Home Alone’ is awesome 🙂 There was a time where I was absolutely sick of that movie, but now I’ve come around on it. I appreciate it in a different way now than I did when I was a kid, and I think that makes a big difference.

      The trap sequences that make up much of the movie can get a little tiring, but the intro with the entire family gathered together is fantastic. “Look what you did you little jerk!”

  9. Jared Chamberlain

    I still enjoy a yearly screening of “The Ref,” as well as “Love Actually,” and “Die Hard.” I think this year it will probably be done in marathon fashion, while avoiding 22 of the 24 hours of “A Christmas Story…”

  10. mh

    My no-miss Christmas movie traditions:


  11. Christmas Vacation for sure, its my staple Christmas movie every year, Chevy Chase at his best!

    Home Alone is always a must as its one of my all time favorites, always look forward to watching that one every year

    Elf has become the newest Christmas classic and IMO it was quite a long time before something original and really Christmas based had come along till this one, perfect blend of Will Farrel’s stupid humor, heart and Christmas spirit and joy, love it!

    Sandler’s 8 Crazy Nights, this has grown on me over the years too, just love the humor and the voices of the older couple, whole thing makes me laugh every time

    Christmas Story is a must and it gets watched at least a few times a year as we see it all day at our family’s houses 🙂

    Nightmare Before Christmas you cant forget either, probably the only movie that can watched and fully enjoyed at both Halloween and Christmas, can never get enough of this one!

  12. vihdeeohfieuhl

    Best Christmas films of all time:
    National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Elf, and Love Actually.

    Is there a single negative thing about Love Actually? You could literally tell you were watching a new Christmas classic about halfway into the very first viewing. Love Jane’s comment about the blu-ray upping the quality of the nudity!

    I’m surprised there weren’t more mentions of Elf. This is on it’s way to becoming an all time classic. The originality is unparalleled in the last decade plus as far as holiday/Christmas films go.

    Christmas Vacation makes me laugh so hard that it’s as if I’ve never heard the jokes before, let alone dozens of times. Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

  13. lordbowler

    My fav Christmas movies are:

    Scrooged (Bill Murray)
    Miracle on 34th Street (either version)
    Trapped in paradise
    The Ref
    Die Hard (1&2)
    Gremlins (to scare the kids!)

    Those are some of my favorites to watch.

    I never liked A Christmas Story.

    Notable mentions are:
    White Christmas
    A Christmas Carol (1984) (w/ George C Scott)
    It’s A Wonderful Life (classic with Jimmy Stewart) not one I’ll watch more than once in the season.
    Christmas Vacation.

  14. EM

    There are four movies I consider musts at Christmastime:
    • “It’s a Wonderful Life”
    • “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947 original)
    • “Scrooge” (a.k.a. “A Christmas Carol”, 1951)
    • “A Christmas Story”

    In addition, there are two TV specials that I feel must round out my holiday viewing:
    • “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
    • “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

  15. Junie Ray

    Also wanted to mention two others holiday classics they usually show on TCM and are worth a watch – ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ and ‘The Shop Around the Corner’.