No. 10: “A Christmas Carol”
In this 1938 production, Reginald Owen’s Ebenezer Scrooge set the standard for all cranks to come. Impress your friends with the knowledge that three members of the Cratchit family are played by the Lockharts, a real-life family of character actors including Gene, Kathleen and a teenage June Lockhart, who went on to Hollywood fame as the mom in “Lassie” and “Lost in Space.”
No. 9: Some movies aren’t released—they escape, for instance, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”
Just a merciful 81 minutes of unintentional comedy, “bad” doesn’t even begin to describe this 1964 sci-fi/holiday smash-up. Your nephew makes better movies on his iPad. But sometimes, bad is so bad it’s good. Of the thousands of films that have been produced since 1964, this one still reeks as one of the absolute worst ever. You’ve read the title, so you can’t say you weren’t warned.
No. 8: “A Christmas Carol”
No one did malevolence better than the late Oscar winner George C. Scott as the miser Ebenezer Scrooge—so much so, you wonder if he always was acting. This 1984 version captures all the grit and pathos of Charles Dickens’ Victorian-era classic.
No. 7: “Miracle on 34th Street”
Just like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, the 1947 original is still the best. Six-year-old scene-stealer Natalie Wood manages to be both wisecracking and adorable as the little girl who befriends Santa. There’s no better on-screen St. Nick than Edmund Gwen, the man thought to be crazy for claiming that he’s the real deal.
No. 6: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
If you still laugh at all the same parts, you already know why this home-for-the-holidays comedy makes the list.
No. 5: “Bad Santa”
When this comedy was in theatrical release, people came out of the theater wearing dark glasses. No one wanted to be seen enjoying this dark-but-hilarious spoof. And yet, it manages to convey the messages that it’s OK to be different and about our need for human connection. Warning: Just because “Santa” is in the title doesn’t mean your kid should watch it.
No. 4: “Home Alone”
It’s hard to believe this family holiday comedy is 25 years old. It underscores the value of family and neatly pokes fun at every kid’s fantasy of how much fun there is to be had when the folks are gone. You can’t help but root for 8-year-old Kevin McAllister when the adventure doesn’t go according to plan.
No. 3: “A Christmas Story”
Becoming a sweater mummy? Sticking your tongue on a metal pole in winter? Everyone older than 40 who grew up in the Midwest has been there, done that. Finagling for a toy despite monumental odds? A cranky dad and a crooked Christmas tree? Check and check. There’s a reason why this movie is on 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve. It still rings true.
No. 2: “White Christmas”
This 1954 musical is based on a hit song written by Irving Berlin and stars Bing Crosby, the crooner who made it famous. “White Christmas“ isn’t meant to deliver a message or be taken seriously. It’s a fantasy about innocent romance, happy endings, song-and-dance, nostalgia and what Christmas would be like if the world were perfect and all your shopping were done.
No. 1: “It’s A Wonderful Life”
This tale about small-town life, sacrifice, family and friendship still resonates. Snowy Bedford Falls has become cultural shorthand for the American belief that good always triumphs over greed, and righteousness is more valuable than riches. Every time this film is played on TV, an angel gets its wings.