5) Elf – The sheer size of Will Ferrell is the root of the comedy in Elf, Jon Favreau’s contemporary Christmas yarn about a human raised by elves in the North Pole who wants to travel to (where else) Manhattan, to find his real dad. Elf is high energy, high comedy, and full of wonderful scenes that never run thin this time of year.
4) Serendipity – This one is a bit deceiving, as really only the beginning and the end of the film take place around the holidays. However, a film taking place in Manhattan (again) that revolves around fate and luck, and has a scene in the snow at the ice rink in Central Park, is definitely one to watch around Christmas. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale keep this film charming, and Jeremy Piven, forever cast as the best friend in the days before Entourage, adds some great comedy alongside EugeneLevy.
3) Home Alone – Forget about the three (yes, three) sequels, the original Home Alone is the only one worth its salt. With an adorable, pre-Emo Macauly Culkin left home by himself on Christmas, forced to fend off the two most idiotic burglars in film history, the holiday spirit is sewn into the fabric of each and every scene. And, as a child, who didn’t somewhat wish they could be left home alone with a couple of hapless burglars to fend off? Who didn’t want to create a funhouse of swinging paint cans, a tar-and-feather machine, icy steps, and flaming booby traps?
2) Christmas Vacation – I know I know… how could this not be number one? Well, perhaps this should be 1a, as Christmas Vacation and the number one film are interchangeable to me. I could just about rewrite the screenplay to this best film of the Vacation franchise, as Clark Griswold, under the pressure of family, work, and an intense decorating scheme, eventually comes unraveled and completely loses his mind in some hilarious scenes. Aside from the obvious comedy in Christmas Vacation, there are so many subtle sight gags and moments of stealth comedy that you can only pick up on after dozens upon dozens of holiday viewings.
1) Die Hard – This is the ultimate male holiday flick. It’s Christmas Eve, and John McClane is in Los Angeles, trying to repair things with his estranged wife and family, only to be caught in the middle of a terrorist takeover of her office building. Aside from the harrowing action sequences, topping out with the iconic jump from the roof of the tower as it explodes, Die Hard really has an underlying story that is more substantial than most run-of-the-mill action films. And of course, there is the Christmas angle of the story, and a dynamite Christmas tune from Run DMC at the beginning to set the scene and keep this penultimate Christmas action epic soundly locked into 1988.