Top 10 Christmas Movies

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

Last night, I did something I’d never done: I watched A Christmas Story (1983). Yep, the movie where Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

Since its release, I’ve had numerous people tell me that it’s a must-see, a classic! Yet somehow I managed to make it 30 years without seeing A Christmas Story. And now, here’s my summary of the experience:

Didn’t like it.

Before you start throwing tomatoes and insisting I get my head checked: (1) I’m thrilled others enjoyed it. Hey, different strokes for different folks, right? (2) I was not alone, as my whole family was unimpressed.

But that got me to thinking about people’s favorite Christmas movies — how they run the gamut from sweet tales to quirky comedy to action-packed. Below is my Top 10 list, and hope you’ll share your favorites in the comments.

10. Die Hard (1988). Hostage-taking at the office Christmas party isn’t a typical holiday theme. Yet this film does not disappoint with its action-packed story of New York cop John McClane fending off terrorists to save his estranged wife and her coworkers — through smart strategy and sheer grit. And like any good Christmas story, the naughty get their “lumps of coal” in the end.

9. The Santa Clause (1994). I was prepared not to like this movie, since Tim Allen seems to fare better on television than film. But for me, this was a winsome tale of a man stuck with the unenviable job of substituting for Santa. In the process, he learns a lot about his family and himself.

8. Gremlins (1984). Released just one year after A Christmas Story, I definitely caught this one on screen when it came out and at least twice since. A teenage son gets an unusual Christmas present from his father, a “gremlin,” along with three instructions for its care: Don’t expose the gremlin to bright light, don’t get it wet, and never, ever feed it after midnight. All three rules eventually get broken, and chaos ensues. The film is less scary than fun, but a classic in my book.

7. White Christmas (1954). I’m a sucker for musicals. While I also love Holiday Inn (1942), this musical seems to address Christmas more specifically. Also, I have a real fondness for Danny Kaye and adore hearing Rosemary Clooney sing. What’s the plot? Song-and-dance men, sister act, they get together, blah, blah. Really, it’s not so much the story as the engaging characters and the wonderful music.

6. The Family Man (2000). Single and successful Jack Campbell wakes up on Christmas morning to find himself married with children. It’s the classic alternate-timeline story, where Jack gets to see what his life would have been if he’d made different decisions along the way. Starring Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni, this film is a heartwarming tale about what really matters.

5. The Shop Around the Corner (1940). Haven’t heard of The Shop Around the Corner? Sure, you have. It was called You’ve Got Mail (1998) — in the popular, updated remake. The original stars Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as gift shop employees who can’t stand one another at work, but fall in love as pen pals. The twosome get together during the Christmas holidays.

4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Miracle on 34th Street is the quintessential Christmas movie. Doris Walker needs a Santa to fill in for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and recruits a man who calls himself Kris Kringle. Walker thinks the whole Santa deal is a lot of hooey and won’t allow her daughter Susan to believe such nonsense. But when Kris Kringle claims to the be the real Santa Claus, Walker must decide what she really believes about Christmas.

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). From the interesting mind of Tim Burton comes an animated Christmas movie unlike any other I’ve seen. I loved it! Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, is tired of being all about his holiday and decides to hijack Christmas instead. He’s sure he can pull it off and enlists the help of other Halloweentown residents, but Christmas isn’t quite the same that year.

2. While You Were Sleeping (1995). Lucy is tired of being alone, even on holidays. Unbeknownst to him, she’s in love with one of her toll booth customers. When he slips into a coma, she’s mistaken for his fiancée and welcomed with open arms into his family and their holiday plans. But there’s this brother . . . Anyway, the story unfolds all around Christmastime, and Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullham are the couple to root for throughout.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Yes, I know it’s cliché, but I don’t care. There’s a reason this film tops many Christmas movie lists — because it’s terrific. With the help of an angel, George Bailey gets his Christmas Eve wish: to have never been born. When he gets a glimpse of life in Bedford Falls without him, George realizes how great his life really is and how much he wants to live it. I’ve watched this movie more times than I can count and smile like a dope every single time that bell ornament rings because the angel got his wings.

To be fair about my list, I’ve never seen National Lampoon: Christmas Vacation, Elf, Polar Express, Love Actually, Home Alone, Scrooged, or Bad Santa. And I’m sure there are a few others I’ve missed.

Now for my second-to-last update for A Round of Words in 80 Days.

ROW80 Update

1. Finish YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, by completing three chapters each week. In my final update next week, I’ll be focusing on my progress, not banging myself over the head for not getting this one done. There are reasons — some even good reasons — why this hasn’t happened.

2. Take Short Stories 101 course from Young Adult RWA. Took the course, wrote two short stories, and now in the midst of a third. I’ll be self-publishing these young adult paranormal stories in 2014.

3. 10 1 1/2 fiction books and 2 -1 nonfiction books. I’m halfway through Linger by Maggie Stiefvalter, the second in her Wolves of Mercy Falls series.

How is your holiday season going? What have you accomplished lately? And what are your favorite Christmas movies?