Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again.
Christmas is just around the corner and all of us have our yearly traditions: Spending time with family and friends, opening Christmas presents, and eating and eating until we’re even more stuffed than we were on Thanksgiving. However, Christmas also has another tradition: Holiday-movie favorites that we watch every year around this time.
Well, I’m no different. In fact, right now I’m going to be giving you my picks of my top five favorite Christmas movies. Fair warning: A couple of these may not be your grandmother’s favorites. So grab your eggnog and get your mistletoe hanging. Ready? Let the countdown begin!
No. 5 — Batman Returns
OK, it’s technically not a Christmas movie, but it is set during the season, and I think that automatically qualifies. Director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton are back in the sequel to the 1989 blockbuster, and it proves to be just as entertaining as the original. Danny DeVito co-stars as the villainous Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer stars as the sexy and dangerous Catwoman. Of course, Burton has his trademark signatures front and center: Bizarre characters and a sensational production design to go along with his weird, twisted story. Granted, it still may be too dark for younger kids, but for me, “Batman Returns” is a film that works regardless of whatever season.
(Rated PG-13 for brooding, dark violence.)
No. 4 — The Polar Express
A contemporary favorite that initially received mixed reviews, “The Polar Express” is a wonderful film that is a true achievement. Utilizing the format known as performance capture, director Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks give us a truly magical film from start to finish. Based on Chris Van Allsberg’s best-selling children’s novel, Hanks plays multiple roles as he leads a group of kids on a trip to the North Pole to see Santa Claus. The animation is gorgeously realistic, and the tone of the film is both haunting and charming. That’s more than enough reason to consider this film a classic.
No. 3 — Home Alone
Probably one of my favorites as a kid, “Home Alone” remains a great, fun movie during the holidays. Macaulay Culkin plays Kevin McCallister, an 8-year-old boy left behind by his family while they take a Christmas vacation to Paris. But it’s not all fun and games. He also has to contend with two sneaky burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) who want to rob him. What follows are perhaps the most outlandish series of pranks and gags ever made for a Christmas film. Approaching 25 years, it hasn’t lost its popularity, and I don’t think it ever will.
No. 2 — The Nightmare Before Christmas
This is the second time that Tim Burton has made it onto my list, and for good reason. Based on an original idea by Burton, this dazzling classic features beautiful stop-motion animation and memorable songs by Danny Elfman to tell the story of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweenland who discovers the holiday and tries to make it his own. It’s the breathtaking animation as well as the wonderful characters that make “Nightmare.”
No. 1 — Bad Santa
Sure, it’s rude and crude, but boy, is it downright hilarious. Billy Bob Thornton gives, by far, my favorite Santa ever seen on screen. He’s not exactly nice so that kind of narrows it down as he and his partner-in-crime dwarf Marcus (Tony Cox) go from mall to mall impersonating St. Nick in order to rob it blind.
However, Santa discovers he might be having a change of heart once he stumbles upon a kid who believes he may actually be the real Santa. Funny performances by the late John Ritter and Bernie Mac round out the terrific supporting cast, and there’s always a laugh a minute if you can sustain such vulgarity. “Bad Santa” may not be the ideal Christmas movie for a lot of people, but it’s the ideal antidote for anyone sick of so much holiday cheer.
Did I also mention it’s rude, crude, and downright hilarious? This is my favorite Christmas movie of all time.
(Rated R for pervasive language, strong sexual content and some violence.)
Now, I know that the Christmas season has a lot of other perennial favorites, so with that in mind, here are a few honorable mentions:
• “It’s a Wonderful Life”
• “Miracle on 34th Street”
• “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
• “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
So, do you agree or disagree with my list? What Christmas movies are your favorites around the holidays? You can find all of these great movies on DVD and Blu-ray, so go ahead and stuff your stockings with these Christmas classics!
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.