The holiday season is officially upon us. As the cold weather swings into town, couches throughout the tristate area become nightly havens. Inside the 70 Charlton condos in SoHo, it’s the season for cinema—specifically, holiday-themed cinema. There is no better time of the year to grab a few blankets, make some popcorn, and curl up on that couch.
With that in mind, here are ten of our favorite holiday films:
Home Alone is a true classic from 1990 that holds up really well. Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci are perfect as a pair of bumbling criminals, and the story is held together nicely by the imperfect yet unbreakable bond of family. The film spans a few days leading up to Christmas, and everything from the score to the aesthetic exudes the holiday season. And this is prime Macaulay Culkin.
A more contemporary selection, Elf checks all the (fun) boxes and more. Will Ferrell was born to play a grown-man elf; his gleeful exuberance is contagious and hilarious. The story is clever and sweet, and like any good holiday movie, it will leave you smiling.
A Christmas Story
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” has become one of the most iconic lines ever uttered in a Christmas film. A Christmas Story is the quintessential coming-of-age holiday yarn. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately, and if you have seen it, well, you know how great it is. Watching it makes you feel like a kid again; it brings you back to a time when your entire world revolved around the possibility of a single gift: in this case, a “Red Ryder carbine action, two-hundred shot, range model air rifle!” The rewatchability with this one is as high as it gets.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Time to trade some of the traditional sweetness for something a bit darker and more whimsical? Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation masterpiece still looks amazing 17 years later. The songs and the score (both by Danny Elfman) are timeless and enchanting, and the story is about as unique as a modern-day fairy tale gets.
Die Hard may not be the first holiday film you think of, but Christmas is present throughout this action classic. You’d also be hard-pressed to find an action film more perfect than this one, top to bottom. So, if this season you’re in the mood for something a bit more intense, go with Die Hard.
One of the better retellings of Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol, this 1988 version directed by Richard Donner and starring Bill Murray as a vile television executive hits all the expected beats but with far more off-kilter comedy than most iterations. Carol Kane is amazing as the Ghost of Christmas Present.
When Harry Met Sally
When Harry Met Sally spawned an entire genre; it’s absolutely the king/queen of contemporary romantic comedies. Most films made in this genre today are simply derivations of this film. And we really can’t blame modern filmmakers for paying homage; it’s a perfect movie. And as Billy Crystal’s “Harry” and Meg Ryan’s “Sally” meet throughout the years, their evolving relationship has many touchstones that occur on New Year's Eve. It may not be a “direct” holiday film, but it feels like one.
Sleepless in Seattle
We stay in the romantic comedy genre for another Meg Ryan classic: Sleepless in Seattle. This is the film that put Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan on the Mount Rushmore of on-screen couples. Though this also is not a film defined by the holiday season, it begins at Christmas and embodies the wonderment of the season.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Yes, we know Thanksgiving just passed, but it might be a good idea to watch this one when the actual stress of Thanksgiving travel is over. This comedy gem starring Steve Martin and the late John Candy as weary travelers trying to make it home for Thanksgiving is revered for good reason. Candy and Martin are the ideal odd couple, and their calamitous cross-country journey is heavy on the laughs. But beyond the comedy, there’s a heart here that really holds the whole thing together and makes it an ideal holiday film.
It’s unlikely you’ve heard of this one; it’s an independent film from writer/director Charles Poekel about a Christmas tree salesman in NYC. The film follows its main character (appropriately named “Noel”) and spends much of the time on the street with him as he’s dealing with various customers. There’s a bit of nonspecific heartbreak mixed in with some hopeful and highly engaging encounters. It’s a simple, well-made film that deserves more recognition.