Of course, “classic” can mean different things to different people. For me, my go-to comfort film is … “Twister.” Yes, the 1996 disaster film in which a rag-tag group of researchers attempts to chase down and study a series of severe tornadoes ripping their way through rural Oklahoma. I love everything about it – the pseudo-science; the scenery chewing; the objectively ridiculous soundtrack. I know every scene, every line. I feel warm whenever I watch it.
But for those who are, shall we say, less weird – the staff at The Story Exchange has pulled together a list of favorite (and familiar) movies to indulge in this month. Selections that directly evoke the holiday season, or at the very least get us singing and dancing around. Ones that offer big laughs, gentle cries, and above all else, happy endings.
Pop on your warmest socks, grab a snack and settle into one of these fuzzy cinematic comforts. Or all of them – we’re not judging.
It came out in 2006, but its themes of acceptance and renewal – as well as its tidy, reliable plot – are timeless. The movie sees two women swapping homes to escape the romantic drudgery of their everyday lives – and embarking upon unexpected, holiday-tinged journeys of self-discovery. (With the help of two adorable and conveniently placed paramours, of course.) It’s sweet, and light, and features Jude Law in glasses. You can’t go wrong.
“The Preacher’s Wife”
It’s a remake (of the 1947 film, “The Bishop’s Wife”) of an adaptation (of a book bearing the same name, which was published in 1928). But this 1996 offering is a classic unto itself – an utterly charming, decidedly Christmas-y movie that reminds us of the importance and value of family and, for those who believe, faith. If you’re not convinced yet, I have three words for you to seal the deal: Whitney Houston singing.
“When Harry Met Sally”
When it comes to rom-coms, this movie is one of the finest the genre has to offer. (And when you have Meg Ryan in one of the lead roles, magic is all but assured.) In this case, Ryan is paired opposite comedian Billy Crystal, and their banter-filled chemistry would warm even the most winter-y of hearts. But Nora Ephron’s razor-sharp script, as well as the charming performances, that make this one soar above most any other cinematic love story.
“Matilda the Musical”
Like “The Preacher’s Wife,” this serves as an update of a 1996 movie that’s based on a 1988 Roald Dahl book. But its full slate of musical selections sets it apart as a work all its own. Irish child actress Alisha Weir shines at the center of this one, more than matching up to co-stars like mainstay Emma Thompson and Marvel actress Lashana Lynch. The singing, the dancing and the acting make for a top-notch retelling of a beloved children’s story.
“Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit”
Choir nerds, rejoice with this entry. In this hit sequel to “Sister Act,” Whoopi Goldberg finds herself masquerading as a nun once more – not to evade gangsters this time, but rather, to assist at a failing inner-city Catholic school. Goldberg ends up re-energizing an ensemble of disillusioned teens, leading them to new levels of self-confidence, as well as choral competition greatness (and one hell of a finale performance).
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
Yes, the lead is a man. (Well, the lead is an anthropomorphized skeleton, but one that is heavily coded as a man.) Yet it’s Sally – the patchwork doll come-to-life that spends much of the movie evading the controlling scientist who gave her sentience and trying to save its hero, Jack, from himself – that’s the true star to us. Plus, the stop-motion animation, catchy songs, spooky vibe and Christmas messaging make this one too enjoyable to pass up.
Parents reading this listicle might want to inflict holiday harm upon me for even suggesting a return to the days of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” playing endlessly. But in my defense – that song still rocks. More than that though, this Disney offering contains beautifully crafted messages around self-acceptance, intergenerational healing and the real definition of “magic.” It’s hard to think of better ideas to center for kids, and grown-ups, around the holidays.
“While You Were Sleeping”
Let’s address the elephant in the room: We at The Story Exchange do not condone the manipulation of families concerned about a gravely injured loved one. What we do endorse, though, is watching a movie with an admittedly low-stakes plot, piles of winter wonderment (despite the drab city backdrop), and a charming familial cast that has an “adorkable” duo at its heart, played expertly by Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman.
In some municipalities, it may actually be illegal to skip out on watching this during the month of December. You certainly won’t struggle to find it – it’s likely playing on a television station as you read this. But a stacked ensemble of British celebrity royalty catapults this interconnected web of love stories into the All-Time Christmas Classic stratosphere. (Or, if you just want to “hate watch” this one, you may enjoy pairing it with this hilarious Jezebel write-up.)