The other day I was listening to sports talk radio. Now, I must say that I have a strange relationship with sports talk radio. On the one hand, I find it to be one of the lowest forms of communication known to man. And on the other hand, I sometimes find it enjoyable — I’ve even been known to set my alarm o’clock at a certain time so I can catch a few minutes of The Border Patrol on 810 WHB in Kansas City. And I even hosted my own sports talk show on KU’s college radio station, KJHK, when I was an undergrad.
Like I said, I have a strange relationship with sports talk radio. It can be brainless. Incoherent. Narcissistic. Overly sensational. Angry. And most of all, it can just be rather disgraceful what journalism.
But then I can hear Bob Costas or Dan Patrick, or my boys on The Border Patrol, Nate Bukaty and Steven St. John, and sports talk can be destination radio.
I suppose all mediums can be good and bad. But it does seems like there’s nothing worse than bad sports talk radio.
And at this point, I should probably tell you that this post is actually about The 10 Best Christmas Movies of All-Time. (As you could probably tell by the title. Trust me. It’s coming.)
How’d we get on sports talk radio? Well, because the post started there, and then I got on a roll and started feeling it.
Let’s get back on track. So I’m listening to sports talk radio the other day. I think it was Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN.com. In fact, I know it was Mike and Mike. So there having an odd discussion about Christmas movies. I think I missed the beginning of it. Anyway, they were debating whether the movie, Die Hard, should be considered a Christmas movie.
We’ll get to Die Hard in a minute. And then maybe this will all make sense. But let’s just assume most people have seen Die Hard. I mean, c’mon, who hasn’t?
Well, let’s just say I was utterly blown away (no pun intended). Die Hard is a Christmas movie. This is not even a debate. Yes. It’s an action movie – and an iconic one — but that doesn’t preclude it from also being a Christmas movie.
I suppose it’s a little bit like arguing that Jerry McGuire isn’t sports movie. You know, somebody might say, “Oh, that’s not a sports movie, that’s a romantic comedy/drama posing as sports movie.”
And I suppose that could be the came. But how come it can’t be both.
Die Hard is an action movie that takes place during a holiday party in LA. Its soundtrack features multiple Christmas songs – including Run DMC’s classic tune, “Christmas in Hollis.” So yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
And it was at this moment that I began to think about other Christmas movies. For example: If you made a Top 10 list of the best Christmas movies, which ones would be on it? What would be your starting five? And if you really break it down, what is the greatest Christmas movie of all-time?
In the end, lists are kind of a funny thing. We enjoy ranking things. Even things that are obviously subjective. And I’m not exactly sure why.
But really, the whole purpose is to spur a little thought and discussion. And in this case, to remember the ghosts of Christmas cinema past.
So here goes…
First, we’re starting with two sentimental honorable mentions.
1. To Grandmother’s House We Go
Released: Dec. 6, 1992
Anybody else remember this one? This was a made-for-TV movie that starred the (very young) Olsen Twins. In fact, I’m pretty sure this was their first movie following their “Full House” days. So this gets a mention for a couple of reasons.
1. You could make the argument that this movie kicked off the Olsen Twins mania that would dominate pre-teen pop culture in the late 90s.*
*If you were really trying, I bet you make a case that the Olsen Twins were the real-world precursor to the unstoppable force that is Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus. Miley’s career is really starting to parallel the Olsens’. Childhood star. Crossover into mainstream fame. And then a major breakdown flanked by eating disorders, rehab and sketchy older boyfiends. OK, so none of that’s happened to Miley, yet. (We hope.) And we’re praying for you Miley. You can make it!
2. The movie was essentially about a set of twins that felt unloved at home, so they ran off and tried to find their way to their grandmother’s house for Christmas. At least, that’s how I remember it. Anyway the Olsen Twins get kidnapped by some old criminals (including one of the co-stars from the TV show “Coach.”) and (minimal) hilarity ensues. But the classic moment comes at the end when the Olsen Twins are trying to convince a police officer to do a good deed on Christmas Eve, and the Olsen Twins convince him by chanting, “Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve…”
How about this… just watch the chant at 1:45 of this video. (Then check out a cameo from Rebecca Donaldson and Danny Tanner at the end.)
2. A Very Brady Christmas
This is another classic made-for-TV Christmas movie. All the Bradys get together for a good ol’ fashioned Brady family Christmas.
Bobby is in his 20s and wants to be racecar driver. There’re plenty of awkward moments between Mrs. Brady (Florence Henderson) and Greg Brady (Barry Williams). And at the end, Mike Brady gets stuck in a building collapse. But don’t worry. He’s able to free himself when the Bradys start singing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.”
Seriously, You can’t make this stuff up.
The only lowlight? The actress that played Cindy Brady didn’t want to take part, so they had to find a replacement.
OK, on to the Top 10.
10. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Released: Nov. 20, 1992
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: John Hughes
So, yea, this should probably be higher. But we’re sticking it at No. 10 for a few reasons. And you’ll see one of those in a minute. But this is still one of the highest-grossing films of the 90’s. It also features one of Rob Schneider’s original on-screen roles… Just a great movie.
…And it’s filled with classic lines.
“My family’s in Florida, and I’m in New York?
“Do you guys mind if I work on my cannonballs?”
“You know Herbert Hoover once stayed on this floor?”
“The vaccum guy?”
And then there’s the best one — the memorable scene in the hotel when MaCauley Culkin uses the Talkback to order the Plaza hotel room…
“(In slow-motion) Howdy-do. This is Peter McCallister, the father. I’d like a hotel room, please, with an extra large bed, a TV, and one of those little refrigerators you have to open with a key… credit card? You got it.”
Add in the feel-good scenes with the homeless bird lady in the park, and it’s definitely in our top 10.
Released: Nov. 23, 1988
Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue
Anytime you have Bill Murray starring in a modern remake of “A Christmas Carol,” — well, you know it’s going to be good.
8. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Released: Oct. 29, 1993
Director: Henry Selick
Writer: Tim Burton
This is just a solid movie. But there are two things that really propel it to the eighth spot on the list.
1.) It has groundbreaking animation, and… 2.) It has an award-winning soundtrack and score written by Danny Elfman.
And the highlight of the soundtrack is Elfman’s catchy tune, “’What’s This?”
Listen to it once… and you’ll be hooked.
7. Die Hard
Released: July 15, 1988
Director: John McTiernan
We talked about. And we could write for days about this movie. It’s that groundbreaking, that important… and that much fun to watch.
“Now I have a machine gun, ho… ho… ho.”
Think about this…
How many movies in the past 20 years revolved around a seemingly normal guy single-handedly foiling a large group of terrorists, soldiers, bad guys, etc?
Really, think about it — Speed, Under Siege, Passenger 57, Sudden Death, The Rock. And so on.
And if you need more proof that it’s a Christmas movie, just watch the ending credits.
6. Miracle on 34th Street (Original)
Released: May 2, 1947
Director: George Seaton
Miracle on 34th Street (Remake)
Released: Nov. 18, 1994
Director: Les Mayfield
Let’s just say this: If we all watched the endings of both “34th Street” movies on a continuous loop, I’m pretty sure the world would be a better place. Here’s the trailer.
5. White Christmas
Released: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Writers: Norman Krasna and Norman Panama
Now we’re getting to the classics.
And let’s break it down. Here’s what you have with White Christmas.
You have two legendary entertainers — Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye — at the top of their games.
Simply put, you have a slice of 1950s Americana, a portrait of when the world was a simpler place – or at least, it seemed that way.
(To be honest, this is a little bit of a sentimental choice. My family used to watch this movie together every December around the holidays. Here’s guessing my family has your family beat in the cheesy/lame family category.)
And in the end, you have the song…
4. A Christmas Story
Released: Nov. 18, 1983
Director: Bob Clark
Writer: Jean Shepherd
It kills me. That this is four. It just kills me. But what are you gonna do?
Here’s the funny thing: This movie didn’t have a lot of success in the theaters. In fact, it got a lot of negative reviews.
According to some critics, it had something to do with the movie being directed by the same guy that directed Porky’s*.
*Man, what a career that guy had.
But finally, by the mid-1990s, the movie was a staple on the cable movie channels during the Holidays. And in 1997, TNT started airing “24 hours of A Christmas Story” on Christmas Eve. By 2004, the marathon had moved to TBS and we’d never look at Ralphie the same again.
Here’s another funny thing: I’ve probably seen every part of this movie over a dozen times. But I think I’ve only sat down and watched the movie straight through once or twice.
But there really are so many wonderful scenes.
When the Dad gets the leg-lamp in the mail… “It’s a major award.”
When Ralphie finally gets the B.B. gun, “You’ll shot your eye out.”
Any scene with Scut Farkus.
When they go to the Chinese restaurant… “Fararara ra ra ra ra”
But for some reason, the flagpole scene has always been my absolute favorite. Raphie’s friend, Flick, of course, gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole at recess. But my favorite part comes when the kids go back inside, and Ralphie’s teacher asks where Flick went.
The narrator’s voice slays me every time.
Ralphie: (in Narrator’s voice) Flick? Flick who?
3. Love Actually
Released: Nov. 14, 2003
Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
OK, here’s the question. This is the most recent movie on the list. So what will think about it in 25 years? Will we still consider it a classic Christmas movie. I say, yes.
And not only is it one of the best Christmas movies ever, I’m saying this is one of the best 10 movies of the 2000’s. It’s that good.
(Or maybe I just love British accents.)
Anyway. The ensemble cast is perfect. The interweaving plot lines are perfect. And Kiera Knightley is perfect.
And this scene (yes, you know the one) is perfect.
2. Home Alone
Released: Nov. 16, 1990
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: John Hughes
…And this was the reason we were a little hard on Home Alone 2.
Here’s the thing about Home Alone… Give me a more memorable and iconic movie for people between the ages of 20 and 30. You can’t.
Really. This is the one.
For our generation, it’s The Lion King, Toy Story and Home Alone. Those are the three. And if you’re a boy, you probably throw The Sandlot in there, too.
Say the following word to anyone under 30… “Buzz’s girlfriend, woof.” … and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.
Of course, this is my all-time favorite scene.
On the plus side, this movie gave us MaCauley Culkin. And in turn, that gave up Culkin’s peformance in Michael Jackson’s “Black and White” video. Thank you, MJ.
1. Christmas Vacation
Released: Dec. 1, 1989
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Writer: John Hughes
This. One. Has. It. All.
Comedy. Heart. Family. And the greatest Christmas rant ever.
And how about John Hughes? We’ll miss you, John.