As a Jewish kid growing up, Christmas time was always both cool and conflicting for me. Yes, I had Hanukkah, but truth be told the way things worked in my family was you got one or two sweet presents (read: big) on the first two nights, and then the rest of the nights was more your standard action figure or matchbox cars. Cool – but not awesome by any means. I always remembered seeing my non-Jewish friends on Christmas day (or the day after) and they seemed to be swimming in gifts – bikes, spaceships, Legos – it seemed the presents never stopped. As I have been celebrating Christmas as an adult with my brother-in-law’s family for years now let me just say this: If I had known how awesome Christmas was growing up I would have been REALLY PISSED. Hanukkah doesn’t match up in the slightest – from this Jew’s view is was like Thanksgiving with presents being opened for hours and I can tell you I experienced NOTHING like that as a kid. Even though there was clearly some jealousy on my part about actually celebrating Christmas, the one thing about the season that always got me excited was all the Christmas movies. There were the standards that were always playing on TV as well as the new releases that came out in the theaters. I have seen countless Christmas movies over the years, and here are the ones I consider the 5 greatest. I am sure this list will get skewered – as my list contains only a few “traditional” flicks for Christmas. As with all my other #thereisnospoonfriday lists I encourage the discussion and part of the fun for me writing these is to hear the arguments made for and against my picks. A brief warning – I don’t go for the sappy/sentimental BS Christmas fare – so spare me the “It’s a Wonderful Life” argument – not my cup of tea. As with all my movie lists, I will also include my favorite scene. Let’s do this:
5. Home Alone: This movie had it all – Christmas, family, travel, robbers and a kid we could root for as the hero. This is one of those movies that is timeless. People forget this movie came out 25 years ago! Families of all shapes and sizes still watch it today and it holds up remarkably well. While we root for Kevin and laugh at all of his shenanigans foiling the robber duo, let’s be honest. The real reason this movie is awesome is because of the two villains – Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Even though they were “the bad guys” they were so well played that every nail stepped on or ice slipped on we laughed at each of their misfortunes and almost – dare I say it – felt bad for them. Just a great movie that I will watch every Christmas season. My kids have also started watching this one recently and LOVE it. They laugh just as hard as I used to and it is really awesome to see. Best Scene: Joe Pesci + Rigged Flamethrower + Joe Pesci’s Head = hysterical https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSHWLHaz8Z4
4. Die Hard – I can hear it already – “Ed, Die Hard is NOT a Christmas movie”. To you I say watch this bad boy again and tell me that the backdrop and setting of the whole movie ISN’T Christmas. This is one of the best action movies ever made and gave us the iconic character of John MacLean for many years (and sequels) to come. John is a flawed hero – failing marriage, job on the ropes, etc. yet he comes up HUGE when his wife’s company’s Christmas Party is taken over by a group of sophisticated and ruthless criminals. Listen – I love me some good old fashioned Christmas “message” movies about peace and love too, but when you take in the fact that Die Hard takes place during Christmas and that Die Hard is fricking AWESOME then you have no argument why it should not be on this list. While Bruce Willis is great in this movie, make no mistake about it the best performance is by Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber. This is one of the BEST villainous performances you will ever see. Best Scene: MacLean leaves a little “present” and a message for Gruber and crew https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0CL__Tvp-o
3. Elf – I love Will Ferrell. Yes – he has had some big misses lately in his film career, but when he is “on” there are few comics better. “Elf” captures perhaps Ferrell’s best performance to date as “Buddy”. Buddy is not your typical buffoon type Farrell character in that he is so innocent and sweet. A Christmas movie about a “fish out of water” but in this case a boy raised among elves in the north pole who comes to the big city. This movie has it all : lots of laughs, some sweet sentimental moments and an endless supply of very quotable lines. The whole cast is amazing, but the fact that James Caan and Bob Newhart are in it puts this movie way over the top for me. Much like “Home Alone”, I have shown this to my kids and they love it. This is one of those movies that like my number 1 on the list will be played for future generations every Christmas season for decades to come. Best Scene: Buddy meets a fake Santa (played by Howard Stern’s Artie Lange) and hilarity ensues https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tIcnydrwFY
2. The Year Without a Santa Claus – This is a sentimental choice for me and I am sure not as high on a lot of reader’s lists – but guess what? MY list, so my choice for second best Christmas movie ever. This one was made in the early 70’s with the classic stop motion technology back then. Unlike Rudolph and Frosty, this one introduces us to perhaps the two greatest Christmas movie characters (non-human) ever- Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Their songs about their powers are so damn catchy that once you hear it you can’t stop singing them. “I’m Mr. Heat Blister, I’m Mr. Sun…”. The story, in summary, is Santa gets sick and they need Heat Miser and Snow Miser (brothers who hate each other) to get along to save Christmas. While not a comedy or action like above, this is pure sweet Christmas magic with some iconic music and characters thrown in. Best Scene: Heat Miser – sing it for us! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbfgVEk-mxQ
1.A Christmas Story – Quite simply Christmas move perfection. This movie is so awesome that some channels play it 24×7 near the holiday. The story of Ralphie and his quest for the ultimate Christmas present – the Red Ryder BB Gun is really about much much more. It is about growing up, friends, Christmas and any other life lesson you can think of. The story takes place in the 50’s but could be in any time or any generation – just with different toys as the main object of affection. This movie is the most quotable movie in Christmas movie history, with so many great scenes that it is really tough to choose just one. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” is classic, as is when Ralphie turns the tables on the bullies, but my Best Scene is: Watch what happens when the boys decide to see what happens when you stick your tongue to a freezing pole after a “dare: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RgCbcT8eEU
What are your favorite Christmas movies? Let me know in the comments section. Have a great weekend and until next time – there is no spoon.