Saskatoon critic offers top 10 holiday movies

CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning invited local film critic Craig Silliphant to drop by with a top ten list of his favourite holiday classics.

Craig Silliphant's take on the best Christmas films

Saskatoon movie critic Craig Silliphant dropped by CBC Radio with some thoughts on the best holiday movies. (CBC)

No matter how hard Grandma tries to get everyone around the kitchen table for board games, the truth is that people like to watch movies over the holidays.

I get goose bumps just talking about it.- Craig Silliphant 

That's why CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning invited local film critic Craig Silliphant to drop by with a top ten list of his favourite holiday classics.

Counting down from 10 to one, here are Silliphant's picks.

10. Miracle on 34th Street

The Christmas classic where Santa Claus has to go to court to prove he's the real deal.

"One of the greatest feel good endings in movie history!" exclaimed Silliphant.

9. Home Alone

Starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, who, while accidently left alone at Christmas, is forced to defend the family home against two thugs trying to break in.

"I've noticed in the last couple of years it has had a resurgence, especially at Christmas time," said Silliphant.

8. Gremlins

Known more as a horror movie from the 1980s, Gremlins is about cute little creatures that come with a strict warning about proper care. Failing to do so comes with consequences.
Silliphant believes the 80s horror flick 'Gremlins' deserves a place on the top ten best Christmas movies list. (Inti/Flickr)

"It's full of holiday spirit and imagery," Silliphant said. "There is also lots of weird messages about consumerism and stuff in it too, so it definitely clock in as a Christmas movie." 

7. A Christmas Carol, including Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooged

This is the Dickens tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser who lacks empathy for those less fortunate. Scrooge finds a new lease of life, after visitations by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.   

"It's such a great classic story," said Silliphant.

6. Bad Santa

In more of an adult-only film, Bad Santa stars actor Billy Bob Thornton in a classic heist movie where the title really says it all. He is one Bad Santa.
Billy Bob Thornton stars in 'Bad Santa.' (Columbia Pictures)

Silliphant's take: "This one gets held up with Elf a lot, and I do like Elf, but I think Bad Santa is a better movie."

But again, this one is not for young children.

5. Die Hard

Perhaps you filed this Bruce Willis classic in the action section up on the DVD shelf. Silliphant thinks you should blow the dust off this one and pop it in the player for Christmas.

"His wife's Christmas party is taken hostage by evil terrorists, so of course Christmas music and imagery abound."

4. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

The turkey is a little dry, and the relatives are a dysfunctional disaster and almost everyone can see a glimpse of their family Christmas in this movie. It's Clark Griswold's nearly unflappable determination to provide his family with a memorable holiday makes this comedic Christmas disaster movie so charming. 

"How did we even celebrate Christmas before we had the Griswold's?" asked Silliphant. 

3. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Silliphant likes the animated version from 1966. Dr. Seuss reimagines Scrooge and presents a tale of the true meaning of Christmas while taking shots at rampant consumerism.
The 1966 animated version of 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas' makes Silliphant's list. (Warner Bros.)

"I watched it with my three year old the other day and he was a little scared of the Grinch at first, but he was just enthralled by it."

2. A Christmas Story

"It's weird, it's hilarious," Silliphant said of this early 80s movie that he called divisive. Some people love it and others…not so much. But whatever your opinion, this one harkens back to a simpler time when a young boy could run around with an air rifle and not be the subject of a 911 call.

1. It's a Wonderful Life

Pretty much everyone has seen this Frank Capra classic from the 1940s. But what people might not know, according to Silliphant, is that it bombed at the box office and really took hold thanks to cable TV stations looking for inexpensive programming.
The 1946 holiday classic 'It's a Wonderful Life' grabs the number one spot on our list. (YouTube)

"It has only really been associated with Christmas as such a big Christmas movie since about the mid-80s or so," he said.

Still, James Stewart's melodramatic, but loveable, performance and redemptive storyline make this one perfect for a Christmas favourite.

"It teaches you no one is poor if they really have friends, and I get goose bumps just talking about it."