Your Not So Definitive Holiday Movie Guide

By David Changas | January 29, 2020

I’m not a movie buff. I have been to the theatre twice in the past five years and am completely lost when people discuss the latest film releases, Marvel, Star Wars, etc. When I try to watch one on a Friday night with my family, I generally last until about the end of the opening credits before succumbing to slumber like a 75-year-old man.

But each year, I have a list of must-see movies when the Christmas season rolls around. I’m sure it’s mostly nostalgia, and my enjoyment of these films tells me that if I tried a little harder, I would enjoy a lot of what I’m missing in the regular movie world. In order to stir up some discussion, here are my top-five favorite Christmas flicks.

  1. ELF

If you can’t enjoy Buddy the Elf, you’re probably a Grinch.

The only entrant on this list that was made after the turn of the century, Elf is a light-hearted and well-made film that is the only modern one that has worked its way onto the list of classics. Will Ferrell does a fantastic job as Buddy the Elf, and James Caan and Ed Asner bring gravitas to the set. But the story of the movie obviously takes a backseat to the memorable moments of hilarity that have become part of the Christmas movie quote lexicon.


Cousin Eddie educates Clark – and all of us – on all of the virtues of the Yak woman.

I’m sure many will argue this should be higher on the list. It’s a great movie – it’s definitely not as good as the original, and while you may have a contrary opinion, just know that it’s wrong – and probably the most popular Christmas movie in our culture at this point. While a bit clichéd, the interaction Clark Griswold has with Cousin Eddie in the living room after the Coolidge, Kansas-based hillbilly shows up with his family for the holiday season is easily the film’s high point. And the quotable lines from the film are, as everyone knows, ubiquitous (my favorite: “Surprised? If I woke up with my head sewn to the carpet I wouldn’t be any more surprised than I am right now.”)


Joe Pesci (Harry) and Daniel Stern (Marv) were outsmarted by an 8-year-old and somehow survived what would have killed most men.

The 1990 release is the most watchable of all the holiday films and is one that is run most frequently in my house (this is what you get when you have three kids who range in age from 15 to 10). The story obviously was implausible when it happened, and is much more implausible in the era of mobile phones, but who cares? It’s fun, the score is fantastic, and the nostalgia factor is off the charts. There is a reason the Nashville Symphony does a few showings in which it plays the soundtrack along with the movie every year. Oh, and the house deserves a mention. What person alive wouldn’t want to live in the McAllister home and neighborhood?


No, his tongue wasn’t really stuck to the pole. It was vacuumed to it.

I realize a lot of folks don’t care for this 1983 classic – my wife being one of them. Regardless, it is truly a fantastic and brilliantly written film. Narrator Jean Sheppard, who, incidentally, plays the man who tells Ralphie to go to the back of the Santa line, is superb, and all of the acting is perfectly on pitch. The beauty of A Christmas Story, and the reason it works so well being run 24 consecutive hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas, as it has been for the past two decades by the Turner networks, is that it is essentially a series of vignettes that can be watched independently of each other. So you’re fine coming and going as this runs in the house while the family overindulges in egg nog.


George Bailey’s story is one of triumph over potential tragedy.

Forget calling this one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. This film is one of the great movies of all time, regardless of genre. I occasionally run into people who haven’t seen it, and my mind is boggled. If you are one of those, stop what you’re doing and go watch it. Right now. Nothing more needs to be said. If you have seen it, I don’t need to tell you what’s good about it. If you haven’t, you’ll soon find out why it lands on this spot.

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