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Throwback Christmas classic movies for a dose of nostalgia

By Kara Santos Published Dec 23, 2021 5:51 pm

There was a time when “Christmas classics” airing as TV specials every December were movies our parents once watched back in the day like It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), or the original Boris Karloff-voiced TV special of Dr. Seuss How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).

Now, the movies that came out during our childhood are considered the “new classics.”

If you're in the mood for a throwback to simpler times way before smartphones, TikTok, and the pandemic era, you can always rewatch classic ’90s and early aughts Christmas movies for some old-fashioned holiday nostalgia. 

Home Alone (1990)

It’s been 31 years since Home Alone first came out. Widely considered one of the best Christmas films of all time, Home Alone stars Macaulay Culkin as 8-year-old Kevin McCallister, a boy who defends his Chicago home from burglars after his family accidentally leaves him behind on their vacation to Paris. 

After his family mistakenly leave for the airport without him, he awakens to an empty house and assumes his wish to have no family has come true. But his excitement sours when he realizes that two con men (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) plan to rob the McCallister residence, and that he alone must protect the family home.

The 1990 comedy film directed by Chris Columbus and written and produced by John Hughes made Culkin a child star and smashed box office records.

While sequels and reboots have been made of the film franchise, including the most recent Home Sweet Home Alone released last month on Disney Plus, nothing beats the magic of the original two films.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

The second film in the Home Alone franchise follows Kevin McCallister (still played by Culkin), as he is separated from his family on their holiday vacation. After losing track of his father at the airport, Kevin mistakenly gets on a plane headed for New York City—while the rest of the McCallisters fly to Florida. 

Now alone in the Big Apple, Kevin cons his way into a room at the Plaza Hotel and begins his usual antics. But when Kevin discovers that the Sticky Bandits are on the loose, he struggles to stop them from robbing an elderly man's toy store just before Christmas.

While the sequel received mixed reviews from critics for its darker tone, use of violence and similarities to the first film, the movie still garnered praise for its performances and became the third-highest grossing film of the year. 

Kids who grew up watching the first two films who are now parents may have a very different perspective towards Kevin and his antics while rewatching this family film.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

There are a lot of film and TV versions of Charles Dickens’ holiday tale A Christmas Carol, but the Muppets musical version remains the most endearing for kids and kids at heart. 

Kermit the Frog plays Bob Cratchit, the clerk of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) with an ensemble cast of other Muppets like Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and Sam the Eagle weaving in and out of the story while Scrooge receives visits from spirits of three Christmases—past, present and future to show him the error of his ways.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burton's stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy released in 1993 remains one of the most unique holiday films of all time in terms of style and story, and has garnered a cult following to this day.

The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown's beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the "real world." 

When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life—he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. But Jack soon discovers even the best-laid plans of mice and skeleton men can go seriously awry.

The film was met with both critical and financial success, earning praise for its animation, characters, songs and score, and is always worth a rewatch during the Christmas season.

The Santa Clause (1994)

The first film in the Santa Clause film series released in 1994 stars Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, an ordinary man who accidentally causes Santa Claus to fall from his roof on Christmas Eve.

When he and his young son, Charlie, finish St. Nick's trip and deliveries, they go to the North Pole where Scott learns that he must become the new Santa and convince those he loves that he is indeed Santa Claus.

Since its initial release in 1994, the film has spawned two sequels, The Santa Clause 2 (2002) and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2005), but it’s the ‘90s original that’s considered a Christmas-time staple among viewers.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

The 1994 Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film written and produced by John Hughes is the first theatrical remake of the original 1947 film of the same name. 

Six-year-old Susan Walker (Mara Wilson) is skeptical of the Christmas myth surrounding Santa Claus, a trait she learned from her mother, Dorey (Elizabeth Perkins). When tasked with hiring the Santa who will pose with kids at Macy's, Dorey enlists a man with the curious name of Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough) who claims to be Santa himself.

His assertions are met with scoffs and threats of institutionalization, but a young lawyer (Dylan McDermott), along with Susan and Dorey, comes to his defense.

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

While You Were Sleeping stars Sandra Bullock as transit worker Lucy Eleanor Moderatz, who pulls her longtime crush, Peter (Peter Gallagher), from the path of an oncoming train.

At the hospital, doctors report that he's in a coma, and a misplaced comment from Lucy causes Peter's family to assume that she is his fiancée.

When Lucy doesn't correct them, they take her into their home and confidence during the holiday season. Things get even more complicated when she finds herself falling for Peter's brother, Jack (Bill Pullman).

Aside from being a sweet '90s rom-com, While You Were Sleeping is an ideal movie for the season with its focus on unexpectedly finding family and love during the holidays.

The story starts right before Christmas and ends a day or two after New Year’s Eve.

Jingle All The Way (1996)

Want to relive the stress and madness of Christmas shopping in the past before the convenience of online shopping existed?

The 1996 Christmas family comedy film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad as two rival fathers both desperately trying to purchase a Turbo-Man action figure for their sons on a last-minute shopping spree on Christmas Eve, may be worth a few laughs. 

Inspired by real-life Christmas toy sell-outs, the film is a satirical take on the commercialization of Christmas. 

Despite the problematic characters and themes and receiving generally negative reviews from critics, Jingle All The Way is just one of those films that’s considered a '90s Christmas classic that inevitably pops up on streaming sites this time of the year.

Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually is a 2003 Christmas-themed romantic comedy film that features a star-studded cast including Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln and more.

The plot delves into different aspects of love as shown through 10 separate stories involving the different characters, many of whom are shown to be interlinked as the tales progress. 

Frequently shown during the Christmas season, the film has proven more popular with audiences rather than critics, and is considered a modern-day Christmas staple.

The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday is romantic comedy film that stars Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz as Iris and Amanda, two lovelorn women from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, who arrange a home exchange to escape heartbreak during the Christmas and holiday season, with Jude Law and Jack Black playing the film's leading men Graham and Miles.

While the film received mixed reviews for its predictable plot, the film is now considered a modern Christmas classic.

So as not to ruin your comfort Christmas film viewing, just remember that these movies were written and filmed decades ago and reflect how society was at the time. Not all films have aged well or sit well with woke audiences today.

The New York Post recently reported that some online critics are trying to cancel Christmas classics including The Santa Clause for being “fatphobic” and Jingle All the Way for being “too pro-capitalism.”

The Holiday has been slammed for the “toxic masculinity” of the film’s leading men.

Meanwhile, Love Actually’s plotline involving Mark (Andrew Lincoln), a man in love with his best friend’s wife, Juliet (Keira Knightley), has been widely criticized as “creepy, obsessive and stalker-like."

Aside from becoming the subject of countless memes online, the key revelation scene has been referenced in other Christmas media and films such as Netflix’s recent hit Love Hard, cementing its status as an iconic Christmas movie.