6. Joyeux Noel (2005)
“Joyeux Noel” revolves around four characters living through World War I. We see WWI’s famous Christmas Truce through Scottish, French, and British eyes. The film’s haunting opening paints the death of childhood innocence as school children are taught to hate their respective country’s war enemies through song.
Actors Diane Kruger and Benno Fuhrman excel in their roles as opera stars Nikolaus Sprink and Anna Sorenson. Overall, “Joyeux Noel” tells a moving anti-war story on a snowy Christmas Eve. This is not a brutal war movie at all, as it celebrates not violence, but peace between men. The wonderful winterland cinematography warms the heart during a cold season, but the power of song to unite is a riveting theme fit for any occasion.
7. Prancer (1989)
A nuanced portrait of the triumphs and heartaches of Christmas time in the homes of impoverished American farmers, “Prancer” tells the tale of nine year old farm girl Jessica Riggs, who discovers an injured reindeer in the forest. She deduces this reindeer is one of Santa’s and attempts to nurse it back to good health, much to her stressed father’s disapproval. She plans to give Prancer to Santa before her father can kill or sell him.
There’s too much to love about “Prancer.” Child actor Rebecca Harrell’s performance as Jessica is one to die for, playing a very heartfelt character without veering into the jaws of sappiness. Sam Elliot as a broken widower is equally as great- in each scene, he really feels like he’s doing his best not to shatter apart, his subtle additions making the tension between Harrell and Elliot so much more intense and moving. The enthralling rural winter landscape gifts “Prancer” a dreamy and ethereal touch.
The other reindeer shouldn’t have picked on poor Rudolph, because they’ve all been dwarfed by him ever since. Luckily Prancer gets some love in this flick that explores beautiful themes of childlike belief and compassion.
8. Holiday Affair (1949)
“Holiday Affair” is about- you guessed it- a holiday affair. A nice rom com that’s actually very funny starring a suave and hilarious Robert Mitchum and a lovely Janet Leigh. During the busy Christmas season, Store clerk Steve Mason (Mitchum) catches Connie Ennis (Janet, a comparative double agent shopper from a rival store, red handed- but decides not to turn her in! He’s fired on the spot, but gets lucky in his unemployed status by getting close and cozy with Connie, a widow, and her son Timmy. Mason and Connie begin falling in love, much to her nice, but boring boyfriend Carl’s dismay.
As film fans, we’re used to seeing Robert Mitchum in tougher, film noir roles, and it’s a joy seeing him take on this sillier, rom-com role. He’s very sweet and steals the show, especially in his tender moments with little Timmy. This light hearted role was meant to heal Mitchum’s public persona as he’d just been released from jail for doing drugs. Overall, “Holiday Affair” sits well with a nice batch of fresh, warm cookies on a cold Christmas night. Nice guys always finish last, even on Christmas.
9. Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986)
When it comes to film adaptations, Tchaikovsky’s ballet masterwork “The Nutcracker” is a tough nut to crack, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet absolutely cracks it in “Nutcracker: The Motion Picture,” a performing arts film of the highest caliber! The plights of Clara, her Nutcracker, and the Mouse King have never felt so bold, beautiful, and grand! “The Dance of the Sugar Plums” has never been so tasty!
Speaking of tasty, this production reconfigures the classic Nutcracker ballet into a tale of puberty and coming of age. After all, it’s about a nut… cracker! Influenced by MGM musicals and the films of Alexander Korda, Director Caroll Ballard (“The Black Stallion,” “Fly Away Home”) does a great job refusing to over edit or dally in self indulgent directorial vices, allowing the dancers to do their thing. The choreography, costumes, and sets ooze with gorgeous, Christmas visual delights while brilliantly painting the psychology of these abstract, iconic, Yuletide characters. Crack your nuts, jingle your bells, and bust those colorful, jiggly Christmas balls as you turn on your inner nutcracker while you jingle, twinkle, and tingle all the way when decorating your jolly, green giant of a Christmas tree! Like the song goes, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
10. Arthur’s Christmas (2011)
The secrets to Santa’s elaborate Christmas operation is exposed in this “Mission Impossible” and “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer” crossover! The Claus family has no time for fun on Christmas Day, their most stressful day of the year. The dysfunctional Claus generations unite in an international, top-secret mission utilizing elf armies and spaceships for gift delivering. Weary from the work, the exhausted Santa Dynasty has lost the Christmas Spirit, bickering instead of spreading family holiday cheer. When one single gift goes undelivered, it’s up to the dorky black sheep of the family, Arthur (James McAvoy), to save Christmas. He recruits old man Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), and the gift wrapping elf Bryony Shelfley (Ashley Jensen) to give Gwen her bicycle before Christmas Eve’s end!
If the world’s terrible, capitalist hellscape has quashed your belief in Christmas’s magic, “Arthur’s Christmas” will rekindle that holiday hope. Arthur, this movie’s heart, is the perfect apotheosis of a hero: kind, joyous, faithful, and resilient in never giving up his idealism. A generational tale of reconciliation, “Arthur’s Christmas” is a powerful reminder for families to mix old wineskins with new wineskins. The skins will burst with the creation of a force unstoppable.