Home for the Holidays? Here’s 12 holiday movies to celebrate the season!
Written by Bill Brioux
Every time we watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Christmas Carol” and “The Bishop’s Wife,” a reindeer gets a carrot.
Yes, they’re all classics and, seventy-plus years later, still play to audiences of all ages. There are, however, hundreds of other festive flicks to choose from this December and many of them are found on Rogers Ignite TV including timeless classics across Disney+, Netflix, On Demand and many more. Simply say “Holiday Cheer” or to take a sleigh ride through a winter wonderland.
If you need a little help, no worries! Here’s some of my holiday favourites to enjoy with a cup of hot cocoa!
“Babes in Toyland” (1961 – Disney+).
Here is one from the vault that film purists may quibble with. Yes, Laurel & Hardy’s 1934 original (sometimes titled, “March of the Wooden Soldiers”) has, well, Laurel & Hardy. But for pre-schoolers, it’s a bit creepy, especially when the Boogeymen start swarming. This colourful remake starts slow, and kids today will have no idea about Annette. The cool ‘60s toys, however, designed by Disney animators Ward Kimball and Bill Justice, will still delight children of all ages.
“Christmas Movie Magic” (2021 – Super Channel Heart & Home).
Shot in and around Hamilton, Ontario, this sweet little movie looks at a small town still drawing tourists for its Hollywood moment in the ’50s. That was when a movie star came to town to shoot a beloved classic. Holly Deveaux stars as a local reporter who digs into a secret romance that took place at a neighbourhood movie palace.
“Four Christmases” (2008 – On Demand, Hollywood Suite, Super Channel, Starz, Prime Video, Crave).
A lot of reviewers hated this movie when it came out. It’s about an unmarried couple (played by Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn) who plan to skip any festive family gathering and head to Fiji. Fogged in at the airport, they’re forced to visit their divorced sets of parents. The parental reveals are fun – Robert Duval, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen and Jon Voight – and Vaughn’s brawls with his idiot brother (Jon Favereau) are Borat silly.
“About a Boy” (2002 – On Demand, Starz, Netflix,).
Hugh Grant’s best film is now almost 20 years old. Grant plays a selfish, rudderless bachelor, heir to the perpetual dividend left by his songwriter father who penned the holiday favourite “Santa’s Super Sleigh.” The rest of the cast is stellar (Toni Colette, Rachel Weiss) but the movie is stolen by a ten-year-old boy (played by Nicolas Hoult) who teaches Grant’s character how to finally be a man. Warning: the film’s catchy theme, by Badly Drawn Boy, will worm its way into your head for days.
“The Nine Kittens of Christmas” (2021 – W Network).
Calgary-born director David Winning shot this, his 20th feature for Hallmark, in and around Vancouver. It stars Kimberley Sustad, Brandon Routh and a box full of kitties who need homes. A sequel of sorts to a 2014 romantic Christmas comedy with the same leads plus Gregory Harrison (yes, from Trapper John, MD).
“The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992 – On Demand, Disney+).
At nearly 30 years, this one has stood the test of time. Michael Caine is superb as Scrooge, playing it straight opposite the entire Muppet Show cast including Kermit (Bob Cratchit) and Miss Piggy (Emily Cratchit). Original puppeteer Frank Oz has a hand in the proceedings, with Brian Henson, son of Muppet founder Jim, directing. A must for children.
“Remember the Night” (1940 – TCM).
Barbara Stanwick also shines in the better known “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945). See that one but also catch her here in this earlier gem opposite an always under-rated Fred MacMurray. He’s a prosecutor who is supposed to take petty thief Stanwyck to jail. It is right before Christmas, however, so they make an unlikely detour that is both heartbreaking and impossibly sweet. Beulah Bondi and Sterling Holloway play part of his pleasingly screwball family.
“Holiday Affair” (1949 – TCM).
Robert Mitchum took a break from all his tough guy roles to star in this romantic comedy set at Christmastime opposite the incredibly talented Janet Leigh. They play Steve and Connie and cutely meet over a mix-up with a toy train. Connie’s a war widow and is engaged to this stiff named Carl until Mitchum starts playing Santa with her son, Timmy (played by Gordon Gebert, who steals the picture). Very winning.
“One Magic Christmas” (1985 – Disney+).
Shot in Meaford and Owen Sound, Ontario, this quiet little gem finds Santa assigning an angel named Gideon (the recently departed Harry Dean Stanton) to restore the Christmas spirit of Ginnie (Mary Steenburgen). She and her unemployed husband and their two children have had a hard year and it is about to take an even darker turn. There is a visit to the North Pole, a cameo from the always wonderful Arthur Hill and eventually a happy ending. It is a tough film to watch in hard times, but worth it for little touches from director Phillip Borsos, a promising young Canadian who died in 1995 at 41.
“Happiest Season” (2020 – On Demand, Prime Video).
Here is a feel-good holiday movie with a twist: a woman brings her girlfriend home for Christmas to meet her very traditional parents. Problem – she has not come out to them yet. The film stars Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis and, in a scene-stealing role, Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek. Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen play the parents.
Finally, here is a series that will make you want to re-watch two other movies:
The Movies That Made Us (Netflix).
Episode 8 tells the incredible back story behind “Elf” (2003 – Disney+), the Will Ferrell comedy that seems to get better every year. Did you know that the costumes and overall design of the feature were based on the 1964 Rankin-Bass animated classic Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer? Or that Garry Shandling was the original choice to play the James Caan role? Just two of the nuggets found in this fun docuseries, which also looks at the making of another holiday classic, Tim Burton’s stop motion musical “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993 – Disney+).
For a limited time, get 12 months of Disney+ when you sign up with any Ignite TV or SmartStream bundles. Exclusively at Rogers.