Top Christmas Movies of All Time

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Considering how many heartwarming, uplifting, or just plain hilarious stories have hit the silver screen around Christmas each year, narrowing them down to a single list is certainly a daunting task. Nonetheless, UP TV’s honed in on 10 of the best, interspersing timeless classics like A Christmas Story with newer flicks like UP’s Christmas Angel  that share the remarkable ability to impact audiences of all ages. Though a mere 10 selections still leaves plenty of room for hunting down your personal favorite, this light-hearted trip through Christmases past and present assures a whole lot of laughter, a likelihood for some tears, and most importantly, joyful glimpses of the season’s spirit.

It’s a Wonderful Life

album promo image for It's a Wonderful Life The 1946 drama isn’t just one of the most treasured seasonal films but also one of the world’s most beloved in general. Starring James Stewart as George Bailey, the tale chronicles a man who’s down on his luck and contemplating taking his own life (on Christmas Eve no less!) until his guardian angel Clarence Odbody (played by Henry Travers) makes a case for life by pointing out the many people he’s influenced over the years.

 

Miracle On 34th Street

From the following year, Miracle On 34th Street runs a close second as Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) sets out to prove he’s the real Santa Claus while working at the Big Apple’s biggest department store. Though it’s certainly a daunting task, especially when people like Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) have their bouts with disbelief. Eventually though, Kris Kringle’s evidence is much too compelling to ignore, which coupled with an equally convincing courtroom defense led by Fred Gailey (John Payne) proves the man in question could really be from the North Pole.

                                A Christmas Carol

Though this Charles Dickens classic was remade many times over, the 1951 edition of the Yuletide masterpiece has unequivocally stood the test of time. Much of the reason stems from Alastair Sim channeling the miserly ways of Ebenezer Scrooge, who may start out as the cranky, frugal villain who’s unkind to those all around him, but eventually finds his heart softening after some harrowing visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

 

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

album promo image for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Pretty much anyone can relate to having a family with a few crazy characters, though in the case of Clark Griswold (played by the incomparable Chevy Chase), he has more than his fair share. Besides fending off bizarre relatives, competing with the neighbors’ decorations and that whole issue of a 1989 Christmas bonus that never comes, Clark and company eventually find laughter and love amidst the endless streams of over the top frustrations.

 

The Polar Express

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The special effects behind 2004’s The Polar Express earned essentially the same amount of attention as the stirring story, which basically transformed live actors into digital characters. At the helm of a half dozen voices is none other than Tom Hanks, who helps progress a magical journey about a boy who doesn’t quite believe in Santa anymore, but warms up to the idea after hopping aboard a train that doesn’t stop until it reaches the North Pole.

 

A Christmas Story

Even though A Christmas Story was made in 1983, the side splitting comedy about a boy named Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) who simply wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas actually takes place sometime around the early 1940s. The time warp results in a nostalgic trip down memory lane to the days of Little Orphan Annie, Ovaltine and triple dog dares to determine if a tongue will actually affix itself to a frozen flagpole (and yes, it does!) As for whether or not Ralphie gets his wish, let’s just say the “you’ll shoot your eye out” warning isn’t in vain.

The Grinch

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Given the strength of the 1957 book Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it’s no surprise The Grinch made the successful transition to the screen in 2000, especially considering it starred Jim Carrey in the title roll and was directed by Ron Howard. The fantasy/comedy may be geared towards children, but there’s plenty of mischief and slapstick for the whole family to enjoy, even if it takes the present-stealing main character some time to understand the meaning behind the season.

The Santa Clause

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Put Home Improvement hero Tim Allen circa 1994 in a Santa suit and the results aren’t just downright bizarre, but drop-dead hysterical. After his character Scott Calvin accidentally causes Santa Clause to fatally fall from a roof into a mound of snow a mere 24 hours before Christmas, he has no choice but to fill in as good old St. Nick, even if that means squeezing in a stop at the North Pole before descending down all of the world’s chimneys the very next day!

White Christmas

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Take the vivacious cast of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen
singing dancing to the holiday score of Irving Berlin, and it doesn’t even matter that this 1954 story is relatively simplistic. The foursome (comprised respectively of characters Bob Wallace, Phil Davis, Betty Haynes and Judy Haynes) camps it up in a variety show staged to save a ski-resort in the midst of a financial slump. Show stopping numbers like “It’s Cold Outside,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and the title track are enough to send a spirit of revival shooting through even the most tumultuous of winter storms.

Christmas Angel

album promo image for Christmas Angel Ending on a brand-new note, we couldn’t resist spreading some seasonal cheer for the gmc world premiere movie Christmas Angel. Not only does the all-star cast include Teri Polo (The Phantom of the Opera, Brimstone), Della Reese (Touched By An Angel), Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Andromeda) and Mandisa’s smash song “Somebody’s Angel,” but the tale is truly unforgettable. Set from the perspective of a fifth grader named Olivia who’s being raised by a single mother, the plot traces the arrival of a new neighbor who’s timing just so happens to coincide with many of her friends’ Christmas wishes coming true. An angel perhaps? Olivia makes a pretty convincing case!

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About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of “Access Matthews” (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own “Gospel Dream” (where he served as season one judge).