Thursday, December 27, 2018

2018: My Theatrical Movies Ranked

Around this time, I commonly see online-reviewers ranking their top 10 favorite and least favorite movies of the year. For the longest time I’ve wanted to do something similar, as I find it a nice way to put a cap on the year and look back on all the highs and lows that came before. However, I typically don’t see new movies until they come out on home video, or instant streaming and as a result, I honestly don’t go to the movies that often … that is unless it’s something special. Usually, I reserve the theater for new installments in a favorite franchise, or something relative to a season, or superhero movies, etc. The thought then came to me, why not just rank every theatrical movie I’ve seen this year, from my own personal least favorite, to absolute favorite … I think that’ll work. I’ll only be ranking the movies I saw in the theater, which means some other really good (and bad) films from 2018 won’t make the countdown. Also, this is my own personal opinion on each film, and each affected me on a different level. I saw 12 movies in total, and here's my personal ranking of each one from least to favorite. 

#12 The House with a Clock in its Walls  

Ever sense the conclusion of the original “Harry Potter” film series, I’ve been waiting for the next great fantasy film based on a rich source material. Strait to the point, I had high hopes for “The House with a Clock in its Walls”, to be that next magical experience … and for me, it wasn’t. While certainly not a terrible movie, there was just nothing about the experience that stuck with me. It all just felt like paint by number fantasy mayhem for little kids. I didn’t feel submersed in the world, I didn’t find intrigue in the characters, the jokes came off as laugh free, and the story was all too easy to predict. 

#11 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom  

To this day, 2015’s “Jurassic World” is the only “Jurassic Park” sequel that’s really worked for me. While it obviously was not on par with the original, it did still manage to hold its own, and I found it better then average. “Fallen Kingdom” on the other hand is about as average as they get. There was admittedly just enough Dino excitement and genuine fun that it passed for a mild diversion, but nothing meaningful stuck with me either. It’s a case of “I had fun once, and quietly forgot about it the next day”. So, not completely terrible, but certainly forgettable, and that’s something that even the weakest of the previous films never sank to. Sadly, it’s the first JP sequel that I felt had absolutely nothing new to offer.   

#10 Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween  

While Goosebumps in general was a staple of my child hood, I found the first movie to be okay at best, but very forgettable. As such, I liked it’s 2018 sequel just a hair more, as it mainly put the focus on my favorite holiday, and it made for an exceptionally decorative Halloween film to watch in October. I’m just easy to please in that regard. The villain Slappy was also a highlight in the first film and thankfully he has an even bigger role in this movie. Even the main character had an arc that hit close to home in a simple but genuine way. I’m probably not going to make a tradition of watching either of these Goosebumps films around Halloween, but this sequel was at least an entertaining, monster filled, October adventure, which is good enough for me.  

#9 The Grinch  

I’ve loved the Grinch my whole life, it’s one of my absolute favorite Christmas tales, and much like “A Christmas Carol”, I’m always open to a new version of the story. With an added CGI makeover, this film version explodes with color, warm holiday designs, and manages to keep the spirit of its source material alive, despite not adding to much new to it. While the film suffers from a lot of padding, it still delivered the goods, gave the principle characters a new spin, and it had its emotional highlights that were refreshingly different from the previous film versions. In short, this latest version of “The Grinch” wasn’t mandatory, but it was still delightful, and just the thing to put me in the Christmas spirit.

#8 Black Panther  

After his thrilling debut in “Civil War”, The Black Panther proves more than capable to hold his own film, not just because of the characters internal struggles, but also the struggles of the main villain. The setting is also a very captivating one, with an intriguing cultural mythology at the center and no shortage of absorbing imagery. However, while this was all around a solid film, I just can’t say I was enraptured by it the same way many others were. My only real issue is that the story was just a little too familiar to me, and the special effects were hit and miss. Still, those were only mild problems with an all-around satisfying new superhero origin film.

#7 Deadpool 2  

Truthfully, the “X-Men” franchise is my personal favorite long running film series, and I’m always excited for a new one, even if the film itself doesn’t excite me. Then again, it gives me the chance to be pleasantly surprised. I for one have some issues reserved for the Deadpool character and his foul sense of hummer, but I'm not going to pretend that "Deadpool 2" wasn't a fun time at the movies either, largely thanks to Ryan Reynolds infectious charm, a strong cast of colorful new side characters, white knuckled action, and no shortage of fan-serves and in-jokes for us long time readers of the X-Men comics. Heck, the film even got to my emotions a little, which I never would have expected from a character as goofy as this. While I didn’t go crazy for the first “Deadpool” movie, I’m happy to say that its sequel was a pleasant little escape, and one that’s held up for home viewings. 

#6 Ant-Man and the Wasp  

Marvels first partnering of a hero and heroine soars … largely thanks to its smaller, character driven stakes, but more to the point is that this "Ant-Man" sequel takes full advantage of its wild shrinking/growing concept. It gives us the creative action set-pieces, imaginative realms, as well as some welcome new twists, and no regrets for going overboard with its comedic potentials. Truthfully, it’s everything I wanted from a sequel to a really good superhero film, and speaking personally … I thought this was even better then the first.

#5 Ralph Breaks the Internet  

Here, in my opinion is one of those special animated sequels that one-up’s the first, takes the characters in a new direction, and the result is yet another solid Disney movie. The animation, comedy and creativity are cranked up to 10, but there’s also great subtext, morals, heartfelt moments and it’s just this perfect package of delightful yet meaningful. Throw in a highly entertaining merger of all the Disney Princesses, a break out musical number in the form of “The Slaughter Race Song”, along with a deeply touching ending and it makes for an animated experience that not only measures up to the first, but it’s just plain wholesome family entertainment. I only liked the first movie, it was good, but this was something special that really hit home.  

#4 Solo: A Star Wars Story  

It’s hard for me not to get excited for a new Star Wars movie on some level, and for the longest time, and in all honesty … I’ve always wanted to just go on a simple adventure with a young Han Solo. While behind the scenes, this film was a production nightmare, I sincerely felt that it turned out much stronger then it had any right to be. The cast was charming, the action fun, the tone consistent, and for me, it just felt like the right film the franchise needed. Ever sense “The Empire Strikes Back”, I felt that every single installment was trying to be the next “absolute best” in the series, while “Solo” is content to just be a small, yet perfectly good film, and for that … I genuinely found myself loving this one.  

#3 First Man  

The Apollo 11 is one of my favorite events in our modern-day history, and it’s a topic I’ve been fascinated with ever sense I first learned of it way back when I was in Middle School. In this film based on the historic event, it focuses solely on the personal struggles and triumphs of Neil Armstrong leading up to the mission. Personally, I thought this was an admirable direction, and it made for an engaging viewing experience. While I can be easily entertained by flashing spectacle, and super-heroes, I’m also enticed by movies that convey a little slice of life. Ryan Gosling shines in the leading role and the experience overall was a very rewarding and emotional journey.   

#2 Avengers: Infinity War  

Weather you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or not, there’s no denying that it’s one of the most colossal, expanded franchises ever to hit the theater, and “Infinity War” was the highly anticipated event that several prior films have been building up to. I’m thankful to say that the wait was worth it, as this sequel surpassed my expectations, and in my view is one of the absolute best of the series … like top 3 easily … actually, it might just be my new #1 favorite. With the largest roll-call of hero's thus far, and an all-out war taking place in several locations, we fans knew this was going to be a spectacle, but there's thankfully so much more to the experience than just the spectacle. Our favorite hero’s felt more vulnerable, and subsequently more human than most previous films. There were also several genuine surprises along the way, and considering this franchises line up, it’s challenging to get surprised. All-around, “Infinity War” was a mega Superhero sensation in every respect of the word, with the highest stakes yet, the grandest ensemble cast, hilarious team interplay, large scale battles, emotional character drama, and a villain to be remembered through the ages.

#1 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse  

I really wasn't expecting to like any superhero movie more then "Infinity War" ... but then came a spider who proved me wrong. Even when Spider-Man movies were at their worst, I’ve always enjoyed them on some level, but none of them could match 2004’s “Spider-Man 2”, which for the longest time was my absolute favorite. Then completely out of the blue comes this animated Spider-Man movie, the first of its kind, a completely original experience with the web-swinger, and it gives my initial favorite some competition. It’s a film that combines bold, human storytelling, with striking animation, solid voice work, and an infectiously lovable cast of various Spider-Man, which all add up to a highly entertaining superhero venture that absolutely delivers all the heart, comedy, action, and a lot of imagination into a perfect whole. While I went into "Infinity War" expecting to like it, this was something unique that got me off gourd, and made a lasting impression as one of my new ... all time favorite superhero movies.

That concludes my recap of theatrical movies through 2018, all around, I thought it was a good year, most films lived up to my expectations, and there were some pleasant surprises. Let’s see what 2019 has to offer next. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

My Top 25 Christmas Movies & Specials

Christmas seems to be every Child's favorite time of year, they love the snow, presents, decorations, and of cores the yearly Christmas specials. They’re practically a sub-genera within themselves, and they come in a variety, so it’s fun to pick and choose. To close out December 2018, I’m counting down my own personal top 25 favorite Christmas specials and movies of all time. The one catch is that I’ll be breaking this list down into three categories ... My Top 5 Favorite versions of “A Christmas Carol” … My Top 10 Favorite Animated Christmas Specials, and ... My Top 10 Favorite live action Christmas movies. This is the only way I’ll feel satisfied that I covered the right variety of my personal favorites. Also, I have to emphasize that these are all personal favorites, as I’m not trying to make any kind of official greatest Christmas list. With all that said, lets begin the countdown.

Let’s get this started off right with My Top 5 Favorite Versions of “A Christmas Carol”. The story of “A Christmas Carol” is one of my all-time holiday favorites, and there’s so many great versions to choose from. Really quick, here are some honorable mentions that couldn’t make it in my top 5 …

The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)

Scrooge” (1951)

Scrooge” (1970)

#5 A Christmas Carol (2009) 

As one of the most recent film versions of the Dickens classic, audiences may have been a little too familiar with this story to really get submersed in its message. Never the less, it’s dazzling visuals, holiday charms and unrestrained haunting atmosphere make it worth experiencing all over again. I’ve also loved Jim Carry my whole life, and for me, this was his last truly great character performance before he quietly disappeared from the big screen. The music is another great highlight, especially with Andrea Bocelli's "God Bless Us Everyone", which stands as my personal favorite Christmas song. While far from perfect, this version has just stuck with me through the years, and is a satisfying send-off for Robert Zemeckis animated Christmas productions.   

#4 “A Christmas Carol: The Musical” (2004) 

Here's yet another version of “A Christmas Carol” that may not exactly be remembered as one of the greats, but it’s absolutely a personal favorite of mine. Adapting the Charles Dickens classic into a musical was a very clever idea, giving audiences a fresh take on a popular story. While there have been several musical renditions of “A Christmas Carol” in the past, this is the version that’s always stuck with me. Visually it gets me in the spirit of Christmas more than any other version, and I absolutely adore the songs. Truthfully, it might just be my favorite collection of songs in a single Christmas outing, and some of these songs have stuck with me as staples of the Dickens tale. It might just be a little too corny and over the top for some viewers, but for my own personal delight, I just can’t help pulling this one out every year.    

#3 “A Christmas Carol” (1984) 

This early version of the Dickens classic still stands strong as one of the best, crafted with a firm direction, and blessed with the chemistry of George C. Scott in the leading role. Actually, while the following two on my list give me something extra that tip them high in the ranks of personal favorites … I think this version is about as perfect as they get. There’s something about the details that seem to surpass most other versions. We see Scrooge looking back on not only his past, but his relation to his father, which is something rarely touched on in any version. Also, this film features my favorite ending of any version, and I’d take it a step further saying that … perhaps it’s my favorite scene from any Christmas movie. If your lost in a sea of film versions of “A Christmas Carol”, and don’t know where to start … this would be good one to begin with. 

#2 “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (1983)

In truth, this was one of the very first specials that introduced me to the Dickens classic at a young age, and what a great way for kids to be exposed to its incredible source material. It’s basically the strait forward telling of “A Christmas Carol”, but animated, and with all the classic Disney characters in the principle roles. Seeing Scrooge McDuck in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is about as fitting as they get, and all the other famous Disney characters fit right in with the other roles. It gives children a fresh perspective of the characters from the book, and allows us to fully appreciate seeing them in later live action renditions. I especially love how this special is only 30 minutes long, and it still captures the atmosphere, tone, emotion and spirit of its source beautifully. Bottom line, if you have kids that have never even heard of “A Christmas Carol”, this is a great version to introduce them to it.

#1 “A Christmas Carol” (1999) 

This is the version that’s stuck with me the most for two simple reasons. For one, this was the first real movie version of “A Christmas Carol” that didn’t involve colorful cartoon characters or Muppets. As such, it’s the version that made me fall in love with this story, and really appreciate what a wonderful and timeless tale this truly is. There’s so much quality in a premise that revolves around looking back on who we once were … comparing it to what we are now … and who we hope to be in the future. It's a story of redemption, remorse, regret, and the beauty of life all in one beautiful package. The second reason this version has stuck with me the most is Patrick Stewart in the role of Mr. Scrooge. He is my personal favorite Scrooge, as he just nails ever emotion perfectly … even when acting over the top. Now, any version of "A Christmas Carol" is great and worth viewing, but it’s this version from 1999 that left the biggest impact on me personally.

Next, it’s time to countdown My Top 10 Animated Christmas Specials, but once again, here are some quick honorable mentions that just couldn’t make it.

Frosty the Snowman” (1969)

Tokyo Godfathers” (2003)

Rise of the Guardians” (2012)

#10 Disney’sBeauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” (1997) 

Being honest, I didn’t grow up with the original Disney “Beauty and the Beast”, but I did have this holiday themed sequel, and as such ... I have a lot of nostalgia reserved for this one. Call it a guilty pleasure, but if it gets me in the mood ... then so be it. While the films predictable plot and somewhat inconsistent tone admittedly keep it from reaching the same heights as its predecessor, there’s just something about this film that keeps bringing me back. The songs are up-beast, Tim Curry as the villain is highly entertaining, there’s some nice winter visuals, and even the animation is quite good for a low budget, direct to video sequel. I can’t make a persuasive argument that it’s anything truly great, but it’s special to me, and it makes for a relatively worthwhile addition to the yuletide collection.

#9 “Nicholas: The Boy Who Became Santa” (1990)

We all know about Santa Claus right? Well ... let’s hear his story from the point of view of the historical Saint Nicholas for once … that only seems fair. In just 30 minutes, and with a small animation budget, “Nicholas” conveys a touching story about giving to those around you, standing up for your beliefs, and depicts Santa as more than just a colorful holiday icon. It’s perhaps the most religious depiction of Santa you’ll ever see, and yet, he conveys his morals in a way that feels universal … at least for me. While this is probably one of the lesser known Christmas titles, I highly recommend checking it out, just to sample something from Saint Nicholas the man, as opposed to Santa Claus the mascot.

#8 Disney’sThe Little Match Girl” (2006) 

In this seven-minute short adapted from the Hans Christian Anderson novel of the same name, we follow a homeless little girl, who spends her final hours imagining herself on a Christmas day with her late grandmother. I won’t go into detail about the inevitable ending, but’s it’s among one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced in the realms of animation. On that note, the animation is fantastic, and there’s no shortage of heartfelt drama as the short mainly focuses on the fragile nature of human life. It's a truly heartwarming story that highlights the importance of hope, dreams and helping the innocent. I watch this short every year, and I never have a dry eye at the end ... it’s just that moving. “The Little Match Girl” in general has always been one of my favorite Christmas stories, as it’s a tail that my own late grandparents read to me all the time as a kid, and I always felt it deserved its own holiday special. Thankfully, in the absence of a motion picture, we have this terrific little Disney short, which absolutely ranks among the finest the studio has ever produced.

#7 “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965) 

It’s been called one of the all-time greatest Christmas specials ever, and I will absolutely highlight it as such ... even if it doesn't quiet rank among my top three absolute favorites. While it’s honestly not the first Holiday Special I choose to watch for the season, it’s still something that makes Christmas feel more complete. This one’s harder to explain, but it just feels very genuine, like there's nothing manipulative about it. Plus, it's one of those gems that most kids grow-up with, and still watch around the holiday season. It’s just a strait forward holiday special that’s charming, unforgettable, packs a solemn message, and personally, even though this isn't my absolute favorite Christmas special, it’s certainly my favorite of all the Charlie Brown specials.

#6 “The Small One” (1979) 

Now here’s a true gem that many people seem to overlook. It’s the story about a boy who has to sell his donkey because he’s getting too old, and has served his usefulness. For one small farm boy, this donkey is a best friend and he’s determined to find him a perfect home. From that simple premise, you get a Christmas special that’s sad, engaging and it all leads to one of the most heartwarming endings you’ll ever see. No joke, this is a Christmas short that’s relentless at tugging your heart strings, and while the ending may be predictable, it’s still impossible for me not to get a little terry eyed while viewing it. With the combined magics of Disney, Don Bluth and Christmas all wrapped in one package, “The Small One” still stands as one of the best and a personal favorite.

#5 “Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury” (2011) 

Well ...  DreamWorks “How to Train Your Dragon” is personally one of my all-time favorite animated movies ever made. As such, it's holiday special is a personal favorite that I just couldn't keep off my list. Everything I loved about the movie carries over into this half-hour special beautifully, and it just leaves me with the same emotional effect. Aside from being a terrific continuation of the story and characters, it still feels like a proper Christmas special. It looks amazing, it's funny, and it has more than enough warm feel good moments that I just love seeing in holiday specials of this sort. I doubt others would call this one of the all-time greats, but for personal ties with “How to Train Your Dragon”, I can’t help but look back on “Gift of the Night Fury” as one of the best.

#4 “The Snowman” (1982) 

Here’s a special that I never fully appreciated as a child, but I’ve really grown to love over the years. It’s a classic tale of a snowman coming to life, the experience he shares with a young boy, and even though there isn’t a single line of dialog, a lot of character still shines through. I just love how simplistic the experience is, the look is very unique, the atmosphere is wonderful, the story telling is light as air, and the music is absolutely breathtaking. It’s just a pleasant and warm little experience that adds a lot to the season. Also, for as upbeat as the film is, this special also has the courage to convey a really mature, albeit heartbreaking ending to kids. Nothing else even needs to be said about it, the special is just a classic, and one that I hope doesn’t disappear in the wave of current children entertainment.  

#3 “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas” (1999) 

This again is just a very personal favorite of mine. Why … because Mickey Mouse has always been my favorite cartoon character from child hood. It was already a real joy to give him and all the other classic Disney cartoon characters their own little animated Christmas movie, but there’s far more to it than just the novelty. It's an anthology film with several story’s, and each one is packed with thoughtful morals, great animation, rich atmosphere, and some genuinely funny scenes. While obviously a film for little kids, there was clear effort and heart put into the project, to make it stand apart from simple Christmas fluff. It introduces kids to classic tales, and is mature enough to balance the fun with some grounded emotional moments. It’s just nostalgic holiday gold from beginning to end, and it captures that timeless, magical quality that only Disney and Christmas can provide.

#2 “The Polar Express” (2004) 

While this film has never been regarded as more than a minor classic … I personally adore this film. Why … because it’s nothing more than an experience. Just like with “The Snowman”, it’s a simplistic story, with a unique premise, and from begging to end, I feel like I’m lost in a pleasant dream about the holiday. The colors are beautiful, the music is fantastic, the atmosphere is warm and cozy, and the 3D animation is just dazzling. Personally, this is my favorite movie to watch on Christmas eve, as it takes me right back to when I was a little kid who’d dream about the magic and wonder of the holiday. For me, not every film needs a layered story, or complex characters. Sometimes, I just want to experience something, and “The Polar Express” for me is that magical film that I look forward to experiencing again and again every year.

#1 “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966) 

The story of the Grinch in general is one my absolute favorites of the holiday season, and this short little animated TV special is my favorite version of it by far. To label it as a holiday classic is almost too simple for its own good, as it’s absolutely my favorite animated Christmas special, and probably one of my top 3 Christmas … anything. I love the rhymes, I love the animation, I love the story, I love the main character, I love the music, I love the simplicity of its moral … I just love it all around. Rightfully, it's become a yuletide tradition for families all over the world, and it’s our job to make sure it remains as such. While other versions of the Grinch aren’t without some charm and appeal, lets always remember the golden child that really started it all, and the Christmas special that I firmly believe no family should be without. 

At last, here are my personal Top 10 Favorite Live Action Christmas Movies, but for one last time, here are some honorable mentions that just couldn’t make it …

Ernest Saves Christmas” (1988)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (1983)

The Santa Clause” (1994)

#10 “Miracle on 34th Street” (1994) 

This is a rare case in which I feel a remake of a classic movie can hold its own relatively well. Sure, it’s not quite as great as the original classic, but I find there are some select improvements in the details. The best change of all in my opinion is the ending, which took the basic climax of the original, and reworked it into something really profound. It’s all about the collective faith of people who believe in something greater than themselves, like the belief in God, which is based solely on faith alone without any real facts. This film in turn demonstrates a similar example … that there is a Santa, and that he exists within a man named Kris Kringle. On that note, I love Sir Richard Attenborough as Santa. He’s just such a warm and gentle old man who captures the spirit of the character perfectly. Maybe the film isn’t as great as the original, but it’s certainly got its own charms that make it worth annual viewings. 

#9 “Home Alone” (1990) 

When a young boy is accidentally left at home during a family vacation, he finds himself protecting his house from two burglars, which leads to lots of slap stick comedy, and a small scale child hood adventure. In sort, the movie has nothing to do with Christmas at all, yet it’s become a celebrated holiday classic. Obviously, the film takes place during Christmas, and there’s definitely a warm holiday atmosphere that resonates from seeing all the decorations and the music. Beyond the visual presentation, the film dose embrace some subtle themes and morals that are commonly associated with the holiday season, that of family togetherness and youthful innocence. The ending is one of those touching highlights that just needs to be experienced around Christmas in order to get the full effect. As a kid, I loved this film only for its slap-stick comedy, but as an adult, I love it for it’s big heart and wholesome charms at the center. 

#8 “Joyeux Noel” (2005) 

Based on an incredible true story set during the First World War, this film shows how even the most violent of people caught in a war can still find peace and love in their fellow man. We have three groups of solders, neck deep in the trenches, ready to kill one another, but then on the night of Christmas Eve, they all miraculously stop shooting, and decide to celebrate the holiday together. Perhaps a little too sentimental at times, but it’s the poignant humanity on display that really cares the film into something special. It’s powerful, inspiring, and it should stand as a staple for other Christmas movies to draw inspiration from … it’s just that good.

#7 “Die Hard” (1988) 

I’m obviously aware that “Die Hard” is first and for most an action movie that can be watched during any season, but I just find myself enjoying it the most around Christmas time. It’s just an awesome offset to what I usually watch during the season, and it still somehow leaves me with the same warm feels like any classic Christmas special. I’m thankfully not the only one who thinks so, as just about every best Christmas movie list feature “Die Hard” ranked highly among all the other holiday classics. Now, I truthfully can’t say that “Die Hard” is one of my absolute favorite movies, but it certainly has a special place among the rankings of both action and Christmas movies that I love to watch. If you haven’t seen this movie, and maybe feel your too familiar with the film’s formula already, I still highly recommend watching the holiday action movie classic that started it all. It was a break out picture for its time, and still remains the absolute best that the action/Christmas genera has to offer.

#6 “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000) 

I’ll admit that this film may be just a little too dark and unpleasant for some kids, but then again ... like other holiday specials, the more intense you make the character and his story, the happier the resolution at the end. Sure, it’s not as good as the original animated classic, but there are still so many things that I love about this film. The jokes at times are funny, I like its otherworldly look and feel, and the musical score by the late James Horner never fails to lift my spirit. Of cores, it’s the always fantastic Jim Carry who completely steels the show. This movie came out at a time when I was obsessed with Jim Carry, and it’s remained one of his most entertaining roles all these years later. While this live action remake certainly has its share of faults, I just can’t help but adore it. There’s still a lot of warm holiday cheer, a good message to boot, and Jim Carry shinning in one of his most iconic roles.

#5 “The Nativity Story” (2006) 

Well ... there really isn’t any other Christmas story that’s more proper, profound, or more important than the birth of Christ. I'll admit, the final product could have been a pinch stronger, especially when considering its biblical source material, but it's still done well, and it’s the version that I find myself watching the most often around Christmas. For a straight forward retelling, it still highlights certain details that are glanced over in most other versions … Josephs reaction to a virgin pregnancy being one of them. There are also memorable performances from the supporting roles of Aunt Elizabeth, King Herod and the three wise men. Even if the presentation is straightforward to a fault, it still comes off as heartwarming, thoughtful, inspiring, uplifting, and I just can’t help but rank it among the best. 

#4 “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)

Hands down, the best movie to portray Santa, as he’s both jolly and fun, but also sophisticated and dignified. A lot of that has to do with the terrific lead performance from classy actor Edmund Gwenn, who simply shines in the role of Santa. Add in Maureen O’ Hara as the closed off yet hopefully optimistic mother, and Natalie Wood as the bright eyed and charming little girl. Each adds a chief ingredient to a wonderful film, that of gentle sentimentalism, and a warm holiday message. Something I always loved about this movie is that it’s completely grounded in the real world, with no magical elements … yet, the experience still feels like something magical. I can’t even explain it further, it’s just a classy, joyful movie that just gets better with age.

#3 “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation” (1989) 

Hands down, this is my favorite Christmas comedy of all time. It’s hard to explain, but this one just finds that perfect balance, with lots of slapstick and laugh out loud moments, but also some really simple holiday charms and details. It's another one of those perfect little offsets to what we usually get around Christmas, and yet it still feels like a holiday classic in its own hilarious way. Chevy Chase absolutely shines in this film, and there’s a colorful cast of memorable family members to boot. Weather you can get into the films slap-stick presentation is certainly an acquired taste, but for me, it just clicks. “Christmas Vacation” packs the laughs, with just enough seeds of heart and holiday delights to make for something special in its own unique way.

#2 “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) 

Even though I love this movie, I honestly never look at it as a Christmas film … really, it's just a great movie that happens to take place around the holiday season. Having said that, "It’s a Wonderful Life" still packs the biggest punch on Christmas. It’s all around the timeless story about how one man’s ordinary life could have such a huge impact on the lives of others, which is just as inspiring as it is enduring. In the end, this film reminds us what a wonderful and beautiful life we truly do have. With a solid direction from Frank Capra, an outstanding lead performance from James Stewart, and a brilliant premise, “It’s a Wonderful Life” still proves to be a near flawless film, and has a little something for everyone.

#1 “A Christmas Story” (1983)

In my view, this is absolutely the perfect Christmas movie. It’s funny, it’s dark, it’s nostalgic, it’s warm, it’s innocent, it’s cheerful … it’s simply perfect all around. I love how this movie is told from the perspective of an adult who’s sharing a story of his childhood with us, because memories do play a big part in Christmas. Even though I didn’t grow up in the 50’s, this film seems to represent a childhood that’s very similar to my own, and watching it from beginning to end is like looking through a window to the past, while also having a lot of fun. There’s just something about this movie that captures the magic of childhood, and that special connection we make with the holiday. Plus, there are so many simple little details throughout the whole film that just elevates its holiday charms. It’s for this, and so many other reasons that “A Christmas Story” will always stand as my all-time favorite Christmas Movie.