Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season has begun! In keeping with the theme of our blog, here is a list of our favorite Christmas “stories” from movies and TV. Full disclosure: Neither of us has ever seen It’s a Wonderful Life. Mark vows to watch it this season, but I kind of want to see how long I can hold out. If we haven’t lost all credibility after this confession, take a look at our top ten Christmas picks:
10. Love Actually (2003 film, Richard Curtis)
This movie beautifully depicts the ways in which sorrow and hope are often intermingled during the holiday season. We also love the multi-threaded storytelling that brings characters together in unexpected ways.
9. A Muppet Family Christmas (1987 TV special, Jim Henson)
In this sweet and magical Christmas special, Fozzie Bear brings the entire Muppet gang to surprise his mother on Christmas Eve. Also a cool crossover with characters from both Sesame and Fraggle Rock.
8. Die Hard (1988 film, John McTiernan, Steve de Souza, Jeb Stuart)
Not only does it take place on Christmas Eve, the emotional core of this awesome action movie has to do with John McClane’s love for his family—and his ultimate redemption. What’s more Christmas-ey than that? In many ways the terrorists’ attack on Nakatomi Plaza is a metaphor for the unrest in the McClane family. The fact that not only do John and Holly survive but rekindle their love for one another is truly a Christmas miracle!
7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 TV special, Chuck Jones)
Three reasons we love this one: 1) A faithful adaptation of the Dr. Seuss story, 2) the totally cool narration by Boris Karloff, and 3) Thurl Ravenscroft (the original voice of Tony the Tiger) singing the delightfully creepy “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
6. Christmas Party: The Office, Season 2 (NBC, Greg Daniels)
During its second season, The Office became the highest-rated scripted series on NBC for their ability to blend deliciously cringeworthy comedy with surprising moments of heart. This is most evident in the Christmas episode when Michael Scott—disappointed in his gift of a homemade oven mitt—hijacks the Secret Santa party and turns it into a Yankee swap.
5. A Christmas Story (1983 film directed by Bob Clark)
My brother-in-law will be disappointed that this movie only makes #5 on our list. Indeed there are many moments of perfection in the film. Topping the list: Ralphie’s relentless campaign for the Red Ryder BB Gun (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”); Flick’s tongue stuck to the frozen flagpole; and Ralphie’s dad’s “major award”—a leg lamp in a crate marked FRAGILE. (“Fra-JEE-lay! Must be Italian!”)
4. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970 TV special, Rankin-Bass)
A fun and comprehensive origin story in which we learn how Santa got his name, why he’s sometimes called Kris Kringle, why he has a beard, why kids hang stockings on their chimneys, why Santa enters homes through those same chimneys, how reindeer got the ability to fly, and why Santa and Mrs. Claus now live at the North Pole. Plus a very cool villain-turned-good-guy in the Winter Warlock.
3. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974 TV special, Rankin-Bass)
This TV special starts out with the great feminist musical number: “I Could Be Santa Claus.” Mrs. Claus was the Lilly Ledbetter of her time. Plus: Heat Miser and Cold Miser. Enough said.
2. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 TV special, Charles Schulz, Bill Melendez)
For many of us, Christmas is about hope, peace, and the promise of a Savior. This is brought home with stunning simplicity when Linus interrupts the pageant practice to recite a passage from Luke’s gospel (Luke 2:8-14).
1. Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1977 TV special, Jim Henson)
This somewhat obscure Christmas special will always top our list. For over ten years we’ve been watching it with our twins on the original VHS tape. Adapted from a children’s storybook by Russell Hoban, this Jim Henson TV special tells a Gift of the Magi story with a twist. Emmett puts a hole in his mother’s washtub (laundry being their main source of income) in order to enter a talent contest. If he wins, he’ll use the prize money to buy his mother a piano for Christmas. Meanwhile, Ma Otter hocks Emmett’s tool chest (which he uses for odd jobs) in order to buy herself a costume for this same contest. If she wins…she’ll buy her son a guitar. Set to a delightful soundtrack of original songs by Paul Williams, Emmett and his Ma learn about the value of family, the gift of music, and the importance of making the most of what you have. (“Oh, Emmett…that’s about the nicest present anybody ever tried to give me.”)
We’d love to hear your thoughts on our list and some additions of your own!