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Our Favorite Christmas Movies
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A Charlie Brown Christmas
A perennial fave that addresses the material and spiritual aspects of the holiday season, A Charlie Brown Christmas offers families a break from the buy!buy!buy! clamor surrounding Christmas. The storyline follows the ups and downs of Charlie Brown, initially depressed by the commercialism of Christmas, but ultimately buoyed by directing the school pageant, a pep talk from Linus and the strength of a sad little fir tree. Kids and parents alike will enjoy bopping along the Vince Guaraldi's iconic musical score.
Run time: 30 min. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Looking for more entertainment during the holiday season? Check out these Christmas and holiday books.
The story of Buddy (Will Ferrell), a human raised among elves, who journeys to New York City to find his true identity and his biological father (who is on Santa's naughty list) after learning he's not actually an over-sized elf. Kids will delight in Buddy's naivete and the silliness that comes when he explores human culture. Top-notch cast also includes James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Mary Steenburgen, and Zooey Deschanel.
Run time: 97 minutes. Rated: PG. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
It's a Wonderful Life
This beloved classic (offered in black and white and color in this set) is still popular more 60 years after its release. The movie, directed by Frank Capra, stars Jimmy Stewart as a frustrated businessman, George Bailey, who has been tied to the town of Bedford Falls for years, instead of living the life of travel and adventure he dreams of. When events take a turn for the worse, George considers ending his life, but his guardian angel, Clarence, steps in to show him what life would be life without him and all of his good deeds.
Run time: 130 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 9 and up.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
This stop motion-animated classic, based on a poem by Tim Burton, features Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown. Bored doing the same thing for Halloween each year, he discovers Christmastown, and decides to try to bring a bit of yuletide to Halloweentown, even kidnapping Santa Claus to make that happen. A delightful (and slightly scary) combo of the two holidays.
Run time: 76 minutes. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
Left at home accidentally while his family heads off on a Christmas vacation in Paris, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is left to defend his home against two bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) who are taking advantage of the fact that so many families are out of town. Kids will be impressed by Kevin's ingenuity in protecting his turf, and will alternate between laughing and cringing at the slapstick violence that ensues.
Run time: 103 minutes. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
The Simpsons Christmas
Simpsons-loving families used to all of Homer and Bart's antics will enjoy this package of holiday-themed episodes, as well as The Simpsons—Christmas 2 DVD. This one includes the following episodes: "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," "Mr Plow," "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace," "Grift of the Magi" and "She of Little Faith" as well as an additional featurette, "Mr. Burns' Finest Moments."
Run time: 92 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Original Christmas Classics
This is a whopper of a collection, including seven holiday faves like the classic stop-motion animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (narrated by Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman), Mr. Magoo's Christmas Special, Frosty the Snowman (narrated by Jimmy Durante), Frosty Returns, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, The Little Drummer Boy and Cricket on the Hearth. As kids, we used to wait all year for these to be shown on television, but now your family can enjoy them whenever they wish.
Run time: 275 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Lights: The Miracle of Chanukah
Narrated by Judd Hirsch and featuring the voices of Leonard Nimoy and Paul Michael Glaser, this animated film introduces kids to the story of Chanukah and the traditions surrounding it.
Run time: 24 minutes. Rated G. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Merry Christmas, Olivia
Everyone's favorite 6-and-3/4 year-old pig enjoys holiday fun in these eight Christmas- and winter-themed tales. Episodes include "Olivia Claus," "Olivia and the Family Photo," "Olivia's Ice Spectacular," "Olivia's Snow Day," "Olivia Makes a Wedding Gift," "Olivia Makes Magic," "Olive and the Babies" and "Olivia's Good Luck."
Run time: 95 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
The Polar Express
As serious fans of Chris Van Allsburg's Caldecott award-winning The Polar Express, we're delighted to watch this animated version again and again. Tom Hanks voices multiple roles in this memorable tale about a train trip to the North Pole and the wonder of Christmas, as seen through the eyes of a young boy.
Run time: 100 minutes. Rated G. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Miracle on 34th Street
A lovely, classic story about a six-year-old girl, Susan (Natalie Wood), who has doubts about the existence of Santa Claus and a department store Santa (Edmund Gwenn) who attempts to convince Susan and her mother (Maureen O'Hara) that he's the real deal. This version features the original 1947 black and white version as well as its colorized counterpart and bonus features.
Run time: 96 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Shrek the Halls
Fans of the Shrek movies will be delighted by this short and sweet holiday-themed special. Starring the usual cast of characters, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) struggles to make his family's first Christmas special, but doesn't have any experience with the holiday. As he attempts to follow a Christmas for Village Idiots guidebook, the festivities go on around him.
Run time: 22 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
The Night Before Christmas
A collection of seven Scholastic Storybook Treasures, this DVD is more of a read-along activity than a traditional movie. The camera pans over the pages as celeb readers (including actors Anthony Edwards and Alfre Woodard) take turns with holiday books like Clement Moore's The Night Before Christmas and Gary Soto's Too Many Tamales. Includes tales about Chanukah and Kwanzaa as well.
Run time: 73 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
This 1966 animated version of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a line-by-line reading by Boris Karloff of the classic children's tale (also fun is Jim Carrey's big-screen turn as the Grinch). Fans of the book will enjoy seeing the Grinch in motion as he attempts to stop Christmas from coming.
Run time: 26 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens + the Muppets = a true holiday classic. In this version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Henson (son of the late Jim Henson), Kermit plays the role of Bob Cratchit, with Miss Piggy as his wife and Michael Caine as his miserly employer, Ebenezer Scrooge. Gonzo appears as Charles Dickens, to help narrate the tale. A lovely combination of originality and faithfulness to its literary predecessor.
Run time: 85 minutes. Rated G. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
A Christmas Story
This funny and touching 1983 adaptation of an autobiographical novel by humorist Jean Shepard (who narrates) remains a holiday must-see. Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) is a 9-year-old boy in the 1940s Midwest who has his sights set on one thing: getting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, with which everyone tells him he'll "shoot his eye out." There are plenty of "boys will be boys" antics, including an unforgettable moment where another boy gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole.
Run time: 94 minutes. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
This is a sweet story about George and the Man with the Yellow Hat's preparations for Christmas (and all the accidents George gets into before the big day) and the lessons they learn about the meaning of the holiday along the way. They have difficulty determining what to give each other on Christmas Day, but ultimately come to realize just how much they mean to each other and are able to solve their gifting dilemma. Includes a bonus holiday CD.
Run time: 58 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
The Santa Clause
Starring comedian Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, a divorced toy company executive, this family comedy follows him as he takes over Santa's rounds on Christmas Eve after Santa takes a fatal fall off his roof. Calvin thinks his tour as Santa is over after one night, but ultimately comes to learn that he is subject to the Santa Clause and must become the new Santa, big belly, beard and all, which creates some problems for Calvin in his regular life.
Run time: 97 minutes. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Mickey's Christmas Carol
This DVD includes the quintessential Disney adaptation of Dickens' classic, starring Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit in the 25-minute short "Mickey's Christmas Carol." Other shorts included in this collection are "The Small One" about a boy and his donkey, "Pluto's Christmas Tree" about the chipmunks Chip and Dale who live in the tree Mickey cuts down and "Santa's Workshop" featuring Santa and his elves.
Run time: 64 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Shalom Sesame: Chanukah Special
Like most of the other Chanukah-themed specials for kids, this one is, um, vintage. Parents who grew up in the '80s may get a kick out of watching Jeremy Miller (Growing Pains) travel to the land of the Maccabees and seeing Levana White host the game show "Dreidel of Fortune." Also starring the Muppets, Nell Carter and Joan Rivers.
Run time: 32 minutes. Rated G. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
The Dog Who Saved Christmas
Voiced by Mario Lopez, Zeus is a retired K-9 dog who can't seem to bark. Determined to protect his family's home to prevent his return to the pound, Zeus attempts to foil a burglary a la Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, dropping ornaments on their heads and dousing them with flour.
Run time: 88 minutes. Rated PG. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure
Dora lovers will be delighted by this holiday-themed adventure. After Swiper attempts to steal the Christmas Star at Dora's Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) party, Santa puts him on the "naughty list." In an effort to help Swiper redeem himself and get off the naughty list, Dora travels through time with Swiper to discover the true spirit of Christmas. Sound familiar?
Run time: 52 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
This 1954 musical is yet another true holiday classic. Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, and featuring the Irving Berlin song "White Christmas," the movie focuses on a song-and-dance team (Crosby and Kaye) who team up with a sister act (Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to help save the failing Vermont ski lodge. Lots of singing and dancing may get the kids choreographing their own show by the end!
Run time: 120 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Elmo's Christmas Countdown
Although the kids might have been wowed by Elmo alone, parents will love the celebs packed into this Christmas special. When the boxes in Stiller the Elf's (voiced by Ben Stiller) tree-shaped Christmas Counter-Downer are scattered (leaving Elmo and the elf thinking Christmas won't ever come), Elmo and Abby Cadabby step in to save the day and help restore the elf's faith that Christmas is still on its way. Celeb guest stars include Sopranos stars Tony Sirico and Steve Schirippa, Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Hudson, Anna Hathaway, Alicia Keys, Jamie Foxx and Brad Paisley.
Run time: 44 minutes. Not rated. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Pint-sized puppy lovers will, er, 'sit and stay' for this holiday film starring talking dogs (the fourth in the Buddies series). At the North Pole, Santa Claus and his canine pal Santa Paws notice that the Christmas spirit icicle is melting, due to lack of Christmas spirit in the world. They're counting on Puppy Paws to spread the message of the importance of Christmas spirit to the next generation, but he just wants to be a normal dog—and so he hitches a ride to the real world, where he ultimately realizes his elders were right and sets out to restore Christmas spirit. Saccharine, but fun, especially for younger viewers.
Run time: 88 minutes. Rated G. Recommended for ages 5 and up.