This time of year virtually every theater, not to mention every television channel, is choked with holiday-themed movies and specials.
Some are instant hits, like “Home Alone.” Others, like virtually any made-for-TV movie from the likes of Lifetime, Hallmark or ABC Family, are quickly forgotten. Still others make it in the halls of infamy (Cough, “Star Wars Christmas Special,” cough).
No matter how many shows there are, though, it seems just about everyone has a favorite—a special that they just wouldn’t feel the holiday spirit without.
Photo Editor Francie Aufdemorte said her favorite Christmas show is the 1964 stop-animation classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
“It takes me back to my childhood. I’ve watched it every year, and I like Burl Ives,” she said. “And if the [abominable] snowman can be nice, anybody can turn nice.”
Editor David Bern said the movie that comes to mind when he thinks about Christmas is the 2004 CGI flick, “The Polar Express.”
“It’s not the most perfect Christmas movie but there are just elements that struck something in me,” he said. “It’s a marvelous movie.”
Community news editor and sports writer Richard Briggs said his favorite seasonal movie is 2003’s “Elf,” starring Will Ferrell as a human adopted and raised by elves who goes looking for his birth father.
“It’s so funny and it has so much Christmas stuff in it. The whole movie is Christmas and it talks about the spirit of Christmas. And Will Ferrell’s just hilarious,” he said.
Tim Gillie said he likes his favorite Christmas show, 1946’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” so much, he’s willing to violate one of his few self-imposed rules for it.
“I just think it’s a wonderful story that portrays the true Christmas spirit,” he said. “I always cry at the end, when all the people start showing up at the house and giving him money, when he realizes he’s got friends and neighbors who are willing to sacrifice to help him out. It’s the only movie that makes me cry that I watch anymore.”
He added, “This one makes me cry because I’m so happy at the ending. Every time I hear a bell ring at Christmastime, I think about that movie.”
Staff Writer Emma Penrod’s favorite movie around the holidays, though, came about out of a dislike of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“My mom wanted to get us to watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ and to get us to watch it with her she bribed us with ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ and it was on Christmas Eve or something,” she said. “We all hated ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ but we all loved ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ so that’s our family tradition now.”
Sports Editor Mark Watson said his favorite holiday movie is 1984’s “A Christmas Carol,” starring George C. Scott. The change Ebeneezer Scrooge undergoes throughout the story represents the profound effect Christmas can have on people.
“It’s a feel-good movie. The guy goes from bad to good, from avarice to humanitarian—a greedy guy to a more giving guy,” he said.
My personal “it” movie, the movie without which it could not be Christmas, is “A Christmas Story,” from 1983. I know it’s one of those love-it-or-hate-its, but I am squarely in favor of it. For starters, a lot of the people and events depicted in it are dead ringers for some in my own life, so it can feel pretty personal. But more than that, I just really connected with the different levels shown of the same story.
I loved it and could relate to it as a child, but as an adult, I appreciate more the inaccuracies and exaggerations purposefully included—Ralphie’s parents’ ages or the number of Christmas presents under the tree or meeting Santa—that bring the viewer back to a time in life when Christmas was more magical and less stressful. It kicks me out of my own default Scrooge mode and reminds that Christmas can be fun.