It can be hard to find Christmas movies that kids will enjoy, yet will keep adults entertained too. The best Christmas movies that should be on every family’s list every year are feel-good movies. They can have dramatic or even depressing moments, but they end on a happy note with the spirit of Christmas. These movies are mature enough for adults to love year after year, but fun enough that children will be happy to watch them too.
It’s a Wonderful Life
First is the classic movie directed by Frank Capra in 1946. Starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, It’s a Wonderful Life is the perfect Christmas movie. It was made for adults and isn’t quite a comedy, but children will still enjoy it. As they get older the movie will have even more meaning for them. Most importantly, it instills good lessons and shows the true spirit of Christmas.
George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is horribly depressed on Christmas Eve. Everything has fallen apart and he doesn’t think it can ever be fixed. Just before he can jump off of a bridge and end it all, a man nearby falls off. Instead of killing himself, George dives in and rescues him. The rescued man turns out to be Clarence (Henry Travers) and he is George’s guardian angel. Still at the end of his rope, George wishes he had never been born. Clarence then takes him on a journey to show him just what the world would be like without George Bailey. When it’s over, George may just realize that he has a wonderful life after all.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Next, a comedy. Christmas Vacation, written by John Hughes and starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo is pure holiday mayhem. The movie has a number of risqué jokes and mature moments, however they are all subtle enough that younger viewers will miss them. Adults will enjoy the crude humor while children laugh at the slapstick. This movie is especially great when viewers have a large family and expect chaotic holidays. They will empathize with the characters as the movie rings true, albeit in ways that are hopefully much more extreme than in real life.
Christmas Vacation tells yet another story about the Griswold family. This time they’re celebrating the holidays by having a “big old-fashioned family Christmas.” Clark Griswold (Chase) insists on inviting all of the family to their home and hosting them with larger-than-life Christmas lights and the biggest tree he could find. But it seems that everything is against him. The uncouth Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) arrives as a surprise and now Clark has to deal with this unexpected burden in addition to the rest of the family. Things hilariously go from bad to really bad as Clark struggles to have the “hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.
I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
That happy Christmas he refers to just happens to be White Christmas. A fantastic 1954 holiday movie starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. The catchy music and breathtaking choreography will keep children entertained and singing long after they’ve watched it. Adults can lose themselves in the story and everyone will feel the joy of the season when it’s over.
After the war, Bob Wallace (Crosby and Phil Davis (Kaye) become a dancing and singing duo. The famous Wallace and Davis happen across the Haynes Sisters (Clooney and Vera-Ellen) while on their way to New York for Christmas. Phil, ever desperate to see Bob meet a woman and happily settle down, falls for Judy Haynes and together they hatch a plot to hook Bob up her sister, Betty. The four entertainers find themselves in a hotel in Vermont where the huge snowfall they were expecting hasn’t arrived. The four are the only guests in the entire ski resort and things are looking bleak. Can Wallace and Davis, along with the Haynes Sisters, drum up enough business to keep the hotel on it’s feet? On top of all their scheming, they have to deal with their feelings for each other, all while dreaming of a white Christmas.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
When thinking of muppets people often think of Kermit the Frog. And as everyone knows, Kermit is for kids. Not so in The Muppet Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Henson. Even though the cast is primarily muppets, blended brilliantly with live people, this movie is anything but just for kids. Children of course will enjoy it. The movie is full of catchy songs, hilarious moments, and characters they know and love. But it retells the classic Charles Dickens story of Ebenezer Scrooge on that fateful Christmas Eve when he is visited by three ghosts. The Muppet Christmas Carol keeps adults watching just as entranced as the children and at the end everyone will be left satisfied and feeling as happy as Scrooge on Christmas Morning.
The movie opens on the funny-nosed muppet Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz) and his sidekick Rizzo the Rat. But Gonzo is (or thinks he is) Charles Dickens and he proceeds to tell Rizzo (and the viewers) the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge, played brilliantly by Michael Caine, is up to his old humbug tricks and takes it out on Bob Cratchit, portrayed by Kermit the Frog. (and voiced by Steve Whitmire). The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future come to show him the error of his ways. The entire movie is a fantastic mix of muppets interacting with real people and is so well done it’s almost hard to remember that the muppets are only puppets!