Surprisingly enough, most classics are labeled such for a reason. When it comes to the Christmas movie standards, it seems those are the ONLY good ones. For every Miracle on 34th Street there are ten Christmas with the Kranks. Even though Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol all deserve the title of classic, it gets a bit tired watching the same films every year (especially when one of them is broadcasted for 24 hours straight — thanks TBS). Here are few you may not have heard of, or have forgotten about, to add to your holiday viewing schedule.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Ok, so we realize this is unanimously considered to be one of the worst movies ever made, but don’t let that stop you. It’s a beloved sci-fi B-movie which qualifies for so-bad-it’s-funny/awesome status. As a bonus, it’s a Santa flick both you and your children will enjoy; you’ll watch it for the cheese, while your little ones will be entertained by the silliness, crazy costuming/sets/props, and kid-centric plotline (Martians deserve presents too!). If you don’t believe us, trust Kino Lorber (purveyors of art house cinema) who think there’s a big enough audience to warrant a newly restored Blu-Ray.
The Snow Queen
The Snow Queen is a Hans Christian Andersen tale that has been made into a few movies (and was the basis for the White Witch in Chronicles of Narnia); the best version is this 1957 animated Russian feature. A boy, Kay, gets pieces of ice sent to his eyes and heart after insulting the Snow Queen, and becomes her prisoner. His best friend Greda goes on an adventure to find him, encountering animals, robbers, and a sorceress along the way. There are a couple of English dubs; the version on Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Stories from My Childhood is the best if you can find it, the first US release with Sandra Dee is fine, just ignore the cheesy songs. If your kids are ok with subtitles get the original Russian version.
Technically this is a two-part TV series, but we decided to include it because at 189 minutes, it’s more than feature-length. This is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld version of Christmas (Hogswatch), and is just too good to leave off the list. The Hogfather, who is similar to Father Christmas/Santa, goes missing and Death’s granddaughter embarks on a quest to find out what’s happened. The only issue is that the filmmakers assume familiarity with Discworld, so kids too young to have read the series will need a little background. Also, if you have a little one who scares easily, wait until they go off to bed before watching with the older kids; there are a few murders, and one of the main characters is a skeleton-faced Death (à la Scrooged), who takes the Hogfather’s place in his absence.
If your family likes their Santa more European and less commercial, this 2007 Finnish (dubbed in English) movie is for you. Santa is an orphan who is taken in by families in his village on a yearly basis, because no one can afford to adopt him permanently. As payment, the boy makes and delivers wooden toys to those who have opened their homes. It’s beautifully filmed, and (not to sound cliché) is about the true meaning of Christmas. Not in a religious or Hallmark-ian sense, this is still a fantasy movie about Santa, but in the sense of portraying kindness, true acts of giving and appreciation. Things all of us need reminders for, especially this time of year.
Ernest Saves Christmas
We’re big Ernest fans here at Nerdy with Children and, as such, are disappointed that the man hasn’t had a resurgence with all this 80s/90s pop-culture revival going on. Neon, synths, and parachute pants all made a comeback, why not Ernest? His humor is tried and true: Looney Toons-style slapstick, great catchphrases, dressing in drag, and cartoonish invulnerability. This one is probably the best of the franchise, with Ernest playing second fiddle to a Santa who’s looking for his replacement. Your entire family will have a giggle fest.