The movies on this list are wonderful choices to get into the festive mood this Christmas season. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, and Merry Christmas!
1) White Christmas
If we’re looking for “iconic,” then White Christmas just has to make top of the list. Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen, Mary Wickes, and co. delivered a Christmas movie which continues to make lists to the present day even after its stars are rapidly (and sadly) fading from fame. The drama of World War II, the humor and courage former soldiers use to cope with difficulties, the self-sacrificial efforts of the heroes to make their former commanding general’s Christmas dream come true, the male friendships, the sister relationship dynamic, the romance, the comedy, the fabulous dancing, the memorable soundtrack, the inspirational ending. . .this movie really combines so many key elements of good storytelling.
2) It’s a Wonderful Life
Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore star in it. Need I say more? Besides the excellent dramatic acting, however, and the countless unique and memorable characters, this story is iconically American—about the heroism of an ordinary man who spends his life sacrificing in ways that seem ignored and unimportant, but which completely transformed his community. I love fantasy a lot—don’t get me wrong—but sometimes we need a reminder that some heroes run a small business, struggle to pay the bills, and sacrifice personal dreams for the good of their families. In other words, we all could and should be George Bailey—we should all take him for a model.
3) Holiday Inn
I would accept arguments that this should be even higher up the list than number 3. The film originated Bing Crosby’s unforgettable rendition of White Christmas, which is still the best-selling single of all time. Louise Beavers puts in a wonderful performance as the sassy and thoroughly admirable housekeeper. The singing and dancing are wonderful (of course, since Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire are in the movie), the soundtrack is great, there’s some significant character development before the movie’s end, and the ending is like a picture-perfect Christmas postcard.
4) Scrooge (1951)
This rendition of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol (and later released under that name in the US) is no humbug. Alastair Sim, Michael Hordern, Hermione Baddeley, Kathleen Harrison, Miles Malleson. . .the list of excellent actors in this movie goes on and on. The black and white gives it a nostalgic feel, and every character from Dickens’ novel truly comes alive. A movie that marries the best of secular and Christian traditions with a masterly adaptation of Dickens’ genius.
5) The Man Who Invented Christmas
The celebration of Christmas in the English-speaking world is so tied to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that the title of this movie is not mere hyperbole. The Man Who Invented Christmas brought together a group of talented actors to retell the story not only of how A Christmas Carol was written, but also how the story reflects the struggles Dickens himself went through. Dickens (Dan Stevens) starts off the movie with many of the same bitternesses and faults that his own creation Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) has; but, by the end of the movie, “Charlie” Dickens has learned the lesson of forgiveness, redemption, and giving love even to the most difficult of individuals at Christmas.
7) Miracle on 34th Street (1947 and 1994)
The original of this movie is truly iconic, and Maureen O’Hara is possibly my favorite actress ever, but I like how the remake brought in more Catholicism and explicitly identified Santa Claus with St. Nicholas.
And many more on my Substack!
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