by Coop Cooper
Holiday films are a special genre, best viewed during this time of the year. If you’re looking for a few to give you a bit of seasonal cheer, you can do no wrong with the list below…
ELF (2003) – Made at the height of Will Ferrell’s career, Elf tells the story of Buddy, a human raised as an Elf at the North Pole. Definitely Ferrell’s most kid-friendly film, Buddy must restore Christmas spirit to a New York (and his father, played by James Caan) before everyone’s holiday apathy sabotages Santa’s annual mission. Only Ferrell could make a potentially annoying character this funny.
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) – Hands down the best Thanksgiving movie ever made. John Hughes played on the chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy as mismatched businessmen desperately trying to get home to their families in time for a turkey dinner. Although most of it is a laugh riot, you’ll need a box of tissues during the ending.
LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) – The most adult film on this list also is one of the most sentimental. An all-star British cast top-lined by Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman discover the meaning of love during one fateful holiday. The overwhelming romanticism might come across as naïve to the cynical, but do not underestimate the cult following behind this film. I’ve been to many a Christmas party where the host played this film continuously on a loop the entire night.
SCENT OF A WOMAN (1992) – Okay, so I was hurting for good Thanksgiving movies. This one happens to take place during a Thanksgiving weekend as a prep school kid played by Chris O’Donnell agrees to escort a blind war hero (Al Pacino) on a weekend jaunt to New York. Pacino gives an Oscar-winning performance which forever linked him to the exclamation: “Hoo-Ahh!!!”
SCROOGED (1988) – Bill Murray stars in this creative and humorous remake of “A Christmas Carol.” An all-star 80’s cast reprises the classic story along with some great special effects and a couple of memorable musical moments. Murray stands out as my favorite incarnation of the grumpy miser visited by the three spirits of Christmas.
MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) – One of the most remade of all Christmas classics, a guy claiming to be the real Santa Claus gets locked in an insane asylum. A young lawyer must prove the man is the true Santa Claus in court. When it comes to multiple versions of the same movie, always bet on the original, especially this one which won three Oscars and was nominated for best picture.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) – The most family-friendly film of the “Vacation” franchise, inept patriarch Clark Griswold wants the perfect Christmas for his extended family. He must endure squirrel attacks, his uncouth cousin Eddie, decoration mishaps and a greedy boss who won’t cough up a much needed Christmas bonus. Poor Chevy Chase couldn’t catch a break after this movie, making it his last watchable starring vehicle.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) – This immortal classic received five Oscar nominations and was nearly overplayed to death on TV in the 1980’s. Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, a guy so down on his luck on Christmas he wishes he was never born. An angel named Clarence grants him that wish and shows him what his friends and loved ones would be like without him.
A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) – Easily the greatest American holiday movie of all time. The story revolves around Ralphie and his simple holiday wish for a Red Rider BB gun, but his wish seems unlikely to be granted since everyone around keeps telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Based on true stories written by Jean Shepherd, this film is required viewing for my family on Christmas Eve. Fun fact: Peter Billingsley who played Ralphie is now a successful Hollywood producer, responsible for such films as “Iron Man” and “Zathura.”