jimmy stewart, donna reed, it's a wonderful life
Associated Press
Jimmy Stewart, center, is reunited with his wife, Donna Reed, left, and children during the
last scene of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life."

5 Holiday Movies to Warm Your Heart

December 13, 2010
by Colleen Brondou
After the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, cooking, decorating and card-writing, nothing spells relaxation quite like a good movie. And there’s nothing like a good holiday movie to get you back in the spirit of things.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

When George (Jimmy Stewart) prepares to commit suicide on Christmas Eve, it’s up to Clarence (Henry Travers), an angel who has yet to earn his wings, to stop him. “It’s a Wonderful Life” remains a holiday favorite year after year, and is widely hailed as one of the most popular American movies ever made. Nominated for five Academy Awards and ranked #11 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Films, the movie’s enduring popularity—and endearing message of friendship, family and “yes, you can make a difference”—have made it a classic.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

It’s one thing that Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara), a practical Macy’s business executive, doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but when her young daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood), rejects the notion of Santa and becomes disillusioned with the spirit of Christmas, something must be done. Enter Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), an old man with a beard who takes a job as Santa Claus at Macy’s. Problem is, Mr. Kringle is convinced he’s the real Santa and is prepared to go to court to prove it. “Miracle on 34th Street” combines the magnetic character of Kris Kringle with great acting and snappy writing that will leave even the skeptical saying, “I believe!”

White Christmas (1954)

If there’s ever a time that hokey song-and-dance musicals are appropriate, it has to be Christmastime. And what hokey song-and-dance musical could be more appropriate than “White Christmas”? Featuring all the trappings of 1950s Americana—beloved war veterans, a sister song-and-dance act, the music of Irving Berlin and madcap romantic shenanigans—the movie bounces along to its feel-good ending with few surprises. And that’s quite all right: The amazing song-and-dance routines by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney keep the Christmas spirit flowing. And the festive costumes and sentimental scenery, all filmed in VistaVision (a then-new color technology unveiled by Paramount), add to the jolly atmosphere.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

The term “a Charlie Brown Christmas tree” has worked its way into the American lexicon, and rightfully so. Who can forget the sight of Charlie Brown’s chosen tree, a lackluster twig that drops needles at the slightest touch. Though Charlie Brown’s failures are a staple of the Peanuts series, what makes this failure so compelling is the timing: "Christmas Time is Here," the children somberly sing. With an unforgettable soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” hints at the melancholy and longing that can be present this time of year—and invites the outsider in.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Though it met with mixed reviews when it was released in 1983, “A Christmas Story” now enjoys a cult following. Even the house where the movie was filmed has been restored and turned into a museum, complete with costumes and props from the film. Set during the 1940s, the movie tells the story of nine-year-old Ralphie and his quest for the perfect Christmas gift: a Red Ryder BB gun. But his parents, teacher and Santa all agree: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” With over-the-top performances and a tongue-in-cheek look at what’s important to young boys—such as Little Orphan Annie Secret Society Decoder Pins—the movie is, as its tag line promises, “A Tribute to the Original, Traditional, One-Hundred-Percent, Red-Blooded, Two-Fisted, All-American Christmas.”

Most Recent Features