Every year around the holidays, Hollywood decides they are going to do us all a major solid and pump out a few festive films to make our Halloween candy a little sweeter, Thanksgiving dinner a little more filling, and Christmas presents more shiny and fun. Most of these movies are really, really awful, but some of them are downright unwatchable. However, over the years, there have been a few gems sift through the cracks of boring, mediocre cheesiness. I've put together a list of seven of my favorite holiday movies that I feel are the most enjoyable. And trust me, there ain't many...
Kevin McCallister became iconic for all kids in the late 80's/early 90's. He was a voice for those of us who are "tweeners" of Generation X and Y. He was smart, independent, sassy. He took on his bully brother. He took on his creepy uncle. He took on his fear of the furnace in the basement and of his terrifying neighbor. He took on the "Wet Bandits". Kevin was, for me, exactly how I wanted adults to see me as a kid. I'm not sure if he actually gave us more of a voice, but I definitely felt like he did. The script was clever, the story was solid, and there was just enough sappiness to keep the "reason for the season" theme relevant without being dominant. I watched it again this week with my 12-year-old daughter, and it still held up for her and for me.
One thing you will quickly learn about me, if you don't know already, is that I could possibly be the biggest geek fora really good "Bad A" movie. And there are few guys that have pulled it off as well as Bruce Willis as "John McClane". Any guy that can make the phrase "Yippee-ki-yay" that cool is going to be at the top of the list. Walking across the broken glass bare foot. Sending a "Ho Ho Ho" message in blood on the dead thug's sweat shirt. Talking "I killed your brother" smack to the baddest of the gang while he's LOSING the fight. Just writing this and thinking about all of these classic moments, I'm smiling. And for those that might be questioning whether or not this is an actual "holiday movie", Argyle listening to "Christmas in Hollis" by Run DMC in one of the movies opening scenes should seal it for you. If you still don't agree, then as Johnny McClane would tell you, "Lets see you take THIS under advisement, jerkweed."
This is easily the most quoted movie in my household. And it doesn't even matter if it's Christmas, July, at Wal-Mart, or in church, we wear the script of Christmas Vacation out! In my opinion, it's the best of the Vacation series. Cousin Eddy (Randy Quaid) is on his "A" game. Chevy Chase's physical comedy, which I believe is typically underrated, is impossible to overlook in this one, and it's at it's best. The demented, nutty old people are perfect caricatures of folks we've spent holidays with. If your family does not have a tradition to watch this one during the holidays, then this is the year to start one.
Here at Walk Softly Films, we love movies (obviously), but our go-to guy for the "horror" genre is definitely Todd. As youngsters, when we would all make the trek to Lexington to go to the comic book shop, Scott and I would go to pick up missing issues of our favorite super hero series. Todd would go to find any back issues of Fangoria that he may have missed somewhere down the line. The guy loves the scary stuff. I tell you that to say this: John Carpenter's Halloween is Todd's favorite horror film. And it's not hard to see why. Michael Myers is the perfect antogonist for a slasher movie: He's not over-the-top, fantastical like Freddy, not "un-killable" to the point of being silly like Jason. He's just realistic enough to be relative. But unstoppable enough to be frightening. Plus, he made a Bill Shatner mask scary. Ok, that's not a big stretch. Which makes it even MORE realistic...
A CHRISTMAS STORY
I'm going to admit it, and I bet I'm not the only one, but on Christmas Eve, when TBS plays a 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story, our TV is tuned in to every waking moment of it. And we own the DVD. And there are those moments in the movie when, no matter what is going on around us, we all stop and watch it for the seventh or eighth time of the day. It never gets old. Every character in this movie is perfectly cast, and there are not very many movies you can say that about, period. But if/when I do a list of my favorite all-time cinematic characters, it will be tough to leave Darren McGavin's portrayal of "The Old Man" off the list. Everything he does throughout the entire film makes me smile, at least. If you have never done it, just take one run through of this movie and only watch him. Incredible performance in a holiday classic.
Hey, nobody said that the holiday movie had to take place during the typical "holiday season". I am a big Bill Murray fan. When he is at his Bill Murray best, it's two hours of bliss for me. And he brings it in Groundhog Day.
When the guy can take a scene where he commits a murder-suicide with a groundhog and make it not only enjoyable, not only funny, but stinking hilarious, then you know you are going to get a Murray blizzard of goodness. He makes you run the gambit of feelings toward his character,"Phil", where you hate him in the beginning, then feel indifferent towards him, then sympathize with him, until you finally love him. That's not easy to do in 100 minutes, and he makes it look pretty effortless. Add to that the fact that the script, although corny at times, delivers a solid, original, creative story, and we now have a reason to celebrate what is perhaps the most ridiculous holiday on the calendar.
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
There are only a handful of movies that I can honestly say have made enough impact on me to be "life altering" or "life changing". The Passion of the Christ is at the top of that short list. Before Mel Gibson went nuts, he delivered what historians (Christian and non-Christian) have said is an accurate depiction of what Jesus final day was probably like in graphic detail. And personally, as a believer, this film impacted me on so many different levels. We have made it an Easter tradition to watch it at my house, because I constantly want and need to be reminded of what those last hours entailed for Jesus so that it doesn't become generic or distant. And as much as I tried to relate to it before, it became a thousand times more real to me after seeing The Passion.
So there you have it. My top 7 budding roses in the boquet of weeds of holiday movies sprouting from the crapdom of the overdone and underthought. Let me know what you think. Disagree with any of them? Have any that you feel should be on the list? Use the comments section freely. Oh, and don't worry, a list of the worst of the worst is coming soon. So stay tuned.