by MADELINE COY
Shortly after Thanksgiving and through to the New Year, a jingling, tingling metaphorical tinsel falls upon humanity and sprinkles holiday merriment about our lives. It’s why we light the menorah, hunt for the perfect Christmas tree, struggle with our tangled string of lights, deck our halls with festive accouterment — and of course, dust off our all-time favorite holiday flicks.
The festive films we’re drawn to each year are not random or coincidental — they’re important because they make us feel a certain kind of way, and reveal a surprising amount of information about us. Curious about what your favorite holiday film says about you? We’re covering the classics that made us and explaining what draws you to your top pick (we apologize in advance — "Die Hard" didn’t make the cut).
It’s a Wonderful Life
The year was 1946 when “It’s A Wonderful Life” first graced the silver screen. Since then, generation after generation has gathered ‘round the cinematic hearth and absorbed every last drop of George Bailey’s existential wisdom. You love the classics, you romanticize the simpler times, and sometimes you just need a good cry during the holiday season. Bailey’s languishing is all too relatable — you’ll admit that at times, it feels like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, too. This film is your yearly reminder to celebrate the small moments, cherish your loved ones, and remember that you are enough.
This Christmas tale boasts an A-list cast including Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, and Laura Linney among (many) others. The interwoven stories of these classic archetypes play out over all 2h and 15m of this emotionally complex love web and inspire you to overcome obstacles and follow your heart.
For a 2003 holiday romance appropriately distanced from reality, little about this film feels too over the top, in your opinion. The storyline was thoughtfully strung to pull on the heartstrings of all hopeless romantics near and far — including you. If “Love Actually” is your all-time favorite, watch-each-week flick, you’re a true believer in love and honor all of its messy, complicated, and exhilarating forms. It’s romance, it’s unrequited love, it’s holiday cheer at its finest. Good choice, it’s one of our top picks, too.
If Tim Allen’s “The Santa Clause” is one of your all-time favorites, it might be due to the relatability of his character — a stressed-out workaholic with type-A neurosis desperately trying to hold it all together, yet failing miserably. You empathize with the budding Santa as he goes gray overnight and battles with reality versus magic — most of which was pummeled out of him as an adult. Each year, you grab a cup of hot cocoa, set aside some celery for the reindeer, and watch the most celebrated magician shimmy down chimneys and make dreams come true. Sometimes you wish the universe would take the reins and turn you into a jolly gift-giver with a gut, too.
“Home Alone” became bible for just about every ‘90’s kid who saw themselves reflected in the ever-mischievous Macaulay Culkin. There was something about his wiser-than-his-years-wit and devilish deception that left a lasting mark on your young heart. For the next decade, the film became your blueprint for pranking your parents, teachers, preachers, and all other unsuspecting adults. The kids-versus-adults trope holds up to modern times and resonates with your soul.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Over-the-top Jim Carry is the ultimate Scrooge reincarnate in this 2000 live-action adaptation of the 1966 Dr. Seuss original. You know this film like the back of your hand if you were a kid in the ‘90s, or you had a kid in the ‘90s.
Either way, the Grinch’s heartfelt redemption story appeals to you because, on a deep level, you identify with the hairy, lime-green Sasquatch of a softy. You may hate the holidays, you may despise the exhaustive festive cheer and awkward gatherings, but you also have an Achilles heel of compassion just waiting to be exposed. The once hardened outcast grips you in sappy shambles as his heart grows three sizes and the gift of giving prevails over all of Whoville. This surprisingly existential classic serves as your yearly reminder to give more, live more, and love fiercely. Who would’ve thought?
This early-aughts Christmas comedy miraculously appeals to all ages by pairing Will Ferrell’s never-ending shenanigans with adult-friendly situational comedy. It doesn’t matter how old you were the first time you watched Elf, you loved this origin story from the start because you relate to Buddy on a molecular level. You too have felt a strong urge to reconnect with your roots and chase what truly matters — smiling, candy canes, and family. You also enjoy a good departure from reality, some laugh-out-loud cinematic chaos, and a visual treat for the eyes.
Almost sixty years old, this claymation film stands the ultimate test of time, making it not just another holiday film — it’s tradition. This stop-motion story is the longest-running Christmas special on television, and for good reason. It’s cute, it’s heartwarming, it’s nostalgia all wrapped in one big package.
If “Rudolph” is your ultimate holiday pick, there’s a good chance you’re compassionate, you’re understated, and you don’t need a lot of cinematic frills to enjoy a good story. You’ve stood in Rudolph’s hooves before and battled bullying, so you have a soft spot for the underdog ( underdeer ?). You love this film because it teaches the power of acceptance and to never underestimate yourself — or someone else. Here’s to the Golden Rule!
Starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black, the dreamy star-studded cast of “The Holiday” makes this 2006 holiday rom-com an instant favorite amongst (most) hopeless romantics. In true Nancy Meyers fashion, the characters’ lives are a perfect juxtaposition of charming chaos. You don’t mind the movie’s slightly inaccessible fantasy — in fact, you lean into it. You’re happy to absorb the characters’ out-of-reach realities because, like you, Amanda and Iris seek a fresh perspective — through an unconventional holiday home exchange. As they temporarily ditch their normal lives in search of self-exploration (and some much-needed R&R), you’re transported to two coveted dreamscapes — sun-soaked Los Angeles and the quaintest English hamlet. Both locations ooze romance and have a way of making you feel like anything is possible — especially where Jack and Jude are involved.
What the women discover during their sweet escape surprises them, but not you. You come back each year for the tenderness, the unexpected friendships, and the romance. You love this flick because you’ve also felt the urge to walk out on your hectic day-to-day and into someone else’s less complicated world, even if just for a moment. Thanks, Nancy — sometimes the grass is greener on the other side.
So light the fire, pour a tall glass of eggnog, and enjoy your favorite stories this year with those you love. Whether your top choice involves the snowy North Pole, an adult-sized elf, or a lesson in love, there’s some magic in each of these stories for everyone. Cheers to Tinseltown for these holiday classics!