When my husband Mike and I first started to share the holidays together, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that both of our families had the same tradition of gathering around the TV to watch a classic holiday movie. We’ve continued this tradition now that we have a family of our own, and though Mike’s family once made Gremlins their holiday movie selection (Really, Mike? Gremlins?), we actually have very similar taste when it comes to holiday movies. So what are our favorites? Here are five holiday classics for the whole family that we will be streaming on our Xbox 360 this season. There’s nothing like being able to rent or purchase new or classic movies without having to leave your living room!
This movie is not even ten years old, but it’s already become a holiday classic. Will Ferrell plays Buddy, a human raised as one of Santa’s elves who leaves the North Pole one Christmas to find his biological parents in New York City. Elf is very funny (how could it not be when the 6’3” Will Ferrell spends the whole movie wearing green tights?), but it’s also very sweet and perfectly captures the holiday spirit. Zooey Deschanel is in it too, playing Buddy’s girlfriend long before she became The New Girl.
This is the third – and in our opinion, the best – of John Hughes’ Vacation movies. Chevy Chase stars again as the slightly unhinged family man Clark Griswold who is determined to have “a good, old-fashioned family Christmas.” This movie will be hilarious to anyone who has ever taken part in a large, multi-generational holiday celebration (so pretty much all of us), and features one of the most off-the-wall, gut-busting comic performances of all-time by Randy Quaid as crazy cousin Eddie. Our favorite line: “You serious, Clark?” Watch it and find out why!
Miracle On 34th Street
The 1947 original starring Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood won three Academy Awards and is often rightly called the greatest holiday film ever, but we like the 1994 remake starring Richard Attenborough as well. The basic premise – that a department store Santa just might be the real one – is terrific, and it’s impossible not to feel inspired by the time credits roll.
A Christmas Story
Set in the early 1940s, the story of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker’s quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas is often played twenty-four hours straight on TBS during the holidays, and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t watch it three or four times over that period. Like the best holiday movies, A Christmas Story is full of big laughs and memorable scenes (“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, kid!”), but also manages to warm the heart with a sense of familial love and community.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
We often have a family movie night at Thanksgiving as well, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (by that John Hughes fella again) is hands down our top choice. If you’ve ever tried to travel during the holidays, you can relate to Steve Martin’s character, Neil Page, who just wants to get from New York to his home in Chicago in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. The movie is stolen, however, by John Candy’s Del Griffith, a shower curtain rings salesman who is as annoying as he is well-meaning. That old movie cliche, “You’ll laugh! You’ll cry!” might as well have been coined about this modern classic.
What are your favorite holiday movies?