Christmas is a great time to rent movies.
You’re feeling lazy, and the weather’s probably lousy. What better to do than sit on the couch, grab some food and drinks, and watch old movies?
And in keeping with the season, it’s only appropriate to rent Christmas movies. There are plenty of good ones to choose from, but here’s my top 10 list.
I’m limiting my selections to movies made from 1980 to the present. Why? Because I’m bored by black-and-white movies circa 1940 – even if they’re considered classics. So I’m excluding It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – yawn – and Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – yawn. Both dull and overly sentimental.
Again, this is my top 10 list.
10. The Santa Clause (1994)
Tim Allen, who gained fame in the TV sitcom Home Improvement, stars as a divorced father who learns that his ex-wife has told their son Santa doesn’t exist. Turns out, there is a Santa, but he dies while trying to enter Allen’s home. Because of a technicality known as the “Santa clause,” Allen inherits the job, gains weight, and grows a white beard. His son comes to believe in Santa again.
9. Home Alone (1990)
Stars Macaulay Culkin as a young boy who is accidentally left behind when his families flies to France for Christmas. Once he recovers from the shock, he manages to defend the home against two bumbling burglars, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Culkin’s parents, horrified when they realize their mistake, are proud of their son’s bravery.
8. Scrooged (1988)
Bill Murray stars in this darkly comic modernization of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. He plays a nasty TV executive who will air outrageous, violent programs to increase ratings. After he forces his staff to work on Christmas Eve, Murray is visited by three scary ghosts who reveal to him his evil. I won’t spoil the ending.
7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Manic comedian Jim Carrey heads the cast in this remake of the popular Dr. Seuss tale. Carrey, dressed in a spooky green outfit, plays the Grinch and observes the residents of Whoville preparing to celebrate Christmas. He plans to steal their presents, holiday decorations, and even the Christmas trees. Does he succeed?
6. A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This year’s The Muppets movie reminds us of the appeal of the endearing felt puppets. Michael Caine stars as the Christmas-hating Ebenezer Scrooge, who employs Kermit the Frog. Kermit asks Caine for a day off for Christmas, and he only reluctantly agrees. Caine is then visited by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Scrooge changes his ways and embraces Christmas.
5. Polar Express (2004)
The movie centers on a boy’s desire to believe in Santa Claus, despite his family’s insistence that he isn’t real. On Christmas Eve, a mysterious man visits the boy in the middle of the night and promises to take him to the North Pole to visit Santa. The train’s conductor, played by Tom Hanks, leads the boy on his journey of discovery.
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
An oddly entertaining movie written by the unpredictable Tim Burton. Here’s the story: The king of Halloween Town, bored with the same fall celebration each year, stumbles into Christmas Town. He’s enthralled by the holiday. He launches an ambitious plan to have the bats, ghouls, and goblins of Halloween Town put on a Christmas celebration instead. The king’s plan isn’t entirely successful.
3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Who hasn’t seen this classic comedy starring Chevy Chase as goofy dad Clark Griswold Jr.? And who hasn’t laughed? He invites his eclectic family members to his home to celebrate Christmas. A series of misfortunes occur, including the electrocution of the family cat as the Christmas tree is lit. The film includes hilarious performances by co-stars Randy Quaid and Beverly D’Angelo.
2. Elf (2003)
Will Ferrell is always funny, and this movie is no exception. He plays a man who was raised as an elf by Santa Claus. When he learns that he’s not really an elf, he heads to New York City to search for his biological family. He makes life miserable for his father, played by James Caan, who initially wants nothing to do with the tall man-boy dressed in a green elf costume. “I love watching Ferrell do his gangly, clueless shtick,” wrote Peter Rainer of New York magazine. “There’s something inherently funny about Ferrell.” I agree.
1. A Christmas Story (1983)
This funny, poignant film – set in Indiana in the 1940s — is about a young boy named Ralphie who desperately wants a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. His overly protective mother warns that he’ll put an eye out with the weapon. Ralphie is taunted by bullies and ridiculed by a demanding, but occasionally soft-hearted father. He’s more sympathetic to his son’s desire for a BB gun, recalling that he owned one at the same age. “There’s a real knowledge of human nature beneath the comedy,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert.