its a wonderful life movie poster

Christmas movies decoded

I have a confession to make: I am a huge fan of Christmas movies. Every year I spend countless hours watching them on TV. It doesn’t matter that I don’t celebrate Christmas, or that some of them are really bad. I like them so much that for that I DVR every new release of the season.


The good thing is my countless hours in front of the TV have led me to a startling conclusion: Christmas movies are like putting an outfit together, it’s all about mix-and-match. Instead of choosing between garments, producers choose between the following elements.


A Troubled Santa

Things are not going well in the North Pole. Someone is always trying to ruin Christmas, replace Santa or simply shut down the entire operation (SPOILER ALERT: It never happens). These movies also make you question the elves’ working conditions: Do they get paid? Vacation? Health insurance? Maternity leave? Are these elf-only positions? Can they quit?

Example: The Santa Clause series


People Who Have Lost Their Way

They are often materialistic, focused on work, or just rebelling. They have deep emotional scars and dislike Christmas. Luckily, something or someone makes them reform.

Example: It’s a Wonderful Life, Fred Clause, A Christmas Carol, The Grinch

its a wonderful life movie poster



A Dead Relative

It’s all about the surviving relatives who turn into People Who Have Lost Their Way. They may be angry, closed off, rebelling or just plain sad. To them Christmas no longer has meaning.

Example: Mrs. Miracle, Call Me Mrs. Miracle


mrs miracles movie poster


A Sick Child

These ones are SOOO sad. Chances are someone will die at the end of the movie, which may lead to a life-saving transplant. Other sub-elements are an entire town helping make Christmas fabulous for the child, a blonde mother and lotsa tears.

Example: November Christmas


November christmas movie poster



A Failing Store/Organization

Our hero/ine is running a store or organization that’s doing so poorly, anyone with a little business sense would shut it down (or sell it). Our characters, however, refuse to do for sentimental or altruistic reasons. Their goodwill is rewarded and their luck changes with a bit of Christmas magic.

Example: Fir Crazy, The Twelve Trees of Christmas


Inaccurate Portrayal of Snow

I have lived in snowy cities for the past ten years and I can say real snow is never so whimsical. Yes, it’s cute on TV where it makes you think of hot cocoa and flannel PJs. Do you know when it is NOT cute? When you are shoveling your way out of a parking spot. Also, unless they are a 20-year-olds, nobody walks in heels during a snow storm.

Example: North Pole


north pole movie poster


A Love Story

No matter what the situation is, two characters must fall in love during the Christmas break and embark in a life-long relationship after knowing each other for a mere two weeks (sometimes even less).

Example: Love Actually, The Holiday

love actually movie poster



An Abrupt Ending (TV Only)

We would all like to know what happens next: Is that new romance going to work? Will the store do well? Will the child live? Will the elves ever get a raise? But NOOO, right after the conflict is solved we move onto an establishing shot (maybe with HO HO HO in the background) and BAM the credits appear.

Example: Every made-for-TV Christmas movie ever.


A Valuable Lesson

No Christmas movie is ever complete without the characters and the audience learning an important life lesson.

Example: Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone 2


BONUS – What-the-what Movie

A movie so out there you are not really sure how it came about.

Example: Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

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