Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. 'Tis the holiday season, and there's no better time than now to find the perfect movie for the holiday season. Instead of reaching for the obvious holiday movie choices, here are some picks that are a little off the radar but still perfect as you get that fireplace crackling.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton's spooky, family-friendly, stop-motion-animated classic can fit in with two holidays. The film is most often associated with Christmas since the story's hook revolves around "Pumpkin King" Jack Skellington bringing Christmas to Halloween Town (not to mention that the title specifically refers to the holiday). But, most of the story takes place in said town with its wonderfully creepy townsfolk, thereby making this not only a perfect film for you and your young 'uns on Halloween but also one that successfully bridges two holidays – themes and all – into one.
October 29, 1993
Say what you will about superhero movies in the 90s, but between this and "Blade," it would be wrong to think studios at the time didn't take risks bringing comic book heroes from the page to the screen. Sure, none were more bankable than Batman. Still, critics and fans were taken aback by Alex Proyas' dark superhero movie, controversy aside (the tragic real-life death of star Brandon Lee – son of Bruce – after an accidental shooting onset).
If the "Hot Topic" aesthetic didn't seal it for you as a perfect Halloween movie, the film itself opens on October 30th, often referred to as Devil's Night, an unofficial holiday in which kids can play pranks, tricks and partake in other forms of mischief. It's on this night that a street gang murders Eric Draven (Lee) and his fiancee; the next day, on Halloween, the two were to wed. One year later, a mystical crow helps Eric rise from the grave, so he can exact revenge on those that slew him and his lover.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
If there's one common thread between the two movies in our list so far, it's that all the characters make for perfect Halloween costumes. In 1982, one could say the same about Steven Spielberg's out-of-this-world kid adventure. Not only that, but the entire film culminates on Halloween, with the act of dressing up in costume, allowing the kids to successfully sneak their newfound alien friend out of harm's way. E.T. even meets, and seemingly recognizes, a kid dressed up as Yoda from "Empire Strikes Back." It's a playful nod from Spielberg to his director-friend George Lucas – one that Lucas pays back in 1999's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace." So, that does mean "E.T." and "Star Wars" are set in the same universe?
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Wizards, witches, goblins, and a whole lot of magic -- if that doesn't make for a good Halloween story, then we don't know what does (it also seems like great family fare for the snowy times indoors). While any of the eight "Potter" films (and the two "Fantastic Beasts" prequels) can fit this mold, none captures the awe of it all like the first one. It's here where Harry gets introduced to the wonderful wizarding world, meets his friends, and starts to learn all the secrets at his new school, Hogwarts.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
From Halloween, we move on to Thanksgiving. The John Hughes comedy finds high-strung and burnt-out executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) yearning to get back to his family in time for turkey dinner. It should have been a simple two-hour flight from New York to Chicago. But, when a blizzard causes the flight to reroute to Wichita, Neal finds himself stuck on a two-day odyssey home with pestering salesman Del Griffith (John Candy). This road trip from hell plays out to perfect comedic effect as the two take on various modes of transport to get back by any means necessary. There might not be a central Thanksgiving dinner, but the film's theme of longing to be with the ones you love for the holiday makes this a perfect holiday film.
Tim Burton makes our list once again. With the Gothic Batman, you would think we'd be throwing this superhero-costume-classic in the Halloween category, but "Batman Returns" actually is a Christmas movie! As the film opens, we see grotesque child Oswald Cobblepot getting tossed out of his house on Christmas Eve. A snow-covered Gotham, adorned in holiday tidings, is then ever-present as the film moves 30 years into the future and the plot of grown-up Penguin and Catwoman unfolds; and let's not forget those penguins with candy-cane themed rockets attached to their backs.
You've Got Mail
The '90s were all about watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fall in love, and their trilogy of rom-coms ended (after "Joe vs. the Volcano" and "Sleepless in Seattle") with this light-hearted love story set in a growing online world. Here, through a series of online chats, an indie bookstore owner (Ryan) ends up falling in love with a family member (Hanks) of the very family whose large chain bookstores threaten her very existence. Their love story, in fact, blossoms in true romantic terms, just as the seasons do behind them. The budding lovebirds first chat as Fall turns to Winter. The two then later realize their love by Spring. And, in perfect Hollywood form, the "big reveal" of the entire movie occurs (when else?), but at Christmas.
Iron Man 3
If there's one thing that director Shane Black loves, it's Christmas. The cheerful holiday seems to make its way into the setting of most of his movies (see also "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang"). And when the director was given the reigns to Marvel's flagship superhero – for the first follow-up to 2012's "Avengers" – Christmas is right there in the background. The debate as to whether this superhero drama, set during the "most wonderful time of the year" was, in fact, a Christmas movie, was finally settled once-and-for-all with Marvel admitting as much in a tweet. Grudgeful Stark, after all, comes out the other side finding peace and happiness after seeing the error of his ways -- it's a Scrooge arc and the true spirit of Christmas.
Speaking of long-standing debates as to whether or not a movie is indeed a "holiday movie," "Die Hard" probably stands as the one film that embodies it all (see also: "Gremlins," "Lethal Weapon," and "Rocky IV"). Look at it this way: "Die Hard" is set during an office Christmas party, the main character finds his redemption, evil spirits are defeated, and good is finally in place at the end of the tale (and multiple holidays tunes play on the soundtrack). Is "Die Hard" a Christmas movie? We think so, but you be the judge.
July 15, 1988
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.