What makes Christmas so special?
Along with the requisite good cheer, presents and parties, there are the yearly events that make memories of this holiday particularly memorable. Nothing beats snuggling up under a warm blanket with some hot chocolate with mom and dad to watch some family-friendly entertainment. While holiday movies abound, there are some tried and true classics that all parents and kids should watch together to get into the Christmas spirit.
Not only are some of these movie classics heartwarming, but they provide a great opportunity for parents to teach their kids some of life’s great lessons as well. I know that there are some amazing kids movies that are more recent but for the purposes of this list, I’m focusing on movies that are for the most part, pre-1970.
The Top 10 Classic Kid’s Christmas Movies of All Time
1) A Christmas Carol – 1951 (Scrooge) – Charles Dicken’s classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey through his past, present and future lives is a holiday favorite. Though the story has been covered many times in both the movies and theater, the 1952 black and white film is by far the best. No one can match Alastair Sim’s portrayal of the miserly, miserable old businessman. The movie teaches children that the most important things in life are not material things and money but things much more priceless. I grew up watching this version of Scrooge with my mom every year and I’ve passed the tradition on to my kids. It’s a great tradition to start. Watch this film in black and white for the full film noir effect. Colorized versions of this classic are just wrong, in my humble opinion.
VIDEO: Alistair Sim in 1951′s “A Christmas Carol.”
2) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)- As with A Christmas Carol, watch in black and white. The very stylish 1940′s clothes, the ambiance and the general feel of the movie is definitely enhanced by the black and white film, the way that it was intended to be viewed. The crux of the movie is centered on NAME, a single mother who is also a manager at Macy’s. She is responsible for hiring a Santa Claus for the annual holiday parade after her original choice becomes to inebriated to participate. A plump and jolly white-haired man named Kris Kringle who insists he is the real Santa Claus offers to take his place and the story goes on from there. If you can suspend disbelief of her new neighbor, Mr. Gailey, taking the little girl Susan alone every day to wherever he desires (with her mother’s blessings), the movie is a gem.
VIDEO: Miracle on 34th Street
3) The Sound of Music (1965) – This one’s a classic, regardless of what time of the year it is viewed. Christmas is a great time to watch it because it is all about family, love and new beginnings – what else can one ask for? In case you’ve never seen this film, the Von Trapp children are left without a mother and a stern and distant father, a Captain, is left to raise them. Captain Von Trapp hires a governess/nanny to watch the kids and guess what happens? Fun, festivities and lots of singing ensues but don’t be fooled – there are some more serious and darker elements to this movie. Set in the Second World War Anchluss of Austria, one can’t help but empathize with the family who wishes to escape the Nazi regime in any way possible. Yes, there is a serious side to this movie, but for a kid, what’s memorable are the songs, the landscape and scenery (the Austrian Alps) and the heartwarming story. Watch and enjoy.
VIDEO: The Sound of Music Trailer
4) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – A depressed Jimmy Stewart gets the opportunity to see what life would have been like without his good deeds and presence in the lives of others. Who wouldn’t love to be able to really see what our lives really meant to those who we’ve encountered? Though it was released in 1946, this movie’s message doesn’t lose its importance or impact. As with most classics, watch it in the original black and white for the full effect.
VIDEO: It’s a Wonderful Life
5) White Christmas (1954) – Just like the classic song of the same name, this movie evokes feelings of love, family and the holidays like no other. With crooners such as Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, how can you go wrong? You know that the music’s got to be good with these two on the roster. Add the music of Irving Berlin and you’ve got a winner. If only for the festive air provided by the singing and dancing in this movie, have the kids watch this and add it to your annual list of “must-sees” during the holiday season.
VIDEO: Bing Crosby Sings White Christmas
6) How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) - Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss? The author of such classics as The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham had another gem up his sleeve with The Grinch. This story of a very mean, miserly thing (I never really knew what genus species the Grinch belonged to, anyway) engages and enchants my kids year after year. The Grinch is just crabby and angry and as a result, wants to eliminate Christmas altogether. The poor “Whos” who live in “Who-Ville” are the object of the Grinch’s scorn and they almost pay the price. The story, the character and the theme song alone are reasons to watch this classic.
VIDEO: You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
7) A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – Okay, it’s a TV special but needed to be included here because of its impact. This wonderful, heartwarming classic show follows Charlie Brown as he searches for the meaning of Christmas. Who knew that he would find it in the most likely of places? Charlie Brown’s friend Linus and choice of a Christmas tree form the basis of Charlie Brown’s epiphany. If you haven’t seen this before, watch it; you won’t be disappointed. If you have, watch it again and again and again. This one’s a yearly tradition, for sure.
VIDEO: A Charlie Brown Christmas
8) The Wizard of Oz (1939) – No, not always seen as a Christmas classic, but I find that the story-line, the message – there’s no place like home – and the fantasy and wonder of Oz make it the perfect holiday movie. Like The Sound of Music, this one is a family as well as a holiday classic as it includes memorable music, visuals that will keep the kids mesmerized and engaged. The ruby slippers, the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch are just some of the characters that make this movie a gem.
VIDEO: Somewhere Over the Rainbow From The Wizard of Oz
9) Santa Claus is Coming to Town/Frosty The Snowman/Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1970) - Yes, these are indeed three separate movies, but they were made by the same brilliant team of Rankin/Bass and are often shown together. They should all be definitely seen during the lead-up to Christmas day to get the kids into the holiday spirit. Between the Burgermiester-Miesterburger’s lederhosen (Santa Claus is Coming to Town) to Rudolph’s red nose and Frosty’s corn-cob pipe, the kids will remain entranced. Make sure to add these to your holiday collection and pull them out each year during the Christmas season.
10) Elf (2003) – Okay, not too old like the other classics, but this one will quickly become a yearly favorite in your home. Will Ferrell plays an enormous elf named Buddy who is not very good at his role as one of Santa’s little helpers, yet he doesn’t know why. When he finds out that he is actually a human and not an elf, he starts out on a search to find and reunite with his real parents. A very silly premise and an even sillier movie but entertaining nonetheless and I guarantee that both you and the kids will love it. Enjoy!
What are your favorite holiday movies to watch with the family? Answer in the comments below!
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