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The Most Tentpole Christmas Movies

Q: What are some of the more significant tentpole Christmas movies that are widely cherished or otherwise considered classics in American culture?

A: I suppose the first thing we'll need to do is to define what makes a "Christmas movie."

This itself is a topic that's often debated, particularly when it comes to a film that's considered a holiday favorite of the last few decades, Die Hard. Personally, I'd say that a movie is only TRULY a Christmas movie when the holiday itself is an integral part of the story. If you can pluck out all things Christmas from the picture and the story remains virtually the same, then I don't believe it should qualify. So, for the sake of getting to the meat of this issue's column, let's draw the line there.

Going back to the mid-20th century, there are two films that stand out starkly from the pack. The first one is Miracle on 34th Street. This story begins with Kris Kringle (aka, Santa Claus) in New York City preparing to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When he happens to notice that the fellow hired to play Santa is noticeably drunk and brings this to the attention of the event's director, she convinces Kringle to take his place in the parade and later in the Macy's store on 34th Street, where he's introduced to a little girl named Susan, who's been raised not to believe in fairy tales. Kringle finds himself in a spot when he claims to be the real Santa Claus, which then launches us into a heartwarming story of faith, trust, and the Christmas spirit.

The second landmark Christmas film is one that easily makes its way into my top five, and that's It's A Wonderful Life. In this one, Jimmy Stewart plays a man named Clarence who is found at the start of the film to be at the end of his rope and contemplating suicide. As an answer to the prayers of his friends and family, his guardian angel descends from heaven to intervene. We're shown significant happenings in the course of Clarence's life up to that point, before Clarence wishes aloud to the angel that he'd never been born. The angel, in response, grants his wish and shows Clarence how things have unfolded without him ever having existed. This trip, Clarence's reaction, and the remainder of the movie is as poignant as it is masterful storytelling and never fails to evoke a cascade of emotions along the way.

Past these older classics, there are a slew of others that, due to a limited space here, I'll simply mention by name, but please do not take this to imply they're not essential viewing. Trust me, you'll want to add each and every one of these to your list. These are, in no particular order, the aforementioned Die Hard along with Scrooged, Elf, A Christmas Story, Edward Scissorhands, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Home Alone, and finally, no Xmas would be complete without the trifecta of animated and stop-motion TV specials Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Now, my dear readers, you should be all set. So, grab your eggnog and bourbon, wrap yourself in your coziest robe, settle in and queue up some of these treasures of American holiday cinema. And do me a big favor, would you? Have yourself one hell of a Christmas. Cheers, and see you next year!


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