From the December 2013 issue of TheBlaze Magazine:
One of the many great things about the Christmas season is the entertainment—old and new—available for families. Whether you prefer recordings of favorite Christmas songs from Nat King Cole and Perry Como or Mariah Carey and CeeLo, TV specials you grew up with as a kid or new specials created for your kids, or holiday movies in black and white, Technicolor or 3-D, there's always something for everyone looking to submerge themselves in the spirit of the season.
This year, the editors of TheBlaze teamed up to bring you the 15 best Christmas movies for your family. We had just a few rules: It had to have been a "Christmas-y" movie shown in theaters (no TV specials), couldn't be rated worse than PG (keep it clean) and had to have a hook for families to actually want to see it (just having a good message wasn't enough, it also had to be worth watching).
#15: Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
Starring: Jim Varney, Billie Bird, Douglas Seale (full cast)
STORY: The 1980s' favorite bumbling neighbor, Ernest P. Worrell, helps an aging Santa Claus seeking to retire find a chosen replacement. When Santa is imprisoned and his magic bag is compromised, Ernest must save the day.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Ernest's unwavering faithfulness and innocence leads not only to comical scenes but also to heartwarming lessons about loyalty, friendship and the child-like wonder that permeates Christmastime. "KnowhutImean?"
#14: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara (full cast)
STORY: The king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, stumbles into Christmas Town, is moved by the spirit of Christmas and decides the residents of his hometown need to get in on the act.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Tim Burton's musical tale celebrates the generous spirit of Christmas with a lesson on being yourself using great humor, award-winning stop-motion cinematography and a fabulous score from Danny Elfman.
#13: Scrooge (1970)
Starring: Albert Finney, Alec Guinness, Edith Evans (full cast)
STORY: In a performance for the ages—though its not nearly as well known as other tellings of "A Christmas Carol"—Albert Finney brilliantly transforms Ebenezer Scrooge from super-grump into the giddy Scrooge of Christmas morning. The fact that it's a rare musical interpretation of the holiday story makes it even more powerful.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The music from the film is unforgettable, the redemption story is, of course, powerful, and the film itself is very well done. The whole thing is worth watching just for Alec Guinness's loopy performance as Jacob Marley.
#12: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon (full cast)
STORY: Everyone in the city of Whoville embraces Christmas, except for the Grinch—until he experiences the ultimate transformation of the heart.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Dr. Seuss' classic is brought to life complete with delightful rhymes, colorful imagery and the always adorable Max the dog. The Grinch's lesson about love is the icing on the cake.
#11: Home Alone (1990)
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern (full cast)
STORY: This is what happens when a mischievous 8-year-old boy is left to his own devices to defend his family’s home against a pair of hooligan crooks during the Christmas season.
WHY WE LOVE IT: What young child hasn’t envisioned what life could be like without rules? While the antics that young Kevin McCallister employs to protect his home against two thugs, using everything available from a B.B. gun to a tarantula, the true message of the movie showcases how everything is better when you can share it with your family.
#10: Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Starring: Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Hal Smith (full cast)
STORY: Mickey Mouse and his fellow Disney all-stars offer their version of Dickens' 1843 masterpiece.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The Oscar-nominated short film isn't just a Disneyesque portrayal of Scrooge and his ghosts, it serves as a faithful adaptation of a life-changing story that's accessible for children.
#9: A Christmas Story (1983)
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin (full cast)
STORY: Ralphie dreams of getting a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas—he's obsessed with it. Now he has to convince his parents, who are sure he'll "shoot his eye out."
WHY WE LOVE IT: The movie portrays what it's like, through the life of an Indiana 9-year-old, to grow up in middle America in the late 1930s or early 1940s (or even today)—dealing with family, friends, bullies and teachers—all while wishing for what every kid wishes for: that perfect present from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning.
#8: The Polar Express (2004)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Peter Scolari, Michael Jeter (full cast)
STORY: A young boy on the verge of giving up his belief of Santa Claus boards the Polar Express train on Christmas Eve. What unfolds is an astonishing journey to the North Pole that teaches a lesson on the spirit of Christmas.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The animation does an incredible job of bringing this beloved story to life. The kids experience action, adventure and mystery all in one night—reminding us that Christmas is truly a magical time of year for children.
#7: The Santa Clause (1994)
Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Eric Lloyd (full cast)
STORY: After accidentally killing the real Santa Claus, a divorced dad finds himself as the reluctant replacement.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This movie cleverly details Tim Allen's transformation into Kris Kringle, everything from sprouting white facial hair to massive weight gain to having a desire to wear red and green. Families who have been touched by divorce will also be encouraged by the happy ending of this movie.
#6: The Nativity Story (2006)
Starring: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Oscar Isaac (full cast)
STORY: The Biblical account of Jesus’ birth comes to life in this film that faithfully adapts the account found in Matthew and Luke.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This film brings to life the real threat of danger of the times—reminding us how very revolutionary Jesus' message of peace and love truly were. Christmas movies typically avoid any mention of Christ at all, but this film is one that families seeking to remember the true reason for the holiday will love.
#5: Elf (2003)
Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner (full cast)
STORY: Buddy, a human raised by elves at the North Pole who finds out that he's really a human, sets out from Santa's workshop to New York City to find his dad who is on the "naughty list."
WHY WE LOVE IT: The quotes—"Smiling's my favorite"; "I'm a cotton-headed ninny-muggins." The humor—an elf-costumed man treks through Manhattan, finds his dad and becomes a part of his family. The morals—everyone wants to be loved. Christmas is not about physical gifts, it's about family. And this movie highlights that journey in one of the funniest ways possible.
#4: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Starring: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire (full cast)
STORY: In this musical depiction of "A Christmas Carol," Jim Henson's magical Muppets play second-string to Michael Caine's performance as Dickens' skinflint.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The original songs and scoring are tremendous. Caine's turn on the miserly Scrooge is masterful. And the brilliance and humor of the Muppet casting defies description. (Gonzo as Charles Dickens; Miss Piggy as Mrs. Bob Cratchit; Statler and Waldorf as the Marley brothers? C'mon, it doesn't get any better.)
#3: White Christmas (1954)
Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen (full cast)
STORY: WWII Army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to create a hugely successful song-and-dance duo after the war. They and the Haynes Sisters put together a Christmas spectacular in a Vermont inn owned by the men's former commanding officer.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The acting and choreography are great. The Christmas spirit shared by all is, of course, prevalent. But it comes as no surprise that the music of the film is what everyone remembers: The movie's built around Crosby's hit version of "White Christmas."
#2: It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore (full cast)
STORY: A man on the verge of losing it all and taking his own life is visited by an angel who shows him what life would be like if he'd never existed. And it's not a pretty picture.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Filmed in the 1940s, it's family friendly and contains a ton of moral messages, from sticking out rough situations, self sacrifice, and how communities can come together and help each other in tough times to how much worth each life actually carries.
#1: Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
Starring: Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, John Payne (full cast)
STORY: The Macy’s store Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, says he is the real Santa Claus—a claim he eventually has to defend in a court of law, which sends the locals into an uproar.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Though it was first filmed in 1947, this story has continued to be an American favorite for generations. Families love seeing the no-nonsense Doris Walker and her daughter Susan let down their defenses to experience the true gifts of Christmas: hope and love.
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
- Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
- Christmas With the Kranks (2004)
- Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)