Looking Back on Classic Christmas Movies

Mera Seifu and Annabella Agosto

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

     Although many classic Christmas movies can be connected to popular Christmas songs, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will forever be one of the most iconic. The catchy tune that follows the life of a young reindeer named Rudolph, as he learns to appreciate his uniqueness and earns the respect of his peers, continues to warm the hearts of many every Christmas. 

Photo courtesy of IMDb.com

     Rudolph’s story began when Robert L. May was inspired to write a poem about a reindeer who could light the way for Santa’s sleigh through inclement weather after a dense fog surrounded May’s office in 1939. May has said that he hoped the story would inspire children who were being bullied to continue following their dreams no matter what other people said. After the poem’s publishing in 1947, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer became a cartoon short, a song, a comic book series and a children’s book before the famous animated TV film. 

     The distinguishable stop-motion animation that the film uses gives it a charm unlike any other movie of its time period. In addition, its cast is as bright and unique as the main character, featuring an elf who dreams of being a dentist, a boisterous prospector who travels with his many dogs, and the peculiar Island of Misfit Toys. 


It’s a Wonderful Life

     As the famous Andy Williams Christmas song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But for one classic film, it’s not just a wonderful time of year, it’s a wonderful life! The story reminds viewers of the importance of doing things for the greater good, while emphasizing the impact every person has on one another’s life, no matter how small they may feel they are.

     It’s a Wonderful Life follows a man named George Bailey as he faces the challenges of the Great Depression while constantly being forced to sacrifice his own dreams in order to benefit those around him. This, combined with a series of unfortunate events, causes George to spiral into despair and contemplate ending his life. Before he can, however, a guardian angel arrives to show him what his life would be like if he no longer existed. Realizing how much he has positively impacted people over the course of his life, George goes back to his family grateful for what he has as his friends and family rally around him in the spirit of Christmas. 

Photo courtesy of tvguide.com

    This film is never lacking in talent, with James (Jimmy) Stewart playing the role of George Bailey and Donna Reed as his wife Mary. Both Reed and Stewart give incredibly emotional performances as they portray all of the highs and lows of life in a mere two hours and ten minutes. In addition, the movie’s director, Frank Capra, was a five-time academy award winner known for his drama films made in the 1930s and 40s. 

     The original 1946 black and white version of It’s a Wonderful Life was made into a colorized version in 2007. This lack of color may make the film seem dull at first, however Capra’s skillful use of the black and white lighting combined with specific camera angles makes every moment captivating, something that is lost in the colorized version. The dreamy, bright lighting seen during George Bailey’s childhood scenes stands in harsh contrast to the dark, grim lighting used while being driven into misery as he views the twisted version of his town which did not exist because Bailey never lived there. 

     The film effortlessly shifts from romance, to drama, to euphoria while teaching lessons that are still important over 70 years later, making It’s a Wonderful Life a truly wonderful classic. 


The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

     He’s furry, sour and green. Famous among children, yet known to be mean. Before he learned his lesson, ruining holidays was his business. You all know who it is- It’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas Poster
Photo courtesy of IMDb.com

     This holiday movie originated from the children’s book written by Dr. Seuss in 1957. The first movie came out almost a decade later, in 1966. Our favorite character, the Grinch, is voiced by Boris Karloff who was well-known for his appearances in horror cinema. On the other hand, the man who played Tony the Tiger’s “They’re grrreat!” is voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft, who also voiced this movie’s theme song, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!” And what about Cindy Lou? That voice belongs to June Foray, who also played the cat Lucifer from the original Cinderella movie.

     In this classic, the Grinch tries to stop Christmas from coming to the town of Whoville by stealing everyone’s presents and decorations. By the end of the story, he learns that there’s more to Christmas than just gifts and toys. By doing so, the movie teaches its viewers the real meaning behind Christmas. The cartoon’s bright colors and silly rhymes makes this movie a fun, family-friendly experience for all!


A Christmas Carol

     A Christmas Carol features Ebenezer Scrooge, a self-serving old man who cared more about money than humanity itself. In this film, Scrooge goes from being the most selfish person in town to a humble, giving old man. This transformation happens all in one night when three Christmas spirits, the spirit of Christmas past, present, and future, take Scrooge on a journey to look over what he’s done with his life thus far and what his future may look like. Throughout the movie Scrooge experiences nostalgia, guilt and fear, completely transforming him into a new person by Christmas morning. 

A Christmas Carol Poster
Photo courtesy of IMDb.com

     This movie originated from a book written by Charles Dickens in the 1800s. According to the British Library, Dickens described himself as “perfectly stricken down” when he read a government report showing the horrific conditions children and women were forced to work in. Influenced by the society he lived in, he decided to write a Christmas story to express his views on Britain’s attitude toward children living in poverty. Dickens made Scrooge a direct representation of England with the intent of showing people what they looked like from his perspective.

     The first film inspired by Dickens’ book was a live-action made in 1938 starring Reginald Owen, who is known for his appearance in many British and Americans shows, as the sour Mr. Scrooge. It is not the visuals that make this movie special but rather the meaning behind the story that captivates its audience. The message was so powerful that there have been dozens of different re-makes, including Muppets and Mickey Mouse versions, since the making of the first movie. This film is sure to put you in a giving mood and bring out the holiday spirit!