I got nudged a bit to finish this post, so here goes! Some of my favorite Christmas movies and / or television episodes!
This is the only Christmas episode ever produced for the series and is one of their finest episodes… ever. In it, we take on a It’s a Wonderful Life with a twist, when Lex is near-fatally injured and while in the hospital, the ghost of his mother offers him a glimpse of what his life could become if he chose to abandon his father’s plan for his life and renounce evil. In this alternate world, he is happily married to Lana, they have one child and another on the way, he is still best friends with Clark, and the Kents welcome him as part of the family. But the future holds a darkness that he must face — the loss of Lana when he does not have the financial prowess to save her after pregnancy complications and his father refuses to intervene. In the end, Lex rejects this view of the future and to his mother’s horror, chooses instead to become as powerful as he can, so that he will never have to experience that kind of loss. It’s an incredible episode not only for its emotion and sense of humor (meanwhile, Clark is talking Santa off a ledge!) but also its profound undercurrent of touching sadness, the notion that love comes with loss. I rarely make it to the end without tearing up.
“Amends,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Talk about emotional trips! In this episode, Angel is haunted by memories of the people whose deaths he has been responsible for while without a soul, and it drives him to near-insanity, so much so that he intends to kill himself by greeting the rising sun on Christmas morning. Buffy meanwhile deals with her emotions and conflict about him, struggles to allow Faith to enter her family dynamic, and winds up confronting Angel in one of the most gut-wrenching monologues in the show’s history. They have a tearful reunion and discover that, miraculously, the sun will not rise on either of them, for sunny California is experiencing its first snowfall in many years… a sign, perhaps, that Angel has been forgiven. Granted, this episode won’t mean much to outsiders, but to those of us who love Angel and Buffy together and apart, it is a gut-wrenching and deeply touching experience.
“Dr. Mike’s Dream,” Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
After losing a patient, Dr. Quinn questions her role in Colorado Springs on the Eve of Christmas as she struggles to save a child that must be born in a stable. The ghost of Charlotte Cooper comes to her to reveal to her the difference she has made in the lives of her children, and what the past, present, and future hold for her… but not too much! It’s a touching story, full of hope and beauty, with subtle parallels to different Christmas stories but also to the birth of Christ. There was more than one memorable Christmas episode in the series’ run (including the pilot!), but this is one of my favorites.
“A Very Supernatural Christmas,” Supernatural
Where would Christmas be for Sam and Dean without a really freakin’ hideous monster of some kind to deal with? — in this case, Sam tries to convince Dean to have a decent Christmas, while the boys are on the trail of an Anti-Santa who, well, drags parents up the chimney. Turns out the bad guys are a couple of pagan gods who are all over the Christmas scene — and not long for this world, even though they have the upper hand and a couple of pulled fingernails for awhile. Stop looking at me like that. It’s Supernatural! It’s going to be a bit whacked, a whole lotta weird, a tad fraked up, and above all, touching in one scene or another as “our boys” share a “chick moment.”
“A Christmas Carol,” Doctor Who
It is a practice for this series to have a Christmas episode every season, maybe to butter us up while we wait for the next heart-pounding adventure to begin. Last Christmas’ was my favorite — beyond the Christmas alien invasion, beyond the Cyborg Victorian Steampunk affair, and beyond the flying Titanic fiasco. Why? Doctor Who throws himself down a chimney just for the hell of it, and plays the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to a crabby old man who refuses to help him save a ship full of dying people. There is an Opera singer, a sad but romantic twist, a mention of the Doctor getting hitched to Marilyn Monroe, and fish in the fog. Oh, and the sleigh ride through the clouds with a shark pulling the sleigh. Did I mention that? No? Well, it’s Moffat at his finest, always funny, sometimes touching, and eternally melodramatic and memorable.
Most people have a whole host of Christmas movies that they love. I “like” a lot of Christmas movies, but not to the extent of watching them every single year. So here are the ones that I normally do watch around Christmas, and below will be honorable mentions that get a viewing if not every year, then every other year!
“The Miracle on 34th Street” (1996)
Okay, I know it is kind of a travesty that I like the remake more than the original, but this is the one I grew up on. Some of the changes they made to the original, I actually prefer — such as not having a boozing housewife being involved, and the fact that the argument hinges on a religious principle when all is said and done. I thought that was really a lovely inclusion, and a subtle way to remind audiences that even if this is a movie about Santa Clause, he isn’t what Christmas is really all about. That aside, even though there are moments when I flinch (I literally cover my eyes and groan when Dorey turns down Bryan’s marriage proposal — oh, what an idiot!) I love it. I love the fact that the little girl is such an unmitigated INTJ, and I think Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott make a sexy couple on screen. Also, Bryan did not assist me as a child in avoiding developing a crush for blue-eyed, dark-haired men. I have a type, and he is partly to blame for it.
As a disclaimer, I own an edited copy of this, but I enjoy it all the same. It’s such a clever idea to entwine so many stories into one overall arc, and while I enjoy each one (well, then again… not so much for a couple of them) my two favorite love stories are between Colin Firth and the non-English speaking girl (they are so adorable) and the Prime Minister storyline, with Hugh Grant. This is, by the way, the only time I have ever liked Hugh Grant. But as far as angst goes, Emma Thompson owns this movie with her portrayal of a woman suspecting her husband is on the verge of an affair. Sans one particular plot line, it’s just all really rather lovely, romantic, sweet, touching, the whole nine yards. Other movies have played off the idea but none have done it quite so well — or had so many familiar British faces! And who cannot help but laugh over Bill Nighy’s angry, bitter, boozing, ex-radio star character?
I don’t approve of all the morals in this movie (obviously) but I do love it all the same. Kate Winslet and Jack Black are an amazing couple, and one I never saw coming. But it is Cameron Diaz that really shines for me as the girl who cannot cry. The two swap houses and lives for Christmas and each wind up falling in love, blending both their families into a happily ever after that concludes on New Year’s. But in the meantime there is a lot of wit, banter, mischief, and even a sweetly touching plot line about forgotten heroes of cinema. But one of my favorite lines is when an older, wiser man reminds Iris to “be the leading lady of her own life.” Good advice.
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
Who doesn’t love this movie? Oh, right… my mother and brother. =P But Dad and I enjoy it, even though it’s a hard watch. Jimmy Stewart is wonderful as a man who sacrifices his dreams for his family and then must discover that his dream is his family. It is gut-wrenching, angst-ridden, but has a happy ending. It was completely knocked about by the critics of the time as being far too sappy and sentimental, but what do they know? It has become a classic ever since, and it’s not hard to see why.
This is an odd choice, I know, but it won me over a few years ago and I’m going to make it a Christmas tradition. It is set in the wonderful world of Terry Pratchett on Discworld, and revolves around an assassination attempt against the Hogfather on Hogswatch Eve, leaving Death to deliver presents and his granddaughter Susan to discover what exactly has happened — involving the wizards, Hex the thinking machine at the University, magical deities appearing out of thin air, and all sorts of magical nonsense of a hilariously morbid and dark-humored variety. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but right about the time Susan met the “oh God of hangovers” I knew it was mine. Read the book too, it’s a ripping good time.
“A Muppet Christmas Carol”
There are dozens of adaptations of this film but this one is my favorite — not only does it approach the material with a sense of humor, it also quotes directly from the novel! This is the one movie the entire family insists on watching every year, without fail. We all love it!
The rest of these are movies that I get sucked into watching every year, or others that I don’t watch every year but that I do enjoy.
“Die Hard” (… yes, it is a Christmas movie, it takes place on Christmas Eve! and who doesn’t love an explosion on Christmas Eve? shame Alan Rickman goes out the window, though…), “Home Alone,” 1 & 2 (who doesn’t love a little bit of sadism for the holidays? gosh, these movies are great), “The Santa Clause” 1, 2 & 3 (the final sequel is rather blah, in spite of the ever-awesome Martin Short, but I enjoy the first two even if the first movie gets a bit thin after having seen it a thousand times), “The Christmas Box” (wonderful, but much too sad to watch every single year, as much as I adore Maureen O’Hara in it), “The Timepiece” (same deal), and “Borrowed Hearts” (with Roma Downey, a darling little Christmas movie that I haven’t seen in years, sadly).
Lastly, Christmas movies I have seen and never care to watch again — “Elf” (I pretty much hate anything with that actor in it, ugh), “Christmas with the Kranks” (… my eyeballs, they burn, I have seen Tim Allen in a speedo and may never recover!), and a lot of assorted, lame Hallmark movies. Sorry, Hallmark. 😉
So, readers (if there are any) — what are some of your favorite Christmas movies or television episodes?