With Thanksgiving in the rearview, our collective focus naturally turns to the holiday finales of December. The Hallmark Channel churns out an endless array of made-for-TV movies and yet another incarnation of The Grinch has hit theatres. By no means a definitive list, here’s just a sample (in no particular order) of holiday films that reliably serve up some serious cheeriness.
Celebrating its fifteenth anniversary, this sentimental mood-booster has quickly become a perennial favorite. Part of its appeal is due to the large ensemble cast, which features nearly every big-name English actor - like Andrew Lincoln before his zombie-fighting days. The various stories capture our attention and momentum builds as the clock counts down to Christmas Eve. It’s an energetic celebration of the many possibilities presented by the holiday season.
It’s a Wonderful Life
This Frank Capra classic takes a while to emerge as a holiday film, but the spirit of giving is on full display throughout. After a botched bank deposit, community stalwart George Bailey’s spirits are nearly shattered. With the help of a Twain-reading angel keen on earning his wings, George Bailey is bailed out from the depths of despair by recognizing the positivity he’s already spread throughout Bedford Falls (and it doesn’t hurt that your wife happens to be Donna Reed).
The Preacher’s Wife
This flick flies somewhat beneath the radar compared to the others on this list, but it’s certainly worth seeking out if you’ve never seen it - It’s essentially a '90s remake of The Bishop’s Wife (from 1947). While the '40s predecessor—starring Cary Grant and Loretta Young—is highly regarded, The Preacher’s Wife brushes away some of the original’s dustiness by enlivening the story through the charms of Denzel Washington and the musical talents of the late Whitney Houston.
Miracle on 34th Street
If you’d like a feel-good Christmas tale set in New York minus the heavy dosage of slapstick violence (looking at you, Home Alone 2), a solid option is Miracle on 34th Street. While a 90s remake does exist, the 1947 version is boosted by its close proximity to the end of WWII, when people everywhere were still reeling from a devastating global conflict and needed some cheering up. Bookended by Thanksgiving and Christmas, the story is built on holiday anticipation. The high stakes are intensified by a touch of courtroom drama and the climactic triumph of snail mail.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Featuring a great soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi, blue-blanket antics, armchair psychiatry and Snoopy at his finest, this animated classic from the ‘60s poignantly depicts the search for emotional fulfillment in spite of overwhelming commercialism. Why Linus sits on his game-ending Nativity speech for so long is a little befuddling—perhaps he was waiting for the right acoustics—but one can let it slide, as the shenanigans that precede it are such fun to watch.