There are certain movies that you just have to watch at Christmas time -- it's just not Christmas without classic Christmas Movies. And while we call them "classic," many of them are surprisingly new. Following is a baker's dozen of the best of classic Christmas movies.
Babes in Toyland, or March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy star as Ollie Dee and Stanley Dunn in Babes in Toyland. They try to help pay the mortgage on Mother Peep's shoe, so that the wicked Barnaby (Henry Brandon) cannot foreclose and force Little Bo Peep to marry him. When they are unable to borrow the money, they trick Barnaby into marrying Stanley, and the outraged Barnaby tries to destroy Toyland with his horrible Bogeymen.
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
In The Bells of St. Mary's Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) is sent to St. Mary's to revitalize the school, which is financially unstable. He immediately finds himself at odds with Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), a strict woman with decided views on the best way to educate children. But there is a beigger battle looming over the school. The skinflint Horace P. Bogardus is trying to have the school condemned. The story of the miracle that saved the school was nominated for 8 Oscars in 1946.
The Bishop's Wife (1947)
in The Bishop's Wife it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ... everywhere except Bishop Henry Brougham's home. The bishop (David Niven) is preoccupied with the plans for a new cathedral and a domineering elderly widow who wants the cathedral built her way or no way. His wife, Julia (Loretta Young), is struggling to make Christmas for the family, but is becoming discouraged. In a fit of pique after an argument with the widow, the bishop prays for help ... and his prayer is answered by the unexpected arrival of the angel Dudley (Carey Grant). The tension builds as the bishop becomes jealous of the love that everyone has for Dudley, especially the love shown by his wife and daughter. This story about what's truly important in life was nominated for 5 Academy Awards in 1948.
A Christmas Carol
There are dozens of film versions of A Christmas Carol, classic Christmas story by Charles Dickens, in which the miserly Scrooge learns that amassing money is not the ultimate goal of life; rather, loving one's neighbour should be one's first consideration. Most viewers and critics agree that the 1951 version (entitled Scrooge, with Alastair Sim as the title character), is the best adaptation of the original story. Another notable version, and one beloved by children, is The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is an inventive retelling of this classic Christmas movie with its own interesting twists.
A Christmas Story (1983)
One of the newer classics, A Christmas Story is set in the 1940s. Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. All of the grown-ups tell him that he'll shoot his eye out. And then there's the evil bully Scut Farkus, who makes most of the kids miserable by beating them up, taking their lunch money, and other dastardly deeds. Will Ralphie get his rifle? And will anyone ever stand up to the horrible Skut? This is a great film; the only caveat is that Ralphie's dad has a potty-mouth, and the words are sometimes quite clear, so it might not be the best fare for youngsters.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Everyone knows Frosty the Snowman, a made-for-television animated movie narrated by the incomparable Jimmy Durante. Who hasn't spent the holiday season singing "Frosty the snowman was a happy jolly soul ..." It's the story of a snowman who was brought to life by a magic hat discarded by a very bad magician who, when he realized that the hat was magical, tried to take the hat away. The story of how the children saved Frosty is a timeless tale of love and friendship.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Another perennial favorite for the younger set, the animated television classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas was directed by Chuck Jones. It's the story of the Grinch, who cannot bear the joy and noise of the Whos down in Whoville at Christmas, and how he tries to keep Christmas from coming. His failure opens his eyes and enlarges his heart.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Directed by Frank Capra, It's a Wonderful Life is one of Jimmy Stewart's best-remembered films. George Bailey (Stewart) has misplaced $8000, and he's ready to end his life. Thanks to the prayers of many who love him, an angel is sent to help him. Clarence (Henry Travers) takes George back in time, to show George all of the wonderful things that he has done -- things that seemed small, but that made a tremendous difference in the lives of the people around him. Clarence's interventions gives George new hope, and he returns to his family with a brighter outlook on life. This is probably the most popular classic Christmas movie ever made.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
In Miracle on 34th Street, Edmund Gwenn is Kris Kringle, a nice old man who is institutionalized for claiming that he really is Santa Claus. His employer Doris (Maureen O'Hara) and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) don't believe that he is who he claims to be. But Doris's friend Fred (John Payne) does believe the old man, and, as Fred happens to be a lawyer, he's just the one who can arrange the legal hearing to let Kris prove himself. This undisputed Christmas classic was nominated for four Academy Awards and two Golden Globes in 1948.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer(1964)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is an "Animagic" production, made with animated puppets filmed in a stop-action sequence, is another favorite of the children. It tells the story of two misfits, Rudolph and Hermy. Rudolph is rejected by the reindeer because his nose lights up bright red when he feels strong emotions. Hermy is rejected by the elves because he doesn't like making toys; he wants to be a dentist. It's a story of how everyone learns that there are those who are blessed with special gifts that set them apart, but should not make them outcasts. Narrated by Burl Ives and featuring the music of Johnny Marks.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1970)
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is another "Animagic" animated production. This children's film features Fred Astaire telling the story of Santa Claus, where he came from, why he wears a red suit, why he lives at the North Pole, and why he comes down the chimney and leaves presents in stockings.
White Christmas (1954)
In White Christmas Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) get together after the war and join forces with Betty and Judy Haynes (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to become a top-rated song-and-dance team. When they go to Vermont to perform a Christmas show, the men find that the inn they are working is owned by their former general, who has fallen on hard times. Romance ensues as the foursome tries to put together the perfect show to help the general.