Three Christmas Movies You Must Watch Before You Die


Published on Dec 14, 2019

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Resources Mentioned:

My essay, "The Little Story That Did," about the making of It's a Wonderful Life in National Review.

My Cinephile column in "Catholic World Report" on Meet John Doe:

In this video, I describe what these three classic Christmas movies are must-watches. (NB, Die Hard has some potty words, so it's not for kids.)

End of the debate right here: Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie by saying Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie.

1. Die Hard

I know it was released in July of 1988, I know it does not feature the baby Jesus, and I know the audience applauding when a lot of people are blown away by machine-gun fire may seem out of line with the spirit of Silent Night and We Three Kings.

But this movie, directed by John McTiernan based on Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, certainly qualifies. I explain why.

Hints: it's set on Christmas Eve—and features a soundtrack with lots of Christmas carols, its co-writer Steven de Souza has said in public—and with unashamed pride in his breast—that he intended his adaptation to be a Christmas movie, despite the fact that Bruce Willis argues that it is actually a blankety-blank Bruce Willis movie, its hero (John McCain) is married to a woman named...Holly; my friend Clarence Gilyard plays the evil computer tech guy Argyle. And Argyle sweaters and socks are very popular with men at Christmas time. Come on!

2. It's a Wonderful Life

A lot of things have been said about the Frank Capra 1946 classic and here are a few more.

The story is based on a 1938 Christmas circular letter by Philip Van Doren Stern nobody wanted to publish. After a long and unlikely series of twists and turns, a man by the name of Frank Capra hired writer after writer until he got a script he was ready to shoot.

It's a Wonderful Life I believe is the greatest film ever made. Not a typo.

The story, boiled down to its bare elements, is about the intercessory prayer of a woman named Mary.

Think about it.

The classic movie begins with an earthly-minded heaven and ends with a heavenly-minded earth. "Atta boy, Clarence!"

3. Meet John Doe

Here is, from my money, the second greatest Frank Capra film—the one he shot five years before making It's a Wonderful Life.

It stars Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck and also tells a story that leads up to a dramatic finish on Christmas Eve. But that's really where its similarity to It's a Wonderful Life ends.

It's tempting to give away more about what happens in Meet John Doe, but let me just say I think you'll be amazed to see how eerie it is to see Saul Alinsky tactics and media manipulation of crowds were predicted and depicted 80 years ago in this unheralded movie.

Happy Advent everyone and have a very Merry Christmas!

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