For Christmas 2010, Entertainment Weekly came up with their “20 Top Christmas Movies Ever” which included movies which I found downright bizarre to be calling Christmas films, like Gremlins, Die Hard, Trading Places and Bad Santa. What kind of uplifting holiday spirit do folks get into from watching those flicks? No wonder Christians are worried about the corruption of their sacred holiday. Wikipedia does tally a very long list of what some people consider Christmas movies, but most of them miss the point of what I think of as Christmas spirit.
I am not a Christian, but I love the spirit of Christmas as defined by Charles Dickens in his 1843 book, A Christmas Carol. Christmas is not about Santa Claus, Christmas trees or giving presents. Christmas is about being grateful, compassionate and giving. You don’t need to be religious to appreciate the struggle to become a better person by trying to improve the lives of people around you. I love Christmas movies because I’m a selfish person and I need constant reminding to be more generous and selfless.
To me the classic Christmas movie to watch at Christmas time are those that inspire me to be more charitable, compassionate and considerate. It takes a great movie to move me. Die Hard and Home Alone are lots of fun by not uplifting. And I really need to watch Christmas worthy movies all year round because I need steady inspiration to remind me to be less selfish. That’s why some movies on my Christmas movie list would be bizarre to other people making their list of favorite Christmas movies. For example, I think of Groundhog Day to be a great movie to watch at Christmas time, or any other time of the year to inspire Christmas spirit.
For me, a great Christmas film must inspire us to be more like Jesus. Now that’s a weird statement to come from an atheist, but let me explain. We know very little about the man Jesus. Most everything written about him is pure speculation, especially about his birth and death. But there is enough evidence to believe there was a man who tried to invent a philosophy about compassion. That core philosophy about compassion is taught in many religions. It has nothing to do with life after death, God or other metaphysical beliefs. A Christmas Carol or It’s A Wonderful Life attempts to inspire this philosophy too. I think it’s the spirit of Christmas. It should work for both believers and non-believers.
With that said, I’d like to list some films I think are inspirational to watch at Christmas time. Several of them are not about Christmas, but they are still great to watch at Christmas time.
JWH – 12/21/10