As darkness comes earlier and the holidays approach, it’s time to curl up under a fleece throw and enjoy our favorite holiday movies. When I was a kid, holiday shows were only aired once during the season (yes, I’m old) and we waited with excited anticipation and marked the TV Guide so we wouldn’t miss them (told you I was old.) Now, with streaming services and shows on demand, we can watch most of our holiday favorites at any time and as often as we’d like. But some of us still like to wait until the holiday season is in full swing before we indulge ourselves, so our favorite movie is a special treat to enjoy.
My Top Ten Holiday Movies list is a personal one, and you’ve probably seen most if not all of them. But these are movies I recommend to anyone who loves a good romance, some quirky humor and a feel-good ending. I’m sure you’ll want to add a few of your own and I hope if you haven’t seen all of these you’ll give them a try. Here we go, in no particular order:
While You Were Sleeping
This is a sweet movie, and Sandra Bullock does a great job of being awkwardly attractive. The quiet chemistry between her and Bill Pullman is charming, and there is a great supporting cast including Peter Gallagher. The warmest scene is when she is invited to spend Christmas Eve with a family she just met, her first such Christmas since her father died, but close behind is the final five minutes. One of my favorite rom-coms.
When a young John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale have a chance encounter in New York City at Christmas, their lives are changed. This sweet rom-com will have you believing in soul mates – and a little humor from Eugene Levy and Molly Shannon are just icing on the cake.
Scrooge: The Musical
There have been countless versions of the classic Dickens tale, but the 1970 musical movie is our family favorite. Albert Finney is even more convincing as the crochety old man as he is playing his younger self. The supporting cast, including Alec Guinness, adds color and warmth to the story, and the musical numbers are very enjoyable. The finale is especially heartwarming!
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Yes, it’s a Hallmark Movie. And yes, Hallmark Movies are full of fake snow, predictable plots, and holiday cliches. But if you are a Henry Winkler fan, this one is worth watching. And the fun chemistry between stars Brooke Burns and Warren Christie is actually convincing. This bit of holiday fluff has become an annual tradition for me.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Could any holiday movie list be complete without this classic? How could we not love Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed together? This Frank Capra work wasn’t considered a big hit when it was released, but its popularity has grown over the decades. The story of George Bailey, and his struggle to find contentment and true joy despite life’s challenges is sure to melt even the coldest heart. You’ll never hear a bell tinkling again, without remembering the final scene.
You’ve Got Mail
This 1998 movie, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, came out when the world was discovering AOL, email, and Instant Messenger. Those of us old enough to remember can relate to the sight of that little envelope icon when we logged on. The story of the small business owner vs. the “evil” big box store has us rooting for The Shop Around the Corner against the giant Fox Books. The couple’s anonymous online communications lead to a relationship while they are unaware that Joe Fox’s company will put Kathleen’s little shop out of business. If you love Tom and Meg in other movies, you will definitely want this one on your must-see list.
The Shop Around the Corner
If you enjoy You’ve Got Mail, I highly recommend watching the original, from 1940. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan are clerks in a department store, set in Budapest but with a New York City vibe. Instead of online communication, the anonymous romance blossoms through hand-written letters. The story is complete with bittersweet sub-plots, witty banter and a feel good ending.
Will Ferrell once said in an interview that during the filming of this movie, as he was running around New York City in tights, he thought that he might just be making the movie to end his career. Quite the contrary – Ferrell has endeared himself to millions in this sweet story of an oversized elf spreading chaos and Christmas cheer. Comic legends like Bob Newhart and Ed Asner add just the right amount of dry humor, and a doe-eyed Zooey Deschanel is icing on the cookie.
During the weeks before Christmas, eight couples navigate the waters of love, loss, romance and marriage. An all-star cast includes Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Colin Firth, and the loosely intertwined stories offer a mix of humor, unexpected love, and wistful longing. The uncensored version is for adults, but many networks air the “family-friendly” edition.
When Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet swap homes for the holiday, each is trying to heal from a painful relationship with some quiet time alone. Their trans-Atlantic switch throws each of them into a unexpected situation and some surprising love connections. Jude Law may be handsome, but Jack Black is just perfect as awkwardly adorable.
I’m sure you can list dozens of movies that aren’t on my list, and we all have our favorites that have become part of our holiday tradition. Feel free to share your own must-see classic, and have a wonderful holiday and a Merry Christmas!