Congrats Fam, you’re almost through Fall Semester! If you’re not one of those unfortunate people that has to take winter classes (I feel your pain), you’ll soon have a bit of time on your hand. Good for you! You deserve it. You may be finally getting in the Christmas spirit that you had to suppress to get yourself through finals, and with that comes the requisite Holiday movie binge. Below I’ve categorized a few oldies, some new classics, and some that I would definitely not watch with the whole family.
These are the movies your parents watched with your grandparents around the holidays when they were growing up. The ones that show up on a random cable channel constantly between Thanksgiving day and New Years. You may have never sat through them fully, but I really recommend it.
Miracle on 34th Street
This is an absolutely necessary Christmas movie that if you don’t know, you must acquaint yourself with ASAP. First, do yourself a favor and watch the original 1940’s movie starring Natalie Wood, not the one with the old guy from Jurassic Park playing Santa. It’s a much better movie and for some reason, it’s 20 minutes shorter, despite being a nearly shot-for-shot remake. If you’ve been following along, you know how much that means to me.
Irving Berlin’s movie-musical is one of our most iconic holiday movies, starring the best song-and-dance men and women from the 1950’s. The movie stars Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby as two famous entertainers who team up with a sister act played by Rosemary Clooney (as in George’s aunt) and Vera-Ellen in order to save the Vermont hotel of their commanding officer from World War 2. It’s full of incredible dancing and classic songs from the old age of cinema.
A Christmas Story
While this was never my favorite movie, for many it’s one of the quintessential Christmas movies about a boy who’ll stop at nothing to get Santa to bring him the only thing he wants (A Red Ryder BB Gun). The movie takes place in the 1940’s but despite the old cars and the wooden toys under the tree, it’s appeared to age pretty well, all things considered. The narration, which is supposed to be an adult version of the main character, helps to bring humor to some dark moments, including a pretty evil-looking Mall Santa and a classic scene involving a frozen metal pole and someone’s tongue.
The Year Without Santa Claus
Growing up, many things were certain when it came to Christmas traditions, and this movie was always top of the list. My parents grew up on all the weird Claymation Christmas movies that came out when they were growing up in the 60’s and 70’s and passed them on to us. While some of them are stories you know off by heart, this one is a new, really complicated idea. It answers the eternal question: What if Santa got sick for Christmas, Mrs Claus had to dress in drag to deliver gifts, and all the while the gods of snow and fire fought for ownership of one small town in the Southern US? I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s fun to watch and sing along with the songs, and anyone will appreciate how much time it must’ve took to tell a feature length story in Claymation.
If you’re not into movie-musicals or didn’t grow up with obsessive parents that wanted to sear all their childhood favorites into your brain like I did, There’s so many good, relatively recent movies to enjoy. This genre has been less populated in the last decade or so, with most holiday movies being relegated to Lifetime or Hallmark Channels. But there’s still some gems out there.
I’m going to age myself by telling you all this, but one summer I worked as a cashier at Blockbuster Video (RIP) and my manager at the time insisted on putting this movie on non-stop for the entire summer. Because of that, the tale of Buddy the Elf is embedded in my mind from start-to-finish, and while my thoughts on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” have changed over the years, my absolute love for this movie will never go away.
Ok, so this isn’t a Christmas movie, but it features one of the most brilliant Christmas scenes, In my opinion. this is probably the most quoted movie of our generation and brought a new-wave of teen movies and TV that was a little more realistic to High School life and of a higher quality than we were getting before. The “Jingle Bell Rock” scene is one of the funniest moments in the movie and showcases both Lindsay Lohan’s talent and how great Tina Fey’s script was.
Eight Crazy Nights
So, unfortunately, there aren’t many Hanukkah movies, and my desire to be inclusive meant I had to pick one. Since Hebrew Hammer was just too bad a movie to put on this list, I went for Eight Crazy Nights, a pretty OK movie from Adam Sandler (a sentence that shocked me to write as much as it might shock some of you to read). Very loosely based on his very popular Hanukkah song SNL skit, it’s about a petty criminal (played by Adam Sandler) who is sentenced to community service to be supervised by an elderly man (also played by Adam Sandler), who must try to reform his jerk tendencies during Hanukkah. It’s funny if you’re into Adam Sandler humor and at 76 minutes it’s super short so why not?
A Very Murray Christmas
This Netflix-exclusive movie starring everyone’s favorite drunk uncle Bill Murray and half of Hollywood (Miley Cyrus, Amy Poehler, George Clooney, Michael Cera, Rashida Jones, etc) is a pretty funny alternative to the more old-school picks on this list. The plot is a cut-and-dry Christmas special: Bill Murray (as himself) planned a star-studded Christmas variety show at a hotel in New York City, but due to a huge snowstorm nobody shows up and he has to put the show on anyway. This is inexplicably directed by Academy Award-winning director Sofia Coppola and is filled with her kind of twee sensibility. It’s amusing and kitschy and the perfect antidote to your standard Hallmark Christmas movie.
Not your typical Holiday movies
The final two movies on this list are special to me because they break a lot of rules of how holiday movies are supposed to be. Just because it’s a holiday movie, doesn’t mean it has to be all about Christmas spirit or Santa Claus. These two are unique and weird in their own way, but delightful. I wouldn’t sit with Grandma and watch this, but maybe a boozy Aunt or Uncle will appreciate it and slip you some egg nog.
We’ve all had that one bad Christmas: Mom’s roast burns, your aunt got you socks for the THIRD YEAR IN A ROW, Uncle Mike got a little too drunk and ate all your favorite cookies, someone accidentally summons an Austrian Christmas demon. The holidays aren’t perfect. A bad Christmas eve celebration gets worse when a suburban family’s youngest child accidentally summons Krampus, the dark-sided version of Santa Claus. It’s a super funny and scary take on a Christmas movie that I’d recommend if you’re like me and like to get scared while drinking hot cocoa in Christmas-themed PJ’s in front of a fire.
It’s Christmas Eve in Hollywood and someone’s out for revenge for her broken heart. The woman in question is Sin-Dee, a working girl, and the heart was broken by her pimp, Chester. This movie is great for all the best reasons. For one, it is gorgeously filmed but somehow also filmed entirely on an iPhone 5s. For another, the two leads are transwomen of color and are both marvelous. The plot is something new and unexpected and proves that you can be inclusive of gender and skin color while also producing something that people want to see.
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