Fuzzy blankets, hot chocolate, falling snow, and merry movies. To me, this is an ideal way to spend a December evening while snuggling with my cuddle bugs that disguise themselves as dogs and my obliging husband. Since life has lead us to a temporary home in Georgia for the next few years, I think I can pretty much rule out snowfall when it comes to this year’s Christmas experience. But our apartment thermostat is set to a brisk 66 degrees, so blankets, warm drinks, and snuggles are still on the menu.
If you’re looking for Christmas movies to watch this December, I’ve compiled a list of the most wholesome holiday movies (with little to no questionable content) to get you in a warm, cheerful, and loving mood with your whole family.
1. Holiday Inn
I’m a sucker for old movies (there’s a few on this list), and in my opinion, this film from 1942 outshines most. The plot revolves around two friends (played by Bing Crosby & Fred Astaire), an inn that is only open on major holidays, and a pretty girl (played by Marjorie Reynolds). A successful performer who is ready for a quiet life, Crosby buys a farm in Vermont and plans to settle down. He’s heart-broken by his fiancee who leaves him for Astaire, his supposed best friend. In a twist of fate, Astaire shows up at the farm after she leaves him, too.
Once again, these two friends find themselves vying for the affections of the same woman (Reynolds). Charming, old-fashioned, wintery drama unfolds, but at the end, their issues are all resolved and everyone remains friends. Irving Berlin wrote twelve original songs for the movie, including the song “White Christmas,” which would later be used as the title for another Bing Crosby Christmas movie about a decade later. It’s light, it’s warm, it’s funny, and the whole family can watch it together.
2. Little Women
Maybe it’s because I have four sisters of my own, but this merry movie reminds me so much of my own childhood. Based on the autobiography of Louisa May Alcott, Little Women follows the life of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March as they grow up during the post-civil war era. Because the March girls are both sisters and best friends, watching them interact with each other always deepens my own feelings of sentiment toward my family. The March sisters are fiercely loyal, generous with what little they have, and true to themselves.
Perhaps my favorite aspect is that these sisters are not perfect. The movie displays very authentic vice (vanity, pride, jealousy), but also growth and forgiveness. It’s filled with snowy scenes, ice skating, sledding, Christmas carols, and lots of love – all the ingredients in a perfect Christmas delight.
In 1904, the World’s Fair came to St. Louis. In the year prior, the whole city of St. Louis is abuzz, including the Smith family. Full of pride and excitement that the whole world will be coming to them in their very own hometown, the four Smith girls (played by Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Joan Carroll, and Lucille Bremer) learn lots of lessons about life that year, including falling in love.
Unexpectedly, their father gets transferred and they discover they must leave behind their beloved city. Tears and heartbreak erupt, sparking Garland to sing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to calm her five-year-old sister Tootie on Christmas Eve. What would our modern-day Christmases be like without this staple holiday melody? If you need a good cry and an uplifting of emotions, this merry movie should be able to accomplish that in about 90 minutes.
At first, you may not think of this book-turned-movie as a Christmas film. Sure, Father Christmas makes an appearance, and the world is caught in an eternal winter thanks to the White Witch. But this story isn’t really about Christmas…or is it? When Christianity began, there was no annual celebration of Jesus’ birth. It wasn’t until a few hundred years after Jesus’ Ascension that this practice began. Some wise former-pagans made a connection between their old traditions and Christian truths. Every year, pagans would hold a feast after the Winter Solstice to celebrate the “turning of the tide.” From that point in the winter season, the amount of light and warmth during the day increases. Pagans used to attribute this to the coming of their gods. It was converts who then attributed this celebration to Jesus’ birth, which brought “Light” into the world.
In this story, Jesus is represented by the lion Aslan. It is upon Aslan’s return to Narnia that the evil White Witch’s power lessens and winter begins to end. It really is a Christmas story! Just as Christ came in the darkest days of humanity and saved us from sin’s brisk coldness and Satan’s firm grasp, Aslan returns, bringing spring, freeing the creatures from the power of the White Witch, and dying in the traitor’s place.
Six-year-old Susan does not believe in Santa Claus. This dis-belief was instilled in her by her mother, Dorey, who does not think it’s healthy for her young daughter to believe in fantasy. When tasked with hiring the Santa who will pose with kids at Macy’s during the holiday season, Dorey enlists a man by the name of Kris Kringle. Kris claims to be Santa himself, but Dorey and Susan remain skeptics, even though they are intrigued by the “magic” he seems to work for all the people around him.
When a Macy’s competitor sets a trap to make Kris look mentally unstable and threatening, Kris finds himself institutionalized. A young lawyer, along with Susan and Dorey, comes to his defense. These acts of love result in a little Christmas miracle and a new, happy family.
If The Wizard of Oz and Once Upon a Time had a baby born in December in the 1980s, it would be this movie. By means of a magical Christmas Eve blizzard, eleven-year-old Lisa finds herself transported to the world of Toyland, a place where toys and fictional characters are real people. Lisa learns to embrace the importance of imagination and make-believe (which she had previously thought of as pointless) as she works alongside her new friends and the “toymaster” to save their home from the evil Barnaby Barnacle.
This movie was considered such a flop by the studio when it was released in 1946 that they actually let its copyright lapse. By the 70s, there was a festive Frank Capra film available for networks to screen for free. Thus the story of George Bailey was played over and over and over again on multiple channels. It’s because of this that people fell in love with the film and it became the holiday classic it is today. Thank goodness because, let’s be honest, Christmas is not always an easy time of the year. Finances can be tight, family can make things stressful, and other shoppers might inspire us to lose our faith in humanity. This movie is a good reminder of the effects a generous and sacrificial life has on others. No matter how bad things may seem at the moment, life really is wonderful!
8. New in Town
Even if you live somewhere it never snows, the amount of fluffy white precipitation in this film really transports one’s mind into the winter season. The scenes are filled with ice fishing, Minnesota manners, and tapioca pudding, which at first doesn’t seem too enticing. This is exactly how Lucy, played by Renee Zellweger, feels when her corporate job in Miami sends her to check on their plant up north. Knowing she’s there to restructure the factory, many of the employees go out of their way to make her task more difficult.
Never one to back down from a fight, Lucy retaliates and becomes wildly unpopular. It’s not until a near-death experience when Lucy is rescued by the handsome, head-of-the-union widower (played by Henry Connick Jr.) that everyone’s icy attitudes towards one another begin to soften.
I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat, and all the other Christmas Carol movies actually kind of frighten me (go ahead and laugh). I love the original story – it’s a true classic! However, my sensitive self prefers the story told to me by the friendly muppets, whose silly antics soften some of the spooky parts and make it more bearable for myself and very young children.
I’ve always wanted to go to Radio City Music Hall, and since my husband’s family lives right outside New York City, there’s a good chance that at some point I will be able to cross it off my bucket list. Until then, I’m grateful to Netflix for adding their Christmas spectacular to their queue of holiday movies so that those of us who can’t make it to the Big Apple in person can still watch the snazzy Rockettes sparkling amidst the glow of Christmas lights and music.
What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Share your picks in the comments!
Written by Grace Bellon, lover of bearded men, rich coffee, cheesy puns, cuddly doggies, and Catholicism. You can find out more about her here (warned ya she liked cheesy puns).