When I think of a Holiday film, many things come to mind. Comedy, love, family, excitement, friends, music, a bit of magic…and the Muppets! I, like a lot of GenX, am a sucker for nostalgia, especially around the Holidays. Every year, there are new Holiday films, and Hallmark has a whole channel for them. But I think we had the best Holiday films when GenX was young. Here are a few that I watch every year.
A Christmas Carol is always a popular story to retell. This version depicts our Scrooge (Bill Murray) as a cold-hearted TV network president. He, of course, is hilariously haunted by 3 spirits over the night on Christmas Eve. This delightful dark comedy has a great cast of 80s faces, including Karen Allen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Lee Majors and others.
There are so many iconic moments in this film. The car getting stuck, the squirrel, the lights, Cousin Eddie….Cousin Eddie…Cousin Eddie. If you ever think your family is crazy, watch this film. You’ll find your family is more normal than you thought. This movie also has one of my favorite title songs ever. Christmas Vacation by Mavis Staples.
Technically, this is a Boomer film, as the first of Generation X was born the same year this was released. However, thanks to the joys of technology, this was a staple in homes at Christmas every year. The only TV special that has run longer is the stop-motion classic Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This film is a good reminder that sometimes, all something…or someone needs is a little love.
This made-for-TV special is a retelling of The Gift of the Magi. A young otter and his widowed mother struggle to make ends meet. They both join a contest to win money for a gift for the other. This is a heartwarming story of family, friends, and community.
What’s the Holidays without some good old feel-good cheese? A young girl finds an injured reindeer and, believing it to be Santa’s, works to help the deer heal and get back to Santa. This is a great film for snuggling up with a cup of cocoa.
Do you like your Holiday with a side of cute fuzzy pets that become….not cute…fuzzy…pets? The fun part about growing up in the 80s and earlier was that you never really knew what you were in for when you went to the movies. You couldn’t just look up a review on your phone. You couldn’t download someone’s pirated copy. This resulted in many nightmares…but also lots of toy sales.
The only time I have ever seen our local theater at standing-room-only capacity was for this film. It was the second-highest global-grossing film of 1990, only topped by Ghost. In a world before the possibility of GPS-tracked children, a kid gets left behind when the family goes on vacation, and chaos ensues. This film is just a good time and has a fantastic score by the fabulous John Williams.
Before you look at me like that, this film is set during the Holidays. If that is a good enough argument for Die Hard, it’s a good enough argument for this fantastic follow-up to Tim Burton’s Batman. Batman Returns tells the stories of Penguin (Danny Devito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeifer) and their battle to control Gotham. This film makes for a good break between traditional Holiday films.
Growing up in the Midwest in the 80s, any time you found a film set somewhere close to where you lived, it hit a little different. This is not your Boomer parents’ Annette Funicello movie. This is an updated (well, updated for the ‘80s) retelling of this tale. This made-for-TV special has a great cast. Eileen Brennan, Richard Mulligan, Pat Morita, Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves. This film is the reason I will never forget how to spell “Cincinnati.”
After the death of Jim Henson in 1990, some fans wondered what the future of the Muppets would be. After all, Henson not only created the Muppets, he voiced several characters, including; Rowlf, Ernie, Swedish Chef, Waldorf, and of course, the star, Kermit. It was difficult to imagine someone stepping into Henson’s shoes. Luckily, Jim’s son, Brian, took the reins and directed this film, making sure that it felt like his father’s work. This is a great, family-friendly retelling of A Christmas Carol. Henson cut out the bits that many children find scary and, being the Muppets, filled it full of great music. This will forever be my favorite Holiday film.
I asked my fellow GenX contributors for their favorite Holiday film(s) from our youth. Here’s what they had to say:
I always believed we’re made of the same kind of magic! Over the last hundred years, if you ask anyone the first time they saw Mickey Mouse, their eyes twinkle like stars as a warm smile forms across their face. For me, it was in December of 1983. This was a big deal for me as a kid because it retells one of my favorite stories. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The usual gang is Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald. Plus cameos from Jiminy Cricket as the ghost of Christmas past, to Mr. Toad from Wind in the Willows as Mr. Fezziwig. This was also the first appearance of “Scrooge,” later known as Scrooge McDuck played by Alan Young. This visual tale is not very long but filled with so much love, laughter, and a few tears. It also has a great lesson showing compassion towards others.
Okay, I have a lot of favorites! Ha! So buckle up, Rudolph, and let’s FLY!
First, I agree with Charlotte’s top two picks above. I watch those multiple times during the holiday season. I love Scrooged because it puts the whacky in Christmas and is so much fun.
I watch Christmas Vacation absolutely every year (I’ve already watched it once this year) because I am just one super jolly asshole, and I love how EVERYTHING always goes wrong for that poor idiot. It feels so real, LOL. The best-laid holiday plans generally suck. This has to be one of the MOST quotable movies of all time, and you should never trust anyone who hasn’t quoted this movie at least 10 times before Christmas.
New York City policeman John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) on Christmas Eve. He joins her at a holiday party in the headquarters of the Japanese-owned business she works for. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise. Very soon, McClane realizes that there’s no one to save the hostages — but him.
Yes, yes, it’s an action movie, but it’s also a Christmas movie! This is another that has to be watched every Christmas and is also VERY quotable! “Welcome to the party, pal.”
Upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) are the subjects of a bet by successful brokers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy). An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes.
Some people may not see this as a Christmas movie, but one of my favorite scenes is when Winthorpe goes a bit crazy and dresses as Santa at the company Christmas party. It’s a great story with the good guys getting even in the end.
Singers Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) join sister act Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen) to perform a Christmas show in rural Vermont. There, they run into Gen. Waverly (Dean Jagger), the boys’ commander in World War II, who, they learn, is having financial difficulties; his quaint country inn is failing. So what’s the foursome to do but plan a yuletide miracle: a fun-filled musical extravaganza that’s sure to put Waverly and his business in the black!
This one is a Christmas classic, so I had to add it. It’s full of laughs, music, dancing, and some tears. I love it, and it’s a staple in my house every year. How can you not get in the holiday spirit hearing Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas?”
Based on the humorous writings of author Jean Shepherd, this beloved holiday movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who spends most of his time dodging a bully (Zack Ward) and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad (Darren McGavin) but comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact.
“You’ll shoot your eye out!” I love this zany family, and the cranky dad makes me laugh every year. Everything that Ralphie goes through to get the one thing that he really wants for Christmas. But is it worth it?
What is your favorite Holiday film? Tell us about it in the comments.