Christmas Comforters: 15 Essential Movies and Cartoons Bring Holiday Cheer | Culture



As we hunker down at home, it’s the movies that keep our spirits up, perhaps reminding us of happier Christmases past, and reassuring us that anything could be just fine. Indeed, there could be joy in the world again. All are available to stream or rent online. Happy Holidays!

15. Santa’s Workshop (1932) / Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952) / The Little One (1978) / Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

This collection of classic Disney Christmas-themed animated shorts is perfect for a good night out. (Together, they’re about 66 minutes long.) Beware of unfortunate cultural stereotypes in the 1932 short, and be prepared to grab some tissues during “The Small One.” (Disney+)

14. The Thin Man (1934)

Not strictly a Christmas movie, but WS Van Dyke’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel, starring flawlessly cast William Powell and Myrna Loy, is a superbly crafted comedic detective story, complete with a Christmas Eve party and Christmas morning. Fun and lazy Christmas. . (HBO Max)

13. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Some of them are a bit dated, but the Griswold Family Christmas still has plenty of classic comic misadventures, from cutting down a real Christmas tree to decorating the house with an absurd number of lights, as well as warm, gooey moments like Clark (Chevy Chase) watching old movies at home. (Amazon Prime, Apple TV and others)

12. Little Women (1994)

It’s hard to say which version of “Little Women” is the best (note: the 2019 version by Greta Gerwig is not yet available for streaming), but the beautiful and smooth 1994 version by Gilliam Armstrong with Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale, etc., is a very strong contender. The Christmas breakfast sequence is always warmer. (IMDB TV, Roku)

11. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burton created and Henry Selick directed this 76-minute stop-motion animated musical about what would happen if the King of Halloween Town accidentally wanders into Christmas Town and decides to borrow some ideas for his own spooky celebration. (Disney+)

10. A Christmas Story (1983)

“You’re going to gouge out your eye, kid!” Writer Jean Shepherd’s grown-up narration is what makes this very funny and nostalgic holiday story work so well. Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) navigates a complex Christmas season for children while dreaming of a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Turn on your leg-lamp and enjoy! (Online on Amazon Prime, Apple TV; also, 24-hour marathons airing on Christmas Eve TV, starting at 8 p.m. on TBS and 9 p.m. on TNT)

9. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Alastair Sim’s essential 1951 film “A Christmas Carol” wasn’t readily available this year, but this Dickensian adventure will certainly do the trick in a pinch. Michael Caine’s Scrooge is eagerly played – and he’s one of the screen’s best – while all sorts of Muppet-influenced gags, antics and songs happen all around him. (Disney+)

Christmas Comforters: 15 Essential Movies and Toons Bring Holiday Cheer

Forest Whitaker plays a toymaker in the new release, “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.” (Courtesy of Netflix)

8. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

This year’s best holiday novelty, an invigorating musical, tells the story of a ruined inventor (Forest Whitaker) whose work has been stolen. He is about to lose hope when his granddaughter (Madalen Mills) – also a budding genius – visits him. The incredible sets and costumes seem assembled from various pieces, gears and trinkets. (Netflix)

7. Arthur Noel (2011)

An absolute delight from Aardman Animations, this dazzlingly colorful kid-friendly film imagines a vast, well-oiled organization that helps Santa Claus (voiced by Jim Broadbent) deliver presents to all the world’s children in one night. This year, a child is left without gifts, and it’s up to the jolly, goofy Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) to fix it. (Starz, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, others)

6. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

We included him in our Thanksgiving list, but here he is again, because how can you not have Santa Claus? The real Kris (Edmund Gwenn) helps a busy single mother (Maureen O’Hara) and her curious and adorable daughter (Natalie Wood) at Macy’s during a busy big city holiday season, but faces problems with the from the store’s nervous psychologist (Porter Hall). (Disney+)

Christmas Comforters: 15 Essential Movies and Toons Bring Holiday Cheer

Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel are awesome in the adorable “Elf.” (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

5. Elf (2003)

“The smile is my favorite!” Will Ferrell brilliantly juxtaposed his big frame with his enthusiastic little-kid performance, making for a consistently hilarious, yet warmly sweet comedy. The rest of the cast is spot-on, from Ed Asner to Peter Dinklage, but especially Zooey Deschanel as the charming, sad department store elf. (Fubo Starz, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, others)

4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Maybe people are sick of it – it was underrated at the time, then overplayed on TV when it fell into the public domain – but director Frank Capra and star James Stewart are bringing this film into some really dark and desperate places before pulling out all the stops with its heart-pounding ending, earning tears every time. (Amazon Premium)

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Truly the weirdest of all Christmas specials, minus Santa Claus, and dialogue about the commercialization of Christmas and the true meaning of Christmas, plus a jazz score by Vince Guaraldi (recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley), this mini -half-hour masterpiece culminates in a miraculous moment of kindness amid sadness. (AppleTV+)

2. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

This masterful, overflowing Technicolor musical from director Vincente Minnelli spans a full year, with Judy Garland and the Smith family grappling with love and the threat of estrangement; it culminates with Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to a heartbroken Margaret O’Brien among the broken snowmen. (HBO Max)

Christmas Comforters: 15 Essential Movies and Toons Bring Holiday Cheer

Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan star in the romantic comedy “The Shop Around the Corner.” (Courtesy picture)

1. The Corner Shop (1940)

Ernst Lubitsch’s sophisticated and nuanced comedy-drama masterpiece starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as employees of a struggling Budapest store over the festive period and sending each other anonymous love letters without realizing it, concludes his series of sweet, delicate and heartbreaking little tales on a Christmas note. (HBO Max)

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