I’m about to admit something that may shock people to the core of their Christmas-movie-tradition centers.
I have not seen Home Alone beyond the first five minutes. No, I’m not talking about the sequels, I mean the first one. The famous one. The “Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!” one.
It’s A Wonderful Life gets really, really, really long for me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the message, I absolutely do. I’m rather fond of Jimmy Stewart as well. I watched more black and white movies as a kid than movies with color, so that’s not stopping me. There’s nothing “wrong” with It’s A Wonderful Life, it just doesn’t move me that way it does for other people. I have watched it twice, and I’m done for another decade or two.
And another thing…
I didn’t fall in love with White Christmas. To be honest, most of the time I was staring in horror at how unhealthily thin the younger sister was. My sadness was deepened when I learned the actress starved herself in order to maintain her reputation as being ridiculously small. She ended up dying too young of cancer that was connected to malnutrition. I have much to say on the subject of Hollywood’s trail of bodies, but that’s for another time.
And just when you thought I was done…
My family and I got 15 minutes into the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch That Stole Christmas before we couldn’t do it anymore. We turned it off and didn’t care. My version of the Grinch is the recent animated one starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the voice role of Mr. Grinch. It’s beautiful, deep, light, and just really beautiful visually. It’s the perfect bite of a Christmas movie, and that is the version my future children will know of as “the Grinch movie”.
Aha! But there’s more!
I saw Miracle On 34th Street once. It was okay. Just okay.
I didn’t set out to be different from the rest of American society in this particular way. That’s not how I roll, I don’t “have to be different” just to feel special. Things just happen.
I do, however, have some favorite Christmas movies. Many favorites, but I’m going to feature 3 that are likely not as well known and definitely underappreciated. It’s time to refresh that Christmas watchlist, my friends. Branch out, try something new.
It Happened On 5th Avenue (1947)
Honestly, I don’t know why this one isn’t more acclaimed than Miracle On 34th Street. This gem of a movie absolutely fits the bill for a perfect Christmas watch. It has heart, humor, and a happy ending.
Taking place right after WWII, a group of homeless people finds shelter by squatting in a rich, unhappy millionaire’s home while he is away for the winter season. They are joined by the millionaire’s daughter, who pretends to be one of them in order to enjoy the fun and camaraderie of the situation. Before long, she drags her father into it, and he is forced to play another “poor man” who is squatting in his own home.
This movie is utterly hilarious. I mean, hilarious! The number of misunderstandings, the amount of times the millionaire is utterly flabbergasted, and the changes that result from his time with these people is a delightful journey, all taking place leading up to the Christmas season.
Another neat feature of this movie is showing the housing crisis faced by some of the GI’s and their families post-WWII.
This movie is one I can rewatch more often and not get bored. It’s a nice story with appeal to multiple ages and personalities. It makes use of verbal, situational, and physical humor. And the ending is tied with such a nice, neat bow, you genuinely feel like something beautiful was accomplished. It’s delightful!
The Man Who Saved Christmas (2002)
A made-for-TV movie about a whimsical toymaker during the WWI era. A.C. Gilbert and his brother Frank go out on a financial limb and start a toy company. They are wildly successful. A. C.’s inventive spirit and his brother’s practical mind create one of the foremost toy companies in the United States. It’s a wonderful place to create, to play, and to work.
Until the shadow of WWI comes looming…Frank enlists, and A.C. is approached by representatives from Woodrow Wilson who request him to turn his beautiful toy factory into a weapon and munitions factory.
I’ll sum up the whole movie with the movie’s own tagline – He couldn’t stop the war, but he wouldn’t let the war stop Christmas.
The historical setting is deeply intriguing as many more movies often focus on WWII. But WWI came first, and it shaped the world that birthed WWII. The characters are very engaging, particularly A.C. and his beautiful wife, Mary (who is a whole head taller than him which is adorable). I love watching the way this family faces sadness, loss, uncertainty. They go through a lot (everyone did back then) and yet, they continue to fight for the light, hope, and the oxygen that a whole country needs!
Christmas is necessary. Christmas brings healing. Christmas brings hope. Celebrating Christmas is warfare against the darkness of this fallen world. That’s the message of this movie, and it’s beautiful.
The power of this story comes with raw human emotion, whimsical invention, and a rich historical setting.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)
I saved the best for last. If there was a team of people assigned to the promotion and recommendation of this movie, I would already be a senior member of said team.
This is the story behind the story of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I’m already deeply in love with Dicken’s work, particularly A Christmas Carol. That story captured my heart during a very difficult Christmas season, and the Lord really used that story to breathe hope, wonder, and joy into my heart.
Charles Dickens is one of the authors I admire the most. He used the power of story to change the world. He saw his occupation as a sacred calling, and considered every story an opportunity to teach someone a truth.
The Man Who Invented Christmas is based upon the true story of the shockingly short deadline Charles Dickens had when he wrote, A Christmas Carol. It isn’t just about Charles writing a new book, or teaching the world something, it is also about facing his own past trauma and personal demons that are robbing him of the joy of his own life. In this movie we see it’s not just the Oliver Twists who need saving, but also the Ebenezer Scrooges.
The magic of this movie is meeting Charles (Dan Stevens knocks it out of the ball park), but also seeing his writing process. As a writer myself, I connect so much with how Charles draws inspiration from the world around him. A stray name that catches his fancy, the sounds of a busy market street, a ghost story he hears his children’s nanny telling them. The characters of A Christmas Carol come alive and speak to Charles as real characters in the story. We also see how personal Charles’ writing is, how much of himself he puts into his stories. The griefs he feels, the hopes he carries, the brokenness he is trying to heal. Good writers do this, we bare our souls and the souls of others in our stories in order to make something beautiful out of them. This movie is such a beautiful blending of fantasy mixed with raw human reality.
The ending is my favorite. For Ebenezer Scrooge is saved, and we learn why he is allowed to be redeemed. But the very best part is the information shared at the beginning of the ending credits. We learn about the real life impact that A Christmas Carol had on the world. My friends, this story truly change the world and changed the way people saw Christmas and each other. God used Charles Dickens’ writing to bring more of His heart to humankind.
This movie shows the power of story and what it can do in full force. And I loved it, absolutely loved it. It’s a deeper watch than It Happened On Fifth Avenue, and definitely more British than The Man Who Saved Christmas, but this one is my favorite.
I highly recommend all of these movies to those who are looking to change up their Christmas watchlist and enjoy the layered beauty and meaning of this holiday. Obviously Jesus is the reason for this whole season, and He is my favorite part of it. Though none of these stories focus on Jesus specifically, they echo pieces of life, beauty, hope, and redemption born from the truth of Jesus. These stories are produced organically from a world that has Jesus in it, He is the source and stories like these show us His heart in multiple ways.
If you’ve seen any of these movies, or choose to watch them after reading my article, what did you think? Merry Christmas!
Oh, just one more thing…
I have never seen Elf.