For nearly every holiday or occasion, there are movies dedicated that use them as a setting, theme, or even major plot element. The winter holidays, however, have spawned a film genre all their own, and for many have become an essential part of celebrating and enjoying the season. Below, in no particular order, are five must-see traditional holiday classics.
1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
This black-and-white classic tells the story of a Macy’s department store Santa Clause who is institutionalized when he claims to be the real Santa. The film has been remade a number of times, but the original 1947 version with Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn has withstood the test of time to become a holiday tradition.
Why it’s a Must-See: The film manages to be inspirational without crossing over into sappiness; the credit goes to a great story (it won two 1948 Academy Awards for Best Writing) and the perfect cast (Edmund Gwenn also won Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role) to pull it off.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Directed by Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey, a kind hearted but deeply troubled man who is losing hope in life, and Clarence, an angel assigned to save George in order to earn his wings.
Why it’s a Must-See: This sentimental drama was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, and Best Picture, and won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Director in 1947.
3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
Based on Dr. Seuss’ 1957 book of the same name, the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is an animated holiday classic. The iconic voice of Boris Karloff narrates the story of the miserable Grinch, who plans to steal Christmas from the Whos.
Why it’s a Must-See: The story of the Grinch has become so ubiquitous that the word “grinch” has been officially accepted into the American lexicon as a term referring to a killjoy, with inclusion in many major dictionaries.
4. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
The stop motion classic was created as a Christmas television special in 1964, and has been aired every year since. Based on the traditional Christmas song of the same name, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer shares the whole story of Rudolph’s bullied childhood, subsequent adventure, and eventual heroism.
Why it’s a Must-See: Catchy songs and lovable characters like the Abominable Snow Monster, Yukon Cornelius and Hermey the Elf make this story of acceptance and friendship a fun and feel-good tale of redemption.
5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Before It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in 1966, and long before A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving in 1975, the Peanuts gang gave us the first of their now traditional holiday movies with their search for the true meaning of Christmas in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Why it’s a Must-See: The saddest little Christmas tree has firmly established itself as an icon of holiday season pop culture, and a symbol of the true spirit of the holidays.
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