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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

what are your favorite (and must-see) holiday movies?

Die Hard Bruce Willis Christmas Story Peter Billingsley

This is supposed to be a fun time of year, but too often for too many of us, it’s more stressful than anything else. So let’s relax with some comfort movies:

What are your favorite (and must-see) holiday movies? And why? Which perhaps little-known holiday movies — or movies not often considered holiday movies — would you recommend to others who may have missed them?

My very favorite is A Christmas Story, because it reminds me of those Christmases when I was a kid, when there was no stress or worry or hassle, just excitement and mystery and wonder. And though it’s only its Christmas Eve setting that makes it a holiday film, I do love Die Hard. John McClane’s spirit of giving may manifest itself in the gift of bullets and explosions, but his recipients do so richly deserve his gifts.

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)


  • althea

    I am thrilled to be able to let somebody know about this film. My mom and I watched it on Christmas night decades ago, and it made such an impression on me that I never forgot it even though it was never broadcast again as far as I know, and nobody else I’ve ever known has heard of it. Last I looked there was no home video of it, but looking around just now I see that there are now DVDs and VHS of it but not for this hemisphere.

    I don’t know of another Christmas movie like it – no warm fuzzies here, it’s essentially deep family conflict set in our most heartwarming, nostalgic images of an old-fashioned over-the-river-and-through-the-woods Christmas, complete with snow and hot cider (or that sort of thing) and a fire in the hearth. Here’s this from Wikipedia:

    The Holly and the Ivy is a 1952 English drama film directed by George More O’Ferrall and produced by Anatole de Grunwald. Adapted from a play by Wynyard Browne, it is about an English clergyman whose neglect of his grown offspring, in his zeal to tend to his parishioners, comes to the surface at a
    Christmas family gathering. Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, and Margaret Leighton star, while Margaret Halstan and Maureen Delany reprised their roles from the stage.[2] It had its U.S release in 1954.

    And just look at this cast list:

    Ralph Richardson as Reverend Martin Gregory
    Celia Johnson as Jenny Gregory
    Margaret Leighton as Margaret Gregory
    Denholm Elliott as Michael Gregory
    Hugh Williams as Richard Wyndham
    John Gregson as David Patterson
    Margaret Halstan as Aunt Lydia
    Maureen Delany as Aunt Bridget
    William Hartnell as Company Sergeant Major
    Robert Flemyng as Major
    Roland Culver as Lord B.

    I have got to see this movie again, even if I have to have an expensive DVD converted. Someday. When I have discretionary funds again.

  • David C-D

    Might be cheaper to just get a multi-region DVD player… they can frequently come in handy!

  • David C-D

    oops… intended as a reply to Althea

  • beccity98

    The Muppets’ Christmas Carol. My fav!! “No cheeses for us meeces” is my favourite line! Though I’m annoyed that, while the DVD version gives you an option for fullscreen or widescreen, only the fullscreen has the whole movie. Widescreen is missing a song or two.

    My mom liked to record movies from one tape to another, usually putting 3 movies or more on one tape, so you didn’t have to get up and change tapes too often. Somehow, this movie is on a tape with Hocus Pocus, but the Christmas one is first. Shouldn’t the Halloween one be first?

  • I’m so sick of Christmas in general that I don’t seek out any particular Christmas themed movie.
    I certainly Like A Christmas Story, but it’s just getting so darn played out.
    My son put on Gremlins earlier and that is a ton of fun. It happens on Christmas Eve so it counts.
    I really like Arthur Christmas.
    Nan and I watched Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale last year after hearing all the hype about it. We were totally let down. It’s all buildup and no payoff. Weak.

  • RogerBW

    I enjoyed Arthur Christmas much more than I expected to, and may well watch it again.

  • althea

    Since I don’t get cable I’ve only seen A Christmas Story a couple of times so I’ve never gotten tired of it. But it’s brought up so many times over the season, I’ve always wondered why it’s considered a “Christmas Movie” in the larger sense, like the many versions of “A Christmas Carol”. I didn’t have that experience of it. Still, it’s a surprise that it hasn’t worn out its welcome by now. But it really is good.

  • althea

    LOVED Muppets’ Christmas Carol!

  • Surprisingly great movie!

  • Ryan Stone

    Go (1999)
    Seriously watch this movie again.

  • Steve Gagen

    The film is readily available on DVD – just not in NTSC format. As David C-D suggested, you can get a multi-region player (sadly, these are not so common in the USA – they are standard outside the US, maybe you could order one by mail). Or you (or someone else) could rip the DVD and convert it to NTSC, then burn a new disk. It isn’t that hard a task. I also believe that torrents may be available – and certainly part of the film is available on Youtube.

  • David_Conner

    I second David C-D’s recommendation of a region-free DVD player. I got one (and it’s a high-quality Sony, not something cobbled together in a cave from a box of scraps by Kazakh video pirates or something) for about 40 bucks from Amazon… which means now I can get any foreign obscurities I want (and there are importers – many also at Amazon – to sell them at pretty reasonable prices.) So, for instance, I’ve been able to finally see a bunch of British comedies I’ve been hearing about for ages, like the 2nd series of Look Around You and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

    Anyway, on to the question…. I just saw Miracle on 34th Street again last night, and I keep forgetting what a great movie that is. It’s just the right mix of sentimentality and worldiness, and really, really funny too.

  • MisterAntrobus

    I think I’ve just found a name for my band: “Kazakh Video Pirates.” :-)

  • MisterAntrobus

    Batman Returns makes for delightfully twisted alternative Christmas fare, as does The Lion in Winter, which makes even the most awkward family Christmas you might have look pretty tame as medieval royals go after each other’s jugulars over inheritance, land, and marriages.

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