It's that time of year again, so why not snuggle up by the fire, grab a glass of eggnog and a loved one, and put on a classic Christmas movie.
There have been more Christmas movies than can be counted, but we thought we would take a look at some of the best of all-time. In this part one of a five-part series, we're going to offer up our picks for the best Christmas movies of:
The only rule is that the film must have seen theatrical release (no TV movies) and be released in the appropriate decade or time period.
Here then, are the 10 Best Christmas movies released prior to 1980:
10. "White Christmas" (1954)
"White Christmas" found release due to the success of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" song...a song that was actually originated in the 1942 film, "Holiday Inn" (see down the list). In some ways, it's a re-make of "Holiday Inn," although with different music and a new version of the hit song. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen star...Fred Astaire apparently passed on the script. Not quite as mesmerizing as "Holiday Inn," "White Christmas" has its own charm, and is largely thought of as one of the most memorable Christmas films ever.
9. "A Christmas Carol" (1938)
There is not another Christmas story that has had as many incarnations as Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," but I think that the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge is the definitive version. Based on the 1843 Charles Dickens novella, this film version was actually the first to combine all three ghost visits into one evening, a structure that would be adapted over and over again for the next century.
8. "Babes in Toyland" (1934)
Among the best and most memorable Laurel & Hardy films, the original "Babes in Toyland" was produced by the legendary Hal Roach and stars the incomparable Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. This film was remade many times over the years (including the more well-known 1961 Disney version), but it was also re-released throughout the 30s and 40s under different titles, to make the audience think they were seeing a new film. Because of this, some know this film as "March of the Wooden Soldiers."
7. "Black Christmas" (1974)
The sole Christmas entry from the 1970s (a terrible dead-zone for Christmas films), "Black Christmas" is also the only horror movie on this list, and somewhat of a cult classic. Notably, it is directed by Bob Clark, who went on to direct another more recognizable Christmas classic, 1983's "A Christmas Story." The film features a group of sorority sisters who are hunted by an unnamed murderer during the Christmas season. It's also considered one of the very first "slasher" films, actually being released on the very same day as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," a film that is touted as the beginning of the "Golden Age" of slasher cinema.
6. "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945)
Wow, the 1940s were the spawning ground of several Christmas classics, including this rom-com starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet. A 1992 remake starring Dyan Cannon, Tony Curtis and Kris Kristofferson brought this story to a whole new generation. But the original still holds up, in that nostalgic sort of way. Oddly enough, it was released during August of 1945, instead of around the holiday season...but post-war, it was exactly the sort of movie that America needed at the time.
5. "Meet Me In St. Louis" (1944)
Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien star in this festive, colorful musical and was a major box office success upon release. Garland's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" originated with this film, as did lesser hits ("The Trolley Song," "The Boy Next Door").
4. "The Bishop's Wife" (1947)
A personal favorite of mine (thus its higher-than-normal ranking on this list), "The Bishop's Wife" is a romantic comedy stars Carey Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. It features themes similar to "It's a Wonderful Life" and Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," and is about a bishop (Nevin) who is visited by a guardian angel (Grant). The movie was remade in 1996 as "The Preacher's Wife," starring Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston and Courtney B. Vance.
3. "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947)
The original 1947 film starring John Payne, Maureen O'Hara, and an 8-year-old Natalie Wood and also featuring Edmund Glenn as Kris Kringle, has since been adapted several times...thrice as TV movies (in 1955, 1959 and 1973) and once as a feature (1994, starring Richard Attenborough). It's a favorite Christmas film for millions of people, and in many ways is the most recognizable Christmas movie of all-time. A department store Santa insists he's the real Santa, in a story that encapsulates the joy and faith that is central to the holiday. Fun fact, this was one of the very first feature-length black-and-white films to be colorized.
2. "Holiday Inn" (1942)
This musical gave us the legendary Irving Berlin Christmas song, "White Christmas," and stars Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Viriginia Dale and Walter Abel. Known of course as a Christmas movie, the plot of the film actually allows for scenes spanning across all of the major holidays (a controversial scene featuring actors in blackface has been edited out of most versions that show annually on cable TV). A colorized version does exist, but part of the film's charm, I think, is to watch it in black-and-white. And in case you're wondering, yes, this film was the inspiration for the hotel chain of the same name.
1. "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946)
Come on...was there any doubt what would top this list? This classic Frank Capra film is a staple of the holiday season, despite initially being a box office bomb. This is the standard in which all other Christmas movies are judged. James Stewart's journey as George Bailey personifies the true meaning of Christmas and it's impossible not to get the feels during nearly every scene. While movie-goers shunned its original release, critics and pundits didn't...it was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, and it appears on nearly every "Best Movies" lists, not just Christmas-specific ones. In fact, American Film Institute most recently has it listed as the 20th best film of all-time, and it tops their "Most Inspirational Films" list. In my humble opinion, there's only one Christmas movie better than this one, but since the 1977 gem "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas" was never released theatrically, it doesn't qualify for this list.
Agree or disagree with this list? Comment below! And be sure to check out the rest of our BEST OF CHRISTMAS Lists (links at the top of article!)
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