The holiday season means many things, including time spent with family, the giving of gifts, overeating, and, of course, Christmas movies. Festive films have been around since not long after the appearance of the first dedicated movie theaters. Mickey Mouse appeared in a Christmas short back in 1932; the first of many adaptations of A Christmas Carol was released in 1938; and then came It’s A Wonderful Life in 1946, setting the standard for the many Christmas classics to come.
Everyone has their favorite holiday movie, whether it’s Miracle on 34th Street or Die Hard. (Yes, Die Hard and its sequel are, arguably, Christmas movies, as they both take place on Christmas Eve. Yippee-ki-yay.) But the most popular holiday films tend to be those that capture the Christmas spirit — the kinds of movies you can watch with your family and friends and feel all warm and fuzzy about.
Many of these merry movies have a deeper message, be it compassion and redemption, the importance of family, or learning to love again. Here are some of the most inspiring lines from Christmas classics, from the 1930s through the 21st century.
It's me! Your uncle Scrooge! Smile makes a difference, doesn't it?
— "A Christmas Carol"
Following his conversion in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge visits his nephew, who barely recognizes the formerly miserly old man.
The main thing is, Tootie, that we're all going to be together, just like we've always been. That's what really counts. We could be happy anywhere as long as we're together.
— "Meet Me in St. Louis"
In this classic 1944 musical, the Smith family is devastated when Mr. Smith announces they all must move from St. Louis to New York. Esther Smith (Judy Garland) tries to console her younger sister, Tootie, who is upset because she can’t take her snowmen. The song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” first appeared in Meet Me in St. Louis, sung by Judy Garland.
Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
— "It’s A Wonderful Life"
Generally regarded as the greatest Christmas movie of all time, It’s A Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), who has given up on his personal dreams. Enter Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers), a guardian angel who won’t let George give up.
Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.
— "Miracle on 34th Street"
When a department store Santa Claus claims to be the real Kris Kringle, he raises plenty of eyebrows in this 1947 comedy-drama.
May all your Christmases be white.
— "White Christmas"
White Christmas ends with a rousing rendition of the titular song, as a thick snowfall finally blankets Vermont. The song was written by Irving Berlin and originally released in 1942. Bing Crosby’s version, as featured in the movie, remains the bestselling single of all time.
A toy is never truly happy until it is loved by a child.
— "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
This stop-motion TV special first aired on December 6, 1964. It has remained a Christmas staple ever since, thanks to its charming animation, catchy soundtrack, and heartwarming story.
Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. No toys. Nothing but Peter, Kate, Buzz, Megan, Linnie, and Jeff. And my aunt and my cousins. And if he has time, my Uncle Frank.
— "Home Alone"
When Kevin wishes his family would disappear, he wakes up the next day to a nasty surprise: They have. This sets off a chain of events that test the endlessly inventive 8-year-old. And on the way, Kevin realizes that all he really wants for Christmas is the return of his family.
The Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, he thought, means a little bit more.
— "How The Grinch Stole Christmas"
Jim Carrey’s Grinch in the 2000 movie is just as manic as you’d expect from a Carrey character. Still, the Grinch manages to open his heart eventually — staying true to the timeless moral of this classic children’s tale.
First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Toll House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.
As a human raised by Christmas elves, Buddy (Will Ferrell) is totally out of his depth in New York City. But his enthusiasm is boundless, and even his cynical father eventually comes around to Buddy’s infectious Christmas spirit.
Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.
— "The Polar Express"
The conductor of the Polar Express (voiced by Tom Hanks) is on a tight schedule, but he still finds time to impart some wise words during the movie, including the line above and this pearl of wisdom: “The thing about trains... it doesn't matter where they're going. What matters is deciding to get on.”
If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around.
— "Love Actually"
Many movie critics found Love Actually too sugary-sweet on its release. But audiences loved the charming rom-com, which explores love in all its many forms, and has now become a modern Christmas classic.
Photo credit: Aaron Burden/ Unsplash