Top Ten: Favorite Holiday Movies

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Home Alone Christmas movie
It's that time of year! "With the kids jingle bell-ing and everyone telling you 'be of good cheer!'" Oh yes, I have the holiday spirit, do you? I actually have to consciously stave off the holiday spirit every year, and try to hold it off until November so I don't look like a fool blasting Christmas songs from my iPod in October.

As I wrapped up the 12 Days of Christmas last year, I had this crazy idea to do another 12 Days of Christmas this year, only involving literary holiday foods. Except I couldn't track down 12 different literary holiday foods, and I wasn't about to reread all of Dickens and Louisa May Alcott to find them. Maybe next year.

I'm starting off the Random Days of Christmas with a list of my favorite holiday movies ... acceptable to watch whenever the holiday spirit strikes -- I wouldn't judge, no no no.

10. "Home For Christmas" (1993)

Back in the early-to-mid '90s, I was a huge, huge, huge "Kids, Incorporated" fan. Which meant, by default, that I was a Jennifer Love Hewitt fan, because she'd starred on "Kids, Inc." for two seasons. When I found out that she had done this made-for-TV-type Christmas movie, I tracked it down. It's not a great movie, but it's not a bad movie either. It has a lot of heart, and fulfilled all of my "on the road and getting by by the seat of your pants" fantasies at that age.

The premise is, basically, that Heather (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is the adopted daughter of a rich couple, but she runs away to find her biological mother. Heather's parents hire Nick Frost (Howard Hesseman) to track her down and bring her home. Meanwhile, Heather's parents report Heather missing, with Nick having kidnapped her, so they don't have to pay for Nick's services. After having found Heather, Nick grows a soft spot for her.

9. "A Mom For Christmas" (1990)

If you were a kid in the '80s or '90s, you probably know this Olivia Newton-John movie. Or I feel like you should. They played this movie constantly on The Disney Channel in the '90s. At once creepy and sweet, this movie has found a place on my list of classic Christmas movies.

Jessica (Juliet Sorci) is a young girl who lives with her widowed father. All she wants for Christmas is a mother. She makes a wish at her local department store, and you know what they say ... be careful what you wish for.

8. "Just Friends" (2005)
This is one of those movies that I'd never have thought to see at the movie theatre. In fact, I probably shouldn't even like it as much as I do. But I do, and probably because it's just so Christmassy.

Chris (Ryan Reynolds) has had a long-time crush on his best friend Jamie (Amy Smart), but he's always felt self-conscious about his weight. Fast forward ten years, and Chris has shed the weight and become a hot shot record executive. He returns home for the holidays with a vacuous pop star, and runs into Jamie. Feelings ensue.

7. "A Christmas Story" (1983)

Another modern classic. I don't think I need to say more.

6. "The Holiday" (2006)

I ignored this movie until one of my co-workers raved on and on about it and lent me her DVD. It's not really that praiseworthy, but it's a nice, heartfelt movie with cozy winter scenes of the English countryside and Jude Law's face. And every time I wish it were cold, and even when I wish I were warm, I watch this movie. It's a great all-seasons movie.

American film trailer editor Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and heartbroken English Iris (Kate Winslet) decide to escape their troubles by swapping homes at Christmas. City girl Amanda finds herself, at first, bored to death in Iris' Surrey cottage ... until she meets Iris' attractive brother Graham (Jude Law).

5. "Stepmom" (1998)

Call me morbid, but this was one of my favorite movies as a pre-teen/teenager. This is also the movie that finally turned me around to Julia Roberts. The movie features incredible performances by all of the actors, young Jena Malone (13 at the time of filming) included.

Jackie (Susan Sarandon) and Luke (Ed Harris) have divorced, and Luke has moved on with another woman, Isabel (Julia Roberts). When Luke proposes to Isabel, he finds that his children Anna (Jena Malone) and Ben (Liam Aiken) have a hard time accepting Isabel. Jackie and Isabel, too, are at odds about how to discipline and raise Anna and Ben. And then something life-changing happens.

4. "Home Alone" (1990)

A fun, kid-friendly holiday classic. I had to think about it for a minute or two before choosing the original film as my favorite. "Home Alone 2" has its merits (namely the room service scene), but ultimately, none of the warm and fuzzy coziness that the first movie offers.

3. "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993)
I wanted to be Meg Ryan when I grew up. I really enjoyed "Sleepless in Seattle" as a kid, and I enjoy it as an adult for very different reasons. It's simultaneously cynical and magical, and somehow, that balances it out to make a believable romantic comedy.

Sam (Tom Hanks) is finally beginning to date again, after losing his wife to cancer. His son Jonah (Ross Malinger) calls into a Delilah-esque radio program and airs his father's woes on air, resulting in women falling for Sam across the nation. Including Annie (Meg Ryan), who not only lives across the country, but is engaged to Walter (Bill Pullman). Annie begins corresponding with who she believes is Sam (but is really Jonah), and begins to fall in love with someone she's never met.

2. "While You Were Sleeping" (1995)

I could, and do, watch this movie year-round. It's the epitome of the perfect romantic comedy, heavy on both romance and comedy.

Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a transit worker in Chicago, and has a crush on long-time customer Peter (Peter Gallagher) from a distance. One day, he has a mishap and falls onto the train tracks as a train approaches the station. Lucy saves him, but he falls into a coma. At the hospital, a nurse overhears Lucy talking to herself about marrying Peter, and tells Peter's family that Lucy is Peter's fiancée. Lucy plays along for longer than she should, even after Peter's brother Jack (Bill Pullman) begins to suspect something is up.

1. "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

The most classic of modern classics. I watch this every year, and on the off chance that I don't have access to TV (it's happened more than once), I also own the 3-DVD holiday set. It's a tradition.

Honorable mentions:

"The Sure Thing" (1985)
This is, for all intents and purposes, a Christmas movie. But so little of it has anything to do with Christmas, and there is so little Christmas spirit injected in it that it just missed my top ten. If you haven't seen this movie, it's still a great one -- just not all that Christmassy.

Walter (John Cusack) and Alison (Daphne Zuniga) are classmates in the same creative writing course at their New England college. Walter hits on Alison, and Alison rejects him, hard. Christmas break is approaching, and both need a ride to the other coast. They both end up responding to the same ad for a cross-country ride and have to survive the long trip to California together.

"Bridget Jones' Diary" (2001)
The movie is a cute romantic comedy, but again, who can deny the pull of cozy England during the wintertime? Puts you right into the mood for a cup of hot cocoa and a nice fire, doesn't it? Plus, look at those ugly Christmas sweaters!

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