The Reel: Holly Jolly Holiday films to watch

Ben Conniff

“Home Alone”

Macaulay Culkin stars as Kevin, a young boy who finds himself left behind at home after his family leaves town for Christmas. This family comedy thrives on the bumbling antics of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as a pair of burglars who try repeatedly to break into Kevin’s home.

“Just Friends”

Ryan Reynolds stars in this riotous romantic comedy as an executive at a California record label who returns home to New Jersey for the holidays, only to find himself facing the same social issues that plagued him in high school. The film thrives on Reynolds’ charisma and comedic timing. (Ryan Reynolds sings All-4-One in a fat suit. What more do you need to know?)

“The Santa Clause”

This holiday charmer features Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, a scrooge who inadvertently kills Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. “The Santa Clause” is a hip, spirited comedy that I enjoy each year for its original story and Allen’s hilariously skeptical schtick.


Before he brought us the rousing “Iron Man,” Jon Favreau directed this popular perennial favorite starring Will Ferrell as his most charming character to date. The culture clash between the human world and the fantasy of the “North Pole” is portrayed with wickedly funny results.

“White Christmas”    

The highest grossing film of 1954 stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as two talented song-and-dance partners who team up with two equally talented sisters (Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen) to save a fledgling winter resort in Vermont. I love watching “White Christmas” each year for its humor and classically entertaining musical numbers in a wintry setting.

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

This 1989 comedy sees Chevy Chase reprising his role as Clark Griswold, a hopeless patriarch who just wants to show his family a nice Christmas when things predictably take a turn for the worse. From Cousin Eddie and the in-laws to a pair of uptight neighbors, to a more-than-slightly overcooked turkey, the gags never get old.

“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)

This courtroom “dramedy,” starring Edmund Gwenn and a young Natalie Wood, tells the story of a jolly, old New York City man who fancies himself as Kris Kringle and befriends a Macy’s businesswoman and her daughter. “Miracle on 34th Street” perfectly captures the Christmas spirit thanks to Gwenn’s Oscar-winning performance.

“A Christmas Story”

Bob Clark’s perennial classic follows Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), a young boy who tries his darnedest to convince his family, schoolteacher and a shady department store Santa that he deserves a Red Ryder B.B. gun for Christmas. With more memorable moments and quotable lines than you can count on your pink bunny fingers and toes, “A Christmas Story” is a riotously funny must-watch with a good heart that begs multiple viewings, as long as you haven’t managed to shoot your eyes out.

“It’s A Wonderful Life”

A favorite of both director Frank Capra and star Jimmy Stewart, “It’s A Wonderful Life” tells the story of small-town businessman George Bailey, a man with grand aspirations far too big for his hometown. When George teeters on the brink of insanity, a guardian angel, played by Henry Travers, teaches him a life-saving lesson by showing him what life would be like if he hadn’t been born. “It’s A Wonderful Life” isn’t just my favorite movie for Christmastime. It’s one of my all-time favorites, period. Sixty-seven years after its release, it’s still one of the most original films I’ve ever seen.