This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on December 23, 2016.
Christmas is almost here and for many of us that means it’s time to get away from work, hunker down, and watch a bunch of Netflix. What better use is there for days off than to sit in front of the TV catching up on shows and revisiting classics. While surfing what’s available for streaming, there’s a good chance you’ll need to pick out something holiday-related. After all, grandma, nieces and nephews, or someone else might be watching as well and demanding something to add a little bit of cheer.
Unfortunately, Netflix has recently removed several of their absolute best Christmas classics from the streaming service for the foreseeable future. Gone are Die Hard (1988) and Home Alone (1990), which makes picking out what to watch quite a bit more difficult. That’s what we’re here for though. While a few of the usual suspects have disappeared, there are still a lot of great holiday-themed movies to check out on Netflix over the long weekend. Here are the five that we consider to be the absolute best on offer right now.
A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
Director: Sofia Coppola
Stars: Bill Murray (duh)
Along with the constant crackling of Fireplace for Your Home, this is easily the best holiday themed movie produced as original content by Netflix. It combines the guest stars, music, and shenanigans found in many annual TV specials with a much wittier, scripted narrative. The hour-long movie features Murray snowed in to a hotel in which he is supposed to be hosting a holiday special. However, the storm has held back many of his guests leaving Murray to mope.
This is all about the cult of personality that has formed around Bill Murrary, and that’s a very good thing. Even when he’s just sipping scotch and staring at the camera, Murray contains more charisma than most human beings can imagine. There’s plenty more to this special than that though. It highlights Murray’s wry sense of humor and playful attitude, and does play into the hallmarks of TV specials very well. Both the boatload of guest stars (who eventually arrive) and the music of the special standout and make this one worth visiting and revisiting each Christmas season.
Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Bill Murray and Karen Allen
Don’t act surprised to see Bill Murray on this list more than once. We’d put Lost in Translation on here if even the most tenuous of connections could be made between it and Christmas. The guy is just that good. It’s his charm that carries this modern adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol from start to finish too. While we’re all certainly familiar with that literary classic, Richard Donner’s adaptation adds an additional spin to the narrative.
In this version Murray is a television executive preparing an adaptation of the story who receives his own version of the very same set of lessons. Along the way he meets the regular array of ghosts and reveals his own mistakes in a consistently funny script. This adaptation does something special with the source material, offering more than the same ol’, same ol’ of so many others. It’s funny, strange, and gives us another excuse to watch Bill Murray over Christmas. That’s nothing to sniff at.
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Director: John Hughes
Stars: Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson
As long as we’re looking at remade classics, it’s worth taking a peek at the 1994 version of Miracle on 34th Street. The original may still be the best version of the film, but this remake does not get nearly enough credit. And it’s the only one on Netflix. This makes for a great Christmas watch for all of the same reasons as the original. It’s still a charming story about belief and the holiday spirit, filled with director John Hughes sentimental takes.
Really, all the reason you need to check out this remake though is Richard Attenborough’s turn as Santa Claus. This film came out not long after Jurassic Park and features Attenborough at his kindly, grandpa best. There’s a gentleness to his demeanor and everything he does is infused with the spirit of a dreamer. Even watching through the lens of the camera, he’ll tempt you to believe in Santa Claus once again.
Love Actually (2003)
Director: Richard Curtis
Stars: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and Colin Firth
This film might be even more controversial than the previous remake, as it tends to be a movie people either love or hate. There are plenty of reasons to love this movie though, if you’re willing to reconsider your current stance. The cast contained in just two hours of footage is still mind-blowing, especially for romantic comedy fans. It’s the sort of list you see on IMDB and still won’t believe until you actually witness the movie.
It’s also the sort of movie that allows you to take and leave stories based on preference. If you’re not a fan of Mark confessing his love to his best friend’s girl, then focus on one of the many other charming narratives, like Colin Firth learning Portuguese for a very cute final meeting. Walking Dead fans will also appreciate getting to see Andrew Lincoln without stubble and a general aura of self-loathing.
White Christmas (1954)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, and Danny Kaye
This one is a true classic, albeit a bit of a forgotten one. It’s song and dance presented as only Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney (aunt to George Clooney) can do it in the fashion of Golden Age Hollywood. The songs are catchy and the dance numbers are impeccably choreographed. The use of new VistaVision technology in 1954 also means that it looks much cleaner when compared to most other films from the same time.
Even if you’re not much of a fan of Christmas movies, this is one worth putting on in the background. In the worst case scenario, the music will charm and delight. But it might just lure you and other family members into the catchy numbers throughout the picture. There’s no harm in risking a little holiday cheer after all.