Our Favorite Holiday Movies

30 Rock‘s “Christmas Special” (2008)

If I’m at home and my TV is on, there is an alarmingly high likelihood that an old episode of 30 Rock will be playing in the background. The brilliant and much-missed NBC sitcom did a few Christmas-themed episodes over its seven-season run, but season three, episode six’s “Christmas Special” is by far my favorite.

In this episode, Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) decides to buy Christmas presents for a family in need, as she needs to fill the void of her own parents shunning her for the holiday season (they planned their own vacation because they thought Liz would have her own family by this point). Through a series of hilarious and cringe-inducing mishaps Liz ends up ruining her sponsor family’s Christmas in her desperate attempt to prove her good intentions.

The episode was best summed up by the A.V. Club: “Once again, it’s that magic 30 Rock formula: latent racism, promiscuity, and elder abuse somehow end up making viewers feel warm and fuzzy.”

So when I put my Christmas tree up in my apartment this year, rather than Christmas carols playing the background, I’ll likely be listening to Liz Lemon telling children everywhere that Santa Claus was invented to sell toys.
—Peter Bjork, Managing Editor, TheHumanist.com

A Christmas Story (1983)

This classic comedy is funny any time of year, but our family always manages to watch it at least once every holiday season. The writing, with the narration by the grown-up Ralphie, is superb and the story of childhood struggles is something that just about everyone can relate to.
—David Niose, Legal Director

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The cartoon version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, starring Boris Karloff, is my favorite Christmas movie. In my family it is tradition to sit down and watch it every Christmas Day after the gifts have been unwrapped. When I was a kid everyone called me Cindy Lou Who, just like one of the characters in the movie, so I wholeheartedly believed that the movie was about me and would make my mom watch it over and over again. It was my favorite book as a child and one of the first books I learned to read on my own because I was so in love with the story. At this point in my life I have seen it and read it so many times that I can recite the majority of the movie by heart. No matter how many times I see it though, it always makes me smile and is a wonderful movie with a great message.
— Cindy Le, Member Services Assistant

Holiday Inn (1942)

I appreciate people who are exceptional at what they do, from athletes to craftspeople to chefs. There haven’t been any dancers more breathtaking than Fred Astaire, or singers smoother than Bing Crosby. Put them together in a film that produced the top selling song of all time and Astaire’s astonishing don’t-try-this-at-home firecracker dance, but all that isn’t what makes Holiday Inn so sublime. It’s the celebration (perhaps unwitting) of Epicurean values—starting with Crosby’s hero, who only wants to work on fifteen holidays a year, giving himself the other 350 days to unwind. And who wins the heart of the gorgeous blonde? The frenetic dancer with his money-grubbing agent, or the quiet crooner, whose only wish is that “your days be merry and bright”? Epicurus would have loved it.
—Luis Granados, Director, Humanist Press

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Come on! This is the mother of all Christmas movies. It’s actually kind of dark in that the main character, George Bailey, is about to jump off a bridge on Christmas Eve when an angel intervenes (and so, yes, it’s also unbelievable). But I dare you not to feel something when George realizes how good he’s got it, how many lives he’s affected in positive ways, finds his daughter ZuZu’s flower petals in his pocket, and goes running wildly down a snowy street in Bedford Falls yelling, “Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry, Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building & Loan!” I’m getting teary just typing this.
—Jennifer Bardi, Senior Editor, TheHumanist.com

Love Actually (2003)

Yes, I’ll admit it: every December I watch the over-the-top romantic comedy Love Actually to get into the holiday spirit. Even though the various story arcs are completely unrealistic (a British crime author falls in love with his Portuguese housekeeper, even though neither speaks the other’s language? Really?) I just can’t help but fall into the film’s dream world of everyone being happy and in love. Even Jezebel’s hilarious “I Rewatched Love Actually and I’m Here to Ruin It For You” didn’t accomplish its goal with me. It couldn’t take away the fact that the movie has pretty much the hottest (Colin Firth, Hugh Grant) and the funniest (Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman) actors of today. And watching Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean!) as a department store clerk providing gift wrapping services makes me cry with laughter every time—a perfect example of how even the smallest of scenes can make an entire movie. Judge all you want—Love Actually is heartwarming, sweet, and perfect for Christmas.
—Maggie Ardiente, Senior Editor, TheHumanist.com

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

My favorite Christmas- related movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas, about characters from Halloweentown trying to take over the Christmas holiday. I love it mostly because I’m fascinated by the animation techniques used and how the characters were created, so I enjoy trying to figure out how certain parts were shot. Of course I also enjoy the story, which is why the movie is a favorite.
—Lisa Zangerl, Graphic Designer

I can be kind of a Grinch about Christmas, or at least the excessive consumerism associated with it, but I absolutely love Halloween. I think that’s why my favorite Christmas movie is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Despite being over a decade old, the film’s stop-motion animation and quirky aesthetic is still just as visually stunning, I would argue, as the digitally animated movies made today. Though the film doesn’t follow any conventional narrative associated with Christmas, it does touch on many of the same themes: belonging, community, and love. Instead of repackaging an old Christmas story that everyone already knows like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman, Burton gave us an entirely new Christmas fairytale. So while everyone else is hanging festive stockings, colorful wreathes, and bright bows, I’ll be making my own Christmas, featuring a tree adorned with red and silver ribbons, black ornaments painted with scenes from the movie, and a Jack Skellington doll.
—Merrill Miller, Communications Associate

Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged has to be my favorite. A spectacular cast with Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Robert Mitchum, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwaite, David Johansen, Carol Kane, Lee Majors, and John Houseman just can’t be beat. I grew up watching the 1951 filming of A Christmas Carol that starred Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, and when I want traditional film noir I’ll go to this version. However, the holidays sometimes get intense, and so the comedy of Scrooged is a great relief. It’s a reflection of the raucous and sassy New York City during the “liberal with sanity” Koch mayoral years, yet it brings the Dickensian call for humanitarianism and looking out for other people into a modern context of large-scale, corporate-controlled enterprises. And for those of us who’ve seen Scrooged, we understand the concept of “I was a schmuck and now I’m not a schmuck” as well as “Look, Frank: What is it? It’s a toaster!”
—Jason Heap, Coordinator, United Coalition of Reason

White Christmas (1954)

My favorite holiday movie is White Christmas with Bing Crosby. My sister and I have watched this movie together since we were children, and I still love it! Danny Kaye is hilarious, Rosemary Clooney’s voice is killer, and Vera Ellen is one of the best dancers of all time. All of the songs are great and I know everyone. I don’t want to toot my own horn but yes, I do know all of the words to every song. And yes, I will sing them.
—Meghan Hamilton, Development and Communications Assistant