The editor of UnderScoopFire asked me to put together a list of the Ten Best Christmas Movies for children of the 80s.
I realized right away that all “Best Of” lists are controversial. You either rank something too high, too low, or leave obvious ones off the list all together.
Instead of ranking these movies and inciting riots, I decided to put together a list of 10 movies that you should watch this (and every) holiday season. Feel free to mention others in the comments below, tweet them to @underscoopfire, or post on our Facebook page!
10. The Nightmare Before Christmas
The 1993 Tim Burton produced stop-motion musical centers around Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King who has grown tired of Halloween. He stumbles upon the portal to Christmas Town, and decides to take over the holiday, which includes kidnapping Santa Claus. It’s not your typical feel good holiday movie, but it is a must see.
9. Die Hard
“Yippee Ki Yay, Mother Fu-“ We all know and love Bruce Willis’ signature line from this 1988 classic. Sure, it’s a kick-ass action flick centered around international terrorists seizing control of Nakatomi Tower and attempting to steal over half a billion dollars in bearer bonds. But even though there are more guns blazing than carols sung, this IS a Christmas movie. It’s set around Willis’ estranged wife’s company Christmas party and the movie is chock full of references to the holidays. From Santa caps to the holiday wrapping paper used to conceal a weapon, it’s all there.
“Now I have a gun, HO HO HO.”
8. Love Actually
I am a sucker for ensemble British comedies (see Pirate Radio, Four Weddings & A Funeral) and when you add Christmas to the mix, it has to make the list. Don’t bother looking for a singular plot within this gem, it’s simply a series of intertwining stories about relationships around the holiday with great performances from Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightly, Laura Linney, and Alan Rickman. Throw in a pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister of England, and you have yourself a feel good winner. Bill Nighy steals the show as an aging rocker vying for one last hit.
7. Scrooge (1951)
According to the internet, the Charles Dickens classic novel has been made into a feature film 2,365 times. Okay, maybe not that many. Everyone has their favorite, and this one is mine. It’s old, it’s British, and it’s wonderful. There have been many portrayals of miser Ebenezer Scrooge on film, from Jim Carrey to Michael Caine to Patrick Stewart, but none give as raw of a performance as Alastair Sim. You loathe him early on and love him when its over. Skip the other versions this year and watch this one!
Will Ferrell is his most care-free self in this holiday hit from 2003; also starring James Caan, Ed Asner, Mary Steenburgen, and Zooey Deschanel. The film takes place in New York City (are Christmas movies ever set in Duluth?), where Buddy the Elf (Ferrell) is in search of his real father. It’s the generic country bumpkin in the big city, but funny and sweet. And wide eyed Jovie (Deschanel) is a treat to watch on screen, having great chemistry with Farrell. Her rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” gives us a taste of her future musical endeavors. Pop this DVD if only for the snowball fight scene…
Never expose to bright lights. Do not get wet. And never, ever under any circumstance, feed them after midnight. No, I am not talking about the staff of UnderScoopFIRE, rather Mogwai’s, the center character of the 1984 horror comedy. Seems like a lot of work for a pet. The story is set around Christmas time in small town Kingston where an inventor brings home a Christmas “pet” for his son. The rules are broken, chaos ensues, and bad things happen. Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Corey Feldman do their best, acting against deranged muppets on PEDs. Its a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, perfect for this time of year.
4. Home Alone
Can a child of the 80s NOT have this on his list? Sure, it hasn’t aged well, but every time I watch the original film, it brings me back to being a freshman in high school. It’s also a movie that can be handed down from generation to generation with little or no explanation needed. I never get tired of the scene-stealing John Candy (RIP) as Gus Polinski, member of the band The Kenosha Kickers. Great cast and great family fun.
Keep the change, ya filthy animal.
3. A Christmas Story
It started off as a great idea by the cable superstation TBS to run it 24 straight hours at Christmas. It would give the cult classic new life, and expose it to people who missed it in the theatres back in 1983. Now it’s skipped over when flipping through the channels, like a Black Eyed Peas song you’ve heard 50,000 times. If it has been a few years since you have seen this gem, buy it or Netflix it. Don’t watch the chopped up version on cable. Enjoy it from start to finish and recapture the magic that made it special. Or you’ll shoot your eye out.
2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
This movie is proof that people can change. When I first saw the third installment of the Vacation series, I was disappointed. Sure it was better than European Vacation (what isn’t better than that?) but it couldn’t hold a candle to the 1983 original. But as the years have gone by, I make a point to watch it every season and it just gets funnier. Chevy Chase is always brilliant as Clark W. Griswold, and every line out of Cousin Eddie’s mouth is quotable. The movie is so great that we even recorded a podcast about it.
“Merry Christmas! Shitter was full.”
Bill Murray + A Christmas Carol+ New York City= Winner.
IMDB sums it up perfectly: A cynically selfish TV executive gets haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.
This 1988 comedy is a must watch each and every Yuletide season. Murray channels his inner miser as Frank Cross, the Ebenezer Scrooge of his time. Just like the original Dickens story, Cross goes through spiritual redemption over the course of the movie, with help from Carol Kane, David Johansen, BobCat Goldthwait, Alfre Woodard and John Forsythe. Outside of Murray hitting it out of the park (was there a movie in the 80’s he DIDN’T hit a homerun with?), the two stand out performances were Karen Allen, playing Cross’ old flame, and John Glover as Brice Cummings, the network’s toady yes-man who is quietly gunning for Frank’s job.
The film comes to a wonderful crescendo with Murray delivering a funny and moving monologue during a live broadcast of “A Christmas Carol” on his network. He sees the true meaning of Christmas, gets the girl, and somehow has the entire cast and crew sing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”
Corey Chapman (@chapmanrunner) has been selling his whole life, nowadays he actually gets paid to do it. His long term goal is to retire young and spend his days watching old episodes of Saturday Night Live and tweeting about “the good old days”. He produces and edits the UnderScoopFire podcast.