10 Must Watch Christmas Movies for December

By Brandon Matzke and Nevin Hooper

It’s December! You know what that means… CHRISTMAS!!! I absolutely adore this holiday, and celebrate it proudly every year. Maybe too much. But I still love it. So, here’s a list of my (and Nevin’s) 10 favorite Christmas movies. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s perfectly fine. And these aren’t all good movies; I just did a search for Christmas films, and these are the ones I got. And I’m counting legitimate Christmas films, not the ones that just take place around the holidays (like Batman Returns or Love Actually). And, I’m listing these from least best to best. And I needed some help, so I brought fellow film critic Nevin Hooper into this (like how I did with our Halloween special). Now, let’s get this party started!

10. Elf (2003)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I’m not much of a Will Ferrell fan. I’ve only seen two of his movies that I’ve enjoyed. One of them was Talledega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby (which is a guilty pleasure), and the other is 2003’s Elf. It’s so rare that a film this bizarre manages to become such a classic. Elf follows Buddy (Will Ferrell in an amusingly cheery role): a human who was raised by elves (as in, Santa’s elves). One day, he discovers he is not actually an elf and that he’s a human. He journeys across the magical land of New York City to meet his dad and his human family. Turns out his dad is on the dreaded naughty list, and it’s up to him to redeem his dad. It’s a very weird film, but one that manages to always make me smile around this time of year.

9. Arthur Christmas (2011)

Review by Brandon Matzke

A modern holiday classic, Arthur Christmas, follows Arthur, the youngest son of the master spy known as Santa Claus. As in, the “ho ho ho” Santa. During one fateful Christmas, Arthur discovers a toy Santa forgot to deliver, and it’s up to him, an elf who mastered the art of wrapping, and a retired former Santa (it’s a job title in this world) to find the rightful owner of this gift and unite toy and child. This film really surprised me; it seemed really cheesy, and at times, it was, but for every cheesy moment there was a heartwarming and/or fun moment. The visuals are very appealing, the humor is surprisingly good, and the film just makes me feel like a kid again. I just recommend it.

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas

Review by Brandon Matzke

I honestly didn’t know if I could include this one, considering it’s extremely small runtime of 30 minutes. But, it does have a touching message about the real meaning of Christmas along with the signature Peanuts charm. And Charles Schultz’s animation has this strange quality that just adds to this film, even beating the recent Peanuts Movie (which is still a good movie by the way). If you’re feeling a little down around the holidays, this was a film made just for you.

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Review by Brandon Matzke

Honestly, this is more of a Halloween film. But it has Christmas right in the title! I’ve already discussed this film, so I’ll just use some quotes from my original review: “For one, I find it to be beautifully unique. I mean, it’s not everyday you see a movie where individual holidays have their own worlds. But it also has great animation, some brilliant music by the talented Danny Elfman, and a sweet and simple plot based on a poem written by Tim Burton. So, before you rant about seeing Jack Skellington at every Hot Topic (I mean, what is it with this film and Hot Topic?!), give the film a shot. You might be humming “This is Halloween” before you know it. 11/10.”- Top 5 Halloween Movies article.

6. Gremlins (1984)

Review by Brandon Matzke

Gremlins is a horror fan’s Christmas film. This film managed to earn the 1984 Saturn award for Best Horror film, beating out darker, grittier films like A Nightmare on Elm Street. And for good reason, too! This film is the reason why PG-13 exists; it pushed the boundaries so much that it (and the second Indiana Jones film) made a new rating. That’s not the only reason why this film works; it’s a brilliant dark comedy, blending horror and comedy seamlessly. The screenplay by Chris Columbus is weird and original, and also hilarious and scary. But without a doubt, the best part of this film is… the gremlins. Holy cow, these buggers are so much fun, whether they’re watching Snow White and singing along with it, or violently destroying the small town of Kingston Falls, they’re a blast to watch. Is this for everyone? No. But for the right audience, it’s a blast.

5. A Christmas Story (1983)

Review by Nevin Hooper

A cult classic. I am so surprised that Brandon has not seen this film yet, especially since it plays all day long every Christmas day. But, either way, I am reviewing it. All Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas is a “Red Rider air rifle.” After the constant excuse from everyone around him “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” Ralphie is still determined to have that rifle for Christmas, while still suffering through the random misadventures of his family and friends. This film is gut-bustingly hilarious. There are so many memorable lines and scenes, with the parents (especially from the father) and famous scenes including the scene where a kid gets his tongue stuck on a telephone pole and the teacher has to pull him off. But, Ralphie’s exotic visions about his yearning of the rifle is hilarious and totally make some of the greatest scenes of the film. This is a necessary watch around Christmas, and I highly recommend it.

4. Home Alone (1990)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I have very pleasant memories of this film: it was the first film I really begged to own (and I got a VHS of it for Christmas one year, which I still own), it was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and I always thought that Marv looked like my first grade teacher. I honestly don’t know why. But there was something I always watched this movie for: not the message of the importance of family, or watching an immature kid turn into a young adult; it was the VIOLENCE. For a film with a PG rating, this is a very violent film. Yeah, it’s played for laughs, but having a nail go through a guy’s foot?! That’s something that the guy from Saw would consider inhumane! But it’s so fun to watch that I honestly stopped caring about how violent it was. But I have to go back to this film: the score by John Williams makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the directing is actually pretty good for a “kid comedy”, and Macaulay Culkin as Kevin Mccallister has so much wit and charm that I honestly started rooting for this kid, even after watching his violent torture traps dismember the poor burglars who decided to rob his house. This is a family film with an edge, and earns my seal of approval. But seriously, those traps could kill someone!

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I usually can’t stand Chevy Chase. I don’t think he’s that funny, I usually find him annoying, but this one little film is the sole objection. This is a very unconventional film for the holidays: it’s about family, sure, but it also has a truly evil squirrel hiding in a Christmas tree, Chevy Chase nearly blinding his stuck-up neighbors with his magical Christmas light magic, and everything a comedy needs to be a classic. It’s basically an examination of a christmas gone wrong; the tree is too big to even fit in the house, the family hates each other, etc., but it’s always played for laughs. And let me tell you; those laughs are well earned. And Chevy Chase, while having his absolutely hysterical moments, also manages to play a convincing everyman with a chaotic life. This is not only one of my favorite Christmas films, but also one of my favorite comedies. And it’s one that I highly recommend.

2. Die Hard (1988) (TV version)

Review by Brandon Matzke

Most of the films on this list are cheerful and happy. They make you feel warm inside, and get you in that perfect holiday mood. And then there’s Die Hard. Is this the most Christmas-y film ever made? No. This film and Christmas share as much in common as a paperclip and a beaver. But this is a great film to watch around this time of year. Taking place on Christmas Eve, Die Hard follows John McClane (Bruce Willis in an excellent role), a divorced man visiting his ex wife at a christmas party in the iconic Nakatomi tower. When things seem at their calmest, a break-in occurs, and it’s up to John McClane to stop a group of terrorists (lead by Hans Gruber, Alan Rickman in his most charismatic villain performance) from killing everyone in the building. This is a very well made action movie, and has some absolutely thrilling scenes. Bruce Willis gives a very likeable performance, and is so much fun to watch thanks to with his now-iconic one-liners and everyman charm. The characters are very memorable, and the film is a ton of fun to watch. I highly recommend it for action movie fans.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Review by Nevin Hooper

On its first initial release this film was not praised at all. But, over the years, it has gained a reputation by being one of the most influential Christmas films of all time. Starring James Stewart in one of his best roles, he plays the suicidal George Bailey who wishes that he was never born. Then an angel by the name of Clarence (Henry Travers) comes to show him that the world needs him and what the world would be like if he was never born. Not only is this a great Christmas movie, but this is a great film in general. The film has amazing acting and a phenomenal screenplay that deals with themes about one’s place in life and the importance of family and friends. The direction is also very exceptional and is helped by the excellent black and white cinematography. The story of this movie is just so phenomenal, it is original, imaginative, hopeful, sad, humorous, and very deep in themes that are important to us and the people around us. It’s a Wonderful Life is a great watch around Christmas and I very much hope you can watch it and enjoy it as much as I did.