At our house, one of our family traditions at this time of year is watching some of our favourite Christmas movies.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to catch one of our favourites on the television schedule, although this year programmers appear to be favouring a plethora of bad made-for-television Christmas movies over the classics.
Fortunately, we have collected most of our favourites on DVD.
The following is a list of personal favourite Christmas movies I never grow tired of watching. However, I have to admit that rating them in order is difficult and the rankings could change from year to year.
I don’t think you’ll find any surprises on my list, but here goes.
Topping the list would be A Christmas Story from 1983. There’s a timeless nostalgic feel to this movie which is famous for the line, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Although it takes place in post-war America, the scenes from this movie appeal to any generation — the visit to Santa, Christmas school essay, the infamous leg lamp, the soap-in-the-mouth incident, the “double dog dare” tongue-on-the-lamp-post challenge and the awful, embarrassing present from an aunt.
There are no extravagant special effects in this movie and only one cast member, Darren McGavin (cast perfectly as the father) is even known for their work outside this film.
The tale centres on young Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) and his quest for the forbidden present, an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.
It’s classic that keeps getting better.
Next in line is Miracle on 34th Street —- the 1947 black-and-white version, of course.
I’m a sucker for black-and-white movies from the ’40s and ’50s when the story and acting were more important than elaborate sets or special effects. To me, Edmund Gwenn will always be the perfect Santa Claus. Hundreds of actors have played Santa following this movie, but all have paled in comparison. His Santa Claus is the standard by which all other Santas are judged.
Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara and John Payne round out the cast, which is also filled with memorable character actors from this era, including William Frawley, who would later play Lucy Ricardo’s neighbour Fred in I love Lucy.
Third is It’s a Wonderful Life. Many rate this as their top Christmas movie.
Directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed as his wife, this movie teaches us that the richness of life is not measured in monetary terms, but in the impact we make on others.
This is reinforced in the toast by George’s brother in the final, scene: “To George Bailey, the richest man I know.”
Was there ever a better movie angel than angel than Henry Travers as Clarence and better greedy banker than Lionel Barrymore as Hanery F. Potter?
Watch for Ward Bond as Bert the policeman, and Frank Faylen as Ernie the cab driver; were they the inspiration for Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie?
My fourth Christmas favourite is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. No great Christmas message is delivered, but Chevy Chase as hapless Clark Grisworld laughingly destroys every Christmas movie cliche as he hosts the worst family Christmas ever.
Fans of the Big Bang Theory may recognize Johnny Galecki (Leonard) as Clark’s son Rusty.
My fifth favourite may surprise some — The Bishop’s Wife (1947).
The story centres around a bishop, David Niven, who is obsessed with building a cathedral. His prayer for help from above is answered in the form of Cary Grant, as the suave angel Dudley.
Grant, however, soon falls for the charm of the bishop’s wife, Loretta Lynn. In the end, Grant helps Niven see he is neglecting his neglecting his wife and spiritual duties for the sake of material gain — the building of the cathedral.
If you haven’t seen this movie, pick it up. It’s not scheduled to be aired on television this season.
Hamilton Community News Managing Editor Rod Jerred can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HCN_editor.