Season’s best: WHT staff shares their favorite Christmas films

Ah, it can be argued that the lead-up to Christmas is more enjoyable than the holiday itself, couldn’t it? The excitement and anticipation builds such joy, everyone’s good mood is infectious all December long.

And, of course, few reminders of the season are as enjoyable as Christmas movies. And so, West Hawaii Today’s staff has compiled a list of our favorite holiday films. Merry Christmas from our team to yours.


Tiffany DeMasters, public safety reporter

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This movie goes way beyond the Christmas song of an outcast reindeer who gets a chance to show how useful he is on a cloudy Christmas Eve.

It taught us kids that it’s OK to be different, not to be afraid to pursue our dreams and always be who we are.

Besides, the stop-motion animation is pretty awesome to watch.

Tom Hasslinger, editor

Love Actually. This fast-paced romantic comedy follows a cross-section of couples dealing with their love lives in intertwining tales before Christmas in London. Corny yet touching, it offers a little something for all, with a variety of morals wrapped nicely at the end.

The final scene of the kids concert is priceless, and the race to the airport for the final goodbye scene is the cherry on top.

Mitch Bonds, page designer

My favorite Christmas movie of all time is Die Hard. Yes, it’s a Christmas movie because it takes place at Christmas time and contains all the themes a Christmas movie should — surveillance, an intruder showing up at night, the giving of presents (or bullets) and above all, the importance of family.

Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho … Merry Christmas!

Laura Ruminski, photographer

My affinity for A Christmas Story goes beyond the timeless story of Ralphie wanting a Red Ryder BB gun despite every adult telling him he will shoot his eye out.

You see, as a child my family made the annual Christmas pilgrimage to the downtown Cleveland Higbee’s department store where the opening, parade and Santa scenes were filmed. Every time I watch the movie a nostalgic flashback fills my head. I still have photos of my brothers, sister and me with the department store’s Santa, bundled up like Ralphie’s younger brother Randy, braving the swirling wind and snow off Lake Erie. Of course, we also visited the department store’s Bruce the Talking Spruce, a disturbing talking Christmas tree, and Mr. Jingleling, keeper of Santa’s keys, but I digress.

As a teenager, I was the Santa photographer at the same store. Although I don’t recall Santa ever kicking a child down the slide, the elves could become a little snarky if they didn’t get their break to “feed the reindeer.”

I saw the open call in the Cleveland Press and Plain Dealer for 1930s and 40s autos and watched as they filmed the scenes, eagerly awaiting the 1983 Thanksgiving release.

Even though the film was only moderately successful when released, it has become an American perennial holiday favorite, as well as my own.

J.R. DeGroote, sports editor

Forget elves, flying reindeer and grumpy green monsters. My favorite Christmastime flick is Gremlins, which taught us three great lessons when dealing with mogwai.

Keep them out of direct light; don’t give them water, not even to drink; and most importantly, do not feed them after midnight. Also, don’t buy any gifts for your kids from underground Chinese antique shops that have the chance to spawn hordes of murderous creatures.

It’s not the typical Christmas bash, but it’s plenty good for some unconventional holiday fun. Plus, who doesn’t love Gizmo?

Chelsea Jensen, associate editor

Classic Christmas movies are cool and all, but they just don’t hit the spot for me.

I need more than the typical merry and bright romantic comedy. I need a bit of dysfunction, lowbrow humor and slapstick stupidity to get me through the holidays.

That’s why my favorite movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The 1989 film, the third in the National Lampoon’s series, is my go-to, feel-good, all-time favorite movie to watch, anytime of year.

Like every attempt by Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) to provide an epic, memorable family vacation, his re-creation of the “fun old-fashioned Christmas” his father put on when he was a child goes awry — no matter how hard Clark tries to keep everything in line.

From Cousin Eddie and wife, kids and Mississippi leghound, Snot, showing up uninvited in a beater of a mobile home (that adds nicely to Clark’s 25,000-light decorated home) and his prized Christmas tree going up in flames to Clark’s meltdown/rant when his much-needed holiday bonus is instead a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club (“the gift that keeps on giving”) and Cousin Eddie going out to get that last-minute Christmas gift that brings the SWAT team crashing into the family home, Christmas Vacation is all laughs for me.

It also exemplifies what the holidays are all about: Sticking together and getting through the “misery” of Christmas as a family — no matter the trials and tribulations.

Rick Winters, sports reporter

The all-time classic yuletide story has to be A Christmas Carol. There have been many movies made from this Charles Dickens tale but my favorite has to be the Muppet Christmas Carol.

Who wouldn’t love this magical story narrated by The Great Gonzo as Charles Dickens, and his talking rat sidekick? The movie also features Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit and everyone’s favorite Batman butler, Michael Caine, as Scrooge.

There are many reason’s why I love this 1992 Muppet feature. It’s a musical, which I love. It’s a little weird, which I am. And it prevented my grandfather from playing that ghastly “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie for the one-millionth time — bah humbug!

Speaking of bah humbug, does anyone else think Scrooge gets a bad rap? Seriously, the guy is just trying to do his job. He gives out a loan and if you don’t pay the loan back, your house gets taken away. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

And lets not forget, he does actually give Cratchit Christmas Day off. I don’t get Christmas Day off.

Nancy Cook Lauer, local government reporter

That redneck cousin you cringe to even be around. The batty old aunty who gift-wraps the cat. The turkey so overdone it spews dust. The varmints that take down the Christmas tree. The clueless but stingy boss. (Sorry, Real Boss!)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is your worst Christmas nightmare tenfold. Oh, and did I mention Chevy Chase as the adorable doofus with a heart of gold? And there’s even a Hawaiian Christmas song! So maybe it’s not all bad.

The expressions on Griswold’s face as he tries to keep his cool in the midst of the world’s most trying family, while hoping against hope his Christmas bonus comes through. And that it’s not the jelly-of-the-month club.

It doesn’t matter how many times I see this movie. I know all the lines and it always has me in stitches. And the best part of all? Watch this before you visit your own family and you will doubly realize just how blessed you are.

Max Dible, enviro/ag/social reporter

I was shocked — wait, scratch that. I was appalled — nope, still not strong enough. I was aghast, as I can only imagine were so many of you now beginning that steady and inevitable encroachment into middle-age, that none of my colleagues chose Home Alone as the subject for their entries on iconic Christmas films.

The last wave of children to play outside with regularity, to harbor a true sense of kinesthetic adventure and explore our environments through some means other than a handheld screen and an internet connection, movies were intermittent luxuries for us. And Home Alone was the quintessential Christmas story of our generation.

And for our generation, didn’t Home Alone have it all? We longed for independence. Kevin had a mansion and a tree house all to himself.

We yearned for the freedom to dictate our own diets — “A lovely cheese pizza, just for me!”

And we appreciated the bad guys getting their comeuppance, especially when said bad guys were adults receiving their just desserts by way of pranks involving flying paint cans and blow torches at the hands of one of our clever contemporaries.

Underestimated and restrained as we were by parental controls viewed as the absolute epitome of injustice, Kevin was an-honest-to-goodness role model — a rebel sticking it to the ruling class.

Yet a sense of warm relief spread over our young, defiant hearts when Kevin’s family walked in on Christmas Day and the story’s hero realized he didn’t, in fact, “make his family disappear.”

It served as a reminder of what the season is truly all about and how lucky we were to be in that safe, warm living room surrounded by our loving oppressors with whom we still convene every year come December’s end.

And on that note, Merry Christmas. Ya filthy animals.

Cameron Miculka, education and planning reporter

A Charlie Brown Christmas. To paraphrase Linus’ line from the start: “Of all the Charlie Brown movies in the world, it’s the Charlie Browniest.”

Charlie Brown is without a doubt the movie’s center: it is in every way about his anxieties about the holiday even to the point that the movie is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

And while it is called “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the movie is as much about the rest of the Peanuts gang and how we all can lose sight of Christmas.

I won’t go through the whole plot, but instead lay out the groundwork and then jump to the end. So … “spoiler alert,” I guess, if you don’t want to know the ending of a movie from 1965.

Charlie Brown’s depressed, per usual, unable to find joy in the Christmas season. Violet never sent him a Christmas card. Sally has a long list of requests for Santa — “If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself,” she dictates to her brother, “just send money”— and his dog is busy decorating his house for the “spectacular super-colossal neighborhood Christmas light and display contest.”

After Linus recites the passage from Luke announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, Charlie Brown takes the tree for which he was mocked and humiliated and leaves, resolving to not let commercialism ruin his Christmas, his good spirits only last as long as it takes to hang an ornament on the tree, causing it to droop over and Charlie Brown to declare that “everything I touch gets ruined.”


Because even though he can will himself to positivity, he can’t will himself out of the reality that a tiny tree can’t bear the weight of a big ornament.

It takes Linus giving up his security blanket to strengthen the tree’s base and the rest of the kids stripping down Snoopy’s doghouse — which just won first prize — to really make the little sapling into a Christmas tree.