Welcome to Day Two 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 some heavier seasonal fare — wartime dramas, family heartache, and a touch of yuletide murder.
**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 Holiday Dramas
It might be the season to be jolly, but even Santa himself would go a little nuts if he couldn’t mellow out and give all that eye-twinkling a rest once in awhile. Whether the holidays put you in a reflective mood, or you just can’t stomach another 90 minutes of old-fashioned Christmas cheer, here are the five freshest dramas of the season!
5) 8 Women (2002) 77%
If you aren’t well-versed in French comedy murder mysteries, you may be unfamiliar with director Francois Ozon‘s "8 Women" — think of it as sort of like "Clue," only with less Martin Mull and more females. (And musical numbers.) The plot is too intricate to get into here; suffice it to say a house full of women find their holiday preparations interrupted by an unexpected murder mystery, and much singing and dancing ensue. What would the holidays be without a little good-natured Sapphic love and tragicomic family intrigue?
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert
Directed by: Francois Ozon
4) Joyeux Noël (2006) 78%
Based on the true stories of Christmas ceasefires on the front lines of World War I in 1914, "Joyeux Noël" isn’t what you’re looking for if you’re in the mood for a madcap holiday comedy, but for an extraordinary example of what the season can mean to people from all walks of life — even those on opposite sides of a battlefield — you could hardly make a better choice. With a pan-European cast led by Daniel Bruhl and Diane Kruger, "Joyeux Noel" was also last year’s French-language nominee for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.
Starring: Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl
Directed by: Christian Carion
3) A Midnight Clear (1992) 83%
It’s easily one of the lesser-known films on our list, but no less worth seeking out — just take a look at the cast, which includes Ethan Hawke, John C. McGinley, Peter Berg, and Gary "Lieutenant Dan" Sinise. The plot, which centers around an American platoon in the waning days of World War II, has no shortage of cockles-warming holiday spirit, and Keith Gordon‘s Independent Spirit Awards-nominated screenplay may actually be one of the better ones on this list. Want to add something new to your holiday viewing rotation? Start with "A Midnight Clear."
Starring: Gary Sinise, Ethan Hawke
Directed by: Keith Gordon
2) Little Women (1994) 89%
By our count, director Gillian Armstrong‘s 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott‘s novel marked the story’s 18th trip to the screen, which makes its critical success an incredible exception to the cinematic law of diminishing returns. Of course, having a cast which includes Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, and Eric Stoltz doesn’t hurt. It goes without saying that the estrogen-impaired among us may be tempted to sneak off and watch a game while it’s on — if only to keep from sniffling at the injustice of scarlet fever.
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder
Directed by: Gillian Armstrong
1) Heidi (1937) 100%
Like many 19th-century stories about children, "Heidi" has its share of mysterious illnesses and ridiculous plot twists, but for cute-as-a-button holiday cheer, you simply cannot beat Shirley Temple as the Alps’ most famous cinematic resident. Brew up some Swiss Miss, pop a few Ricola, and relax in front of the definitive film version of a timeless tale. (For bonus nostalgic kicks, start the movie in the final moments of a tight football game.)
Starring: Shirley Temple, Jean Hersholt
Directed by: Allan Dwan
Check back tomorrow for the Top 5 Christmas Thrillers!