“A Christmas Story” (1983)
Recall those incessant marathon airings of this film on Christmas Eve? Admit it —you probably swapped channels to catch those iconic moments such as the leg lamp, the bunny suit, or “you’ll shoot your eye out!” This film may be based on Jean Shephard’s own personal experiences, but you can catch glimpses of your own childhood within it too. Even if you didn’t ask Santa for a Red Ryder BB gun, you can definitely relate to Ralphie’s anticipation as you awaited your Xbox on Christmas morning. Just imagine if Ralphie lived in the era of first-person shooter video games.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)
This film is a straightforward classic. It’s has old-timey cheesiness and few scenes haven’t aged well, but it retains a spirited charm. A broken man learns what it means to others if he doesn’t exist, and what everyone remembers most about it is that it goes all “Twilight Zone” in the third act.
“A Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)
The first post-Jim Henson Muppet feature film (directed by Jim’s son, Brian Henson) is a refreshingly quirky take on the Charles Dickens classic. While it showcases trademark Muppet goofiness, courtesy of Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat as the narrators, Michael Caine’s serious performance as Scrooge is the source of the dramatic anchor. It’s magic that Caine delivers every line with grace to the faces of fuzzy puppets. The sincerity of this film is a reassuring testament that Jim Henson’s legacy remains in good hands.
Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf brings an innocent heart to this modern film. It has its outlandish premise, where an elf-raised-human ventures to New York City to connect with his sour, workaholic biological father. What’s surprising is that for all the hijinks Buddy gets into, the movie never feels unnecessarily bombastic. Ferrell gives it the right cheer.
“The Grinch” (2000)
I’ll be frank: this film is topped with interesting adaptation additions, such as the exploration of materialism, but it’s also too grotesque and maniac for its own good. The consensus remains that the ideal Grinch adaptation is the original 1966 animated holiday special. But I can’t look away from Jim Carrey’s camera mugging. It’s a face full of guilty pleasure, but if the spirit of Dr. Seuss can’t swallow its existence, I’ll totally understand.