December in our house is firmly dedicated to “Christmas Movies”. The reason that phrase is in quotes is because we all have varying opinions on what constitutes a “Christmas Movie”. They usually end up breaking down into three tiers:
Tier I: The Traditional
These movies are unquestionably Christmas movies. They have story lines that center around the holiday, their characters are from Christmas folklore, and, here’s the clincher, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would watch them outside of the month of December. Movies in this tier include Frosty, Rudolph, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Polar Express, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It is tradition to watch every movie in this tier, and Christmas cannot officially begin until they have all been seen.
Tier II: The New Classics
These are movies that center around “The Holidays”. They could have a Christmas based story line, but it’s not required, and most importantly, they can stand on their own as entertaining movies outside of December. Some examples are A Nightmare Before Christmas, A Christmas Story, Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Scrooged.
Tier III: The Unconventional
If a movie’s timeline happens to cross December 25th, and a character even makes a passing remark to “The Holidays” or “Christmas”, it’s considered “Unconventional”. These are the ones that garner strange looks from people when you tell them that it’s your favorite Christmas movie. My favorite films from this tier include Die Hard trilogy, Home Alone, and Edward Scissorhands. Coincidentally, all three are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year.
OK, Die Hard actually celebrated its 25th two years ago, on the anniversary of the release of the first, and best, of the trilogy (or the pentalogy, if you are a heretic and recognize the last two). However, I feel like we can include it in this list since the second film and the winner of the dumbest name of all
five three came out 25 years ago. Also, the 25th anniversary set is a great deal for McClain fans, so it’s worth mentioning, even if it is two years old. If insane holiday travel or awkward office parties have you down, there’s always John McClain to remind you that your Christmas could be a whole lot worse.
Coming in a close second is Home Alone. Also a pentalogy, the Home Alone franchise is unapologetically formulaic, but like Die Hard or Rocky, it’s a formula that works. And while the magic created by John Hughes, Chris Columbus, John Williams, and ’90s household name Mcauley Caulkin didn’t last beyond the second film, only the fourth really seemed to suffer from it.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first movie, 20th Century Fox has created the Home Alone: 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition. This set comes in a paint can from the movie and includes a Christmas ornament, Harry and Marv wanted posters, a toy tarantula, and Kevin’s “Battle Plan”. It’s a fun set, but I was disappointed that only the first two films were on Blu-Ray and Digital HD. The other three are DVD only. Even if it would have been too much effort to remaster the last three to Blu-Ray, including a Digital HD version of all five would have been nice. That said, the Blu-Ray of the first film is a beautifully remastered 4K version, which nearly makes up for the lack of HD in the last three.
Although they’ve been hit and miss the last several films (I’m looking at you, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), when they are on their game (and now I’m looking at you, Corpse Bride), there are fewer director/actor matchups better than Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Depp’s nearly silent performance in Edward Scissorhands is probably one of my favorite ever, and Winona Ryder’s chemistry with both Depp and Burton, whom she had worked with on Beetlejuice and was dating at the time, combine to create a film that is as magical as its premise and the perfect non-Christmas Christmas movie.
If you need more suggestions for movies to release you from the clutches of ’60s era claymation, check out Matt Blum’s list of Unconventional Holiday Movies.