Christmas movies are like Christmas tree ornaments: everybody’s got their favorite one.
There are the classics, like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, and White Christmas. Then there are the modern classics, like A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, While You Were Sleeping, and Elf. In recent years, we’ve seen a mind-blowing array of Christmas movies, from the animated family film Klaus to the decidedly adult Violent Night. And let’s not even mention the cookie-cutter, cliche-ridden, feel-good Hallmark flicks that have taken over the streaming services . . . and sometimes turn out to be just what we need on a given night.
Here at Think Christian, we’ve covered Christmas movies from all angles, digging into the themes of home, belonging, and belief, as well as the longing for hope, peace, joy, and love that such films touch upon (even Violent Night). Whether describing a modern fantasy like The Christmas Chronicles or the themes underpinning the entire Hallmark movie phenomenon, the essays below offer Christian reflections on a movie genre that’s become as much a part of Christmas as stockings hung from the mantelpiece.
Nostalgia is a sweet intoxicant. And no one knows how to scoop up a big, frothy moose mug of it better than Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But as Clark's holiday plans go awry, the 1989 comedy reminds us that nostalgia can also be a spiritual trap.
The Kurt Russell Santa movie reminds us that a works-based theology undergirds the Santa Claus legend. This telling only earns its Christmas credentials when doing away with the naughty list.
Though Children of Men is set in a dystopian future rather than the days of Herod, the movie brings to vivid life the sense of urgency and terror that must have been part of the original Christmas story. Yet, in its quietly exhilarating final moment, the picture captures what the Incarnation is all about: hope.
The theme of “home” is prevalent throughout the Christmas-industrial complex. There's even a movie genre devoted to it, one you may love or hate, but certainly one you're aware of: Hallmark Christmas movies.
Here are five movies that follow the themes marked by the candles on a traditional Advent wreath—calling us to have hope and faith in times of difficulty, to seek joy and share it with others, and to work for peace in our world and our relationships.
Skip It's a Wonderful Life this year and give one of these unheralded Christmas movies a chance. These films contemplate the coming of the Prince of Peace to a world that doesn't readily accept him.