So, let's get one thing straight, Die Hard, is not a Christmas movie. It seems like this conversation is always initiated when discussing favorite Christmas movies. The argument can go back and forth whether John McClane's heroic exploits mark a Christmas film, simply because of the time of year in which they take place, but ultimately it's a moot point for one reason: the film was released in the Summer (July 15, 1988). Name one other Christmas film released in the Summer. We'll wait, and while we're waiting, here's a His&Hers set of our favorite Christmas movies:
3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989): The Griswolds, in whichever predicament they are found, are always towards the top of my list in terms of comedic enjoyment. If ever there were an occasion where my livelihood relied upon me perfectly quoting a movie in its entirety, there would be serious consideration for Christmas Vacation. In Sauers’ Family Tradition, we first view this one Thanksgiving Weekend and is usually the first Christmas movie of the season. It’s the kind of movie where you find something new that grabs your attention each new viewing. The combination of irreverence and earnestness that you find in this movie is rare but it’s part of why the Vacation series is more than just a crude comedy. Clark Griswold’s spiral to and through “the threshold of Hell” is relatable in a Murphy’s Law type of way. He truly is “the last true family man” and seeing his attempt to bring and provide joy is stomach churning in the most hilarious of ways. Cousin Eddie’s extended cameo and Uncle Lewis and Aunt Bethany’s absurdist contributions push this film over the edge and it’s a staple in the Christmas Season as far as I’m concerned.
2. A Christmas Story (1983): What can be said about this film that hasn’t already been said? The 24-Hours of a Christmas Story is the quintessential hallmark of Christmas Eve. Santa Claus won’t come until you’ve witnessed Ralphie’s department-store-meltdown, Flick’s tongue-to-pole Triple-Dog-Dare, Scut Farkus’ yellow eyes, and the Chinese Dinner courtesy of the Bumpus’ Hounds. Nostalgia plays a clear part in why I hold this movie in such high regard, but the coming of age narrative is universal and such an integral part of its success. The chemistry between the members of Ralphie’s family is perfect. The mother-- a perfect archetype of the 1940s housewife, with flexibility from those norms when it comes to caring for her sons and family (exemplified perfectly in her brushing off of Ralphie’s altercation with Farkus as well as her sampling of the soap after “the granddaddy of them all”). The father-- a clear example of the standard in patriarchy, but possessing the same flexibility from that role as he provides for Ralphie’s Red-Rider fantasy and as he shows love and compassion to his family. These characters are familiar in the static molds that we expect them to play (in the sense of tradition) but they are flexible and dynamic enough to provide thoughtful and poignant moments to pair with the comedy all the way through.
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): Growing up, I loved the Peanuts. I loved the wishy-washiness of Charlie Brown. I loved the wisdom and innocence of Linus.I loved the moxie and "je ne sais quois" of Snoopy. All of these qualities are reasons why the Peanuts comics and movies and made-for-TV specials maintain a timelessness that is not found often and this Christmas installation is the coup-de-grace when it comes to everything Charlie Brown/Peanuts. We open with Charlie Brown bearing his soul to Linus and talking about how, despite his (and the season’s) best efforts, he still winds up feeling depressed. We could stop there and speak to the realness that Charles Schultz has allowed to ruminate in a child/family animated feature is maybe matched by only the first 10 minutes of “Up”, but he keeps it coming, throughout.
As we see Charlie Brown airing his grief about the commercialism that surrounds Christmas, we also see the growing anxiety/depression that stirs within him. When he takes over the Christmas production he comes face-to-face with the extravagance and excess that plagues the Holiday season (he also comes face-to-face with the most killer jazz band known to man, but I digress…). Charlie Brown and Linus hope to restore “the proper mood” to this production by finding a Christmas Tree and in true Charlie Brown form, he picks the most modest, downtrodden piece of timber in the entire lot. This selection is met with laughter and scorn, leaving Charlie Brown at his breaking point for whether anyone truly gets the “true meaning of Christmas” anymore.This sets up the most baller moment of TV/Movie monologue of all-time: Linus’ recitation of Luke 2:8-14.
The reason this special is one that I hold near and dear is the relevance the special still holds in today’s culture, not just during the holidays, but during every season. Christmas (and Christianity) is not about being the biggest or best. It’s not about greatness or grandeur. It’s about humility. It’s the realization that the Savior of our world was born of no means, lived a life that couldn’t be further of that of a king, and died the death of a criminal for the sins of mankind. The glamour of this season is not found in glitz or in the idea of status-- but it’s found in the least of these. It’s found in Christ and in the humility of circumstance into which He was born and in how He lived. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989): Ok so let’s be real. This movie has only been at the top of my list for a couple of years due to Ethan. I’m serious, Clark. Before becoming a Sauers, the only version I had seen of this movie was the ABC mega edited family version. Lemme tell ya, that’s no way to watch this movie. The ABC Family version is like the 9AM church service. I mean you’ll definitely get something out of it. You won’t hate it. It’s refreshing every now and then. But it ain’t gonna rock your world. Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis are probably one of my favorite movie couples of all time. I’m literally fighting back laughs right now just writing about them. THE BLESSINGGGGG. If you read that in Aunt Bethany’s voice we’re probably best friends. If you have only seen the TV version of this movie, do yourself a favor and run to Walmart to grab this on DVD. It’s a gem. Hallelujah holy shit. Sorry…..holy shittin rocks.
2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992): So the sequel takes this spot over the original for one reason only—I can’t stand when poor baby Macaulay drops his bag of groceries in the middle of the sidewalk. Bless his heart, it’s heartbreaking and it ruins the whole movie... I digress. I’m sure the idea of Christmas in New York at the Plaza would be in the top 100 of anyone’s bucket list (and I relate to little Kevin’s love of the Rockefeller Christmas tree) but there are so many scenes that tug at my heartstrings in this movie. Kevin donating his money to the toy store, sharing his turtle dove ornament with the lady at the park, and eating an XL cheese pizza in the back of a limo. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.
1. A Christmas Story (1983): Ok y'all. I’ll shoot your eye out if you disagree with me on this. Christmas Story was a Pae family staple. And I’m not talking just the 24 hour Christmas Eve marathon on TBS. I’m talking a once-a-week-leading-up-to-the-Christmas-Eve-marathon marathon. Honestly while I’m sitting here thinking about it—it gives me more sentimental value than entertainment value. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a classic (truthfully, just give me any movie set in the 40’s with a kick-butt house wife cooking in a snow-covered house) but when I think of this movie, I think of piling on one couch with my family sharing a tin can full of popcorn while reliving “the glow of electric sex” gleaming in the window year after year.