Holiday movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, 1990
The holidays will soon be upon us, and as the weather gets colder here in Michigan, it's a great time to curl up at home with a glass of hot cocoa and a movie.

Here are my top five best holiday movies, and a few "worst" ones as well.


1) Love Actually, 2003. 135 minutes, rated R.

From IMDb: Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.

There are a lot of movies out nowadays that use this format - lots of stories, but they all relate to each other in some way (see: Valentine's Day, and New Year's Eve, out in theaters soon). Love Actually has a stellar cast as well: Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, and others. It's one of my favorite Christmas/holiday movies, and I own it on DVD so I may watch it again this season.

2) Bad Santa, 2003. 91 minutes, rated R.

Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa
From IMDb: A miserable con man and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, and the security boss discovers the plot.

This is a hilarious film, but definitely not for everyone, especially the younger set. Billy Bob Thornton is Santa, but not your typical one - he swears, drinks, and hates children. He and his partner plan to rob a department store on Christmas Eve like they do every year, but they run into some problems along the way. There have been talks lately of a sequel to this, which hopefully would be as funny as the original.

3A + 3B) Home Alone, 1990, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, 1992. PG & 103 minutes; PG & 120 minutes.

Home Alone: An 8-year-old boy, who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas, has to defend his home against idiotic burglars. (IMDb)

Home Alone 2: One year after Kevin was left home alone and had to defeat a pair of bumbling burglars, he accidentally finds himself in New York City, and the same criminals are not far behind. (IMDb)

I used to LOVE these when I was a kid, growing up in the '90s, and they are still great movies that have stood the test of time. I believe I have Home Alone 2 on VHS somewhere too. Macaulay Culkin played the unfortunate Kevin, who had to catch burglars in the first movie, and, in a twist of fate, reunites with them in the second. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern play the burglars, and these are a great example of slapstick comedies.

4) Arthur Christmas, 2011. Currently playing in theaters. 97 minutes, rated PG.

On Christmas night at the North Pole, Santa's youngest son looks to use his father's high-tech operation for an urgent mission. (IMDb)

I saw this movie at a screening a few weeks ago, and it was hilarious. It shows that it literally takes a village (of elves) to succeed in "Operation Christmas," and even then, it's possible for one child to be overlooked. The 3D was pretty good as well, and my favorite character in it was Grandsanta, the previous Santa, because he was a bit crazy. Arthur has a talented voice cast as well, including James McAvoy and Hugh Laurie.

Will Ferrell in Elf
5) Elf, 2003. 97 minutes, rated PG.

After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity. (IMDb)

I remember Will Ferrell being hilarious in this film, as an elf that wasn't quite like the others. James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Amy Sedaris, and Zooey Deschanel star as well.

Worst holiday movies (aka, watch if you dare):

1) Four Christmases, 2008. 88 minutes, rated PG-13.

A couple struggles to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas Day. (IMDb)

One would think that a film with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn in it would be great ... but no. At 88 minutes, the film drags on far too long, and I almost didn't finish watching the DVD because it just wasn't a funny movie.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Gonzalo, and
Tim Allen in Christmas with the Kranks
2) Christmas with the Kranks, 2004. 99 minutes, rated PG.

With their daughter away, her parents decide to skip Christmas altogether until she decides to come home, causing an uproar when they have to celebrate the holidays at the last minute. (IMDb)

I was excited to watch this film, because it's based on the novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, who consistently writes great books. However, the movie adaptation, with a new name and starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, was just so-so. It's always a disappointment when books don't translate well to the big screen, and I imagine that many of Grisham's fans were let down by the movie.

What holiday movies are your favorite? Are there any that you watch every year?

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