Ah, the holidays! The value of the season is perhaps easy to overlook amidst the calorific parties and ominous-sounding “Black Friday” shopping sprees.
Nevertheless, whether you call it Christmas, Xmas, or something else, this time of year offers a moment to reflect on a few high-minded ideas like peace on earth and goodwill toward, well, everybody.
To that end, press pause on your burning Yule log video and watch one of the ten films below, all of which have been carefully selected to help put you in a positive frame of mind.
Note: the following films are rated on a 10-point scale.
Joyeux Noël (UR – 2006)
Based on a true story about how a season of “Peace on Earth” caused fighting men to postpone their part in World War I. While perhaps overly sentimental in places, you’d have to be an unrepentant Scrooge to knock it hard. Score: 8
It’s a Wonderful Life (G – 1946)
My Grandma demanded I watch this with her when I was a kid. I quietly groaned during the first 15 minutes, after which time I was hooked by great, dramatic storytelling (and that was long before witnessing the sci-fi twist at the end). In a season of forgiveness, this wonderful film offers a worthy reminder to “forgive thyself”. Score: 10
The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG – 1993)
Stop-motion animation shows the colorful mayhem that ensues when the denizens of a realm dedicated to Halloween take charge of Christmas. This one is so trippy, you’ll think Grandma put something extra in the fruitcake! Score: 10
Arthur Christmas (PG – 2011)
Now playing at theatres, this stop-motion animation from the creators behind Wallace and Gromit is a humorous excursion for the whole family. It may be as close to a Christmas miracle as we’ll see this year. Look for it to garner some award nominations. Score: 9
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (R – 2011)
Not to be a Grinch, but this one will not win any awards. It’s goofy, raunchy, sometimes funny, sometimes not. However, it is also very recent – maybe even playing at a theatre near you. Taking a cue from Judd Apatow, it adds a dollop of sweetness to make it palatable. Even so, this one might be more fun if Grandma does put something extra in your fruitcake. Score: 7
Elf (PG – 2003)
Will Ferrell turns in a brilliant comic performance as Buddy, Santa’s most befuddled and accident-prone helper, in this fluffy family-friendly film. Fortunately, Buddy’s inspired adventure to the big city to discover who he really is outshines the rather predictable ending. Score: 8
The Santa Clause (PG – 1994)
Tim Allen (aka Buzz Lightyear) made his big-screen debut in this film about a man who is forced to become Santa when the current Old Saint Nick drops stone dead from his rooftop. Whoa. That must have been a hard script to pitch, but I digress. The film itself is totally inoffensive fun to entertain kids and their parents alike. Seriously. Score: 7
Miracle on 34th Street (G – 1947)
If you really want the kids to believe in Santa, then there is likely no better film than this black-and-white classic. Forget the remakes and see the wonderful, gently nostalgic original. Score: 9
Love Actually (R – 2003)
Many critics deride this film for its unabashed super-sweetness. Respectfully, I must say that those idiots miss the point. A massive A-list cast helps weave a multitude of funny, sometimes sexy, often moving holiday stories to create this sprawling ode to joy which is certainly nothing less than a hot-blooded stocking stuffer. Score: 8
A Christmas Story (PG – 1983)
It’s rare that a holiday film can manage to be at once heartwarming and darkly comic, but this film about a boy’s heroic quest to be gifted of a Red Ryder BB gun pulls it off. Don’t put your eye out – see this movie. Score: 8
C.R.A.Z.Y. (R – 2005) – At first blush it might seem strange to include this French-Canadian film in a list of Yuletide fair. However, this colourful, rock music driven story about a Christmas Day baby who grows into a “sexually-confused” middle-class teen finally embodies the sense of acceptance that is the best promise of The Season. Merry Christmas! Score: 9