My Go-To Christmas Movies

This year, my mom got much more strict with what she was willing to accept as Christmas movies. In the past, I’ve gotten away with The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and LOTR (hey, it snows in there). This year, unsuspecting me suggested we add these to our repertoire again, only to be shot down. So sad. But as a result I’ve been looking for Christmas movies that go beyond the LMN drivel that my mother prefers. Below is that list.

Christmas with the Kranks

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This film is great for viewers who want to see something strongly Christmas related, but want the story more geared toward an adult audience, while still being kid friendly. I love it when older women are given attention on screen, and Jamie Lee Curtis is one of my all time favorite actresses (and she seems to be a pretty great human being as well).

In Christmas with the Kranks, we’re introduced to Luther and Nora, whose daughter is joining the Peace Corps and won’t be home for the holidays. Nora is heartbroken, and so is Luther, but he doesn’t let that stop him from realizing the opportunity in the situation. Instead of celebrating Christmas (in a traditional sense), he schemes a plan that involves the Kranks not spending any money on the things they usually do, and instead buying an all inclusive cruise vacation for themselves — which will actually save them money.

At first, Nora is hesitant. Eventually she ends up going along with the plan, but not everything works out like they’d hoped. When plans change drastically, will the Kranks be able to adapt and still pull of a great Christmas? Tune in to find out.

My favorite aspects of this film are its inclusion of community, the reality of an aging relationship, and the relief parents might feel when their kids leave the nest, with a healthy does of bittersweet feelings. The film works wonderfully on this level, illustrating that there are more seasons to life than just being young and in love (which we do see), and that’s okay. There’s benefit in the other bits as well.

I’m not sure that I buy this film being about Chicago area living, and there’s hardly any people of color in it, but that criticism can be (and has been) made of almost all film.

Last Holiday

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This is my absolute favorite Christmas movie. I think I watched it in July, because I enjoy it so much. I have never questioned Queen Latifah’s royalty, and this film is a wonderful example of why.

Georgia, a store clerk, works her life away, saving money, and never taking any chances. She doesn’t like to be seen, or heard – as is evident through the scene in which she’s called out by the choir director, and that’s an okay life for her. Until she’s diagnosed with a fatal disease and given only a few weeks to live.

Enter: a spending spree and the ultimate vacation. Also LL Cool J. Although I’m still a little (okay a lot) salty about that song he did with Brad Paisley. You know, the one where they said we should just forget about slavery and move on? Yeah. That one.

Annnnnyway, Last Holiday is funny, sassy, and Georgia works to empower the people she interacts with during her time on vacation. She realizes some truths about herself, while uncovering truths of those around her. An all around feel good film, it’s funny and entertaining, and ends on a positive note that makes ya feel all soft and fuzzy inside.

Just Friends

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I think we all have screen crushes, and my brother’s is Ryan Reynolds. This started many many years ago, before he was really regarded on the high level that he is now, and as a result I’ve seen my fair share of his films (and heard the jokes through the mouth of my brother). Unlike the previous two movies, Just Friends is not kid friendly, but it is very very adult friendly. Extremely funny, as pretty much anything Ryan Reynolds touches is, this film is made even more funny by the other cast members, who are each hilarious in their own right. In particular, Anna Faris’ character is outlandish and obscene, adding to most of the onscreen antics. At times, I think it feels like it’s a bit much, but the film has a way of reeling it back in before it’s alienating.

If you want something with a bit of holiday spirit, a lot of post-high school angst, and even more humor, this is for you!

This Christmas

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Idris Elba is now a star in the U.S., but when this film came out he was less well known. Following the Whitfield’s, This Christmas is about a family coming together for the holidays, their dysfunctional relationships with each other, and how those relationships work to solve their personal problems. The knock out cast is wonderful, and my favorite scene is when Regina King’s character, Lisa, creates her own justice.

The complexity of the characters and their relationships in the family dynamic works to make an interesting film, that stands out from other holiday movies. There’s also a baby Chris Brown, who sings a wonderful rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness”, and is a rather successful actor, though considering his past of domestic abuse it’s a bit bittersweet to see.

Nothing Like the Holidays

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More family focused Christmas movies! It’s so awkward as we get older, only seeing each other on the holidays, and this film works with many of the issues that surround leaving home, while some siblings stay, in addition to larger social issues of race and gender roles.  It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this one, but I would highly recommend it none-the-less, if not just because John Leguizamo is a gift we don’t deserve.

Purely aesthetically, the color in this film is wonderful (which is something I’d forgotten until this post)

Home Alone 3

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Alright, Home Alone 1 and 2 get universal recognition of brilliance, but I love Home Alone 3 as well, it’s a bit more entertaining, largely because it involves more people and relates to the real world a bit better. Also, baby ScarJo. My copy is on VHS though, so it’s been a minute since I’ve been able to view it.

While this movie is the bomb it is important to note that this is where the franchise should’ve ended. Home Alone 4 was my first experience with straight to DVD films, and boy was it a let down.

The Holiday

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I have an unnatural love of the U.K. I both recognize and own that, and this film works for me because it helps supplement my love of the British and the film industry. Basically, two women who are fed up with their love lives decide to switch homes, one in Surrey and one in L.A., during the holidays. They end up finding men in their new cities who match more of what they were originally looking for. I honestly enjoy the story line of Iris and Miles more than Amanda and Graham, but there are some important issues of gender expectations and work lifestyles in the latter relationship. Also, Eli Wallach as Arthur is wonderful, but in retrospect I can’t help but realize the startling lack of people of color in this film, which is interesting as it’s partly a film about films, and we already know that highly valued films tend to be made by white (male) filmmakers.

Still a good movie. 10/10 recommend

The Family Stone

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This movie is similar to This Christmas but it shares more in common with Nothing Like the Holidays, because while it’s a bit light hearted in the way it portrays relationships between sibilings, at times, it’s also very raw. The film deals with some intense issues, commonly faced with aging parents and real life experiences, but it does so in a way that won’t take all the cheer out of your holiday. Instead, it’ll inspire in you reasons to be thankful this season.

The Night Before

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With a rockstar lineup, The Night Before, doesn’t disappoint, if what you’re looking for in a Christmas movie is a group of friends slowly growing apart, growing up, and growing their own young families. At times very vulgar, the humor (which isn’t out of line with Seth Rogan’s usual) is pretty spot on. Also the onscreen duo of Seth Rogan and Joseph Gordon Levitt is the stuff of dreams. I hope they’re real life BFFs (and their mutual interests probably help supplement that).

The subject matter of this film is mostly light, and very funny, but with poignant plot elements that make the story relatable and more than just a stoner comedy. 

Love, Actually

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I can’t believe I almost forgot this movie. My mom hates it (HOW), but I absolutely adore it. Even if I’m not a huge fan of the holiday montage movies it inspired. I can’t even begin to describe all the elements that make it wonderful, but basically my favorite bit of the movie is when Sam follows his heart, and I will say no more in an effort not to give anything away, except that I might enjoy his character as much as I do because it reminds me strongly of About a Boy

Basically, there’s a lot of representation of genre in this film, and you’ll probably like it. If you don’t, you can join my mom on the “I hate good movies for no reason” team.

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Welp, that’s that. I didn’t mention some of the mainstays of Christmas movies because they get a lot of attention.🎬

 But if you’re favorite didn’t make the cut let me know! Use the comment field and tell me what movies I should see this Christmas.

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