The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Film Fridays: 5 movies you should watch this holiday season

Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.  

This is my favorite time of the year. 

Putting the stress of the end of the semester and finals week aside, I love the magic of December and the lead-up to the holiday season. 

I appreciate the possibility of goodness and kindness; I like spending time with family and engaging in traditions; and I like the anticipation of it all. I love that I become a kid again and the excitement is still there, 20 years later. 

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is watching Christmas movies. And while you may not celebrate Christmas, or you aren’t one to turn on a flick about jolly old Kris Kringle, I encourage you to see past the cartoon characters and musical numbers and see these five movies for what they are — see the deeper meaning of love, and belief in one another and this time of year each movie puts forth.

So, without further ado, I give you five movies I think are worth a watch this holiday season.

1. “It’s A Wonderful Life”

This is not only one of my favorite Christmas movies, but it’s one of my all-time favorite movies in general. When you think of classic holiday films that have stood the test of time, this has to be one of the first that comes to mind. “It’s A Wonderful Life” has everything that makes the world a good place: family, selflessness, community and the reminder to be grateful for what you have. Protagonist George Bailey, played by Hollywood titan James Stewart, is down on his luck and suddenly wishes he had never been born. Bailey is given the chance to see just that – a world without him in it – and without giving too much away, he is able to see how big of an impact he truly had on the people around him. 10/10 movie. It makes me cry every single time. I haven’t seen it in a while, and honestly, in the back of my mind, I think it’s because it’s so sacred to me that I want it to be the perfect moment when my family and I watch it this year. Only the latter half of this black-and-white classic is about Christmas, so it definitely is a movie for all.

2. “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

Whether you have seen installments of the Peanuts franchise or not, watch this short cartoon. It is a beautiful flick that brings together all that’s good about the holiday season. Pop culture icon Charlie Brown is a little melancholy, despite it being Christmas, and this holiday special shows how he handles that, and what happens after he is put in charge of directing a play with his friends. If you’ve heard of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree — the tree that is a little tattered and maybe the one people avoid at the Christmas tree lot — this movie is where that comes from. And maybe it’s an act as small as a Charlie Brown Christmas tree that will better bring together human beings as we navigate the trials and tribulations of late. I mean, after all, shouldn’t we be seeing the best in people, like Charlie Brown saw the best in that tree? Give Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus and the whole gang a chance this break. You won’t regret it. 

3. “The Polar Express”

This may be odd, but I’ve come to like “The Polar Express” more as a young adult. As a kid, it was that movie that played on one of the last days of class before break in elementary and middle school. I enjoyed it, but it was one of those movies you recall watching in your school gym, probably with a cup of hot chocolate and maybe wearing your pajama pants. In more recent years, however, this movie has meant more for me. Maybe it’s because it’s about a kid who is starting to grow out of the holiday season and failing to see the magic. I have always felt the magic, but I think as I’ve gotten older, it’s inspiring and beautiful to watch this movie and remember to “believe.” Whether it’s in Santa Claus (which, guys, he is real) or just in each other and the season of giving, “The Polar Express” reminds people to always keep the kid in you alive at Christmas time. It will always feel a little different as the years go on when celebrating Christmas, and that’s to be expected. In fact, we have a joke in my family that I’m in the “Transition Christmas” stages, where gifts start becoming more practical instead of the Star Wars action figures and Playmobil sets I used to get as a kid. But, this movie is a reminder of keeping that belief in the time of year and never being too old to believe in the spirit of Christmas. Not to mention you have an amazing musical score, and Tom Hanks voices basically every animated character in the film. What’s not to love? When you have Josh Groban singing a song titled “Believe” as the closing credits make their way on screen, then you know you’ve chosen the right movie.

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4. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no, I do not mean the newer Grinch movie with Jim Carrey. Hats off to him for his incredible performance and I appreciate the aspect of the newer film that delves into the Grinch’s backstory, but let me be clear in what I’m about to write: there is only one Grinch and that is the original 1966 cartoon “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” It is the O.G., it is classic when it comes to holiday flicks and it is the best. Anyway, now that we have that out of the way, definitely watch this movie this Christmas. Like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” this one is on the shorter side, so you can definitely make it through watching it. This cartoon is one of my favorites. It has the Grinch, a character virtually everyone has heard of, and who is so famous that his name has become a noun. “You’re being a Grinch.” “Oh, he’s a real Grinch this time of year.” For all those Charles Dickens fans out there, he's like Ebenezer Scrooge, but he’s green. The cartoon sees the Grinch, a creature who hates Christmas, try to sabotage a nearby village’s Christmas festivities by sneaking around on Christmas Eve and stealing all the villagers’ — the Whos of Whoville — decorations, belongings and presents, all in an attempt to ruin Christmas since he hates the holiday so much. Without spoiling the movie – but many of you have seen this, I imagine – the Grinch realizes that people can still enjoy Christmas without material goods and belongings, and just be content and grateful with the people around them. Let’s just say – and if you get this, you get this – your heart will grow three sizes when watching this cartoon. It’s beautiful, and again, one of those classic movies that gets you in the spirit and teaches you a lesson during the holidays. 

5. “Elf”

I was torn with this fifth recommendation. I easily could’ve gone with “Frosty the Snowman,” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” or “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” or “Home Alone,” but we all need a little silliness and laughter during this time of year, and “Elf” checks those boxes. And, let’s remember. These are five movies I think you all should watch this season. This is not necessarily my top five ranking of all-time, even though these would all for sure make a longer list. Let’s just say that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” If you know, you know. Anyway, whether you like Will Ferrell or not, this is one of his best films. It follows Buddy, a human who was raised as an elf. Having figured out that he doesn’t belong in the North Pole, Buddy the Elf ventures out to New York City to find his biological father. It’s a sweet film, and while there may be silliness, it’s deeper than that. It’s about family, and again, spreading that Christmas magic. This is a funny flick that is definitely worth a watch. I had a friend say recently that they thought “Elf” was overrated and cringy, and I was shocked. I think everyone should see this movie and see just why it has become a classic over the years. The amount of times I find myself saying “Bye Buddy, hope you find your dad,” in my regular day-to-day life is quite high. Again, if you know, you know. 

Honorable mention: Any Hallmark Christmas movie

I know, I know. Jimmy, those movies are predictable, and they are cringy. Well, I happen to love them, and I will make it known that one of my many dreams in life is to be in a Hallmark Christmas movie. They’re all two hours, they all have happy endings, they all make you feel warm and I love watching them with my family. In fact, when I was at Urgent Care a month ago and the room I was in waiting to get my blood pressure taken was playing one of these movies, I knew all was right in the world. I’m not ashamed to say when the Hallmark Channel runs these movies in the summer, during their “Christmas in July” segment, I watch them then, too. Give them a chance, is all I’m saying. I think you’ll end up getting hooked and loving them like I do, despite their similar plot lines and predictable endings. 

I hope everyone has a fantastic winter break. Make sure to give the people you love some hugs this holiday season. 

Contact sports editor Jimmy James at jimmy.james@richmond.edu 

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