This dude is always worth watching during the holiday season.
This dude is always worth watching during the holiday season.
Photo courtesy of the Houston Symphony

Classic Holiday Movies and the Greatest Christmas Movie Ever

We are a society that loves its television programming. And while Netflix, Hulu and Amazon – not to mention on-demand programming – have certainly done their part to provide year-round, at-your-fingertips content, on the whole, the holidays are relatively quiet as far as primetime network television goes.

Sure, you could check out Gwen Stefani’s Christmas special on NBC (complete with a Blake Shelton cameo!), but why in the hell would you want to do that? And, yeah, pseudo-modern-era holiday fare like Jim Carrey’s Grinch movie and Shrek the Halls is fine enough, but is anyone gathering around your television over the holidays, pining for either? No, no they are not.

Point being, the holidays are a time of nostalgia, when adults look back on a time when the holidays meant two weeks off from school, great weather (for Northerners who found their way to Houston, our winter is your late spring), and hopefully, happy times with friends and family. It also meant any number of holiday-themed programs that satisfied any holiday mood.

Fortunately, each of these old-school programs remains in syndication on network TV, on-demand or via any number of streaming services. One is bound to suit your holiday mood.

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ENTERTAIN FAMILY: NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION
Christmas Vacation is the second-best Christmas movie ever made (we’ll get to that in a bit). It features memorable characters (Cousin Eddie, most notably), Chevy Chase in his absolute comedic prime, and quotes aplenty (“Merry Christmas, shitter was full,” chief among them). Most importantly, however, is the movie’s heart. All Clark Griswold wanted to do was give his family the best Christmas ever. Along the way, he entertained unruly (some uninvited) houseguests, endured insults aplenty from in-laws and the like, damn near burned his own house down, even sustained a nervous breakdown when learning that his holiday bonus was in the form of a one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club, despite it being the gift that keeps on giving all year long. Through it all, the message remained – the holidays are a time for family, even the family you didn’t really ask for.

FOR THOSE WHO LOVE THE HOLIDAYS BUT CAN DO WITHOUT PEOPLE: DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
I recently stumbled upon a quote that could not be more accurate … “The Grinch didn’t hate Christmas. He hated people, which is fair.” Not once throughout the course of the show does our green anti-hero express dissatisfaction with the holiday itself; rather, he expressed dissatisfaction with those damn Whos from down the mountain who kept disrupting his sleep with incessant singing and good cheer. This one is for people who love giving out gifts during the holiday season but won’t dare venture into a mall to do so, for those who love Christmas music, not listening to a station that literally plays it 24 hours a day. In short, the Grinch was an "everything in moderation" type who would have absolutely thrived in the online shopping era.

FOR THOSE WHO LOVE A GOOD HOLIDAY LESSON: RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER
Rudolph is a timeless tale, one that preaches the notion of embracing those who are different, that love and acceptance should conquer all. Perhaps that’s a lesson we can employ year-round.

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE THEIR HOLIDAYS REALLY OLD SCHOOL: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Moment of honesty; I don’t really care all that much for It’s a Wonderful Life. The acting is first-rate, and the film is an outright classic, but it came well before my time and wasn’t something I ever really latched onto. However, those who are lonely or down during the holidays should take the film’s moral to heart; namely, that you have a far greater impact on the world than you may realize, something George Bailey learns in the film’s iconic resolution scene.

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE THEIR HOLIDAYS WITH A SIDE OF ASS KICKING: DIE HARD
Forget turkey vs. ham, stuffing vs. cornbread, or pumpkin pie vs. apple pie. No, the greatest debate in the history of the holidays is whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Some point to the fact that the movie could have essentially taken place in July and would have still not only worked, but still ranked among the greatest, most pioneering action films of all time. These people are well-intentioned but incorrect. Die Hard takes place at an office Christmas party. It features Christmas music. Hell, Bruce Willis’ John McClane makes numerous references to the holiday, including writing “Ho Ho Ho” on some dude he just offed. The movie is elevated by its Christmas-time surroundings. Die Hard is not only arguably the greatest action film ever made, the one that made Bruce Willis a movie star. It’s also the best Christmas movie of all time.

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