By Blake Wedding —
It’s that time of year again–nights by the fireplace while sipping eggnog and hot cocoa. The time of year where we think of others more than ever and give gifts. It’s time for holiday parties and cold nights with friends and loved ones. This also means it’s time to snuggle up in the living room and watch holiday movies that remind us why this time of year is so special. The Cardinal has prepared a list of five of the most festive films to make it easier for students to get in the holiday spirit.
1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles – John Hughes (1987)
John Hughes is a legendary filmmaker often regarded for many things, but his greatest gift was in casting the spotlight on the lives of small-town middle Americans in a sympathetic and forward-thinking manner. He is an auteur of the classic “coming-of-age” story in film history, but his 1987 holiday film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” might be his finest comedic work. Featuring the likes of comedic geniuses Steve Martin and John Candy at the height of their careers, the movie is a wholesome story about two irreverent characters heading home for the holidays. Inevitably, the two characters butt heads due to their incredibly different lifestyles and personalities. But what “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” teaches is to appreciate people who are different than us and to embrace the holiday sense of giving and charity. It is a film that sheds sympathy for the downtrodden, the forgotten and the eccentric people in this world, and it reminds us that helping others is one of the greatest gifts we can give.
2. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Bill Meléndez (1965)
There are few names as well known as “Charlie Brown” when it comes to naming classic holiday films. The Charlie Brown series has its name attached to a number of different holidays over the years, but without a doubt, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the best of them all. This is a film that captures the spirit and essence of the holidays, as well as the nostalgia and child-like wonder that accompany the holidays. It’s a film about friendship, togetherness, selflessness and caring about people. It also happens to have one of the most recognized and well-regarded soundtracks to any holiday movie.
3. Elf – Jon Favreau (2003)
Just when it seemed like Hollywood was running out of ideas for holiday films, “Elf” came along in 2003 and cemented itself as a modern holiday classic. Sure, the film is filled with clichés and some of Will Ferrell’s goofiest comedy to date, but it’s also an undeniably charming, funny and wholesome holiday film. It’s a film that reiterates already well-known themes of the holidays and why they’re important, but it’s the way “Elf” executes its ideas that makes it an endearing film. Ferrell is hilarious as Buddy the Elf, and as a character, is someone who forces others to reevaluate their selfishness during the holidays.
4. A Christmas Story – Bob Clark (1983)
“A Christmas Story” is a holiday classic in every sense of the word and a film as synonymously American as apple pie. It’s a film that nearly everyone mentions as the quintessential holiday film and one that tells a familiar story of the holidays in small-town America. It’s a funny, endearing and amusing story that shows how an entire family handles the holiday season. From Ralphie’s insatiable desire to have the newest and greatest gifts under the Christmas tree, to his father being overworked and jaded about the holidays, and his mother being overworked and stressed during this time of year, what “A Christmas Story” does best is show us that the holidays can be both full of wonder and worry depending on who you are. Furthermore, “A Christmas Story” manages to tell these stories through a lens that is relatable and undoubtedly hilarious, making it one of the best feel-good movies of the season.
5. It’s a Wonderful Life – Frank Capra (1946)
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a film that has been called the greatest holiday movie of all time year after year, and there is a reason for that. Not only is “It’s a Wonderful Life” the best holiday film ever, it’s also one of the greatest films of any genre ever made. Yes, this is an old movie, and yes, some younger viewers may be thrown off by the original film’s black and white cinematography, but it’s also a rare film that can resonate with people of all ages. It’s a film about learning not to take what you have for granted during the most important time of year. A film that exclaims that no matter how stressful or hard your life may be, you should take time to understand the importance of being thankful for what you do have. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a film about compassion, acceptance, togetherness and, as the title implies, life.
Festive Mentions: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1967); “Home Alone” (1990); “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989); “The Santa Claus” (1994); “Miracle on 34th Street” (1994); “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993); “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964).
Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal