It’s been a while since I’ve updated with a blog post, and since the holiday season is upon us, I figured I would give my list of the best holiday comedies, ranked in no particular order, except that sometimes I refer to some as better than others. Confusing, right? Let’s get to it.
1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
The pièce de résistance par excellence of Christmas movies. We have all had those experiences at the holidays where nothing goes right, where our family drives us nuts, and where wild animals jump out of the tree. Easily the best of the Vacation films, Christmas Vacation is also one of the greatest holiday films ever made, because it shines a light on the dark underbelly of the holiday season. And it even spawned a sequel!*
*Protip: don’t watch the sequel.
2. Elf (2003)
A modern classic, Elf manages to merge the saccharine nostalgia of Christmas classics of old with a modern sensibility. Add a great soundtrack and a blonde Zooey Deschanel singing Christmas songs, and you’ve got a Christmas movie with something for everyone. Except people who don’t celebrate Christmas. Those people are out of luck.
3. A Christmas Story (1983)
“You’ll shoot your eye out!” “Fragíle! It must be Italian!” “Oooh fudge!” The pink bunny suit! The frozen tongue! Ah, the endlessly quotable and recognizable A Christmas Story.
I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard it’s great.
4. The Santa Clause (1994)
Another modern classic. Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a curmudgeonly toy maker who, after stripping a corpse of his clothes and wearing them himself, unwittingly signs a contract that turns him into a sort of celestial indentured servant, doomed to be the new Santa Claus until he too perishes and has his vestments stripped from him by another unsuspecting victim of this Sisyphean hell. Soon, Calvin grows to relish in his newfound power, commanding a legion of servants who must toil endlessly in his
sweatshop workshop for no pay. Add the inspired casting of Jewish actor David Krumholtz as head elf Bernard, and we have a fascinating allegory for the atrocities committed in Auschwitz.
This is one of the heavier films on the list, but its social implications are what make it such a valuable holiday film.
5. The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause (2002)
The second entry in Tim Allen’s Clause trilogy is arguably the best of the three, but I have ranked it slightly below the first if only because without the innovations of the first film, we would have no second film. It’s the Empire Strikes Back of Santa Clause movies. Its ending is so unforgiving, so dark, so utterly shocking, that it had audiences everywhere on tenterhooks as they eagerly awaited the conclusion to this epic cinematic trilogy.
6. Scrooged (1988)
That guy from Ghostbusters and the chick from Raiders of the Lost Ark reenact Dickens’ classic tale of greed giving way to holiday cheer. Oh, and nipples.
7. Home Alone (1990)
Macaulay Culkin stars in this prequel to the Saw franchise, where we see how Jigsaw got his start.
8. Gremlins (1984)
9. Die Hard (1988)
Bruce Willis stars in this heartwarming story of a man struggling to reunite with his estranged wife, Holly (I see what you did there, screenwriters!) at Christmastime. Willis’ John McClane would do anything to reunite with Holly, and that’s exactly what he does. Die Hard shows us the importance of having loved ones near us during the holiday season. A true family classic.
10. Love, Actually (2003)
Now, I’m not a huge fan of this movie, but a lot of people are. If I learned anything from this movie, it’s that if the woman I love marries my best friend, I just have to play Christmas Carols and show her some cue cards, and she’ll be so enamored that she will start a long con to cheat on her husband with me. Oh, I also learned that if I’m the one doing the cheating, be sure to hide the presents I’m buying for my mistress from my wife. On second thought, this movie should be called Cheating, Actually.
11. A Christmas Carol (2009) Yeah, this is the super creepy animated one with Jim Carrey as everyone. And there’s that weird candle ghost. This shit is scary. Never mind. I’m taking it off the list. Jim Carrey ruined this classic Christmas story. Goddamnit, Jim Carrey.
11 (Re-do). The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)
This entry is much lower on the list than the first two movies, but I suspect that much like Return of the Jedi, it has its supporters who argue it’s the best in the trilogy. For me, not so much. The plot: a small band of Santa’s elves have been moved to a high-security “escape-proof” camp. Steve McQueen leads the elves as they plan one of the most ambitious escape attempts the North Pole has ever seen. Based on a true story. Oh, and there’s a side-plot involving Martin Short (here, reprising his Ed Grimely character from Saturday Night Live, who has somehow been transformed into Jack Frost), who wants to take over Christmas.
12. Arthur Christmas (2011)
Dudley Moore gets drunk and ruins Christmas, I think. I’ve never seen it, but I assume it’s a holiday-themed sequel to Moore’s Arthur (1981).
13. Batman Returns (1922)
Werner Herzog directed this documentary that explores the holiday rituals of leather fetishists. Admittedly, it isn’t for everyone. This film also introduced me to the fact that mistletoe is deadly if you eat it. And to the fact that a kiss can be even deadlier… if you mean it.
14. In Bruges (2008)
What says “Merry Christmas” more than two hit men waiting for their contract in Bruges? Starring Mad-Eye Moody as a talking pile of guts, Voldemort as a man who habitually abuses telephones, and Bullseye as Bullseye, this film has it all: Christmas lights, murder, and little people. It’s… confusing.
15. Roots (1977)
16. Bad Santa (2003)
17. Fred Claus (2007)
18. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The pitch: What if we let Jim Carrey ruin another classic Christmas story by having him just run around in front of a camera, acting like kind of an asshole?
19. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
James Stewart plays a suicidal psychopath who steals women’s clothes and forces them to hide in bushes while he publicly mocks them. A classic for the whole family.
20. Life of Brian (1979)
The true story of our Lord and Savior, who is the reason for the season.