I don’t know about you, but there are certain movies that seem especially right at this time of year. Some of them are because they are specifically about the holidays and others because they just feel like the spirit of the season. I grew up watching these and I plan to make sure that my kids do the same. We’ve already gotten started on a few of them and so far, so good!
Here you have them (in no particular order).
I grew up reading Luisa May Alcott and her inspiring strong female characters. I had a major crush on Jo March. She made me want to be a writer and move to Massachusetts. Neither of those things have happened (yet), but the story of the March family’s resilience during a time when our country was going through the Civil War speaks so much to the division in our country now and the hope that lives despite the turmoil.
There have been several adaptations of Little Women (including one that’s in the works with Meryl Streep!!!! Can’t wait), and while I do love the Katherine Hepburn version, my heart belongs to the 1994 version with Wynona Rider, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, and a very young Kristen Dunst. What I loved about this version was that it captured the time in which the sisters lived in Concord and the different literary and thought movements that surrounded them. My curious mind led me from the movie to research transcendentalist poets and Thoreau.
If you haven’t seen it or at least not recently, now is the perfect time to sit down with a glass of your favorite holiday beverage and cozy up with the March family. I think you’ll find that it more than stands the test of time, and you’ll be crying right alongside me when Beth (Claire Danes) gives her famous speech to Jo…. #ImNotCryingYoureCrying
P.S. The score is well worth having in your holiday playlist as well.
Sense and Sensibility
(Did you notice how the trailer uses the Little Women soundtrack?)
1994 was the year of films that shaped me as a person it seems. Sense and Sensibility isn’t a Christmas story per say, but it’s also about a group of strong women who must rely on each other to succeed in a time that wasn’t the friendliest to women, especially single women (sound familiar?). Emma Thompson not only stars as Elinor, the eldest sister, but she also won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. This was also the movie where I discovered Kate Winslet. I like to think I discovered her before Titanic. In fact, her role as Marianne in S&S is what made me want to even see Titanic.
Because of this film, I became a huge Jane Austin fan. In fact, one of my favorite essays that I wrote in college was about how S&S was a neglected literary work compared to Pride and Prejudice. #NerdAlert While I love P&P, there will always be a special place in my heart for Sense and Sensibility and the indominable Dashwood sisters.
Charlie Brown Christmas
Ok, so this is an actual Christmas selection. Nothing beats Peanuts for getting to the true meaning of the season. I was Linus (complete with the blue blanket) as a kid. There is something so pure about the world that Charles Shultz created.
Also, I want a t-shirt that says Psychiatric Help 5 Cents, The Doctor Is In.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Grinch to me is the real Scrooge of Christmas. From Boris Karloff’s voice to the mid-century animation, it’s just about perfect in every way. I know that there’s a new version out this year, and I’ll probably end up seeing it, but nothing will ever replace the classic. My son loves the Grinch and we even read it not during the holidays. This one is for every Who in Whoville and beyond.
Anne of Green Gables
I’ve tried watching the new Netflix series Anne with an E, and it’s not bad, but it’s NOT the 80’s version with Megan Fellows and Colleen Dewhurst. It was a family tradition to watch all 8 hours at least once a year. Obviously, I’ve got a thing for movies with strong female leads.
What I love most about Anne’s story is that even though she didn’t fit in, she found a way to belong. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do in life? I still haven’t made it to Prince Edward Island, but in my mind, it’s one of the most magical places on earth.
So obsessed were we with Anne that we even had an Anne of Green Gables Cookbook, with recipies inspired by the books. What I wouldn’t give for an adult version of that cherry cordial right now…
Everyone in the office watched White Christmas this week. Totally not planned, but it goes to show that we have good taste. There are so many iconic songs and scenes in this one. I watched it with the kids over Thanksgiving and it completely held their attention.
Besides the story and songs, the costume design is a vintage lover’s DREAM. So much of the color palette seems fresh and up to date now. That’s the thing about good design, it always seems relevant. And can we talk about the black velvet dress Rosemary Clooney wears singing “Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me?” Someone needs to order that ASAP.
The Bishop’s Wife
Not The Preacher’s Wife, though that was good too, but you have to watch the original with Loretta Young and Cary Grant as the Angel that (almost) falls for the bishop’s wife. This one truly is a Christmas story and if your eyes don’t at least mist at the end, we can’t be friends. Just kidding, we can, but I’ll probably make you keep watching it until you do shed a tear. Just saying…
Meet Me in St. Luis
My oldest son is train obsessed, so guess what his favorite song of the moment is? “The Trolley Song.” My favorite moment and my favorite Christmas song of all time is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” This one is also sung in a velvet gown (red). I’m sensing a theme here…
I love movies like this that give a glimpse of what life was like at the turn of the last century as mid-western cities started to thrive a grow. It does make me a little sad that the architecture doesn’t exist anymore because it really is remarkable.
Another tear jerker, but oh, so good! I remembered watching this movie as a kid but didn’t know the name. Thanks to the magic of Google, I was able to find it a few years ago and was so glad. There’s a beautiful scene where a little girl has to wear sneakers for her school Christmas play and it’s etched on my mind. Another brilliant performance from Cary Grant on the list.
Into the Woods
This is the newest addition to my list, but it’s one that been in the making for years. I grew up with the PBS version of the original production on VHS. There’s something eerily beautiful and haunting about what happens after “happily ever after.” It’s about what happens when when fairytales end.
The ensemble of this movie is top-notch, the singing superb, and there had to be at least one movie on this list with Meryl Streep, right? Here’s a clip of one of my favorite songs, “Children Will Listen.” Be careful the wishes you make!
Bonus: James Bond (All of Them)
This probably comes out of left field based on my previous choices, but I just want to BE James Bond. For now, I’ll settle for a martini, shaken, not stirred, and some uninterrupted dad time to binge a few of my favorites. If I have to pick a favorite Bond, it would be hard. I really love Daniel Craig’s portrayal, Peirce Brosnan is just so smooth, and Sean Connery is just classic. It’s a little like Sophie’s Choice (which is NOT a Meryl movie I need to watch around the holidays!).
What are your favorite movies to watch this time of year? Let me know your faves and they might end up on my list!