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7 essential movies to get you into the holiday spirit

Movie Review

By Joe Gieringer
On December 3, 2012

Love it or hate it, it's that time of year: the time when people can finally watch holiday movies again, most likely gaining five pounds stuffing our faces while doing so from the couch. New features may come out every holiday season, but these are seven of the enduring classics that I re-watch each year as the big day draws near.

7. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

How can you not cheer for the little guy? Good ol' Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang remind us what the true meaning of the season is in this heartwarming classic that we all grew up with.

6. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

I still insist that this multiple Oscar-winner is slightly overrated, but Edmund Gwenn's portrayal of Kris Kringle is so good that I can't resist watching it every year. The courtroom scene is a classic, as is the ending. Though it was re-released in color, stick to the black and white version, as it captures the essence of this Christmas classic much more completely.

5. Elf (2003)

A surprise by now-renowned director Jon Favreau that stars Will Ferrell as a 6-foot-tall elf, this modern favorite was a hit with critics and audiences alike, grossing a total of $220 million while at the same time attaining an 84 percent "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. If you don't quote Elf at least once during December, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

4. Die Hard 1 & 2 (1988, 1990)

Are they technically Christmas movies? Not really. But I'm putting them on the list regardless, because nothing breaks up the typical fluff of the holiday season quite like sporadic gunfire and John McClain's witty one-liners. "Now I've got a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho."

3. A Christmas Carol (1984)

The 1951 version of A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim might get all the publicity, but this made-for-TV adaptation is more powerful in narrative and visuals. With George C. Scott as the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge and a frighteningly dark Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, this take on the classic Charles Dickens tale is easily my favorite.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

Thurl Ravenscroft and Boris Karloff, enough said. I could listen to these two describe paint dry and I would still be entertained. There's a time and a place for the Jim Carrey version, but this original film depiction of the beloved Dr. Seuss story is far superior in all aspects.

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Accused by many of being "Capra-corny," this film found new life in the 70s and 80s to become one of the most beloved holiday movies of all time, and a personal favorite of mine. It warms my heart each time George Bailey does the right thing to help others at his own expense, and It's a Wonderful Life is, in fact, frequently regarded as the most inspirational film ever made; one which has not lost its sentimental value with age.

Whether you are avoiding studying for finals or enjoying a nice night in with the family, pop one of these classics in and enjoy.


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