Staff Picks: Must-See Holiday Movies

NW Staff

“Black Christmas”
Jamie Reed

Taking a break from traditional holiday heart-warmers, 2006’s “Black Christmas” (a remake of the 1974 original) tells the story of Billy, an escaped serial killer who decides to come home for the holidays to seek revenge on a group of mindless sorority girls who now live in his childhood home. While the dialogue is straight out of “Sweet Valley High,” the murders in this film are gory and creative, turning everyday objects like Christmas lights, fountain pens and even a rolling pin into deadly weapons. After watching Black Christmas, viewers will never look at candy canes or sugar cookies the same way again.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
Shane Nyman

“Nightmare” sits as the only animated musical I didn’t boot from my life when I hit my teens. Thirteen years after its release, Tim Burton’s dark and stylish masterpiece still stands as the best stop-motion film ever, and my puffy, plastic-cased VHS version still stands tall in my personal film collection. Burton’s creepy characters combined with musician Danny Elfman’s amazing score and vocals make it a classic for viewers of all ages. The film offers oodles of memorable characters, from the scared-stupid “Sandy Claws” and Oogie Boogie, to “The Pumpkin King” Jack Skellington, who over the years has apparently turned into a Hot Topic fashion figure.

“A Christmas Story”
Kyle Whitney

This is the ultimate holiday classic. “A Christmas Story” is a movie that has spawned lines of merchandise, a summer-based sequel and a much deeper appreciation for both the leg-shaped lamp and the triple-dog dare. Little Ralphie Parker’s manic (and often psychotic) trek through the holiday season should ring true with anyone who has ever experienced the pain of trying to convince a parent to buy them a present. When it was first released in November of 1983, Roger Ebert labeled the movie as “a sort of Norman Rockwell crossed with MAD Magazine.” And although the youth of today may not know who Rockwell is, anyone within a mile of a television this Christmas will likely be privy to TBS’s 24 straight hours of an original, traditional, 100 percent, red-blooded, two-fisted, all-American Christmas.

“Home Alone”
Curt Kemp

In 1990, Macaulay Culkin became known as America’s sweetheart when “Home Alone” was released. Since then, he’s fallen hard from the spotlight, but his character Kevin McCallister will always have a place in my heart. Personally, “Home Alone” has impacted me in a very immediate way. Sporting a fairly impressive flat-top haircut throughout elementary-school, I was instantly dubbed, “Buzz,” after the angry older brother of Culkin’s character Kevin. Subsequently, the one comment I heard for the weeks following the movie’s release were, “Curt! Your girlfriend! Woof!” Despite this negative impact on my life, I still watch “Home Alone” every chance I get and on each viewing, admire Kevin’s impeccably laid-out hijinks. Take that, Pesci!

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Ashley Berken

This is a movie that has warmed my soul since I was old enough to understand that Rudolph was a reject from the other reindeer, just because he had a shiny nose. It is also the longest running television special since 1964. “Rudolph” is a classic underdog story that shows children to embrace their flaws. It also shows little elves that they can break away and be dentists as well. There are so many precious characters that add more to the plot than others, such as the Abominable Snowman, the lumberjack and let’s not forget the oddly depressing Island of Misfit Toys. Overall, this is the one claymation movie that I love and will show my future children.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
Josh Perttunen

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” is the perfect movie to put people in the holiday spirit. A man famous for his role as the movie monster Frankenstein breathes life into this tale of yet another green monster, this one obsessed with ruining Christmas. The musical accusations leveled against him are that he is as cuddly as a cactus and as charming as an eel. Watching his Scrooge-like metamorphosis from a slimy worm into a hero with a hulk-sized heart is a charming piece of cinema. The most enduring image of the whole movie is when the Grinch and his faithful dog are trying to push the sled back uphill so it doesn’t demolish Whoville.

“The Santa Clause”
Heather Luebke

I will never forget the image of Tim Allen trying to shave off a snowy white beard as he fights against becoming Santa Claus. That moment alone had me in stitches the first time I saw “The Santa Clause.” As a child, I always wondered where Santa ended up the other 364 days of the year, and this movie answered that question — at least enough to pacify my 8-year-old self. Now that I’m older, I’ve outgrown watching “The Santa Clause” for the simple humor behind watching an average man become Santa, and now I can appreciate the message of family and Christmas spirit that the movie conveys. Oh, who am I kidding? Watching Tim Allen gain 300 pounds never gets old.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”
Jackie Stark

Charlie Brown helped teach me the true meaning of Christmas as a kid: that skimpy Christmas trees need to be decorated too. His undying love for the undersized tree is endearing, though mocked. The rest of the kids make fun of Charlie Brown for choosing what looks like a Bonsai tree to be in the school play, but they, too, love it by the end. Charlie Brown, with his yellow shirt and prematurely-balding head, is perhaps the most depressing child cartoon character ever depicted, but he is still able to teach the rest of the world how to appreciate the holiday season. So now, when he yells out “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” I can safely answer him with a “yes.”

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
Gordon Beedle

What makes this movie a holiday classic is the antics of Chevy Chase’s Clark “Sparky” Griswold. The loveable father figure does all the wonderful things a father should around the holiday. He overwhelms his house with lights, spends too much money on presents, speeds down a sliding hill on a greased up saucer and cherishes his family in the end. With the holiday spirit in full force — led by Chase and a drunken Randy Quaid — National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” certainly brings comfort and joy to the season.

“It’s a Wonderful Life”
Cassandra Sturos

Ever since I first saw “It’s a Wonderful Life” during my freshman year of college, I have been smitten with this Christmas classic. The story follows the life of George Bailey, played by the dashing James Stewart. Though his life does not always seem to go according to plan, George Bailey handles almost every unexpected circumstance with endearing composure .until one devastating incident the night of Christmas Eve. Bailey begins to question his life’s meaning, while contemplating suicide. Lucky for him, his guardian angel is watching and glides down to earth to show George what the world would have been like without him in it. George sees that he truly has made a difference and life really is wonderful after all. A box of tissues is advised.