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9 Holiday Movies To Make Your Spirits Bright

9 Holiday Movies To Make Your Spirits Bright

by Mandi Harrison

My favorite time of year is the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. It’s all about traditions. Presents are nice, but the music and twinkly lights and baking and wearing sweaters and drinking coffee is just so magical! Even getting up in the morning seems doable- I leave for work and it’s super dark, but some of my neighbors keep their Christmas lights on overnight and it just feels….it feels like anything is possible and even in the midst of darkness, there is hope.

One of my most favorite traditions is watching holiday movies. It’s like being invited into a friend’s home and spending Christmas with them. I love snuggling up with a plate of cookies or a bowl of Chex Mix (another tradition) and relaxing for a while. Here are some of my favorites!


Home Alone

Growing up, we’d watch this on Thanksgiving night at my grandma’s, after eating turkey sandwiches. It may be a fun little caper, but the parts I love most are with Kevin & the neighbor in church and his mom with John Candy, trying to get home. After learning John Hughes wrote the screenplay, I realized why those were my favorite parts. Like most of his movies, it’s a fun treat with a bittersweet middle. Plus it has a great score by John Williams (my favorite). It makes me feel warm and cozy and nostalgic.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

I mean… come on. It’s not Christmas without it. If you have a family, a job or just exist, you relate to some part of this movie. This is my second most quoted Christmas movie- my personal favorite quote is “He’s holding out for management”- but there are so many gems. Cousin Eddy and Aunt Bethany seem like family by now.


It’s A Wonderful Life

Working retail at Christmas is a special kind of hell. You are paid crap, work long hours with no breaks and are expected to take the abuse of people who are definitely on the naughty list. All while trying to deal with your own life somehow. My eye is twitching just thinking about it. Every Christmas Eve, after working a 60+ hour week, I’d close the studio, come home, put on my Christmas jammies and watch It’s A Wonderful Life with just the tree lights on. Watching that beautiful black and white calmed my nerves and by the end, when Jimmy Stewart is running down the street yelling Merry Christmas, my soul was restored. This is one of the best movies ever made.

The Holiday

It does NOT need to be Christmas for me to watch this, but it DOES take place at Christmas- so I do. We love ourselves some Nancy Meyers, to the point it’s not even a guilty pleasure-NO SHAME. This is my personal favorite N.M. movie- it has an English cottage, a Lindsey Lohan cameo and Mr. Napkinhead! It’s ridiculous and corny, but to quote Kate Winslet in the movie “I love corny; I’m looking for corny.”


Miracle On 34th Street

I loooove this version. The original 1947 version is good, but a little on the gloomy side. This one has a slightly moody vibe, but has hope throughout. Another John Hughes screenplay. He just speaks to me. Even with her doubt, Susan wanted to believe in Santa, and that was enough! Here are my reasons for loving this version more than the original: 1. Richard Attenborough IS Santa Claus 2. Mara Wilson is beyond precious 3. New York at Christmas is gorgeous and 4. So is Dylan McDermott. This movie leaves me feeling anything is possible if you believe.

Christmas With The Kranks

This is a new addition to my favorites; Chris introduced it to me. But I absolutely love it. I’ve watched it twice this year already. I love watching movies with communities that have weird, over-the-top holiday traditions, plus Jamie Lee Curtis is fricking adorable in her Christmas vest.

The Family Stone

Chris is probably the only other person I know that loves this movie as much as I do. It’s snarky and sad but it’s full of love and family. It has our dear Diane Keaton in it-how could we not love it?! It’s good for when you need a cathartic cry.

Love, Actually

This is a movie that makes people either squeal or groan, but I love it. I love it in all its glorious, cheesy wonderment. It was the start of the “let’s take a bunch of actors in random storylines and then tie it all together in the end” movies, and it’s the best one. People can argue all they want about what the best and worst storyline was, but I think that we all can agree that Alan Rickman can never be forgiven for making Emma Thompson cry.



This is my most quoted Christmas movie. Besides being a fun bop, it is actually a well made movie. The attention to detail, the old timey animation, an endearing character, and an incredible director. There is just so much to love. It’s easy to get caught up in the goofiness of it (it is hysterical), but deep down, it has heart and a true love of Christmas. Also, I love Zoey Deschanel’s whole look so much and Mary Steenburgen is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.


Honorable mentions for my favorite Christmasy scenes in non-Christmasy movies:

  • The Jingle Bell Rock dance in Mean Girls “We’re dancing to a song called Jingle Bell Rock- have you heard it?”

  • Sleepless In Seattle- The call to the radio show that started it all.

  • Steel Magnolias- again, communities with over the top traditions. My person fave- the wreath Annelle made out of Baby Jesuses

  • Little Women- there are a few Christmas scenes, but my favorite is when Mr. Lawerence gives Beth the piano (tears)

  • Carol- it has some of the most gorgeous holiday scenes ever filmed. There is a shot of Cate Blanchett wearing a fur coat while picking out a tree that I could seriously watch forever. It belongs in the Louvre.

  • The Apartment- Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon and heartbreak. Enough said.

For New Year’s, I like to watch When Harry Met Sally (for obvious reasons) and the first Sex & The City movie. From this year on, I’ll be adding Meet Me In St. Louis, because I finally watched it, after hearing Jennifer Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker talk about it in S&TC so many times.

Are movies a part of your holiday traditions? What’s your favorite?

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