12 Days of Manual: RedEye’s ultimate holiday movie marathon master list

As the first semester comes to a wrap, we draw closer to the times of the year in which we all enjoy snuggling into a cozy blanket, pets in our laps and snacks in hand, and settling down with good friends and family to watch some of our favorite movies of the wintry season. In this addition of the Listology series, the Manual RedEye staff brings you their master list of movie recommendations that will satiate all of your holiday binge-watching desires.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Piper Hansen: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a ‘90s classic that mixes the dark aspect of Halloween with the joy of the Christmas and the winter season. The characters are rich with personality and provide the dark and complicated plot with comedic relief. Touchstone Pictures and Tim Burton Productions worked collaboratively to create an animated masterpiece, friendly for all ages.

Maya Joshi: I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas last year with my brother, and it was the fourth “holiday” movie I’ve ever watched—and the first I really enjoyed. I loved the hauntingly optimistic songs, especially the creepy yet childishly gleeful “Sandy Claws.”

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Nick Kopp: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is an all-time classic. Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit quite like watching Cousin Eddie roll up to the Griswold household in an ancient Winnebago. Aunt Bethany reciting the Pledge of Allegiance after Clark asks her to say grace at the holiday meal is always good for a laugh. If you watch one movie this holiday season, it has to be National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Reece Gunther: A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the oldest Christmas movies still popular today. The movie is a family classic that captures comedy with the values of Christmas. When Charlie Brown picks the smallest, ugliest tree, his friends make it seem like the best one yet. Not only is the movie entertaining, but it’s short run-time is also always a plus for people like myself who aren’t fans of long movies.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Olivia Evans: It’s a Wonderful Life is the best holiday movie because it reminds all of the true spirits of the holidays. The best scene in this movie is when the Bailey Bros Bank is in crisis, and all the townspeople rush the bank demanding their money but come to the realization that their neighbors need help just as much as they do.

The classic line, “Whenever a bell rings, an angel gets it wings,” brings the ultimate holiday spirit to fruition. This movie is timeless and relatable through generations with the story of love, despair and friendship.

Phoebe Monsour: It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic, despite flopping the box office just after its release. According to Lily Rothman in her article “What Makes It’s a Wonderful Life a Great Movie, as Explained in 1946,” the reason it leaped out of obscurity is that it lost its copyright in the 1970s. It was not just its place in the public domain that made this movie a classic, however. Its themes of obligation versus ambition dominate this bittersweet tale.

Sure, the story has a slow build with an exposition dump that takes up most of the movie, a fact which kept my younger self disappointed, but I have grown to enjoy the coming-of-age nature of the movie’s less magical beginning. And sure, many parts of the film can be deemed bizarre or even sexist, with the unbearable misery of George Bailey’s wife becoming an “old maid,” but this much appears to be a relic of its time, unlike the sexism in film and the film industry today.

Perhaps, if nothing else, this movie holds importance today with its antagonist, Mr. Potter, who reflects the same greediness of our most prominent politicians. Whatever the case, this movie is a classic for a reason beyond a cheap holiday special for the television stations, and it holds its place in my heart and on my television screen every Christmas.

The Santa Clause

Jade Broderick: The Santa Clause is a holiday classic starring the one and only Tim Allen. Released in 1994, the movie was so popular that it had two sequels: The Santa Clause 2 (2002) and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006). In this drama, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) spots Santa Claus on the roof of his house, causing Santa to fall. Now Scott must become Santa Claus to save Christmas. His son, Charlie, joins him this this adventure through the north pole trying to juggle the ropes of now being Santa. Overall this is a classic movie and my favorite one growing up; it is well worth the watch this holiday season.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Amberlee Tate: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the best Christmas movies. It’s one Christmas movie that I had watched as a child and still continue to appreciate. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a classic tale. Its stop-motion animation contributes to the vintage feel of the movie. Watching it now just makes me think of being younger and enjoying Christmastime even more than I do now.

Annie Zhang: A favorite of mine is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I love how it brings the classic song that we all heard growing up (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) to life on the big screen, and it has a lot of unexpected twists and turns that keep the audience on their toes. It has a special message, and it never fails to bring people together.

A Christmas Carol (1984)

Adviser, Mr. James Miller: Every year, my family watches the best version of A Christmas Carol, which is the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. The period costumes, portrait of London and depiction of the ghosts are great, but the best part of this movie is Scott’s performance as Scrooge. There’s no irony or winking about it, and his transformation from a grouchy, greedy gargoyle to a cheerful celebrant of Christmas is credible and complete.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Savanna Vest: The 2000 film Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer has become a distinct cult classic in the realm of holiday movies—and its popularity is no wonder considering its wide array of themes that can appeal to all members of the family: catchy tunes throughout each plot point, the exploration of what Santa looks and acts like in a globalized world featuring terrible fruitcake and adventures in litigation, and, of course, the struggles of growing up as a teen in a family that just doesn’t understand or believe you when you say your grandma was run over by a reindeer. With a runtime of less than an hour, you could easily finish this light-hearted film in one sitting; in fact, you can stroll down the memory lane of your childhood by watching this film in full and for free here.

Thomas Simmons: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is a true American film classic that completely captures the meaning of cinema in all the right ways. It has excellent cinematography and brilliant acting, not to mention the accuracy of the movie to the actual events. The movie makes connections with the real world, with elements such as greed to show the true evil of the villain.

The Polar Express

Olivia Dawson: The Polar Express is my favorite Christmas movie because it truly never gets old. I still watch it every year because it makes me nostalgic, and it makes me feel the spirit of Christmastime. In a holiday clouded by shopping and gifts, this movie is a good reminder of the joy that fills the season. It’s animated, but it looks realistic and is timeless.

Robbie Spencer: Who hasn’t seen the Polar Express? It is a holiday classic that one could say has animation and musical elements that are ahead of its time. It’s one of those movies you can watch and immediately feel warm and cozy inside. The plot and characters made the movie both imaginative and relatable as a kid. Hate it or love it, the movie was powerful enough to stick with your memory.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Maddie Gamertsfelder: How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the all-time, most well-rounded movie of the Christmas season that people of all ages, members of all families and friends of all generations can enjoy. The Grinch learns about Christmas spirit and teaches children through his own journey, how Christmas means more than the presents under your tree. This movie has been out for 17 years, and it is hard to find someone who hasn’t seen it. There are even two versions to enjoy: an animated movie and a movie with real actors. It is the best movie to enjoy with anyone and will always make your heart grow three times.

Christmas with the Kranks

Katelyn Bale: Christmas with the Kranks is a comedy all families can relate to. In this movie a couple makes plans to go on a cruise rather than having their annual Christmas party. Their community and neighbors harass them to decorate, coining the famous quotes, “We want frosty,” and “Free frosty.” Their plans are put to a halt when their daughter announces she’s coming home for the holidays and bringing her fiance with her. The family goes through a fiasco, scrambling to get everything to have their annual holiday party and make it perfect for their daughter.

The Home Alone series

Cicada Hoyt: Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Fun fact about Home Alone: in the infamous scene where he is shuffling through his brothers stuff, Kevin finds a framed photo of Buzz’s girlfriend. Kevin mutters the immortal line, “Buzz, your girlfriend! Woof!” But the girl with a double chin and cheesy braces in the photo isn’t actually a girl. The producers wanted to avoid the potential harm and shame that could be involved in using a photo of a real girl. The art director’s son was happy to be the part of Buzz’s girlfriend. Little did he know how famous the movie was going to be; he would have probably thought twice about playing the role if he knew.

A Christmas Story

Hunter Hartlage: There’s something innately charming about the ’80s cult classic, A Christmas Story. In the company of cheesy, over-the-top holiday films, A Christmas Story is blunt and honest. Not once in this film will you hear someone mention “the true meaning of Christmas,” nor will you find much of the non-stop zaniness of Christmas comedies like Elf or National Lampoon. Instead, A Christmas Story is an honest look at what Christmas feels like to a young child. Ralphie’s family is a little bit crazy, he’s harassed by a school bully and his dreams of getting a Red-Rider BB-gun for Christmas are constantly shot down. While I love the campy Christmas classics and appreciate the hilarity of Christmas comedies, there’s nothing quite like the subtle honesty of A Christmas Story.

Elf

Grace Bradley: One of my favorite holiday movies is Elf. It’s a fun movie that shows the happiness that Christmas brings and how the holidays bring families together.

Trading Places

Greg Schwartz: My favorite holiday movie is by far Trading Places. It’s a timeless classic with important themes that still ring true today. It teaches the importance of perspective, brotherly cooperation, diversifying portfolios, the concept of buying low, employee loyalty and privacy. It takes a unique approach as well, switching between perspectives of the protagonists and antagonists and spending much more time on the antagonists’ character development than most films. I grew up with this film and its heroes, and I recommend to everyone to watch and rewatch it with your family over the holidays.

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