Best Christmas movies to watch, chosen by 5 P.E.I. filmmakers

With just a month to go until Christmas, you may find yourself in the mood for a holiday movie — here are some suggestions, from people who should know a good movie when they see one,

'One of the best sensations of the Christmas season for me is getting those deep nostalgia feels'

A scene from the film A Christmas Story, probably the most famous Canadian Christmas movie ever made — even if it's set in Indiana. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

With just a month to go until Christmas, you may find yourself in the mood for a holiday movie.

City Cinema is showing some classics this weekend — take in screenings of Elf, Home Alone or Miracle on 34th Street for $2 (youth 14 and under) or $5 (adults). 

For what's on CBC Television's schedule, check out this holiday guide.

Here's a locally-curated list that will see you through the whole season, thanks to P.E.I. filmmakers who graciously shared their favourites.

1. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

"At first I was going to say Die Hard, Home Alone, Gremlins, the first 20 minutes of Elf, as they are classics to watch during the holidays," said filmmaker Adam Perry. 

"But there's one film that's incredible and I'm sure not many have heard of. If you want a little thrill during the holidays and don't mind subtitles, check out Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale from Norway. It's about a kid that finds Santa, but viewer beware, it's not for kids!"  

Perry, co-creator of the web series Profile PEI and Jiggers, currently has his feature film A Small Fortune in development with the Harold Greenberg Fund's Shorts to Features program. 

2. A Christmas Story

    "I hold A Christmas Story dear to my heart," said filmmaker Harmony Wagner. "It's a Canadian movie made in the 80s, but set in the 50s so it has a certain kitch and humbleness to it."

    It's the story of Ralphie Parker, a young boy in Indiana who dreams of owning a Red Rider BB gun and sets out to convince the world it's the perfect gift.

    "It definitely gazes into all the different agendas that go along with the holidays, that can complicate them and make them stressful, but winds up with the message that ultimately the holiday season is about cherishing each other and accepting who we are," said Wagner. 

    "Plus there are some classic moments like licking cold metal, a sketchy mall Santa and that famous line 'you'll shoot your eye out,'" Wagner said.

    Wagner is known for her short film Queen of the Crows and feature films Kooperman and Singing to Myself.

    3. Love Actually

    "When I'm in the mood for a Christmas narrative it's Love Actually that I watch again and again. When I first saw this movie, I got hooked right from the opening scene," said filmmaker Susan Rodgers. 

    "Love Actually perfectly accomplishes a tough filmmaking feat — beautifully intertwined stories of many individual characters," said Rodgers. A kid with a sweet childhood crush, a grieving single father, a loopy 20-something on a quest for 'more,' a guy in love with his best friend's new wife, a cuckolded writer hiding away in an exotic locale, a lonely rock star and his devoted manager.

    The music in the film is especially touching for Rodgers. "As someone who writes novels about a singer, I'm always tuned into music," she said. 

    "Love Actually is a universal story about the one thing we all crave — love. And who can ask for better than that at Christmas, that festive, holy time when we celebrate the greatest love of all."

    Rodgers writes the popular women's fiction series Drifters, had her debut film Bobby's Peace aired by CBC, and is currently developing a P.E.I.-based feature film, Still the Water

    4. A Child's Christmas in Wales

    "I'll put my vote in for A Child's Christmas in Wales," said filmmaker Millefiore Clarkes.

    The movie is based on the classic poem by Dylan Thomas. It's the story of Geraint, who recalls the nostalgia and magic of his childhood Christmas in Victorian times for his grandson, Thomas.

    "It's not high cinema to be sure but it hits right square in the centre of the nostalgia feels. And one of the best sensations of the Christmas season for me is getting those deep nostalgia feels," said Clarkes

    5. It's a Wonderful Life, and more

    Bluefin filmmaker John Hopkins offered several of his sentimental favourites from the sublime to the ridiculous, including the 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life, which he calls "one of the best films ever made."

    Director Frank Capra "taps into the dramatic catharsis of loss and pulls out a magical redemption movie," Hopkins said. 

    Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), "never fails to crack me up," he said. "Chase's kind of sweet clumsiness seems to cause chaos and mayhem no matter how well intentioned. There is such a brilliant laugh-out-loud comedy to it."

    His third pick is the 1947 classic Miracle on 34th Street about a Macy's store Santa who claims to be the real Santa Claus and must try to prove it.

    "Just one of the sweetest classic Christmas films you will ever see," Hopkins said. "It's great to watch black and white films and appreciate just how a film with no big Hollywood budget, explosions and special effects can just be such a lovely piece of cinema through great characters and masterful storytelling."

    "I guess I am still that kid at heart who saw all these films years ago, and now they are just part of what Christmas is about for me, watching movies and enjoying that universal feeling of goodwill for a few days at least before the Christmas tree lies out in the street." 

    Hopkins's favourite short holiday film is 2008's Treevenge, which he calls a "brilliant gem." Directed by Halifax's Jason Eisener and starring Jonathan Torrens, it depicts Christmas from the perspective of the trees, cut down and subjected to the cruel humiliation of being decorated. The trees go on to get their revenge, massacring an entire town as part of their uprising. Warning: this film includes foul language, sexuality and extreme violence. 

    About the Author

    Sara Fraser

    Web Journalist

    Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca