20 holiday favorites: My picks for Christmas movies

20 holiday favorites: My picks for Christmas movies December 10, 2012

On Thursday night, the Hallmark Channel debuts Help for the Holidays, one of its 12 new made-for-TV Christmas movies (yes, there are only 12, it just seems like more).

This one features Summer Glau as “Santa’s elf Christine,” who is “sent on a special assignment to Los Angeles to help a family in need of a wake-up call.”

Here’s a preview, in which Christine helps the patrons of the Maidenhead rediscover the true meaning of Christmas:

(If you haven’t seen the video of the stunt rehearsal for that scene, it’s pretty impressive.)

I think I’ll opt for rewatching Firefly or Serenity or The Sarah Connor Chronicles before taking in Help for the Holidays.

But since it’s that time of year — and since talking/arguing about movies is always fun — here are two lists of my Christmas movie recommendations.

The first list is more on the sappy/sentimental side, while the 10 films in the second list may provide a palate-cleansing tonic for all that sugary snow.

Sappy favorites

1. It’s a Wonderful Life: “We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast.”

2. A Christmas Story: “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”

3. The Shop Around the Corner: “If you don’t like Miss Novak, I can tell you, you won’t like that girl.”

4. Elf: “There’s no singin’ in the North Pole!”

5. The Muppet Christmas Carol: “Light the lamp, not the rat.”

6. Miracle on 34th Street: “… and a little older than my teeth.”

7. Christmas Vacation: “Squirrel!”

8. We’re No Angels: “Soon as we wash the dishes.”

9. The Bishop’s Wife: “The stamp would certainly be worth saving.”

10. Love, Actually: “Let’s get pissed and watch porn.”

Tonic for holiday sappiness

1. The Ref: “You know what I’m going to get you next Christmas, Mom?”

2. Brazil: “Mistakes? We don’t make mistakes.”

3. Die Hard: “Rumor has it Arafat buys his there.”

4. Gremlins: “Never feed him after midnight.”

5. Bad Santa: “[unprintable]”

6. The Nightmare Before Christmas: “That’s strange, that’s the second toy complaint we’ve had.”

7. The Hudsucker Proxy: “You know … for the kids!”

8. Trading Places: “Feeling good, Louis!”

9. The Long Kiss Goodnight: “I would have been here sooner, but I was thinkin’ up that ‘ham on rye’ line.”

10. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: “OK, everyone who hates Harry raise your hand!”

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  • I can happily watch Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas specials with my son, but once he goes to bed, on goes ‘Scrooge’ (yes, that 1970 version of ‘A Christmas Carol). Albert Finney (Scrooge) and Alec Guinness (Marley) blow the socks off anyone else who tried the same, before or since.

    Oh, and where’s ‘The Polar Express’, hmmm?

  • Really, Fred? Elf?

    They put this on at work today, and I found myself begging my wife to find a way to euthenize me via email.

    Seriously, is there someone I can blame for modern comedy’s decision to center itself around adult men who act like toddlers with hypergonadism? Preferably for values of “blame”  approaching “punch”?

    Also, they sing ‘Baby it’s cold outside’ which is a strike against it straight up, (even if they do frame it with the “sexual-liberality-requires-plausible-deniability-as-cover” angle, which is at least the lesser of the all-terribly-problematic interpretations of that song)

  • Shouldn’t a few of the many many film versions of Neil Gaiman’s short story “Nicholas Was” be on this list?



    A Christmas Story: “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”

    You know, in the movie, he explains that he’d had to drink Ovaltine for a month to get the decoder ring.

    In the book, he finds an empty Ovaltine Jar on his way home from school, and thus gains his admission to Little Orphan Annie club through “fraudulent” means.  In the book, it’s cosmic irony that the message turns out to be a crummy advertisement.


    THey just made a sequel to A Christmas Story, btw. Anyone have any salt?  I feel the need to salt the earth somewhere.

  • Real Ghostbuster’ Xmas Marks the Spot is a hoot–the Ghostbusters wind up going back in time, busting the Three Spirits and then having to put right what went wrong.

    How very Quantum Leap of them.

    Speaking of, there is a Christmas episode of the show in which Sam has to convince a businessman to build a homeless shelter instead of a shopping mall, using A Christmas Carol techniques.  Very cool.

  • Lliira


    While it is annoying that in Florida we are stuck with “winter” and “summer” and “spring” and “fall” clothing, and people seem constitutionally incapable of living where we live rather than pretending we live somewhere we can have green lawns without literally sinking the state, it is hardly repression that this Winter Solstice festival which was invented in northern climates acts like a Winter Solstice festival which was invented in northern climates.

    Also lots of Southern states very often get snow in December. Most of them, actually.

    And until that monument to the Confederacy is taken down from the government building I got married in (by a black woman, which was nice), I don’t want to hear any junk about “northism” from any fellow Southerners.

  • Lliira

    Are there any Christmas movies which center around women? Miracle on 34th Street comes closest. And that is the only one I can think of.

  • Tricksterson

    Well, Year Without A Santa Claus has Mrs Claus consider stepping in as Santa and she’s actually the one who sends out the elves and fixes the problem by bringing in Mother Nature to set the Misers straight.  Other than that there are a couple of bad movies with Jenny McCarthy as Santa’s daughter and one or two Christmas Carol revisions with women in the Scrooge role.

  • Tricksterson

    Oh, and there was a semi-decent one with Dolly Parton playing, basically, herself by another name, a big name country star who decides to get away from it all for the holidays and goes to a small town where she gets tangled up with a wicked witch.

  • Carstonio

     “Northism” was a term that I coined because I share your disdain for the complaint. My advice to Floridians? Make up your own Christmas traditions. Have Santa dress like Jimmy Buffett and have him deliver presents on a surfboard pulled by sharks. Enjoy margaritas and mai tais instead of hot chocolate and spiced cider. The Australians do all right spending Christmas Day at the beach.

  • I’ve seen that one!  It’s hilarious but also kinda not-bad.

    Also, there are several versions of A Christmas Carol where Scrooge is a woman:

    Susan Lucci:

    Cicely Tyson:

    Tori Spelling:

    Vanessa Williams:

    Emmanuelle Vaugier:

  • EllieMurasaki

    The Barbie version, too.

  • I’ve seen saguaros festooned with Wintermas lights in Arizona.  It’s pretty awesome.  No snow required. 

  • Thank you for reminding me–I’ve never seen it.  Just requested it from the library.

    Yep, my holiday season is a fantastical journey that never ends…

  • Captain: What does that mean?
    Amy: It’s Christmas!

    (cue theme music)

  • depizan

     I hope whatever caused her dehydration is easily cured.  Best wishes for you and kitty.

  • GDwarf


    Are there any Christmas movies which center around women? Miracle on
    34th Street comes closest. And that is the only one I can think of.

    Well, two of the three protagonists in Tokyo Godfathers are women, as are at least half of the characters they meet.

  • Lori


    Oh, and where’s ‘The Polar Express’, hmmm?   

    Deep in the Uncanny Valley giving me a full bodies wiggins, that’s where.

  • Fusina

     Turns out she may have a tumor, or heart disease, or this other thing–the heart disease may mean she hangs about for a couple months more, the others will be faster. So it is a case of wait and see. She is home from hospital, and we will keep her warm and safe and comfortable.

    And I expect I shall be doing a lot of mourning.

  • Jessica_R

    Oooh, thanks for the tip off to The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. I had never heard of that one, and the stop motion animation in the clips I found on YouTube is stunning. Must track that one down. 

    I’m a sucker for TV Christmas eps. Beauty and the Beast did a very nice one “God Bless the Child” where Vincent helps a young prostitute, called Lena of course, deliver her baby. 

    I also remember the Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain Christmas stuff with fondness. And the new Justice League’s Christmas ep is just lovely, no really, especially Martian Manhunter tagging along with Clark going home to Smallville for Christmas. 

  • Trixie_Belden

    I’m sorry to hear that, Fusina.  It’s always hard.  I hope everything that happens is peaceful.

  • The Guest Who Posts

    In case you haven’t seen the “Hogfather” mini-series adaptation, it has a female protagonist, though it’s a bit of an ensemble cast.

    Alas, that’s all I can think of so far.

  • The Guest Who Posts

     My condolences.

  • reynard61

    Kudos to all who mentioned Albert Finney’s Scrooge! Where else can you hear the line: “See them on their indolent asses, drinking from their indolent glasses…”

    My favorite Rankin-Bass Christmas show is probably the little-known (and rather misleadingly titled) The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow. I was going through some tough times when I first saw it (in the late ’70s) and Lucas’ predicament reminded me that there were those who were a lot worse off than I was.

  • Tricksterson

    If that has to be then I hope her passing is without pain.  In any case our hearts and (for those of us who pray) prayers will be with you.

  • I would mention Tokyo Godfathers, but several people already have.

    Here’s a preview, in which Christine helps the patrons of the Maidenhead rediscover the true meaning of Christmas:

    This scene reminded me of something The Bedlam Bards said in a live performance of their filk album “On The Drift”.  They said, “We absolutely promise that we did not embed subliminal messages in our music that will compel you to walk into the Fox Network headquarters, say ‘Miranda’, and start beating up random executives.”  

  • Persia

     My favorite is the one that’s at Fozzie’s Mom’s house. Watch out for that icy patch!

    But that’s really a special, not a movie.

  • depizan

    I’m so sorry. :(
    *offers hugs*

  • I commend you on Die Hard, Trading Places and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  I seek only to add: Lethal Weapon

  • nemryn

    I usually split the difference and watch it at Thanksgiving.