by Lee Cole–
The airwaves are inundated with Christmas movies in December, and it is difficult to sift through all of them to find what’s worth watching and what should be avoided. Frankly, there are more Christmas movies than we know what to do with. To filter out the clichés and claymation, the Cardinal has compiled a list of the top five Christmas movies of all time.
5. “Elf” – As the most recent film on a list of timeless Christmas flicks, “Elf” has had to win over hearts and attain the status of classic rather quickly. This feat could not have been accomplished without Will Ferrell’s endearing performance as Buddy the Elf. Coming off the success of movies like “Anchorman” and “Old School,” a family-oriented film wasn’t the obvious next choice for Ferrell. But somehow, every time I see it, “Elf” never fails to warm my heart and make me a little happier. Perhaps it’s Buddy’s childlike innocence or Zooey Deschanel’s renditions of classic Christmas songs; either way, “Elf” will undoubtedly have many of us answering our phones this season with “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”
4. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – The Peabody and Emmy Award-winning “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has become an almost necessary aspect of the holiday season. The combination of America’s favorite comic strip, our favorite holiday and the terrific soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi make for an unforgettable classic. In fact, it can’t be overstated how important the soundtrack is to creating the mood of the film. It might not have been as memorable without Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here” and “Linus and Lucy.” Whatever the case, you can catch the whole Peanuts gang on ABC, where the special airs every year.
3. “Home Alone” – If you haven’t seen “Home Alone,” you’ve robbed yourself of a lot of great cultural references. “Home Alone” played such a large part in my childhood that it’s hard to imagine someone not understanding key quotes like “Buzz’s Girlfriend! Woof!” or “Keep the change, you filthy animal.” What makes this movie so appealing is the fact that we’ve all imagined as children what it would be like if our families disappeared and we were left to our own devices. Few of us would handle it as cleverly as Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister, with all of his tricks and foils to protect his home from Harry and Marv. Nevertheless, it’s fun to live vicariously through him and imagine what we would do with the same freedom.
2. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” – Clark Griswold had the humble desire to give his family the best Christmas possible. Instead, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. The lights aren’t just right. Nobody gets the gift they want. Cousin Eddie shows up. And to top it all off, a renegade squirrel wreaks havoc during dinner. But while Clark suffers, we can’t help but laugh. The holidays can be frivolous and disastrous, and perhaps we see something of ourselves in Clark Griswold. If we can’t appreciate the silliness of our holiday rituals and have a sense of humor about the whole thing, then we might as well not celebrate at all. The Griswolds remind us that even when Christmas turns into a giant mess, there is still family togetherness.
1. “It’s a Wonderful Life” – When we think of the quintessential Christmas movie, Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” immediately comes to mind. Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey is an enduring hero in American cinema, and his story of redemption warms hearts every year on NBC where the film airs on Christmas Eve. Brought to the verge of suicide by life’s vicissitudes and travails and the evil Mr. Potter, George is visited by an angel named Clarence who shows him what the world would be like had he never been born. George sees through this exercise that his life really does have meaning and he returns to his family with his faith in life restored. The film’s message, that “no man is a failure who has friends” leaves moviegoers with a sense of joy and renewal. “It’s a Wonderful Life” tops this list because it does more than entertain us. It has the power to change us and show us something deeper about ourselves and the season it has come to represent.
Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures