Our Favorite Holiday Movies and Specials

One of the best parts of the holiday season is all the movies and specials! They help us create fond memories and add more magic to the season. Here are just a few of our staff’s favorites.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Tyrone Giordano, and Savannah Stehlin in The Family Stone (2005). Courtesy of IMDb.

The Family Stone

One of my personal favorite holiday films, The Family Stone tells the story of uptight businesswoman Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) going home with her boyfriend Everett (Dermot Mulroney) at Christmas time to meet his extremely eccentric and progressive family. The more Meredith’s uptight personality clashes with the family’s laidback ways the more Everett begins to question their own relationship. The best part of the movie is the family itself. His parents Sybil (Diane Keaton) and Kelly (Craig T. Nelson) are quietly dealing with a personal tragedy while outwardly being skeptical of the match between their son and his girlfriend. Everett’s sister Amy (Rachel McAdams) is full of snarky judgment towards Meredith while his brother Ben (Luke Wilson) is carefree in his attempts to help Meredith be herself. Being deaf and gay with an African American partner Everett’s brother Thad (Tyrone Giordano) could have been a caricature of diversity but instead neither element feels like it’s trying too hard. The family uses sign language throughout the movie like it is second nature. The only somewhat normal member of the family is Everett’s pregnant sister Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser), who stays more in the background. The Family Stone showcases the importance of acceptance and being true to who you are. This is why it is not only one of my favorite holiday films but a favorite film in general.-Em

Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). Courtesy of IMDb.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

A staple in my household, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a hilarious take on spending the holidays with family and all the chaos that comes with it. The Griswold’s family Christmas involves a lot of frustration, especially for the Clark (Chevy Chase). Sappy Christmas trees, lights not plugged in right, a runaway squirrel, a toxic sewer system, and the “Jelly of the Month” club instead of the a Christmas bonus are just a few of the things that go wrong for him. It’s a great movie to watch with your family friends, or anyone who can relate to the frustrations that can come with the holidays. Beyond all the laughs, the movie shows that no matter what’s happening, no matter the differences you may have, spending time with the ones you love are truly what’s special about the holiday season.- Melanie

Will Ferrell in Elf (2003). Courtesy of IMDb.

Elf

Elf follows the journey of Buddy (Will Ferrell) as he leaves the North Pole and goes to New York to meet his birth father, Walter (James Caan). With a little mix-up one Christmas, Buddy ended up being raised as one of Santa’s elves, but being so much larger than all the other elves made it a bit hard for him to truly fit in. But in New York, Buddy meets his father at his greeting card business, and eventually stays with him, his wife, and son. Buddy also finds himself working in a department store where he meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), and they become quite smitten with each other. The movie really sparks that childlike wonder and Christmas spirit that can often get lost as we grow older. Buddy spreads that Christmas spirit to everyone around him, even showing his dad the true meaning of Christmas. As Buddy says, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear!-Melanie

Drew Barrymore, Keanu Reeves, Googy Gress, and Jill Schoelen in Babes in Toyland (1986) Courte.sy of IMDb

Babes in Toyland

This Christmas musical film, while does not have any holiday songs, has had a significant effect on this time of year. The Toymaker was making toy soldiers for Santa but made too many, after this film came out toy soldiers appeared more as gifts and in parades. Proving that not all Christmas movies need to be Christmas focused to have the holiday spirit. Mary Quite Contrary (Annette Funicello) and Tom (Tommy Sands) are ready to get married when Barnaby (Ray Bolger) hires two men to kill Tom and steal Mary’s sheep. Barnaby does all this, so she will be forced to marry him, things do not go according to plan, and with the help of their friends and the Toymaker (Ed Wynn) Tom makes his way back to May so they can be together.-Sarah

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987) Courtesy of IMDb.

A Garfield Christmas

In this special you see Garfield stray from his usual selfish tendency to being sentimental and forming a bond with Jon’s grandmother. I watch this special every year, and even though I know the moment where the grandmother is sitting by the window in a rocking chair petting Garfield telling him about her husband who is no longer with them, I cry. One of the last lines in the show is what makes it so unique and a classic to watch at any age-Sarah

 

 

 

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)Courtesy of IMDb.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

In his probably most famous stop-motion movie, this Tim Burton film written by Caroline Thompson tells the stories of two famous holidays – with a twist. Halloween Town’s most famous citizen, Jack Skellington, has grown weary of scaring people or filling their dreams to “the brim with fright” and wants a change in his everyday life. He stumbles upon a place called Christmas Town, where everything is brighter, happier and no one is afraid of the monster beneath their bed. He wants to bring the Christmas spirit to his hometown, giving the cheerful holiday a creepy makeover by accident. But not to worry, there is a happy end for both Santa, the children’s favorite holiday and Jack Skellington in sight. With a wonderful soundtrack written by Danny Elfman (who also voiced Jack Skellington), Nightmare before Christmas is the perfect film to watch from October 1 until December 25t (and eccentrically throughout the year). I’ve loved this film since I was a child, because I’ve always had a fondness for creepy things and also loved Christmas. I like the dark, twisted humor combined with Jack’s naivety and Sally’s hope to make everything right again. Of course I also love the songs. They might not be classic Christmas tunes, but they’re part of one of the best original soundtracks in recent film history.- Conny

Rebecca Harrell Tickell in Prancer (1989). Courtesy of IMDb.

Prancer

In this 1989 movie, farm girl Jessica (Rebecca Harrell Tickell,) finds an injured reindeer and nurses it back to health. She is convinced that Prancer, as she calls him, is one of Santa’s reindeer gone missing and she must do whatever it takes to get him home. She knows that he must miss his family and that Santa needs him to deliver all the Christmas presents. She hides Prancer in her family’s barn, feeding him cookies until she can figure out a plan. Her father, John Riggs (Sam Elliott) finds the reindeer and wants to sell him to the town butcher to use as an advertising gimmick. I think of Prancer as the little reindeer that could. He manages to restore the Christmas spirit to the town and to Jessica’s father. He spreads love and joy wherever he goes. This movie always warms my heart no matter how many times I see it. If your Christmas spirit is faltering, make some popcorn and give Prancer a watch. It will bring out the Christmas in even the most grumpiest of Grinches.- Deb

January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Kris Marshall, and Ivana Milicevic in Love Actually (2003).Courtesy of IMDb.

Love Actually

Love Actually is a Christmas-themed romantic comedy with an ensemble cast (consisting of a long list of well-known stars), which explores various aspects of love through the telling of ten separate stories. Many of the characters and stories are linked in various ways, some large and others very small, which makes this a movie that can and should be watched more than once so that viewers can string together all of the hints and connections. The movie begins five weeks before Christmas, so it’s full of festive songs, decor, and themes throughout. One of my personal favorite stories from within the film is that of Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz), which explores the nature of a profound love despite the obstacle of a complete language barrier. The story of David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) is another that I’m particularly fond of, as it follows the budding, humorous, and sometimes awkward relationship between a young woman and her boss (who just happens to be the Prime Minister.) Love Actually will forever hold a special place in my heart, as my best friend and I spent a large portion of our teen years watching it again and again. On top of being a feel-good movie for any day of the year, it’s always a must-watch for me when the holidays roll around.- Lindsey

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone (1990). Courtesy of IMDb.

Home Alone

Infamous for it’s screaming scenes and burglar pranks, this Christmas classic also contains a powerful message about what is important this season – family. After wishing his family gone, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) wakes up to find he has the house all to himself. Meanwhile, his family is on a plane to Paris when his mom (Catherine O’Hare) realizes they forgot about him. While she does everything possible to get home to her son, Kevin enjoys his newfound freedom until a couple burglars come sneaking around the house. The Wet Bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) have marked the McCallister house as their prize place to rob. They didn’t expect an ingenious eight-year-old to make it so difficult, causing numerous and hilarious injuries in the process. After foiling the Wet Bandits, Kevin makes a Christmas Eve wish to have his family back. On Christmas morning, his mom manages to make it back, followed by the rest of his family shortly after. Despite how much they fight, Kevin learns that his family really does love him and he’d much rather have them than no family at all.- Crystal

Kim Novak in Bell Book and Candle (1958). Courtesy of IMDb.

Bell, Book, and Candle

The 1958 film Bell, Book, and Candle may not be at the top of everyone Christmas movie list, but it is a staple in my house. Kim Novak stars as Gillian Holroyd, a witch living in Greenwich Village, who takes an interest in her new upstairs neighbor, Shep Henderson (James Stewart). Upon discovering that Shep is planning to marry her old college enemy, Gillian decides to make Shep hers by casting a love spell on him, with the help of her feline familiar, Pyewacket. It’s a purely selfish action because a witch cannot fall in love or she will lose her powers. Still Gillian enjoys the attention and the despair inflicted on Shep’s former fiance. It doesn’t take look for her to realize that her spell on Shep has gone too far, however, when he proposes marriage. Shep doesn’t believe her when she tries to reveal the truth about herself and the spell, not until Gillian’s aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) confirms it. He is furious and leaves in search of someone to reverse the spell. Months later, Shep’s had the spell reversed, though his former fiance refuses to believe him or resume their relationship, and he has avoided seeing Gillian until Pyewacket shows up in his office. Frustrated, he attempts to return the cat to his downstairs neighbor. Gillian reveals that Pyewacket isn’t hers anymore because she lost her powers the minute she fell in love with Shep. Shep reveals that he returns her feelings, this time for real. This movie is not your traditional Holiday Classic. Its only real connect to the holiday itself is the setting. But it’s a story of making a mistake, learning from it, and finding happiness through it all. Kim Novak is stunning and ethereal as a witch in the 1950s and James Stewart is the classic leading man. The cast if characters around their romance is delightful, eccentric, and highly entertaining. And the portrayal of witchcraft and magic is lighthearted, whimsical, and ultimately harmless. Bell, Book, and Candle is definitely the movie I turn to when I’ve watched all the classics, when I want something that’s still got a holiday flair but isn’t overtly so.- Heather

 

What are some of your favorite holiday specials?

Kayla

Kayla has been with Nerds and Beyond since 2016 when she decided to combine her love of fandoms and writing. She enjoys all things Marvel, gaming, reading, traveling, going to conventions and concerts. When not writing, she can usually be found in front of the TV enjoying her favorite shows and trying to make a dent in her every growing 'to watch list', behind a camera lens, or on Twitter yelling about her love for Bucky Barnes.

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