Welcome to the last day of RT’s Five Days of Christmas Countdown, where we serve up a different list each day of the best holiday flicks around. Today, we’ve got the crème de la crème of holiday classics — another fine mess, ups and downs in Bedford Falls, and the movie that gave us one of the best-selling songs of all time!
The holidays are here, and it’s time to break out the sleds, roast the chestnuts, and watch a movie or five about yuletide magic (or a decided lack thereof). And when in doubt regarding your best viewing for any occasion, as always, we’re here to help; the merry elves at Rotten Tomatoes have listed the Tomatometers, checked them twice, and will be presenting, during the Five Days of Christmas, the best-reviewed holiday films in the following categories: Classics, Comedies, Animated/Children’s, Dramas, and Thrillers. Pour yourself a cup of eggnog and get ready for some fine seasonal viewing!
Top Five Christmas Classics
Yep, the oldies but goodies. Chances are, you’ve seen most of these more times than you can count — but there are reasons for that, and they can’t all be chalked up to boredom on Christmas Eve. Sure, familiarity might breed contempt, but there’s no arguing with the Tomatometer, and each of these films is certified Fresh for your nostalgic holiday viewing pleasure. Call your grandparents, crank up the Victrola, and get ready for some old-fashioned yuletide entertainment!
5) It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) 90%
Numerically speaking, "Life" is the runt of the litter here, but there’s no arguing with the cultural impact it’s had; this is perhaps the definitive Christmas film. Its title is shorthand for holiday television, and it’s been absorbed into the pop collective so deeply that even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably seen it. And for good reason — the tale of George Bailey’s sacrifices and struggles is quintessentially Christmas, the textbook definition of "Capraesque," and boasts some of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed‘s finest work. Even if you know it by heart, you’ll probably see it again.
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed
Directed by: Frank Capra
4) Christmas in Connecticut (1945) 92%
Yes, the early 1990s television remake, starring Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson (and directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger!), was horrible, but that isn’t Barbara Stanwyck‘s fault. And okay, so the plot — revolving around a well-known cooking columnist’s frenzied efforts to hide the fact that she can’t actually cook — is at least mildly chauvinistic, but hey, it was 1945; the fact that her character has a high-profile job is subversive enough to make up for a lot of the movie’s lamer bits. Just relax and enjoy some terrific, madcap holiday fun.
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan
Directed by: Peter Godfrey
3) Miracle on 34th Street (1947) 96%
It’s a gimmick that’s been reused countless times — if there really was such a thing as Santa Claus, and he popped up today, his sanity would be put on trial — but the original is, of course, the best (especially when compared to this film’s unnecessary, shockingly inferior 1994 remake). The film’s true-spirit-of-Christmas message has always fought a losing battle against the rising tide of holiday consumerism, but points for trying, right?
Starring: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara
Directed by: George Seaton
2) The March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934) 100%
Originally known as "Babes in Toyland," this Laurel & Hardy classic has been re-released, re-edited, and colorized numerous times, but the original is still the best. The plot reads like something out of an intense acid trip — something about Little Bo-Peep being forced to marry a bad guy for all the wrong reasons — but as with most things Stan and Ollie, the real magic has nothing to do with anything so mundane as a storyline. Fine messes are gotten into, men wear women’s clothing, and — most importantly — the laughs are plentiful.
Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy
Directed by: Gus Meins, Charley Rogers
1) Holiday Inn (1942) 100%
This is the movie that gave the world "White Christmas," which, admittedly, might not be much of a selling point for some; take into account, however, the involvement of Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Irving Berlin, and the film’s perfect score on the Tomatometer makes absolute sense. Sweet and old-fashioned? Indubitably. But the best holiday movies are darker than you remember, and this one’s no exception. The plot, about a pair of washed-up entertainers who open a hotel that operates only on holidays, is terrifically implausible — but whether it’s great song-and-dance numbers, Crosby and Astaire, or just some traditional holiday cheer you’re jonesing for, you won’t go wrong with "Holiday Inn."
Starring: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire
Directed by: Mark Sandrich
Click here for Day Four: Top Five Yuletide Animated/Kids Films
Click here for Day Three: Top Five Holiday Thrillers
Click here for Day Two: Top Five Seasonal Dramas
Click here for Day One: Top Five Yuletide Comedies