Home for the Holidays (1995) PG-13
It’s Thanksgiving, and for Claudia (Holly Hunter), that means spending the weekend with her nosy mom, erratic brother (a very pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.), resentful sister, pompous aunt, and a couple of aloof in-laws all under one roof. Jodie Foster’s directorial debut is as touching as it is hilariously awkward and leads up to one of the most outrageous turkey dinner scenes since National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989).
The Thin Man (1934) PG
Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) investigate the disappearance of an inventor in this classic jumble of laughs and suspense that marked the first pairing of what was to become one of the movies’ great romantic comedy teams (five sequels followed). The plot thickens, the bullets fly, and the brandy is spilled by the time Christmas night comes around. A true gem, and the one-liners are timeless.
Your Daughter and/or Son:
Gremlins (1984) PG
Okay, I’ll admit this campy 80s, ooey gooey monster movie isn’t for everyone, but there are fun arguments for its Christmas movie label: 1. It takes place during Christmas, 2. It includes a villain that looks a lot like Scrooge (if Scrooge was a reptile), 3. It involves love and friendship with cast members like Corey Feldman, 4. It was written by Chris Columbus who would later direct Home Alone (1990), which reinvented the “Christmas movie,” and 5. After the movie’s release, gremlin toys were selling as fast as Yoda dolls for under-the-tree Christmas gifts!
Your Teenage Daughter and/or Son:
The Nightmare before Christmas (1993) PG
The imaginative precursor to Corpse Bride, this Tim Burton-produced, stop-motion animated feature follows Pumpkin King Jack Skellington on a journey to Christmas Town, where he finds things are brighter and more promising without the ghouls of Halloween. A visual and musical feast, featuring the catchy and haunting songs of Danny Elfman, this movie works both on Halloween and Christmas day.
Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) R
Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is a neurotic British singleton, who vows to be done with men, lose weight, and focus more on work until Colin Firth and Hugh Grant (and different forms of the Christmas “spirit”) make things even more confusing. Zellweger couldn’t be any more likable, and the script is full of witty wisecracks even Americans can swing.
Your Best Bud:
Die Hard (1988) R
This was, is, and always will be Bruce Willis’ best action film. Because the punches, gunshots, and lofty comebacks all occur on Christmas Eve day, moviegoers love to debate its “Christmas movie” significance. Willis plays John McClane who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time when Russian terrorists hijack an entire skyscraper during a corporate Christmas party. Filled with hard-hitting action and special effects, this is the most alternative, atypical but worthy “Christmas” flick yet.