Festive Flicks

By Kristen Castillo

October 16, 2017 5 min read

Watching movies is a big part of Christmas for many people. According to a Redbox survey, 90 percent of 1,200 people polled said they planned to watch a movie as part of their holiday celebration; 87 percent planned to watch two or more movies during the holiday. And over 60 percent of respondents said movie watching is their favorite way to relax during the busy Christmas season.

So what movies are the most popular? It depends on whom you ask. But first, consider the factors that make a Christmas movie a fan favorite.

"I'm a big fan of the sentimental warm-and-fuzzies, but I also like a nice dysfunctional-family dark comedy or even a thriller where the love and joy of the season makes a bright backdrop to dastardly doings," says Alonso Duralde, author of "Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas" and frequent contributor to the show "What the Flick?!"

Here's a look at some of the top picks from three film experts: Tom Nunan, lecturer at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; and Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times; and Duralde.

*"It's a Wonderful Life"

The majority of film critics agree this 1946 drama/fantasy is tops.

Nunan calls it "the greatest Christmas movie ever made."

The storyline -- a man sees what life would be like if he never existed -- is classic.

"It's a tale of redemption, yes, but it's also about being aware of all the love in your life, even at your darkest moments," says Duralde.

Nunan, who divides his picks into two lists, pre-1980 and post-1980, lists "It's a Wonderful Life" as his top seasonal flick made before 1980. Taking top honors on his post-1980 list is 2003's drama/comedy "Love Actually."

He contends that both films surpass their genres and sincerely examine human relationships.

The films have "everything: They have comedy, they have drama, romance and, to a certain extent, they have a supernatural spiritual quality."

"These movies shine when the magic of Christmas is brought to life," says Nunan.

*"A Christmas Carol"

What's Christmas without Scrooge?

This is another redemption tale: what happens when a stingy old man is haunted by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

Turan prefers the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol," sometimes called "Scrooge." "Alastair Sim is brilliant in the title role," he says.

*"Die Hard"

This 1988 Bruce Willis action/thriller didn't set out to be a holiday movie, but that doesn't stop fans and some film buffs from labeling it as such.

"It's about a husband and wife reconciling their differences and rekindling their love on December 24," says Duralde, who calls the movie "one of the great Yuletide tales and action movies," despite the terrorist storyline.


In this 2003 fantasy/romance, Will Ferrell is enthusiastic as Buddy, an elf who travels to New York City to track down his real dad after growing up at the North Pole. All three critics for this article say "Elf" is a must-watch Christmas movie.

"It's a lot of fun," says Turan.

*"White Christmas"

There's lots to love about this 1954 rom-com musical.

"In my house, the holiday hasn't happened until Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby sing 'Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,'" says Duralde, who calls the final number featuring the title song "the scorching-red Technicolor cherry on top."

*Viewing Preferences

No matter which movie you want to watch this Christmas, chances are you'll be able to find it easily.

"Undeniably, it's much easier to find Christmas movies these days than when I was a kid," says Nunan, noting that nowadays movies are on TV, on demand, available to be rented or purchased on Blu-ray and available for streaming from a variety of sources. "We've never had more of an opportunity to see a variety of Christmas films and less of an excuse not to watch them."

Netflix plans to offer "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "12 Dates of Christmas," "Snow Buddies" and "Kung Fu Panda Holiday."

Head to your nearest Redbox for a copy of "Elf," "Almost Christmas" and "Office Christmas Party."

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