Christmas means different things to different people, which is a common motif explored in festive films. For Scrooge, Christmas Eve was a time of miserliness, yet also a catalyst toward an epiphany. For Ralphy, it’s a time of great anticipation, while hoping for that Red Rider BB Gun. For the Griswolds, it’s a time of bumbling attempts to bring the dysfunctional family closer together. For some part-time Santas, it is a few weeks of the year to make extra money, struggle with alcoholism and fight impending loneliness. Here are some of this season’s hit films.
Christmas classics seem to reign supreme for the baby boomer generation. The black-and-white nostalgia of “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) captures the innocence and the good will of a nation struggling to regain a sense of optimism following World War II. James Stewart and Donna Reed give compelling performances in a heart-wrenching tale of a suicidal man’s realization that he meant so much to so many people.
Another old Christmas season classic from the same era is “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947), which was remade in 1994. A department store Santa finds himself in court when he professes to be the real deal, which captures the heart of a six-year-old skeptic. Lastly, White Christmas (1954), starring Bing Crosby, where dance, romance and hard economic times take center stage.
Strangely enough, there are dark Christmas stories ranging from spooky and creepy to downright disgusting. Slightly older kids will still be able to handle “Gremlins,” a cautionary tale about what can happen when you don’t listen to your parents. Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” is a great stop-animation-type film blending Halloween land and Christmas land into one off-beat classic.
“Scrooged” is an intriguing Bill Murray take on the classic Charles Dickens tale that’ll appeal to the teenagers who are in that awkward “I hate everything” stage. For the campy horror fans, there’s “Christmas Evil” (1980), “Don’t Open Till Christmas” (1984) and, of course, the “Silent Night, Deadly Night” series (there are five, spanning from 1984 to 1990!) “Silent Night, Bloody Night” (1973) and “Silent Night, Evil Night” (1974) are classic slashers.
Some Christmas movies re-visited later in life may strike you as quite odd the second time around. “Babes in Toyland” (1986) is definitely one of those movies. Suddenly you recognize Lisa Piper as a young Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves as “Jack Be Nimble.”
At its heart, it is a story about a child who grows up too fast, but on the exterior there is an evil villain bowling his home down the streets of Toyland, bizarre minions fighting toy soldiers and a rather fantastical setting. Of course, there were many other versions of this tale as well, most notably the film featuring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.