After months of preparations, the relatives have been greeted, the gifts have been unwrapped, the feast consumed.
That was quick. Now what?
Whether you're too tired or full to move, need to entertain a crowd or have miles and hours to pass en route to your next yuletide gathering, a movie just might be in order.
Given the wide array of films and TV specials centering on or set around Christmastime, picking a holiday movie or planning a whole marathon is a whole lot easier than shopping for your average teenager. With the convenience of instant streaming services, you don't even have to wait for the stores to open again to celebrate the season cinematically.
Since 'tis the season for excess, instead of the 12 movies of Christmas, here are a baker's dozen of my favorite Christmas films and specials:
1. “It's a Wonderful Life” (1946): I don't care what day the calendar says it is, if you haven't seen Frank Capra's classic about George Bailey's (James Stewart) encounter with his guardian angel (Henry Travers), it's not Christmas.
2. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965): Charlie Brown's (voice of Peter Robbins) search for the true meaning of Christmas in the face of rampant commercialism never gets old — or less topical for that matter.
3. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964): Based on the song popularized by Oklahoma-bred singing cowboy Gene Autry, the first of the legendary stop-motion Christmas specials produced by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass is about “a couple of misfits” — the titular crimson-snozzed caribou (voice of Billy Richards) and a toy-building elf who really wants to be a dentist (Paul Soles) — looking for a place to fit in. Along the way, they save Christmas. It manages to be surreal, uplifting and classic at all the same time.
4. “Die Hard” (1988): Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a New York cop trying to rescue his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) from a group of ruthless robbers (led by Alan Rickman's love-to-hate-him Hans Gruber) who have taken her company Christmas party hostage in what is widely regarded as one of the best action movies ever made. Yippee kai yay, the R-rated adventure obviously isn't for the whole family, but if you're of age, it's worth watching again, particularly with the fourth sequel, “A Good Day to Die Hard,” due out Valentine's Day.
5. “A Christmas Story” (1983): Bob Clark's adaptation of narrator Jean Shepherd's book “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” has become so popular it spawned this year a well-reviewed hit Broadway musical. The movie has so many uproarious and now-iconic sight gags — the leg lamp, the pink bunny suit, the Chinese turkey — but it's young Ralphie's (Peter Billingsley) relatable quest for the perfect Christmas gift that makes it favorite.
6. “Elf” (2003): Before he brought “Iron Man” to the big screen, director Jon Favreau teamed with Will Ferrell to create one of the most gleefully quotable Christmas comedies in recent memory. Apparently, Broadway now shares the movie world's affinity for elf culture, since this is another well-loved holiday film with a musical version playing on the Great White Way this season.
7. “Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas” (1977): Muppets creator Jim Henson used a variety of puppetry techniques to adapt Russell and Lillian Hoban's children's storybook, which puts an animal twist on O. Henry's famed holiday tale “The Gift of the Magi.” This Emmy-nominated TV special is like three of my favorite things all in one.
8. “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947): Edmund Gwenn won a best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of a man claiming to be Santa Claus in this stirring family drama co-starring Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and young Natalie Wood.
9. “A Christmas Carol” (too many to list): Charles Dickens' beloved Victorian saga has been adapted for the screen a multitude of times since the turn of the 20th century. I generally begin my annual holiday viewing with the 1984 telefilm starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge, but Alastair Sim's 1951 film “Scrooge” is better known. The Muppets, Mickey Mouse and a motion-capture Jim Carrey have all brought the “bah humbug” to the screen.
10. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (1966): Looney Tunes mastermind Chuck Jones co-directed the definitive screen adaptation of one of Dr. Seuss' kaleidoscopic rhyming tales. He even produced the musical TV special with Ted Geisel himself. Boris Karloff is brilliant as the narrator and voice of the emerald-hued grump, but Thurl Ravenscroft steals the show with his deep-voiced crooning (unfortunately uncredited) of “You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
11. “Trading Places” (1983): John Landis' satirical comedy about a pampered commodities broker (Dan Aykroyd) and a broke street hustler (Eddie Murphy) who unwittingly swap lives as part of a scheme by two coldhearted investment bankers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) who want to solve an ongoing debate about nature vs. nurture is set during the holiday season. Not only does it feature two comedic geniuses in their prime, but it also seems just as relevant today as it did nearly 30 years ago.
12. “White Christmas” (1954): Irving Berlin's musical starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen is my most likely choice for Christmas Day cinematic entertainment. Snow on Dec. 25 is a rare occurrence in Oklahoma, but that doesn't make hearing Bing croon the adored song any less heartwarming.
13. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993): Add a horror-fantasy flair to your musical Christmas with director Henry Selick's and producer Tim Burton's stop-motion tale of bored Halloween Town leader Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon provided his speaking voice, while Danny Elfman sang for him) who becomes obsessed with Christmas and decides to overthrow Santa Claus.