I will start by saying that I have seen both National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story and, while I will say that they are both good movies, they are not on my list of favorite Christmas movies.
Again, these are in no particular order and it is a complete coincidence that there are four :o)
To start, there is Love Actually:
When I first saw this movie in the theater, I actually did not like it very much. I just felt that there were too many loose ends that were not tied up at the end and some of the plots were just a little too cheesy. The more times that I watched it though, the more I grew to love it for what it actually was...a movie about love and hope and all things Christmas. It is not supposed to be some Oscar winning piece, it is a feel-good movie that succeeds in putting you in an automatic good mood every time you watch it. It also has one of my favorite opening lines:
"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge, they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion love actually is all around."
I think that is a good thing to remember at Christmas-time.
Next on my list is Little Women:
I am, of course, referring to the Winona Ryder version. This is not technically a Christmas movie, but it begins with the March women celebrating Christmas and it always evokes the feelings of the holiday for me. Not only do I love the score for this movie, but it also gave me two of my favorite Christmas songs: "Ding Dong! Merrily On High" and "Here We Come A-wassailing."
It also shows a family that, no matter how much money they had, they were always willing to help others who were less fortunate. A family that loved each other through all of life's ups and downs. And while it has period aspects to it, the girls deal with things that all women experience. From getting married or losing loved ones, to figuring out what it is you are supposed to do with your life. I have watched this movie so many times I cannot even remember when was the first time. Sometimes I watch it when I need a good cry. And sometimes I watch it when I need something comfortable and familiar.
Although, I never like the way the movie ends. I always want Jo to end up with Laurie instead of annoying Amy. I mean, really, who turns down Christian Bale?! :o)
The third movie on my list is Rent:
This is another movie that is not technically a "Christmas movie," but it starts and ends around the holidays and I always love watching it this time of year.
I had never seen the play, but after seeing the movie I bought the soundtrack and, as my former roommates can attest, I loved it so much that I listened to it non-stop for about a month. It was literally the only thing I listened to, over and over again, every day. I have since seen the play and loved it just as much as the movie.
Even for someone who has a loving family, this movie always helps me to remember that my friends are also part of that family. And that everyone has a family, even when it does not include the people that you would expect. The movie has a lot more depth to it than that, but all of the sub-plots really come back to this main theme. Families do not all look the same and you should not judge those that look different than your own, or what you think a family should look like.
How do you measure a year? Measuring it in love seems as good a way as any.
And finally, The Family Stone:
I did not like this movie very much either the first time I saw it. I do not like scenes where the characters are in awkward situations, it makes me feel physically uncomfortable and I just really do not like watching things that make me feel that way. There is one big scene in this movie that is hard for me to watch, which is why I did not like it very much the first time. However, the more I watched it, the easier it was to get passed this one scene and I found I really enjoyed the rest of the movie. Also, once you know the ending, you can better understand why the characters react to certain things the way that they do. My favorite part is definitely towards the end when Meredith gives the family her Christmas gift, which leads to her break-down and subsequent fight between Everett and Ben. I can watch it over and over again and it makes me laugh every single time.
Mostly I think I like this movie so much because I have always wanted a big family. I come from a relatively small family and seeing movies like this makes me want to have a lot of kids. Big families are kind of like their only little community and there is always someone there for you. And no matter how you grow up and act in the real world, when you are with your family you are forced to be yourself because they do not allow you to pretend to be anything else.
Of course, before I have this big family of mine I first need to find a man...but that is beside the point :o)
Of the four movies, this is not my favorite, but there is just something about this movie that I love. The thing that you get from this movie, and really all these movies, is that no matter how much you fight with your family or how sarcastic you are with each other, your family is always there for you. They will call you out when you are doing something they disagree with but if you are in trouble, they will be there no questions asked.
Christmas is not just about family. Although, for me, that is a very important aspect of the holiday. Christmas is about the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is about the love that Jesus gave to us unconditionally and about sharing that love with the people that we love. Regardless of what you believe, or how you celebrate the holiday, that is where it all began.
There are definitely more Christmas movies that I enjoy, but these are the ones that affect me in the greatest way.
I hope you have continued to enjoy the magic of the season and that this magic follows you into the new year!