With the holidays upon us, I felt it was my duty to bring some Christmas spirit to all. Below is a list of my favorite movies that embody what this time of year is all about — fun, family and friends.
Criteria: Theatrical release; have something to do with Christmas.
Movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas 
A strange tale of Jack Skellington (a.k.a. the Pumpkin King) as he tries to bring his own brand of Christmas to the world with the help of the ghoulies of Halloweentown. Nothing spells Christmas like seeing a “coffin sleigh” pulled through the sky by skeletal reindeer and a ghost dog with a glowing nose!
Movie: Elf 
Will Ferrell is Buddy, a human raised as an elf in the North Pole sent off to search for his birth father. It’s great fun to witness his awkwardness and enthusiasm as he discovers what it is to be human, in of all places — New York City. Definitely one of Mr. Ferrell’s better comedic performances (Ron Burgundy and Chazz Reinhold being the others.)
Movie: Scrooge 
The definitive adaptation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Ebenezer Scrooge, meets three ghosts — Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future — and, well you know the story.
Movie: The Santa Clause 
Ever wanted to take the place of Santa Claus? Neither did Tim Allen, but that’s what happens when he activates a little known clause in the Santa mythos (kill old Saint Nick, take his place.) An endearing comedy that’s great for the whole family.
Movie: Bad Santa 
What better way to rob a department store than to dress up as Santa. That’s Billy Bob Thornton’s plan, complete with boozing it up, cursing like Bob Saget, and beating up little kids. Did I mention the backdoor sex in the crapper? It may not sound like it, but there is a goodwill message hidden somewhere within.
Movie: The Polar Express 
An animated feature that dives into the meaning of Christmas. If you can get past the bizarre facial expressions everyone in the film has (growing pains of the motion capture animation), you’re sure to feel good after viewing. Afterwards, let me know if you can hear the bell ring — I did for a day or two…
Movie: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 
The Griswolds return to make a disaster of the holiday, as only they can. If you need a laugh, look no further — you’ll get your fill and then some watching this good-intentioned family ruin everything they come in contact with. Watch for Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid), he’s a scene stealer.
Movie: Miracle on 34th Street 
Leave it to America to put Kris Kringle on trial for claiming to be the real Santa Claus — even 50 years ago corporate snobs were sucking the life out of Christmas. But it wouldn’t be a holiday powerhouse if the nonbelievers weren’t shown the wrongs of their ways and led to believe. You’ll be led to believe again too.
Movie: A Christmas Story 
Little Ralphie wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa and lets everyone in his world know it. Director Bob Clark and screenwriter Jean Shepherd capture everything there is about Christmas from a kids point of view; no wonder it is the most televised movie during the week of Christmas (unsubstantiated claim), as young and old alike can relate.
Movie: It’s A Wonderful Life 
The timeless Christmas classic. James Stewart is a man contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve when he sees his world falling apart. His guardian angel pops down from the heavens to stop him and to show him how life would be like for those he loves had he never existed. It memorably drives home the point that as long as you have family, friends and good health there’s a damn good chance everything is going to be a-okay. And even though we tend to overlook it, this holds true even to this day.
Honorable Mention(s): Babes in Toyland.
Got some others? Share the spirit.