Arts + Culture

5 Movies to Watch This Holiday Season

Who doesn’t love a good Christmas movie? Come on, the snow, the romance, the deep lessons of morality? All wrapped up with a bow. Christmas movies have become an integral part of how many of us celebrate the holiday season. From providing comfort, to challenging our perceptions, to reminding us the true meaning of the season, movies help us connect to, understand, and appreciate all we have to be thankful for this time of year. While everyone has their favourites, the ones embedded in personal traditions, I thought I would share a few of my favourites with you. So get cozy, sit back, and enjoy!

The Classic: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

(Photo: RKO Radio Pictures)

Directed by: Frank Capra
Starring:  Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed

What holiday season would feel complete without at least one run through of this two-hour emotional rollercoaster? The story of George Bailey, a selfless man whose encounter with an angel on Christmas Eve teaches him the meaning of a life well-lived, has become a holiday staple. I know every December 24th, I look forward to grabbing some hot cocoa (along with boxes of tissue) and settling in to watch this feel-good Christmas classic. I laugh. I cry. I aspire to become a better person (starting in the new year).

The Quirky: Happy Christmas (2014)

(Photo: Magnolia Pictures)

Directed by: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey

After a rough break-up, Jenny comes to stay with her brother Jeff, his wife Kelly, and their young child. A series of quiet upheavals ensue. A funny and honest look at the difficulty of change, this still-waters-run-deep dramedy is both touching and relatable. The performances are raw, the camerawork is masterful. Oh, and I should probably mention, it takes place around Christmas time. But, much like real-life Christmas, once you pass a certain age the focus is on family rather than Santa and his sleigh.

The Heartwarming: Love Actually (2003)

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Bill Nighy, and many, many, many, more.

Over the last decade, this collection of interconnected stories has become a modern classic of seasonal cinema. The film follows the lives of various characters as they struggle with romantic, familial, and professional relationships around the holiday season. Featuring the dry humour, witty banter, and teary moments common to the work of Richard Curtis, Love Actually explores what it means to love and raises important questions, such as why a lobster should appear in a naivety play. Also, a quick shout-out to the amazing Emma Thompson, who gives a truly standout performance amongst a sea of stars.

The Honest: Tangerine (2015)

(Photo: Magnolia Pictures)

Directed by: Sean S. Baker
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor

Set in Los Angeles, this film lacks pretty much any traditional Christmas motifs including: snow, mistletoe, joy, or good cheer. Instead, we have prostitutes, doughnuts, and drugs. The story follows friends Sin-Dee and Alexandra as they try to make it through an eventful Christmas Eve. However, while the movie may be missing the glowing comfort typical of the holidays, it is filled with a beauty all its own, celebrating the truly important aspects of the holidays—friendship, family, and forgiveness. At times laugh-out-loud hilarious, this movie is an overall touching portrait of faces not often captured on film.

The Nostalgic: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

(Photo: United Feature Syndicate)

Directed by: Bill Melendez
Starring: Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea

This one is probably my all-time favourite holiday special. Genuinely sweet and deeply wise, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a timeless tale about a young boy’s search for the true meaning of Christmas. With the whole Peanut’s crew in tow, there is so much to love about this simple story. Gather all the ones you hold dear and enjoy this ode to childhood, friendship, and the spirit of Christmas.

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