‘Tis the season for everything vibrant (red and white are particularly popular now), delightful (who doesn’t love gingerbread?), and joyful (everyone’s in high spirits, or at least putting on a good show). Each Christmas comes with its set of traditions, and one cherished ritual involves settling down in front of the TV for some festive movie watching.
- Scrooged (1988)
Scrooged stands out as my preferred rendition of A Christmas Carol. Departing from the Dickensian setting, this modernized version opts for humor, featuring Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a Scrooge-like network executive at IBC Television. On Christmas Eve, Frank compels his employees to work on a broadcast of A Christmas Carol while doling out tacky gifts. Frank is the ideal candidate for some Christmas Carol magic to uncover any humanity beneath his slick exterior. The Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen), the Ghost of Christmas Present (the hilarious Carol Kane), and the Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Hammond) face the challenge of convincing Frank to change. Do they succeed? Well, you’ll have to tune in to find out.
- A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (2011)
The beloved White Castle duo, Harold and Kumar, return! Where they go, a drugged-out Neil Patrick Harris is sure to follow closely. Set six years after the original, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas brings the once-close friends back together through a mysterious package, setting them on a festive adventure in and around New York City. For those seeking light-hearted fun and easy laughs, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas delivers, only loosely anchored in reality. It ventures so far out there that it seamlessly incorporates a stop-motion sequence reminiscent of the old Rudolph and Frosty specials.
- Bad Santa (2003)
Bad Santa caters to the cynical and sarcastic souls during the holiday season. Narrating the tale of a con man who masquerades as Santa for an annual con, the movie is fundamentally a redemption story questioning whether a man exploiting Christmas can find salvation. Billy Bob Thornton excels in the central role, and Bad Santa distinguishes itself by being more realistic about the nature of Christmas than typical holiday films. While it may conclude happily, it’s unafraid to acknowledge the holiday’s less savory aspects. And for those wanting more, there’s the slightly inferior but still decent Bad Santa 2.
- Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Whether Bridget Jones’s Diary qualifies as a Christmas movie is up for debate; only part of it unfolds during Christmas, and it’s not overly concerned with Santas, sleigh bells, or candy canes. However, it earns its spot as Christmas serves as a crucial backdrop at both the beginning and end. Who could forget Mark Darcy’s ugly Christmas sweater or that romantic, snow-filled finale? Regardless, who cares about technicalities? This movie is delightful to watch any time of the year. Centered around the romantic tribulations of a young London career woman (played by the very Texan Renee Zellweger), it epitomizes British charm and marked the beginning of Hugh Grant’s second career as cinema’s favorite scoundrel.
- Daddy’s Home 2 (2017)
Following the success of Elf, one might expect Will Ferrell to grace us with a Christmas movie every couple of years. However, that wasn’t the case, and it wasn’t until 2017’s Daddy’s Home 2 that Ferrell returned to the Christmas film scene. Following the triumph of Daddy’s Home, Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg reprised their roles for the sequel. Brad and Dusty, now on good terms, plan to spend the holidays together as a blended family. However, their harmonious plan takes a turn with the arrival of Dusty’s tough father, Kurt (Mel Gibson), and Brad’s overprotective dad, Don (John Lithgow). Now, the four men must navigate coexistence or risk spoiling Christmas for the family.