There’s nothing like stringing cranberries (or laying splayed out on the couch) in front of a crackling fire and a good Christmas movie. (The Bad Christmas Movie seems to be a genre all its own. Jingle All the Way and its sequel. Really?) And then there are the worthy classics, but you can only watch It’s a Wonderful Life so many times. (Actually, Luke, a big Jimmy Stewart fan, would be happy if Bedford Falls’ finest played on a continuous loop throughout December.)
Here are five (okay, six) quality but lesser known holiday films that go perfectly with hot buttered rum.
1. Joyeux Noel. I have a French film, er, problem. Joyeux Noel is the best of both my favorite worlds–it’s French and Christmas-y. The 2005 movie tells the story of the unofficial World War I Christmas truce on the Western Front. A love story and gorgeous singing and period costumes, oh my!
2. Under the Greenwood Tree Another 2005 movie, this one based on a lighthearted romance novel by Victorian author Thomas Hardy. It’s a sweet film, and the depiction of the English village’s church band is loads of fun. Thanks, Tom (author of tragedies like Tess of the D’Ubervilles and Jude the Obscure) for a dose of cheer.
3. The Family Man This modern adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life (in reverse) is on the saccharine side, but it works. Every time Luke and I catch on TV Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni as Mr. and Mrs., it has the effect of making the spouse and me grateful for our life together, even when we’re hiding in our room from the kids.
4. The Shop Around the Corner You’ll spot the story from Nora Ephron’s more contemporary You’ve Got Mail. In this 1940 romantic comedy, Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan star as store clerks in Budapest who can’t stand each other– but are falling in love through anonymous correspondence. You be the judge as to whether the couple’s as charming as Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. (Hint: they are.)
5. Affair to Remember See Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr miss their chance for romance. See them miss it again. Will Christmas Eve bring them together? You’ll recognize the 1957 movie from its prominence in Sleepless in Seattle, (another Ephron flick starring Hanks and Ryan). Affair to Remember is every bit the tearjerker (in a good way), and Grant’s dreamy despite his character’s thick-headedness. (p.s. I am not a purist.The 1994 remake, Love Affair, holds its own.)
BONUS: THIS JUST IN. Luke and I splurged last night for the $2.99 Amazon rental of It Happened on Fifth Avenue, and we are so glad we did. This 1947 movie is an overlooked delight. Victor Moore (as Aloysius T. McKeever) steals the show as a hobo who camps out for the winter in a boarded-up mansion. McKeever’s not rambling around the house alone in “his” smoking jacket for long, and the rest of the cast charms. There’s chemistry here. Luke and I laughed out loud and got teary-eyed and made exclamations of praise during the closing credits.