Deck the Screen with These 5 Must-See Christmas Movies

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Every inch of your home is looking festive, and you’re pretty sure that’s the iPhone you’ve been wanting under the tree because you shook the box and something cracked and it sounded like sapphire glass. Panettone is on the shelves at Trader Joe’, and everything else is peppermint/gingerbread/eggnog-flavored and -scented. It’s finally appropriate to blast both of Mariah Carey’s Christmas albums (plus all the singles and remixes) without shame. And best of all – it’s totally okay to stay in your jammies and watch movies all day long with ZERO GUILT.

Here’s a great list of Christmas films that does NOT include Home Alone:

A Charlie Brown Christmas

1965, G

You can always count on Charlie Brown for poignant holiday messages, and the Peanuts Christmas special is known for exactly this. In the 45-minute movie, Charlie Brown learns the real meaning of Christmas after organizing a disastrous Christmas pageant. With the help of his friend Linus, he learns about the real Christmas story’s shepherds, angels and baby Jesus. It’s a message that cuts through the commercialism and still seems as current as it did in 1965.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a great way to put things in perspective, especially with kids. While presents and pageants and a nearly manic level of activity can destroy the sacredness of family time, this film is a great escape from consumerism. Start your season by sharing the essential event of Christmas with your kids – the birth of Christ.

A Muppet Christmas Carol

1992, G

The perfect blend of fantasy, fright and beloved muppets, this is bar none the best treatment of Charles Dickens’ classic novelette. In Victorian London, narrators Gonzo and Rizzo retell the story of a greedy businessman who is led by three ghosts through Christmases of his past, present and future that both humanize his loneliness and mistrust of others, and also show the repercussions of his greed.

It may seem heady for kids, but the musical interludes and muppet characters bring humor to this dark story of soul-searching. For Scrooge, the night shows him his worst self and inspires him to become better. If there is a Scrooge in your household, perhaps this will inspire them, too.

It’s a Wonderful Life

1946, PG

This is a true Christmas classic, and one that belongs on every list. Ring in the season with the world’s favorite Everyman, George Bailey, as he learns that “He who has friends can never be poor.” In the film, restless George spends his childhood dreaming about exploring the world. But as he becomes an adult, his plans are consistently foiled by responsibilities at home, until his life has passed him by.

After losing a huge sum of money on Christmas Eve, he tries to throw himself off a bridge with the wish that he had never been born. Instead, he is rescued by an angel who shows him exactly what his town would be like if he had never been born. Slowly, he sees the way that his life rippled out and affected so many others. Although there are some pretty frightful moments in George’s alternate reality, the film is suitable for most kids, and is definitely a classic that will become a tradition.

Miracle on 34th Street

1994, PG

This is a remake of the 1947 classic, but it might be a little more enticing for kids in living color. Both versions are great, though. It tells the story of six-year-old Susan and her mother, who don’t believe in Christmas magic or Santa Claus. When Susan’s mother hires a Santa for her Macy’s store who insists he is the real Santa, the family’s disbelief is challenged.

This is one of the most thoughtful holiday movies out there, and perhaps a little underrated. It’s a great piece of cinema to watch with or without kids. The movie asks whether faith is a necessity or a luxury. Although the character of Santa is pretty primary in the film (and some pretty bad things happen to Santa), it’s clear that the message goes beyond Christmas and asks about what it means to have faith in modern, scientific, skeptical society.

Joyeux Noel

2005, PG-13

A profound and provoking true-life story, Joyeux Noel is about an impromptu truce between German and Allied forces on Christmas Eve, during World War I. Astonishingly, the soldiers themselves initiated the truce in a town in German-occupied France. Soldiers from both sides sat down, got to know one another face-to-face, and celebrated Christmas for a day.

Although this film does have moments of violence and bloodshed, which earn it the PG-13 rating, the story is so powerful (especially because it’s true!) that it’s worth watching with older kids. It’s a good reminder that even in the midst of a horrible war (or bullying at school, even), it’s not impossible to find the humanity in the enemy.

What are some of your favorite Christmas films? Share with us!

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Tags : movies   film   holiday movies   Christmas movies   

Kirsten Kawasaki
I was always so excited when the Charlie Brown Xmas Special came on. I wonder if it's still fun for kids...or too slow?
Valerie Rivas