Favorite family Christmas movies

Index of Christmas posts | Christmas Nights at Home


Links are to the Internet Movie Database:
Muppet Christmas Carol

  • Miracle on 34th St. (1947); see comments in a previous post.
  • Muppet Christmas Carol (1992); Michael Caine. This wonderful adaptation is not too scary for young kids, but still true to Dickens. The word “classic” must have been invented for Dickens’ Christmas Carol; no Christmas would be complete without this profoundly moving story of hope and joy. The soundtrack of this film is wonderful as well. No other adaptation of Dickens even comes close for us.
  • The Bishop’s Wife (1947); Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven. After watching this one (and It’s a Wonderful Life), talk about the role of angels in the nativity accounts; then celebrate with “angel” carols: Angels We have Heard on High; Hark, the Herald Angels Sing; It Came Upon the Midnight Clear; O Come, All ye Faithful, etc. Discuss the positive emphasis of these two movies on the significance of persons in history (including guardian angels). Also discuss their mixture of angel folklore with biblical teaching about angels.
  • It’s A Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra); Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore. This is my all-time favorite movie, but it’s not for every child – two of our daughters didn’t enjoy it until at least their mid-teen years. We certainly did not make them watch it. The idea of not-being is creepy, but this is the kind of hope-affirming movie that grows on one. The movie ends with Auld Lang Syne. This final scene, along with the movie’s message of hope and friendship (“No man is a failure who has friends”), makes it perfect for watching on New Year’s Eve.
    • Joseph Tkach offers three 2-minute meditations on It’s a Wonderful Life: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
    • Jimmy Hawkins recounts some wonderful stories about the making of It’s a Wonderful Life: Wonderful Memories of It’s a Wonderful Life Wonderful Memories of It's a Wonderful Life (Unabridged) - Jimmy Hawkins (with a companion scrapbook).
  • White Christmas (1954); Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney. No wonder my daughters grew up with a love of dancing! “Oh, the theater, the theater….” And: “Snow, snow, snow….” Year after year, “White Christmas” remains the most popular song ever recorded. Excellent movie to watch when you’re snowed in.
  • The Snowman (1982); based on a storybook by Peter Auty, David Bowie and Raymond Briggs. The story is achingly beautiful, as is “Walking in the Air,” a magical song that contains the only spoken words of the imaginatively-crafted film (. The sense of longing evoked by this film makes it quite appropriate for Advent, a similar time of longing. The boy’s joy in the snowfall expresses the openness of his imagination to a world of beauty and relationship, for which he longs. The scarf reminds him that the reality for which he longs remains real, however elusive it may seem in this world. Those unwilling to grieve are unable to long for eternal joy. For our tender daughters, I would note the film’s implication that Santa lives in the heaven for snow-people at the North Pole, which turned their sorrow to a constructive imaginative effect. Perfect on a snowy evening after making a snowman outside.
  • Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). Not only is this a classic, with a heartwarming story and excellent soundtrack, but it’s a great way to read aloud Luke’s account of the nativity. (See also the Digital pop-up for iPad.)
  • The Nativity Story (2006). We appreciate the realistic setting of this movie, despite the forced comedic interludes with the magi. It’s a great conversation starter for discussing what Mary and Joseph’s life together was like, especially their journey to Bethlehem. This movie’s realistic portrait of ordinary life in Nazareth, with all the resulting complications Mary and Joseph must have experienced, makes the nativity story feel real.
  • Little Women (1994). See here and here.
  • Veggie Tales, The Toy That Saved Christmas
  • Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit; narrated by Meryl Streep. As appropriate for Christmas as for Easter.
  • The Lion and the Lamb (VHS); narrated by Christopher Reeve and Amy Grant.
  • Christmas in Connecticut (1945); Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet. The DVD contains “Star in the Night,” a heart-warming, Oscar-winning short video set in the old West inspired by the story of the magi. I look forward to “Star in the Night” and make a point to watch it each year.
  • It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947): I can’t believe we have missed this one all these years! Thanks to Laura for showing it to us at her home this Christmas (2011). It’s now one of my favorites.
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