Christmas is coming. Depending on your mood, or the day that you’ve had, or how many Facebook posts you’ve had to read about the abomination of saying, “Happy Holidays,” that sentence can be very exciting or very ominous. Sure, this time of year can be crazy stressful, and busy, and chaotic. There’s the shopping, and the decorating, and the events to attend, and the family coming into town, and the cooking, and the cleaning, and then, there’s the kids- bouncing back and forth between perfect “Santa’s nice list” angels and whiny “I want ALL the toys” pains in the ass. As a parent who is required to adult through all of this, it is easy to become a little Scrooge McGrinch-y.
Fear not, my worn-out friends. I have an idea. Tonight, leave the dishes, forget the wrapping, and screw the cards. Instead, pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and pile your family onto the couch. A great Christmas movie can warm even the bah-humbug-iest of hearts. To make it even easier, here is my list of the best Classic Christmas movies to watch with your children.
1. A Christmas Story
You have seen this one 2.5 million times, but have you watched it with your kids? If so, watch it again. So many lessons to learn – don’t accept a triple dog dare, don’t leave your turkey in dog-accessible places, and, of course, if you ask for a bb gun for Christmas, expect plenty of unsolicited opinions about the possibility of shooting your eye out. It’s warm, it’s funny, and those bunny pajamas are just so darn cute.
2. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown is frustrated with the over-commercialization of Christmas (know the feeling?) and searches for the true meaning of the holiday. Did you know that this won an Emmy AND a Peabody award? It did. Plus, it’s only 25 minutes long, which makes it a great choice to end a long day.
A new(ish) classic, Buddy the Elf is one of the most likable characters around. His Christmas spirit is contagious. I feel secure in saying that this is the funniest movie on the list, but it is also warm and sweet. Plus, Bob Newhart and Zooey Deschanel’s ginormous blue eyeballs.
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Let’s make sure that we are all clear on the fact that I am talking about that one in the picture up there, with the animation and the Boris Karloff voice. You may watch your Jim Carey adaptation, but not right now. This one is the best one! And no real girl could ever be as cute as animated Cindy Lou Who. A sure-fire way to get over the holiday grumps; this one is also only 26 minutes for when you need that quick fix. (the Jim Carey one isn’t bad either, but watch this one first).
5. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Yes yes, the old story about Scrooge and the three ghosts and Tiny Tim Cratchit. We all know it and there are 9,372,186,634 versions of it, like this one, or this one, or perhaps these. As far as I am concerned, this is the one to watch. I grew up in The Muppets era and have always loved them. They can be funny and silly, and still tug on your heartstrings. Also, Michael Caine is a fantastic Ebenezer. Bonus: here are some fun facts about it.
6. Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, & Santa Claus is Coming to Town
I am grouping these three on purpose, I promise. They’re all from the same era- 1964-1970 – which was clearly a time to experiment with animation. All three are awesome, well-known stories with earworm songs included. As an adult, I realize that they can get a bit dark or weird in spots, in a 60’s and 70’s kind of way, but I loved them as a kid, and so did you, and so does my daughter. With voices from the likes of Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Durante, and Burl Ives, these movies have got that cool retro vibe.
7. The Polar Express
I will be the first to admit, the animation in this borders on creepy. It took me a while to adjust to it, but I am glad that I held out and kept on watching those weirdo computer-generated kids. This is a great story and a nice departure from all the well-worn plots of most Christmas movies. I imagine this movie is especially great for when your child is beginning to doubt that whole Santa thing, yet you are not quite ready to give it up. You can’t lose with Tom Hanks, even if your brain can’t quite make out whether it is the real Tom or a cartoon Tom.
8. Miracle on 34th Street
The classic of all the classics. I like this one for a million reasons, but mostly because I love that it is almost believable, even to grown-ups. Of course, any adult would assume that the old man claiming to be Santa Claus is a nut job, but by the end of this movie, there may be a little bit of doubt. This year, when you watch Miracle, raise a glass to the beautiful and talented Maureen O’Hara who graced so many of the best classic movies and just passed away in October.
It is very likely you have already seen every movie from my list, but every single one of these films is worth re-watching. There is something magical about being able to share them with your children, too. My 5-year-old watched Polar Express for the first time, just tonight. She was so excited and nervous, she was sitting on the edge of her seat and then the edge of my lap. It makes the fact that I will be sitting at my computer working until the wee hours of the night tonight not quite as bad. For those 100 minutes, I felt fully immersed in the Christmas spirit. I know it’s cheesy, but I don’t care – that’s what it is all about! Enjoy your holidays, enjoy your family, and enjoy some great movies!