The idea was pretty simple: reach out to a bunch of funny people (comedians and comedy writers) to get a peek into the holiday movies that they love. But why do they and, really, all of us, feel a pull to watch these films?
To some, it’s about tradition. For others, a bit of nostalgia that connects to a loved one. It might be about camp, specific charms, or spite and the unique allure of not having and/or not growing up with these things. That’s something I personally relate to as someone raised mixed-faith (but who saw Christmas overtake Hanukkah in my own living room) and a point alluded to by comic Mo Mandel (who wondered to me about the “lack of a good or really even any Hannukkah flicks.”) It’s also something Yearly Departed creator Bess Kalb breaks down perfectly.
“It’s a little immersion. You can ride the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland without necessarily wanting to pillage an island. You can sort of have your little taste, your little voyeuristic experiment with this. You can sort of dip a toe into what Christmas might be like.”
Who doesn’t feel that in some way, even if it has nothing to do with differences in faith? Holiday movies allow us an escape to either something we’ve never had or something we want again. Or whatever people get from Die Hard — this list is not about judging! But it’s also not about long-assed intros, so let’s get to it.
Anything John Hughes but especially Home Alone. As a kid I was obsessed with that movie, the idea that a kid my age could single-handedly take down two full-grown men with a couple of paint cans, some string and a blow torch he just happened to have lying around was MIND BLOWING. I will say, now that I’m a mother of a 6-year-old, when I watch that movie I can only see it from the perspective of Catherine O’Hara’s character. Overnight it went from a feel-good Holiday romp to a bone-chilling psychological thriller that even John Candy with a clarinet can’t shake. This year, we introduced my 6-year-old son to Home Alone and it’s so much fun to see it through his eyes. Thanks to having access to 104 plus streaming apps, he’s watched every Home Alone in the franchise several times. Every. One. Including but not limited to: Home Alone 3 in which four international spies working for a North Korean terrorist group are sent by their boss to retrieve a microchip that can act as a cloaking device and now that I’m saying this out loud we probably should have cut him off at Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Like Kate McCallister, we’re all just doing our best, aren’t we? – Desi Lydic (The Daily Show)
Home Alone has everything you could ask for in a holiday movie. There’s family drama, mayhem, and Christmas lights. Even returning to it as an adult with fresh eyes and a whole lot of life giving me perspective it’s still hilarious and makes me feel like a kid again, I mean not the kind of kid that could fend off two grown men with an immeasurable amount of personal injuries, but a kid even so. As an only child, I couldn’t relate to Kevin’s huge family. If I had been left home alone it would have definitely been on purpose. As someone who has lived in a place that’s been robbed, I can definitely identify with the instinct to booby trap my place with hot wheels. – Josh Johnson (The Daily Show), #(Hashtag)
The top Xmas movie to me is probably Home Alone, because without it and Macaulay Culkin, we wouldn’t have gotten his brother Kieran crushing it as Roman Roy on Succession. They should bring in Macaulay for a guest star, I’m still a big fan. Just move the plot to a nicer house and roll camera. – Mo Mandel (Small Town Throwdown, Youtube)
Die Hard (1+2)
Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie of all time. It’s one of the few movies a father and a son can watch together during the holidays and bond without having to cry. Most holiday films are about the importance of family and being together, but you can’t be a family and you can’t be together if the German terrorist Hans Gruber is trying to blow up Nakatomi Plaza to steal $640 in negotiable bearer bonds. At least not in my home. All Is Bright is another Christmas classic. Paul Giamatti plays an ex-con who is forced to sell Christmas trees in New York City. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy holiday flick but it reinforces a theory I’ve always carried: Most Christmas tree salesman have served prison time. – Michael Kosta (The Daily Show, Detroit. NY. LA special)
People talk about Die Hard being an Xmas movie, but they forget that Die Hard 2 is as well, and that’s arguably even better. It’s got the bad guy getting sucked back into the airplane turbine, and I still can’t board a plane without thinking about it, and what’s more Christmasy than that?! – Mandel
I am on a four-year fast that I’m about to break. It’s my Love Actually fast. And I have abstained for four years. Because I found that I was mainlining it every year and the high was just not the same. I was not getting what I needed out of it. I was not sufficiently charmed by Hugh Grant doing his forced dancing or everybody marrying their secretary. And, so I decided to wait four years with my sister-in-law. Just wait and not watch it. And so, this year, like a presidential election or an Olympic, I will watch it again. And hopefully, the magic will be there. The small age gap between Keira Knightley and the little drummer boy age gap magic will be there. […] I will be clear about this. I do not think it is a good movie. I think that the lessons are bad. Everybody ends up sleeping with or married to the help. Sorry, the female help. I think that it’s this nonsense hodgepodge, but it’s Alan Rickman at the top of his game. Emma Thompson. And I like when they make Hugh Grant do the silly dance. I like it. – Bess Kalb (Yearly Departed)
A Christmas Story
I’m not afraid to go with a classic, which is why I’m here to tell you my favorite Christmas movie is A Christmas Story (1983). Because nothing says Christmas like a child desperately wanting one specific toy, getting it, and then immediately ruining it. Nothing captures the icy chill of a winter’s day like a boy getting his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole. Nothing smacks of the holiday season like having dinner at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. Nothing brings back the joy of childhood like receiving an item in a cereal box and finding out it’s really just an elaborate branded content advertising campaign. A Christmas Story is dark, funny, and captures the shitshow that is Christmas, largely because of all the pressure we all put on it. There’s a reason why A Christmas Story plays all Christmas Day, back to back to back. Because it IS Christmas! – Naomi Ekperigin (Mythic Quest, Netflix’s The Standups – debuting 12/29)
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
I am a purist and I think National Lampoons Christmas Vacation is the be all end all. I watch it every year. Randy Quaid’s, “Shitter’s full. Merry Christmas Clark,” has to be one of my favorite all-time lines. When they were like, “Hey, Griswold, where you going to put that tree?” And he goes, “Bend over, I’ll show you,” it’s so good. Also, many people don’t even remember the cartoon title sequence of that movie with Santa and the reindeer and using his candy cane walkie-talkie. It really sets a tone for the Christmas spirit. And to me, I was introduced to it when I was five. And ever since… it’s just the purest form of comedy is Clark Griswold. – Matt Hausfater (Fairfax)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension is not by definition a Christmas movie, but it is my absolute favorite movie of all time so I still watch it during the holidays. I suppose I could try to make an argument that Buckaroo is a Christ allegory and that his band of scientists, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, are his apostles… Penny is Mary Magdalene I guess, and the Lectroid ship waiting to blow up the Earth is the star over Bethlehem. Sure. Let’s do that. Yeah. Buckaroo Banzai is Jesus. It’s a Christmas movie now. – Glen Tickle (The Favorite special)
I always think about the Christmas movies that I just like to watch during Christmas. And I end up watching either the first Harry Potter, or the Lord of the Rings movies, which have nothing to do with Christmas, but I always just find myself watching those movies around the holidays. You know what, I forgot about Jingle All the Way. Batman Returns popped into my mind as a movie that I always loved as kind of where Christmas was part of the setting. But man, Jingle All The Way. – Teddy Riley (Fairfax)
You’ve Got Mail is the most important movie you can watch. It will renew your faith in humanity. We are obviously in dark times right now, and I am looking forward to, in my head, playing You’ve got Mail, so that I can get the pick me up that’s going to carry me through 2022. Very underrated Dave Chappelle performance. He’s playing a high-level Barnes and Noble books executive. It’s peak Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan. You’ve got Greg Kinnear and Parker Posey as supporting cast. You got Steve Zahn in there. It’s post-Sleepless in Seattle, where Nora Ephron realized that Harry Connick style, almost like tap dance music, makes her movies a thousand times better. And she just goes to town on it in You’ve Got Mail in the best way possible. It also is a story about a time in which the internet was your friend. Only good things can come from the internet. Then, love could come from the internet. Now the internet is a troll fest, shit hole that poisons children’s minds, but then it found love, which is so nice and special. – Aaron Buchsbaum (Fairfax)
We hope you enjoyed all these recs and have a happy, safe, and film-fueled holiday!