What “classic” Christmas movies have been released in the last 22 years?


When “It’s a Wonderful Life” was released just before Christmas in 1946, it was met with mixed reviews and subsequently recorded a loss of over $500,000 for his studio. It took a 1974 clerical error by the film’s next owner to prevent its copyright renewal, opening Jimmy Stewart/Frank Capra’s holiday fantasy to the constant, uninterrupted holiday broadcasts that made it the classic. that he always deserved to be.

“A Christmas Story” took a different route to holiday movie dominance. The nostalgic 1983 comedy was a very modest success when it was first released a week before Thanksgiving and reviews were generally positive, but by Christmas it had disappeared from most theaters. Soon after, he became a mainstay on premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime and a cult following was born.

The holiday magic didn’t stop there. The booming video cassette market was next and “A Christmas Story” grew its fanbase and reputation exponentially. By the time sister cable channels TBS and TNT began airing the film 12 consecutive times from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day in the late 1990s, it was one of the most iconic and popular holiday films. more cited.

Both films regularly appear near, and often at the top of, any list of the greatest Christmas or holiday movies. They join the ranks of “Miracle on 34th Street” (the 1947 original), various versions of “A Christmas Carol”, “Holiday Inn”, “White Christmas”, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, “Scrooged”, ” The Santa Clause” and many others.

But they are so much from the last millennium. What about 21st century offerings? Have the past two decades produced any brightly-wrapped movie gifts that deserve the status of a family tradition, or are they all just lumps of coal?

Thoughts on Forerunners

Before we can add any to our naughty or nice list, we must first recognize how much the viewing experience has changed. Films today face challenges that those of the 1900s never faced. Chief among them is TV’s takeover of holiday-themed movies, with channels like the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime and their ilk filling entire months with nothing but “original” films featuring starring big city career girls who drop everything for a small town guy in flannel.

Then, of course, there are the streaming services. Not only are Netflix, Hulu and others creating their own big-budget holiday entertainment — sometimes simulcasting in theaters — but they’re also providing access to most classics anytime.

Erich Hertz, a professor of English and film studies at Siena College, has background experience in some of these areas.

“I see 18 to 20 year olds on a regular basis and how they consume media over the last decade. It all went through streaming and they are no longer sitting in front of a TV, even with loved ones,” he said. he declares. “If they’re going to watch a Christmas movie, it’s going to be something they’ve gone out of their way to seek out. People can now choose what those things are rather than accidentally being exposed to them.”

Hertz has mixed feelings about this recent phenomenon. “I’m afraid there won’t be any more ‘classics’ on repeat in the future because people will consciously select the exact Christmas movie they want to stream, or a service like Netflix will briefly push a holiday movie into the zeitgeist.”

Essentially, “Any Christmas movie that’s sort of a future classic is probably already familiar to us.”

The two obvious top picks for 21st century holiday movies destined to be the ones we’re still watching 50 years from now both came out in 2003: “Elf” and “Love Actually.” It can be said that each has already achieved classic status. ‘Elf’ is the most cited family choice and Christmas movie since ‘A Christmas Story’ – it’s ‘You sit on a throne of lies!’ is the “You’re going to tear your eyes out!”

‘Love Actually’ is good for most ages except for one of its many interconnecting storylines, a bawdy workplace comedy starring one of the UK’s stars ‘The Office – we’re looking at you Martin Freeman…and we’re seeing way too much!

2003 was a prime year for holiday movies, as it also brought the crème de la crème of adult Christmas comedies, “Bad Santa.”


Let’s look past these three, shall we, to take a look at Rotten Tomatoes’ ranking of the best holiday movies based on reviews from critics? Hot on the heels of “Miracle on 34th Street” is 2015’s “Tangerine,” the heartwarming story of a transgender prostitute who spends Christmas Eve searching all over Los Angeles for the pimp-boyfriend who cheated on her during that she was in jail.

It falls under this loose definition of what qualifies as a Christmas movie, sort of how we get annual December airings of “Meet Me in St. Louis” just because Judy Garland features the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in one scene. (Probably the first time “Tangerine” and “Meet Me in St. Louis” have been compared, by the way.)

Hertz calls these films “next to Christmas.” As he puts it, “How many Christmases does it have to be for this to be a Christmas movie?”

And now seems like the perfect time to address the most controversial of the holiday movie debates. My pick for the 21st century equivalent of “Is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas movie?” : “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” from 2005. Writer-director Shane Black’s dark action-comedy is funny, understated and features Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer at their best.

Let’s talk animation. “The Polar Express” (2004) and “A Christmas Carol” (2009), both by Robert Zemeckis, and “starring” Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey, respectively, are popular, but the odd vale of their CGI effects turns off many viewers. . I’d opt for 2020’s lovely “Klaus” instead, a Netflix movie that earned a theatrical release and landed an Oscar nomination.

Maybe you’re more of a “Bad Santa” type who revels in quirky Christmas antics. Well, the past two decades have given you a lot of fun: “A Bad Mom’s Christmas”, “The Office Christmas Party”, “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas”, etc. But funniest of all and one that’s inclusive for other Religious Holidays is 2015’s “The Night Before” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie and Seth Rogen.

Normally I’d be reluctant to recommend Ron Howard’s 2000 live-action “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” but it’s already a juggernaut, so if you’re forced to watch it on your family vacation, enjoy. of Jim Carrey’s tour title role of strength, forget the rest.

A few more quick takes: 2013’s star-studded sequel ‘The Best Man Holiday’ – Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Regina Hall, and more. – is quite equal to the 1999 original. 2015 horror comedy “Krampus” should satisfy fans of “Gremlins”. And the 2011 British computer-animated film “Arthur Christmas” is a cut above most other recent “cartoons.”

Hertz adds some perhaps surprising choices. He cites 2006’s “The Holiday” starring Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Kate Winslet as a likely regular, as well as Greta Gerwig’s 2019 “Adjacent to Christmas” tale of “Little Women.” And then he throws a curveball – he calls Ryan Reynolds’ debut comedy, poorly received 2005’s ‘Just Friends’, a personal favorite

As we come to the end of our list of holiday movies with future-proof potential, there’s no escaping the competing mediums mentioned above. In early November, “A Christmas Story Christmas” premiered on HBO Max, with Peter Billingsley’s Ralphie now a grown father returning to his 1970s Indiana home to give his own children an unforgettable vacation. Did it match the fragility of the first film – it must be Italian! – balance between sentimentality and cynicism?

And this Sunday, the Hallmark Channel is airing “A Holiday Spectacular,” a period romantic comedy that seems to go beyond the normal cable release fare. This story of an heiress betrothed in 1958 following her dream of auditioning for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes filmed scenes earlier this year in Troy, doubling for 1950s New York.

And finally, before we part ways, I’m going to present two final suggestions, both from streaming services, which I predict will have a long life as annual fixtures.

Hulu’s “happiest season” of 2020 hits all the familiar notes of a “home for the holidays” rom-com, but its LGBTQ twist and winning performances from Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, et al., help to raise it.

“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” also from 2020, is a Netflix musical fantasy that was intended to be a stage production, and it shows. It’s inventive and dynamic, with jaw-dropping song and dance numbers, showy costumes, intricate sets and star turns from Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Anika Noni-Rose, Ricky Martin and Phylicia. Rashad.

“The main X-factor is that something can accidentally become one of your favorite things or become like a family tradition that you go back to, whether or not the larger popular culture has decided that it is also okay” , Hertz said.

Happy watching movies and hoping your vacation doesn’t smell of beef and cheese (unless you like it) and love, in fact, is everywhere.


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