1. The Polar Express
For the doubting little kid in all of us. For the kid who scoffs at the idea of Santa. For the kid who needs just a little bit more faith. Released in 2004, The Polar Express (based on the children’s picture book by Chris Van Allsburg) is the story of a boy who climbs aboard a mysterious train on Christmas Eve and joins a group of kids on their way to the North Pole. If you’re a fan of Tom Hanks, you’ll appreciate the fact that he voiced not one, not two, but six different characters in this film. With a running time of about 100 minutes, this is one classic that you’ll want to add to your Christmas movie collection. Josh Groban’s “Believe” is a Christmas song that I make sure to listen to every year.
2. Love Actually
I love British movies. I love ensemble movies (think Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, He’s Just Not That Into You). Love Actually is both. Written and directed by Richard Curtis, Love Actually takes ten different love stories, beginning in the few weeks leading up to Christmas Day, and ends up with a very funny, very heartfelt movie that will have you singing and quoting along. Watch this movie, rated R for language and nudity, if you love British comedy, and look for all your favorite actors here: Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, and more.
3. Miracle on 34th Street
Miracle on 34th Street is one of those classics you should make sure to watch every year. This 1947 film begins on Thanksgiving Day, as Susan Walker (played by Natalie Wood), a bright and precocious child, watches the Macy’s parade with her mother, Doris (played by Maureen O’Hara). Doris hires a man named Kris Kringle to play the part of Santa Claus in the parade, but Kris claims to be the real thing. Susan is skeptical of the friendly, bearded old man, but it isn’t long before she and her mother begin to form a budding friendship with him. As young Susan spends more and more time with him, the evidence piles up that he could be exactly who he says he is. Kris ends up in a courtroom, on trial to prove his identity, and it is the lawyer Fred Gailey, who has been developing feelings for Doris, who comes to the rescue.
4. Yes, Virginia
Yes, Virginia features the voice talents of Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer), and Beatrice Miller and is the true story of a little girl, Virginia O’Hanlon. Virginia (played by Miller), a girl growing up in 1800s New York, crosses paths with a very snobby girl named Charlotte who bullies her and tries to convince her that there is no such thing as Santa. Armed with determination and a razor-sharp mind, young Virginia is encouraged by her scientist father (Harris) and writes to the New York Sun, asking the now very famous question, “Is there a Santa Claus?” Francis P. Church, the editor of the Sun (voiced by Alfred Molina), receives her letter and composes a very thoughtful reply. The resounding answer is yes – yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
Will Ferrell (Saturday Night Live; Kicking and Screaming) plays the main role as Buddy the elf, who all his life has been struggling to fit in with the other elves at the North Pole. Santa (played by Ed Asner) tells Buddy that he was adopted — and that his father is on the Naughty list! Buddy then leaves the North Pole in a quest to find his biological father, who lives in New York City and works at a publishing house. Buddy takes a job as a department store elf and starts a friendship with a beautiful coworker named Jovie (played by Zooey Deschanel — any New Girl fans out there?). Eventually he meets up with his father (James Caan), who is married with a son and does not take the news that he has another son too well. It takes all of Buddy’s optimism, energy, and humor to establish a bond with his dad and to help Santa save Christmas. This is one movie that you’ll want to sing and quote along with every year.
6. Disney’s A Christmas Carol
Released in 2009, this PG-rated animated film retells the classic Charles Dickens story, which is itself such a staple of the Christmas season. Jim Carrey voices the main character, Scrooge, who is visited on a dark winter’s night by three spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come (whose voices Carrey also provided). These ghosts individually take Scrooge on a magical, mythical journey and show him what a miserable life he has been living and what a rewarding life that could be in store for him, if he would only change his ways before it is too late. The animation and special effects are so realistic that you will feel like you are right there with Scrooge as he is whisked away into the night sky as he travels into his past, present, and future.
7. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
One of your favorite Dr. Seuss books comes to life in this instant holiday classic. Jim Carrey portrays the green, fuzzy character from Dr. Seuss’ imagination who dislikes and despises Christmas. A small girl named Cindy Lou Who is intrigued by the grouchy beast who lives by himself. She is having doubts about Christmas and interviews as many people as she can to learn more about the Grinch. Despite her best efforts to befriend him, the Grinch wants no part of the Whoville Christmas celebration and decides to steal it. Accompanied by his dog, Max, the Grinch creeps into the Whos’ homes in the dead of night and steals their stockings, trees, food, every part of their Christmas jubilation. Narrated by Anthony Hopkins, this rhyming movie will bring humor, faith, and a sense of fun to your Christmas celebration.
8. Christmas with the Kranks
Christmas with the Kranks is based on Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham. Tim Allen (from The Santa Clause and Last Man Standing) plays Luther Krank, who, along with his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis), Nora, decide to escape the commercialism of Christmas and decide to go on a cruise. Every year they have celebrated Christmas with their daughter, Blair, who is out of the country this December with the Peace Corps. Together Nora and Luther plan every last detail: plane tickets, tanning, and packing suitcases. They forego decorating their house and skip their neighborhood decorating contest. Suddenly daughter, Blair, calls them up and announces that her plans have changed and she is heading home last minute. Luther and Nora Krank must forego their original Christmas plans and make sure their house is absolutely perfect for Blair’s homecoming. This family-friendly movie is very cheesy and sentimental while still remaining true to the reason for the season.