Presenting the definitive Top 5 Christmas Movies of All Time

A Christmas Story, and Christmas Vacation each make a case for top flick


One of the most enjoyable aspects of the holiday season is sitting around the flatscreen watching those great Christmas movies.

Indeed, so many great ones. But we’re Americans. We want to know which is the best one of all time. So I turned to the arbiter of all knowledge, Google, and asked that very question. There were several lists presented, and I found the lists very inspirational. Collectively, the lists inspired me to think: Are you kidding me?

Consider the first list under my Google search for the Best Christmas Movies of all time: Of their top five movies, three were black and whites, two of which I’ve never seen, one was a cartoon, and the only “live action” color movie was “The Muppets Christmas Carol.” What?

The lists also inspired me to come up with my own Top 5 Christmas movies of all time and, during this season of giving, to share them with you.

For starters, here are what can’t be on my list. No cartoons, no black and whites (sorry Jimmy Stewart), nothing flat-out sad (it is the season of joy after all). Forget those various “Home Alones” (OK, the first one wasn’t bad), any of those Tim Allen “Santa Clause” movies (stick to TV, Tim) or any of those “classics” on Lifetime or Hallmark.

That all said, with all that limiting criteria, I submit the definitive list of the Top 5 Christmas Movies of All Time.

The top two are pretty clear, are they not: “A Christmas Story” and “Christmas Vacation.” The only real debate is which one is the best.

I’ll go with (Little Drummer Boy roll here, please ...)

No. 1: A Christmas Story (1983). If you haven’t seen this gem of a movie — or worse, if you don’ like it — well, Iran called and your house is ready.

So many kernels of excellence in this little masterpiece — a boy’s intense desire for a BB gun, conquering neighborhood bullies, the tongue on the frozen pole, the innocence of life just after WWII — but if there is a part that boys (and probably girls too) of any period can relate to, it is when Ralphie accidentally utters the big “F” word in front of his dad after spilling the lugnuts when they’re out changing the flat tire. (“Fffffuuuuudddddgggeeee .... only I didn’t say fudge.’)

Perfect cast, perfect writing. Just perfect.

Movie moral: Watch your mouth, and watch your tongue.

No. 2 : Christmas Vacation (1989)

I doubt Chevy Chase figured this holiday flick would be the role he’d be most identified with when it was made back in the George Bush One era. There were two funny movies made in the “Vacation” series, the first and this one.

Like most great comedies with “Saturday Night Live” alums, it’s packed with memorable catch-lines. My favorite is a subtle one: when Clark tells the kids around the dinner table on Christmas Eve that radar picked up Santa somewhere around New Jersey. Then that awesome creation of steel-plate-in-the-head Americana known as Cousin Eddie looks at him and asks, “You serious, Clark?”

To this day, when I say something in front of my 6-year-old that I shouldn’t, her mom will often utter back, “You serious, Clark?”

Movie moral: If you can give a Christmas bonus, give it.

No. 3: Elf (2003). It’s funny enough to see a 6-4 man in a green elf costume walking around New York City, especially if he’s wearing that perpetually goofy, trusting face Will Ferrell has perfected. Throw in some good work from Bob Newhart and Brian Piccolo (I mean James Caan), the best snowball fight ever filmed, and Ferrell drinking maple syrup like it’s Pepsi Cola ... well, I’ll watch it, and have, about 20 times or so.

Plus, the movie includes one of the early roles of Zooey Deschanel, and let’s face it, it’s fun to say, even fun to type, Zooey Deschanel.

Movie moral: Even if your son wears a green elf suit, you’d better love him.

No. 4: Love Actually (2003) - Every known actor in Britain was apparently in this holiday classic, an ensemble movie with many vignettes that all eventually wrap together, if not loosely.

“Love Actually” is very funny, very sad, but mostly very human. My favorite of the vignettes stars the often-jilted (recently left his wife because she was having an affair with his brother) writer played by Colin Firth (this in spite of the fact that Firth is my wife’s English boyfriend, replacing her last English boyfriend, Hugh Grant, who, being a British actor, was mandated by Parliament to also be in this movie).

Anyway, Colin falls for this new Portuguese assistant. A language barrier makes it so they can’t really speak to each other, so their courtship is primarily played out through facial expressions. He realizes he loves her, learns a bit of Portuguese, then goes to her hometown restaurant where she’s working to propose marriage. With the crowded restaurant entranced by his broken Portuguese proposal (subtitles note that he’s really saying things like “I wishes to wedded to you”). Then she, in just as bad English, answers yes to roaring cheers from the restaurant faithful. He says to her, “You learned English?” She sweetly replied, “Just in cases.”

I can’t hear the common phrase “just in case” without thinking of this movie, and adding the “s.”

Movie moral: If my wife ever goes to England, I’m toast.

No. 5: “Scrooged” (1988) - OK, so I may be a bit heavy on my “Saturday Night Live” alums, but this modern (well, now 24 years old) remake of the classic earns its place among the best Christmas movies. The great Bill Murray, still at the top of his comic game, is in just about every scene, and consistently kicks thespian butt. No one made the self-obsessed smart-aleck more funny than Bill Murray in his prime. Best scene? Probably the star getting the crud beat out of him by the Ghost of Christmas Present, played by the tiny, angelic, fairy-like, squeaky-voiced Carol Cane.

Watch it again, and maybe this time enjoy it with a few cups of correctly spiced eggnog or Tom and Jerry. Sure, it’s a bit dark and gritty, but good wins out in the end -- and that, of course, means he realizes what’s important in life: people and not things.

Movie moral: God bless us, each and every one.

Tony Ahern is the publisher of the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at 541-447-6205.




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