Holiday films and specials are a favorite American pastime. Whether you watch the same cherished movie with your family every year or you’re running out to the theatre Christmas morning to see that potential Oscar contender on its premiere date, holiday specials never fail to work their way into our lives as a beloved tradition.
However creating a Christmas classic certainly requires a magical mixture of ingredients. A few cups of sentiment, a drop of imaginary wonder, spoonfuls of yuletide joy and unforgettable quotes that make it a definitive holiday trademark.
15. “Elf” - “Buddy the elf, what’s your favorite color?” Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, who thinks he is one of Santa’s little helpers, but is clearly out of place. One of the most hilarious Christmas stories ever written and Ferrell at his finest.
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14. “A Christmas Carol” (Original B&W Version) - The 1951 British classic stars Alastair Sim as Scrooge and has its share of darkness and happiness as old Ebenezer is haunted by three spirits on Christmas Eve. The funniest moment is when Scrooge’s housekeeper Mrs. Dilber awakes him on Christmas morning and he raises her pay from 2 shillings a week to 10, she responds almost half frightened, “Merry Christmas Mr. Scrooge. In keeping with the situation!”
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13. “The Office” – Season two’s “Christmas Party” is the show’s first Christmas episode and overall best holiday installment in the series. Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) turns the Secret Santa gift exchange into a “Yankee Swap” because he’s angry he blew the $20 limit on his giftee by getting an iPod, therefore he ends up with Phyllis’ DIY potholders, and Jim’s carefully selected gift that was supposed to go to Pam ends up going to Dwight.
12. “The O.C.” - I absolutely loved this show growing up! It was the perfect teen drama for my years in high school. One particular episode comes to mind around the holiday season, “The Best Christmukkah Ever”, where Seth (Adam Brody) creates a holiday that celebrates his Christian and Jewish faith. In one memorable scene when things start to go awry at the family party, Ryan (Ben McKenzie) says to Seth, “You better pray for a Chrismukkah miracle.” Seth responds, “I’ve got Jesus and Moses on my side, man.” Plus, who can forget the Santa hat yarmulkes?
11. “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” – By far, the best out of the three, if you even count the third. When I think of “Home Alone 2,” the Bird Lady, Duncan’s Toy Chest, the sticky bandits and Gangster Johnny all come to mind. But the one moment that sticks out is when Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) stands in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center, wishing to see his family again. Even though the film is a comedy, there is just something so touching about that moment when his mom runs and hugs him. Also, who can forget the short cameo of Donald Trump in the Plaza hotel?
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10. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – This TV special defines Christmastime. When Hermey, the elf who desperately wants to be a dentist, and Rudolph meet for the first time in the snow bank, Hermey says, “Hey, what do you say we both be independent together?” One of the best on-screen friendships was formed.
9. “Jingle All the Way” – Before Arnold went loopy, he played Howard, a father who decides on Christmas Eve that he’s going out to get the most sought-after Christmas toy ever for his son. He runs into Sinbad, Robert Conrad and James Belushi on the way, before turning up as actual Turbo Man himself at the Christmas Parade.
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8. “Friends” – “The One with the Holiday Armadillo” is probably the best “Friends” episode of all-time. Ross (David Schwimmer) doesn’t have any luck finding a Santa outfit around Christmas, and he wants to get his son excited about Hanukkah. So what’s the next best thing at the costume shop? An armadillo outfit, of course!
7. “A Christmas Story” – I could make a whole list of favorite moments just from this movie, but the leg lamp is a classic scene that everyone loves.
6. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” - Tim Burton’s wonderfully animated classic can be watched from October to December. The film tells the story of Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, and how the spirit of Christmas wins him over. If Christmas can win over the Pumpkin King, it must be a magical holiday.
5. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” - That moment when Charlie chooses the weakest tree in the bunch and the other moment when the Peanut gang start decorating the tree and it grows 50 more limbs in 10 seconds.
4. “Love Actually” – One of my favorite movies ever and a film that has a huge cast of characters whose lives interwine and is played out beautifully. The scene when Mark (Andrew Lincoln) admits that he’s in love with his best friend’s girl (Keira Knightley) via poster board makes girls swoon everywhere.
3. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” - If you say you didn’t like this TV special, you’re lying. The 1966 animated short film is narrated by the talented Boris Karloff, who wasn’t even included in the original credits! It’s one of the few Christmas specials from the 1960s that is regularly replayed on television today. The character of Cindy Lou Who (who was no more than two) is seriously underestimated. It wasn’t just the singing of the Whos that got the Grinch to rethink his evil plan, it was Cindy Lou Who who first pulled those heartstrings from the moment he saw her.
2. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” - A dedicated performance by Michael Caine as Scrooge and the full cast of Muppets make this movie the best version of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ even though we still have no idea what kind of animal Gonzo is.
1. “It’s a Wonderful Life” - Frank Capra’s classic black and white film is the ultimate of Christmas movies! When Clarence the angel (Henry Travers) appears on that snowy bridge, just as George Bailey (James Stewart) is contemplating jumping off it on Christmas Eve, goosebumps spring up on my arms every single time. Clarence then takes George through all of the significant points in his life where he’s touched the lives of others. and George really does find that he had a “wonderful life.” The most memorable scene in the movie is when George runs back to the bridge, begging Clarence to give him his life back. It starts snowing and George realizes he’s back in Bedford Falls and reunites with his family. The best “feel-good” movie that ever existed.