Ah, Christmas, my favorite time of year. It’s a time to gather with friends and family and watch the cherished movie treasures of the holidays that decorate our minds like holly through the halls. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you have access to some of the best yuletide movies ever made! So bundle up in your ugly sweaters as we marathon the nights away with these classic Christmas movies, streaming on Prime Video right now.
Which Christmas movies do you watch every season? Will any of them be on this list? Read on to find out!
It’s a Wonderful Life
Directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, It’s a Wonderful Life has become not only a holiday classic, but a bonafide staple story and film in its own right. The story follows George Bailey, a generous man who begins to question his life when all is threatened, but finds his faith restored thanks to the strong bonds between him and his community.
It’s a Wonderful Life also as a wonderful tale behind its creation. The script was actually an adaptation of a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, then called A Wonderful Gift. Not finding success with getting the written work published, Stern opted instead to gift copies out in the form of Christmas cards. Somehow, a copy of A Wonderful Gift made its way to RKO Pictures, even catching the attention of Cary Grant, who contemplated starring in a film version. The rights were purchased from Stern for $10,000 in 1944, equivalent to well over $100,000 today, and thus It’s a Wonderful Life was made.
Miracle on 34th Street
Speaking of black-and-white Christmases, another time-honored holiday film that always makes the rounds is the 1947 classic, Miracle on 34th Street. It is also available on Amazon Prime, and if you’ve yet to see it, you really should.
Released in theaters one Christmas forward from It’s a Wonderful Life, A Miracle on 34th Street was initially far better received by general audiences. The key element that makes A Miracle on 34th Street such a holiday classic is Edmund Gwenn’s performance as Kris Kringle, which earned him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Gwenn’s sincerity in the role was an instant hit even before the film was complete. To quote Maureen O’Hara, who played Doris Walker, “…by the time we were halfway through the shoot, we all believed Edmund really was Santa Claus.” Indeed, Edmund Gwenn had even played Santa Claus for the Macy’s Day Parade in the year prior to Miracle on 34th Street‘s release! Method acting used to be so much easier back in the day huh?
A Christmas Carol (1984)
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has had no shortage of reimaginings, and each one brings something unique. The made-for-TV British American adaptation, however, is a highlight, as it features George C. Scott giving us one of the most restrained portrayals of Scrooge to date.
Given Scrooge’s characteristics, it’s been an easy choice for actors over the years to lean into the cartoony-er aspects. Scott fought against this, choosing instead to focus on a realistic and dignified performance from start to finish.
The film was shot in the historic English town of Shrewsbury, and if you were to visit there today, you could still find some of the set pieces used in the movie. Most notable is Scrooge’s tombstone; the production team had found a headstone turned blank through years of erosion within the Saint Chad’s Churchyard, and gained permission to have it engraved with the name of the famous fictional character. It still stands there to this day.
Let’s say you have a group of little ones that need to be entertained. The slower Christmas movies of old may not be their cup of hot coco. In that case, I’d recommend the animated 2011 feature film, Arthur Christmas.
Arthur Christmas tells the charming story of what happens when one of Santa’s gifts is left behind, leaving the prospect of a child waking up to disappointment on Christmas morning. It also brings a great deal of creativity to the standard depictions of Santa, imagining the levels of automation that a real life Claus would need to operate. However, it is precisely those advances that allow a gift to fall by the wayside. It reminds us that, whatever the benefits of technology, there is no replacing the gentle care of the human machine. Or, in this case, elf machine.
Say you want more of a straight up comedy to go with your Christmas cheer. In that case, Bill Murray has you covered with the 1988 film, Scrooged.
With Bill Murray in the starring role, Scrooged provides a modern take on a classic tale with more adult humor, yet maintains the underlined lesson of the Dickens original.
Bill Murray was definitely put through some Scrooge-esque hardships during the filming. For instance, in the restaurant scene when Murray falls on his way out, that collapse was entirely unintentionally, and you can really tell by the way those legs bent, oof. Additionally, the Spirit of Christmas Present has a running joke of physically hurting the main character. Well, one of those punches wasn’t all stage work. Carol Kane really did pull on Murray’s lip, to such intensity that filming had to be stopped for days. Ouchie.