I confess to being a total DVD junkie. Even in this age of streaming, I find it comforting to actually OWN these classics. Many of them aren't broadcast anymore. And my Christmas just wouldn't be complete without them.
Oh sure, I'm gonna watch "Charlie Brown," "A Christmas Story," "It's a Wonderful Life" and all the other perennial favorites too. But I tried to highlight some of the lesser-known gems here.
There are about 5000 versions of this story out there. This one is my personal favorite. It was made in 1979 and starred Henry Winkler at the height of his "Fonzie" fame. He is an outstanding actor. This version is set in Depression era America. Perhaps that makes it more relatable for some. I also enjoy the Muppets version (a very faithful telling with great costumes and music - if you ignore the fact that Bob Cratchit is played by a frog puppet.
This was always a favorite in my household growing up. It reminded my mother of her own childhood. A great slice of post-war Americana starring the great Jason Robards. I watch it now and think how much this country has changed. Aside from the fact that they have a Christmas pageant and Christmas trees at the school, the grandmother tells a story of her son being too proud to accept government handouts even during the depression. What happened to THAT America?
This made for TV movie served as a pre-pilot for "The Waltons" and starred all the kids who would continue on the show, but with Patricia Neal as Mama Walton. Another depression-era story about family and sacrifice (seems to be a theme here.)
Now, THIS is how I want to spend Christmas: At a snow-covered inn in Vermont with Bing Crosby singing at the piano. "Holiday Inn" is actually the film where "White Christmas" received its debut. And you get to watch Bing and Fred Astaire sing and dance! Can't think of a better way to spend Christmas. (Bonus points: My DVD also has Bing in "Going My Way."
Christmas eve from the perspective of a bunch of Victorian-era mice? Who would want to watch THAT? But Rankin-Bass animated a delightful telling of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" here. Good luck finding it on TV this year though. That's where my DVD collection comes in handy.
"A Wish for Wings that Work" Opus the penguin rescues Santa, saves Christmas and gets his Christmas wish. I dare you to watch this and not cry. Yeah, it's a little dated (Opus has to fax Santa his letter.) But the cross-dressing pig who thinks he's a rhinoceros is particularly hilarious for modern viewers.
Meet Me in St. Louis. Worth watching just to hear Judy Garland sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
There are about a million versions of "The Nutcracker." This one is my favorite. Performed by the Pacific Northwest ballet, the sets were designed by Maurice Sendack (author and illustrator of "Where the Wild Things Are") giving it a humorous and magical quality. And because it's a movie instead of strictly a filming of a stage production there are some special effects. This is the only movie I've listed here that is NOT available on DVD. It's the only movie I actually purchased from Amazon video so that I can watch it every year.
And as a final note, I would pay any amount of money to have "John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together." It's never been released on DVD and it isn't aired anymore. But it's a classic.