As the party in power continues to wrongly correct “Happy Holidays” wishers with “Merry Christmas,” we’d like to offer you a diverse round-up of our favorite seasonal fare, plucked from different parts of the calendar and with a wealth of genres that speak to the crossover power of seasonally appropriate joy. Regretfully, Hollywood continues to crank out Christmas movie after Christmas movie, ignoring many other wonderful traditions and skewing our pool of options in the process.
We debated admitting entries to this list that had either a single festive scene (“Call My by Your Name”) or happen to take place during the present-buying season (“Die Hard”), but ultimately decided to go with ones that explicitly stuck to the winter holidays (Garry Marshall’s greeting card-company approved late work — “Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve,” and “Mother’s Day” — still did not make the cut). So our roll call features lots of titles that television programmers will be playing on an endless loop until January, plus a few less family-friendly flicks. Classics, really, though some with a twist.
Check out our top 20 ranking below.
20. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)
If something can go wrong for the Griswold family, it will go wrong for the Griswold family. For their third outing as the world’s most folly-prone family, the Griswolds stayed close to home to unspool a side-splitting adventure that ably combines both totally understandable foibles (tangled Christmas lights, the terrors of a too-close family, jelly of the month club bonuses) and buckwild breakdowns (those neighbors, the cat, that kidnapping) into one wonderfully rewatchable package. Nestled all snug in their beds — a la sugar plums or something festively similar? — is the deep sense that, for all the mishaps and insane setpieces that dominate the film, there’s still an affection and real love for family, the holiday spirit, and spending time together, even when things get ugly. — Kate Erbland
19. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)
The great Michael Caine plays Scrooge with all of the gravitas of a Shakespearean actor in this joyous remake of the Charles Dickens classic, except his scene partners are all puppets. Caine understood the comedic possibilities of juxtaposing his dour Scrooge with a gaggle of squawking Muppets, and he was right. Brilliantly casting Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat as odd couple narrators, director Brian Henson delivered a smart and accessible joy ride of a film that introduced a generation of kids to the Christmas classic. The ghost of…