A few weeks ago I suggested you taking part in this tiny Christmas in Genres initiative by writing short film recommendations. Needless to say, I was not completely sure that people would like this idea, so I am very happy that eventually we made it. Moreover, contributors were collaborative, enthusiastic and helpful. Thank you very much for participating!
In brief, a contributor picked a genre and advised a Christmas film under this or that genre. It is totally awesome that there is no genre missing. A few people helped me out by tackling two recommendations, when the flow of contributors faded away. I appreciate that a lot.
Another point is that I tried to avoid overlap but it was not totally successful because we have one movie recommended under two genres. I apologize for that and I hope you will still love this post that celebrates the variety of Christmas films.
Before proceeding to the Christmas in Genres celebration, I would like to share with you those motion pictures that were recommended but couldn't get into the ultimate list because their genres were taken before people that suggested them knew about it. Thus, your Honorable Mentions are: The Family Stone (2005), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, and it was suggested twice), The Proposition (2005), Rocky IV (1985).
However, the biggest star of overall recommendations, which actually got into the list, is Die Hard (1988). I guess more than ten people wanted to recommend it and it was oh so difficult to say that "no, it had been taken at the very beginning". There is no wonder this Xmas classic is so loved by film buffs.
Here goes our Christmas in Genres list. The recommendations are written by contributors.
Ruth Maramis aka @FlixChatter from Flix Chatter recommends Batman Returns (1992): Set during the Christmas season in Gotham, there's a scene of Batman and Catwoman dancing together at a Christmas party... that's one of my favorite parts of the movie. It's interesting that it's a masque ball but Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are the only ones who aren't in disguise and she said something about tired of wearing a mask. I think both had a hunch by then who their real identities are. Here's the scene. This is my favorite Batman movie before the Nolan's versions came out. It's quite dark and the setting is very eerie and atmospheric. Michael Keaton is pretty good as the tormented hero, and he's got a nice chemistry with the sultry Michelle Pfeiffer with her breathy voice and slinky figure. The villains are a bit too freaky for my taste but they somehow work under Tim Burton's direction. Great set pieces combined with an excellent score by Danny Elfman, I highly recommend this one for any fan of superhero movies.
Ruth Richards aka @RuthElizabeth_R from …let's be splendid about this… recommends Batman Returns (1992): Batman (Michael Keaton) is back to protect Gotham once again in the holiday season, this time from the likes of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), Penguin (Danny DeVito) and businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). The last time Burton directed the franchise, it has all the marks of a Burton film. DeVito is a bit over the top as the Penguin, but Pfeiffer steals the show as Catwoman and the film is a fun ride!
Maria Sofia Teixeira from FILMflare recommends Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983): It is the kind of film that should be reborn with every new generation — I know I'll make sure my children watch it — and it is certainly something many of us associate with Christmas. Only recently I learned that it is actually an adaptation of the Charles Dickens novella, A Christmas Carol, from 1843. Being a Dickens fan myself, it only made this film the more special for me. Though certain parts of it scared the hell out of me (like the graveyard scene, or Goofy's ghost, and that giant!), I'll always associate Mickey's Christmas Carol with something rather sad, but mostly warm and beautiful — just like Christmas. Whenever I think of scarcity, charity, compassion, such recurring themes for us this year, I recall Mickey's dinner, sharing even the tiniest pea between his children and wife. It's a bittersweet story with a strong moral tale behind it that reminds us of what Christmas is really about. Perfect for that magical evening, and fit for the whole family to watch. So gather around the fireplace with comfy clothes and warm drinks, and spend a wonderful 24 minutes with the best of Disney — I know that's what I'll be doing this year.
Meredith from Forever Classics recommends Nativity Story (2006): It's usually overlooked since it doesn't have the qualities and elements most people expect from a Christmas film, however, it is a solid and accurate depiction of the birth of Christ that I think most people would enjoy viewing over the holidays.
Chip Lary from Tips from Chip recommends Miracle on 34th Street (1947): This movie is really heartwarming. The American Film Institute put this film in their Top 10 Most Inspiring Movies list. It was interesting for me to see that even in 1947 people had a cynical attitude about Christmas and the “bother” of the holiday season. It’s funny because almost universally people remember the Christmas holidays of the past to be more innocent than the current ones, regardless of what decade they are looking back on. If you have never seen this Christmas movie, then you owe it to yourself to do so. If you have seen it before, then why not see it again? (You can read Chip's full review here.)
Cherokee from Feminising Film recommends Jingle All the Way (1996): Long before the days of internet shopping existed, hapless father Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) comes to the daunting realisation that he has failed to get his son, Jamie (a pre-Attack of the Clones Anakin), the hottest toy of the year - Turbo Man. Knowing that his son and wife, Liz (Rita Wilson), are going to be let down once again by his hopelessness, on the eve of Christmas, Howard goes about the task of finding the sold-out toy. On his desperate quest to buy Turbo Man, Howard finds a nemesis in the local postman, Myron (Sinbad), comes across a crazed-group of dodgy Santas, and is practically accused of paedophilia. Definitely one for the kids.
Emil Ekelund aka @Esh_Kebab from A Swede Talks Movies recommends The Ice Harvest (2005): An intriguing blend of comedy and noir, The Ice Harvest follows lawyer Charlie (John Cusack) during one Christmas Eve in small town Wichita. Having just stolen 2 million dollars from his boss, he now has to deal with a ruthless partner-in-crime, an enticing strip club owner and potential love interest, an alcoholic husband of his ex-wife, a persistent cop, and the thugs sent to get the money back, all until he can make his break and get away from the whole place. This is not a happy white Christmas, but a cold and rainy one. Cynicism runs deep and the whole movie has a somber tone inbetween the laughs. Funny and suspenseful, and well worth checking out.
Leith Aitken (@LeithAitken) from Ramble Film recommends Death in Santaland (2007): It's about a foiled school shooting in the town of North Pole, Alaska. It's not the happiest documentary but it shows all things aren't jolly in the hometown of the world's jolliest character.
Stevee Taylor (@SteveeTaylor) from Cinematic Paradox recommends It's a Wonderful Life (1946): One movie that definitely gets me into the Christmas spirit is It's a Wonderful Life. Made by one of my favourite directors, Frank Capra, and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, this movie is surprisingly quite a depressing one, but it is through that depression that we find that, well, it is a wonderful life. Especially when we see George Bailey (Stewart) running down the street and yelling 'Merry Christmas!' to everyone and everything, before making it home to be with his family. It is just so lovely!
Raghav Modi aka @raghavmodi from Ticker Talks Film recommends A Christmas Story (1983): We've all wanted that one present as a kid which our parents just wouldn't buy for us. The reason why I have always appreciated A Christmas Story is because it has a universal appeal to it. Although it revolves around Christmas time, the hilarious quest of a kid to try and get that one present (a BB gun) holds true for any season and/or any occasion. Funny and heartwarming, A Christmas Story is the perfect film to cosy up with the family and watch on a cold wintery day.
Saifur aka @saifurv recommends Serendipity (2001): A great feel good movie about a couple who accidentally meet again, years after they first met. Fall in love and separate because they are convinced that one day they would end up together.
Sarah Callow aka @sarahjcallow recommends Christmas Holiday (1944): It is a lovely, if not underrated example of the film noir genre, with a strong central performance from Deanna Durbin, playing the classic hooker with a heart of gold. This film is also notable for the villainous performance of Gene Kelly, a strange departure from his light entertainment persona. Christmas Holiday is a gem of a movie, a dark tinged grimy affair that offers a twist on the traditional Christmas story of salvation and new beginnings.
Chip Lary from Tips from Chip recommends Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010): What if the original Santa wasn’t the kind, jolly old man that stories make him out to be? What if the legend got garbled over the thousands of years from when an ancient people first encountered him to when modern people now encounter him again? How would they respond? The Finnish movie Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale answers those questions and more. As the tagline for the movie says, “This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.” The film is a mixture of suspense and dark comedy that is highly entertaining. (Chip has also reviewed this film recently.)
Dan K. aka @ElcrifyingMojo recommends White Christmas (1954): Released 9 years after the end of WW2, White Christmas is a nostalgic tale about a couple of army buddies that team up for a successful song and dance act who end up enlisting a sister duo to help out their former commanding officer in their civilian lives. The velvety voices of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing songs composed by the legendary Irving Berlin, along with dance numbers featuring the graceful Vera Ellen and the comedic talents of Danny Kaye have made this an enduring Christmas classic that is still considered by many to be their favorite holiday movie.
Michael Nazarewycz aka @ScribeHard (his blogs) recommends Black Christmas (1974): What’s the nice thing about genre mash-ups? If a film isn’t necessarily the best in one genre, it might be the best when two genres are combined. Such is the case with Black Christmas (1974). It isn’t the best Christmas movie, and it isn’t the best Horror movie, but it is the best Christmas Horror movie. (That has to count for something, right?) Directed by Bob Clark (who is probably most famous for another Christmas classic, 1983’s A Christmas Story) – Black Christmas tells the tale of a sorority house being terrorized, on the eve of Christmas break, by an obscene phone caller and killer whose is plucking his victims one by one. High tension and unsettling camera work (including shots from the killer’s POV) make this overlooked inspiration for 1978’s Halloween a must-see alternative to the traditional holiday fare.
Maksim Sustretov aka @waynesayonara recommends Joyeux Noël (2005): Based on real events, Joyeux Noël tells a surprisingly inspiring story of Scottish, French and German soldiers who happen to face Christmas in the trenches of WWI. Although you won't see many familiar faces here, it's well-acted and enjoyable to watch (the scene with Diane Kruger singing in front of the soldiers is simply brilliant). Joyeux Noël shows fatuousness and absurdity of war like no other film can. It leaves you invigorated and with a feel-good pacifist mood, which makes it a perfect Christmas film.
@MovieTruth from Movie Truth recommends Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971): What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to visit the magic of Wonka's wonderful Chocolate Factory. Grab your Golden Ticket and join Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas as they take you on a guided tour of the stuff that dreams are made of! "Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple."
Aurora aka @CitizenScreen from Citizen Screen recommends Back for Christmas from Alfred Hitchcock Presents series (1955-1962): There once was a man who made an occasional film that became an occasional classic. He was a suspicious sort. His name was Alfred Hitchcock. He loved Christmas and a warm and fuzzy, family story. Especially if the story had tinges of deceit, doom and murder. Back for Christmas, first broadcast on March 4, 1956 and directed by Sir Alfred himself, is an installment of the popular Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. The premise is simple: a man kills his wife right before leaving for a holiday. He buries her in his basement. She'd promised, before her demise, to be "back for Christmas" to all those who are a part of her life — the maid, the neighbors, the friends. While enjoying his holiday sans wife, he gets word, she left him a special present. Ho-Ho-Ho.
Chris Mason aka @GrumpyDuckUK recommends Love Actually (2003): Love Actually... is… all around. From the opening lines about messages of love from the high-jacked 9/11 planes to the ending montage of hugs and kisses accompanied by The Beach Boys "God Only Knows" this film fills one with a warm glow and sense of well being. The twisting and entwined relationships of the characters keep you guessing and surprises you throughout. Love is the central theme and how it affects us in different ways is explored here, there is falling in, falling out and falling back in love, there is unrequited love, forbidden love, young love, platonic love and every type in-between. In fact I LOVE it and you will too.
Ryan Stuckey from The Tao of Stuckey recommends Santa Clause Conquers the Martians (1964): A ridiculous holiday movie where Martians abduct Santa (plus two kids) from Earth so the children of Mars can experience some actual joy. It's both terrible and terribly entertaining, especially when viewed via the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode.
Brittani Burnham aka @RamblingFilm from Rambling Film recommends The Spirit of Christmas (1992 & 1995): While technically it's two animated shorts, what's important about this film is what it started. This animated film, put together with construction paper, glue, and shot on an 8mm camera no less was made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone while they were students at the University of Colorado. This crude set eventually became the delightfully offensive television phenom known as South Park. I recommended it to anyone who wants to see how South Park began.
Raghav Modi aka @raghavmodi from Ticker Talks Film recommends Deck the Halls (2006): Christmas! The one time of the year when the whole family gets together and spreads the holiday cheer. It's also the one time for the most competitive sport ever played between neighbors. This "sport" has no rules, no boundaries, no expense. It is simply a game of one-upmanship. Ladies and Gents just like Matthew Broaderick and Danny DeVito in Deck the Halls, I expect you to face up and admit that you too are making sure that your house is better decorated and lighted up than your neighbors. So if you want to experience a true Christmas sport. One that takes no prisoners and gives the winner a year of bragging rights, make sure you watch Deck the Halls for some much needed inspiration.
Michael Fulmer aka @Fulmer from The Bad and the Beautiful recommends Die Hard (1988): What says Christmas more than a Joel Silver production with Bruce Willis, a gang of well organized thieves masquerading as terrorists and a score filled with variations on the Ode to Joy? Okay, so Die Hard is not your typical Christmas film per se and the holiday setting is well utilized by screenwriters, Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza who keep the Christmas traditions firmly in the background; thankfully (mostly) avoiding the treacle of the season. This is an action/heist film and director John McTiernan never strays far from the genre canon. (For full review, click here.)
Carlos Salinas aka @FilmSamurai recommends A Midnight Clear (1992): An American Intelligence squad in World War II encounters a squad of German soldiers. Realizing they are isolated from the war, the tension breaks and both sides agree to celebrate Christmas together. It's a deliberate, thoughtful film with a great cast of newcomers at the time such as Gary Sinise and Ethan Hawke.
Michael Nazarewycz aka @ScribeHard (his blogs) recommends Bush Christmas (1947): In the context of movies, whenever I hear “Christmas,” my mind automatically thinks of many things, including a setting that involves cold, snowy weather. And whenever I hear “Western,” my mind automatically thinks of many things, all of which are quite American. What a refreshing surprise, then, to find a movie that not only combines the Christmas and Western genres, but does so with a summertime setting … in Australia. Like the Grinch stole Christmas from the Whos down in Whoville, the thieves in Bush Christmas (1947) steal a family’s horses, casting a pall over the holiday season. But the children of the family won’t be denied their joy, so they take matters into their own hands by trekking out into the Australian bush to recover those horses and save Christmas! This is an adorable family alternative to traditional American Christmas Movie choices. It was also remade in 1983 (featuring the film debut of future Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman).
That's our list! What are your favorite Christmas films? What is your favorite genre, when it comes to Xmas movies? How many films out of this list have you already seen? Are there any recommendations that you would like to watch?