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Ten films to get in the holiday spirit

Katie Pryor
Assoc. Arts & Culture Editor

Everyone knows that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the time when people go shopping, see family members, and decorate the house. Christmas is also a time when television channels like ABC Family and the Hallmark Channel show a slew of Christmas movies that range from amazing to terrible. This list will count down the top 10 Christmas movies that make people laugh, cry, and bring on the holiday spirit.

10. “The Family Man” (2000)
Nicolas Cage plays a Wall Street playboy who, after a chance encounter with a supernatural being (Don Cheadle), starts to live in an alternate universe where he sees what could have been if he had married his former sweetheart (Tea Leoni), became a family man and lived a humble life as a tire salesman. No, he no longer has the New York penthouse or the profitable job, but he realizes what he had missed out by leaving his girlfriend and studying in London to become an investment banker. Think of it as a sentimental, modernized combination of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol.”

9. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
This may seem repetitive as it was on a Halloween movie list a few issues back, and people may argue that this movie is more of a Halloween movie, but it is also just as much a Christmas movie. Tim Burton himself even said that one of his biggest inspirations for this film was Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Besides, it would be an insult to Burton’s creative genius to limit this to a Halloween movie. In this imaginative and irresistible 1993 stop-motion cult favorite, Pumpkin King Jack Skellington becomes bored with the same Halloween routine, and wanders into Christmastown, where he plots to kidnap the real “Sandy Claws” and do his own misguided spin on the holiday.

8. “Love, Actually” (2003)
This British holiday rom-com chronicles the overlapping lives of loves of several Londoners in the weeks leading up to Christmas, including a recently widowed father (Liam Neeson) and his lovelorn young son, an author (Colin Firth) who falls in love with his Portuguese housekeeper, and even the new Prime Minister of the U.K. (Hugh Laurie) who falls in love with one of his staff members. It works as both a hilarious romantic comedy and as a heartwarming, quirky holiday movie that shows that, even during the holidays, love comes in all shapes and sizes. Keira Knightley, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson also make up the star-studded cast.

7. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)
Most people can relate to the annoyance of having to face certain family members during the holiday season, and that’s what this outrageous slapstick comedy is all about. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and the rest of the Griswold clan prepare and deal with the pains of Christmas celebration with the in-laws and the mishaps that come along with them. A real seasonal treat that highlights all the dysfunction as well as the heart of the Christmas season.

Big Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Ellen Vera shine in “White Christmas.”
Big Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Ellen Vera shine in “White Christmas.”

6. “White Christmas” (1954)
Two war buddies (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye), who are now a song-and-dance duo, team up with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general. A delightful blend of romance, comedy, song and dance routines and plenty of holiday cheer, with memorable songs such as “Snow,” “Sisters,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” and, of course, “White Christmas.” The funniest scene in the movie involves Crosby and Kaye playfully lip-syncing to the sister act’s “Sisters” routine.

Buddy the elf (Will Ferrell) brings laughs and mayhem to New York City in his quest to meet his birth father in the 2003 film “Elf.”
Buddy the elf (Will Ferrell) brings laughs and mayhem to New York City in his quest to meet his birth father in the 2003 film “Elf.”

5. “Elf” (2003)
“Saturday Night Live” alum Will Ferrell took a break from adult comedy to do more family-friendly fare as Buddy, an inept, childish man who was raised by Santa’s elves, who goes to New York City to reunite with his birth father. A sweet, feel-good, amusing film, as well as one of the most quotable films in recent history. Who could forget Buddy’s excitement at Santa coming to the department store, exclaiming “Santa! I know him!,” or getting angry at the fake department store Santa and telling him, “You sit on a throne of lies”? One of Ferrell’s funniest roles, as well as his most charming.

4. “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947)
In this underrated classic, Cary Grant plays a suave angel who answers the prayer of a disgruntled bishop who is praying for guidance in the funding of a new cathedral he and his wife want to build. However, his guidance has less to do with fundraising and more to do with helping the bishop, his wife and the people around them, and he touches their lives in a positive way. The theme of Christmas isn’t quite as obvious as some of the other movies, but still carries a timeless message, coupled with a strong cast of characters.

3. “A Christmas Carol” (all versions)
There have been so many takes on Charles Dickens’ unforgettable tale of a greedy, bitter old man who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and learns the true meaning of Christmas that it was impossible to choose just one. The versions from the 1930s and 1950s still hold up very well, and “The Muppets Christmas Carol” and “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” with Jim Carrey both have their own unique charm. Disney’s “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” with Scrooge McDuck manages to cram the whole story into 30 minutes while still leaving an emotional impact, which is quite impressive.

“A Christmas Story” chronicles Ralphie’s desire to get a Red Rider B.B. gun.
“A Christmas Story” chronicles Ralphie’s desire to get a Red Rider B.B. gun.

2. “A Christmas Story” (1983)
Who could forget Ralphie’s obsession over the Red Ryder B.B. gun, his father’s infatuation over the sexy leg lamp, or the fact that everyone around him keeps telling him “You’ll shoot your eye out”? This film highlights all kids’ excitement to the buildup to Christmas day, the shenanigans they get into in and out of school during the wintertime, and how they remember those times when they grow up, as this story is narrated by Ralphie as an adult. While it didn’t exactly break box offices records when it first came out, its popularity has grown over the years and it is considered a holiday classic.

1. “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)
This film follows the life of George Bailey (James Stewart), a lifelong citizen of Bedford Falls who doesn’t realize how precious he is to others. He saved his brother’s life when they were both young, sacrificed his education for his brother’s, kept the family-run savings and loan afloat, protected the town from a greedy banker, and married his childhood sweetheart. When he contemplates suicide one Christmas Eve after he loses a huge chunk of money, he is saved by his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class (Henry Travers), who shows him what the world, and his family and friends, would be like he was never born. “It’s A Wonderful Life” is uplifting, powerful and beautiful film that shows the difference that one person can make in the world and that everyone on earth is important.