Must-see family holiday movies

Dec 20, 2011, 6 a.m.

No holiday season would be complete without holiday movies. If you're ready to curl up with your family for some evergreen classic holiday films, start with this short list of must-see sugarplums:

A Christmas Carol. Maybe you grew up with the classic 1951 version featuring Alistair Sim as crotchety old Ebenezer Scrooge, but there are more recent versions that adhere more closely to the story while offering more multi-generational appeal. Go for the 1984 version starring George C. Scott, or give Patrick Stewart's star turn from 1992 a try. These adaptations bring out every detail of Dickens' uncanny genius for tugging at the heartstrings.

Miracle on 34th Street. Is he or isn't he? This whimsical 1947 film about the true identity of Santa Claus, starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara and a very young Natalie Wood, has charmed critics and audiences alike since its initial release in 1947. Ignore the remakes and focus on the original.

It's a Wonderful Life. There's no avoiding this movie once December rolls around, so just give in and enjoy it. Younger family members who may only know its sentimental reputation may be surprised at how powerful and relevent the film is for today's audiences. There's a reason people watch it over and over again; it's not just a great holiday film, it's a great film, period.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Between heartwarming, life-affirming holiday classics, you may want to cleanse your palate with something a little more astringent, and this 1989 comedy starring the never-cuddly Chevy Chase fits the bill nicely. The Griswold family can't even celebrate Christmas, it seems, without such disasters as house fires, electrocuted cats, unwanted relatives, and an expected holiday bonus that fails to arrive.

A Christmas Story. Yes, you've all seen it before, but it gets better with age. This 1983 adaptation of Jean Shepherd's stories follows a kid named Ralphie in his quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, mixing wacky daydream sequences with the almost-as-wacky reality of his home and school life. The kids will relate to Ralphie, and the grownups will relate to his parents.

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