If the weather outside is frightful, watching these five contemporary Christmas movies will make you feel delightful. I try to watch all the following Christmas movies at least once during the holiday season. There are of course the classic movies like A Christmas Carol (Scrooge) and It’s a Wonderful Life. I like these films, but I tend to enjoy contemporary Christmas flicks more, maybe because I haven’t seen them quite as often.
5. Trading Places (1983)
Wealthy brothers Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche) Duke make a one-dollar bet, on whether genetics or environment influences a person’s behavior. The pair orchestrate an elaborate plan to send cultured snob Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Ackroyd) into abject poverty and poor street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) straight into Winthorp’s lavish lifestyle.
When Billy Ray finds out what the Dukes have been up to, he and Louis team up with prostitute Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Butler Coleman (Denholm Elliot) to turn the tables on the wealthy brothers.
I’ve been watching Trading Places every Christmas since I was a teenager. It’s hilarious and features some stand-out performances, specifically from Denholm Elliot. And watch for a very young Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul), in a jail cell scene with Eddie Murphy.
4.The Family Stone (2005)
Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) brings his uptight girlfriend, Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker), home for the holidays to meet his unconventional family. A prude, Meredith feels like Everett’s whole family hates her. So she calls her sister Julie (Claire Danes), asking her to come to Connecticut so she’ll have an ally.
The Family Stone also stars Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson as Everett’s parents Sybil and Kelly, Luke Wilson as his brother Ben and Rachel McAdams as his sister Amy. My favorite line in this movie is when Meredith, upset with Everett’s family, is out at a local bar with Ben. He tells Meredith she just needs to be herself. “You have a freak flag. You just don’t fly it.”
3. Die Hard (1988)
There has been much debate over the years about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. For the film’s 30th Anniversary this year Fox has released a Christmas-themed Die Hard Blu Ray that finally settles the debate. Die Hard is in fact a Christmas movie.
In case you’ve never seen it (and, if not, what are you waiting for?), Die Hard tells the story of New York police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) endeavoring to visit his family during the holidays. While at his wife Holly’s (Bonnie Bedilia) office, he becomes caught up in a terrorist plot, masterminded by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Non-stop action ensues.
This movie is a new tradition for me and I have started watching it annually on Christmas Day. It’s my sister’s favourite Christmas movie and fast becoming one of my favourites also.
2. Elf (2003)
When Buddy (Will Ferrell) finds out he’s not a real elf, he heads to New York City in his elf clothing, searching for his biological father. His cynical dad Walter Hobbs(James Caan) is in denial until a DNA test proves Buddy is his son. He grudgingly moves the man-child into his apartment, alongside his wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and their teenage son Michael (Daniel Tay). Buddy gets a job as an elf at the local department store and meets Jovie (Zoey Deschanel) and eventually teaches his new family the true meaning of Christmas.
Elf, which also stars Ed Asner as Santa and Bob Newhart as Buddy’s adoptive father Papa Elf, is charming and funny and a must-see movie at Christmas.
1. The Holiday (2006)
This is a holiday chick-flick extraordinaire that is enormously fun to watch at Christmastime. Both Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are losers at love and looking to get out of town as soon as possible. Through an online house exchange program, the ladies switch houses (and continents) for the holidays. Amanda arrives at Iris’ quaint countryside home in England and Iris arrives at Amanda’s massive LA estate. Hilarity and romance, with Jude Law and Jack Black, respectively, ensue for both women.
A very engaging side story in The Holiday is Iris’ friendship with Amanda’s elderly neighbour Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach). She encourages him to attend a movie writer’s guild evening that will celebrate him. He thinks five people will attend, and it will be an embarrassment for him. Make sure you’ve got lots of tissues handy when Arthur enters the theater with Iris on his arm!