Holiday movie traditions vary -- in my family, for whatever reason, we often watched "The Road Warrior" after opening gifts -- but traditions change, and from time to time we all need to update and expand our roster of Christmas movie selections.
But how to pick a movie that isn't the same old chestnut roasting on an open fire? And what is a Christmas movie, anyway? The definition has become more elastic in recent years.
And of course there are the full-on classics.
But if you've seen Jimmy Stewart grapple with that newel post one too many times, and you're looking for a worthy holiday movie that perhaps you haven't seen -- something older or offbeat -- here's a handy list of 10 Christmas titles to consider this year.
'Remember the Night' (1940)
Derived from a Preston Sturges script, this rom-com stars Fred MacMurray as a district attorney who takes pity on a shoplifter (Barbara Stanwyck) and springs her from jail on Christmas Eve, leading to a road trip that takes them (through Pennsylvania) to Indiana and back. The movie was a hit in 1940, but because Sturges' script was cut so severely, he decided to direct his own material in the future, which turned out to be gift for movie lovers. Alas, "Remember the Night" is not available for streaming, but it is on DVD and Blu-ray.
'The Bishop's Wife' (1947)
What do you get when you beseech heaven for help? In 1947, you got Cary Grant, who answers the prayer of a bishop (David Niven) who needs funds for a new cathedral. Complications arise when Grant's handsome angel catches the eye of the man's neglected wife (Loretta Young). Penny Marshall remade the movie in 1996 as "The Preacher's Wife" (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes) with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. For the film, Houston sang two Top 20 hits ("I Believe in You and Me" and "Step by Step"), and the accompanying gospel album sold six million copies. ("The Bishop's Wife" is available on iTunes.)
'The Holly and the Ivy' (1952)
In this 1952 British film, a country parson (Ralph Richardson) with a reputation of caring more for his parishioners than his own family hosts his son (Denholm Elliott) and daughter (Margaret Leighton) for Christmas. The war has turned the clergyman's son against religion, and his daughter harbors secrets she is sure will bring her father great shame. Understated and reserved, it comes by its holiday sentiment honestly. (Streaming on Kanopy.)