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The 13 movies of Christmas
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.