Staff Picks: Holiday movies to go with a cozy cup of cocoa


Photoshop Illustration via TNS

Tom Hanks played multiple characters including a conductor (pictured), father, hero boy, hobo, Scrooge and Santa Claus in the 2004 Christmas movie “The Polar Express.”

By The Pitt News Staff

Thanksgiving has passed and the holiday sales have begun. It’s time to put up a Christmas tree, get out the candles and pray for snow. December is less than a week away, which means the holiday season has most definitely started, and holiday movies are crucial to creating the perfect, festive winter. Here are our staff’s favorites:

“The Polar Express” // Sarah Connor, Culture Editor

I will never forget my first field trip — my first-grade class with Miss Palsa took a trip to the local movie theater to see “The Polar Express.” It was the winter of 2004, I was 7 years old and all of the magic of Christmas was alive and well.

All of the nostalgia aside, I still love this film 14 years later at the age of 21. It follows a young lad on a train ride from his small hometown to the North Pole on Christmas Eve night. The animation is modern and the characters look very human-like, making the train and the North Pole pop off of the screen and come to life. The music is also wonderful in this film, with original songs such as “Hot Chocolate,” a jazzy tune that features tap dancing waiters, and “Rockin’ on Top of the World,” a rock ’n’ roll holiday piece written and performed by Steven Tyler. “The Polar Express” is truly a one-of-a-kind Christmas classic.

“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” // Victoria Pfefferle-Gillot, Staff Writer

It’s nearly impossible for me to pin down my favorite Christmas movie. But it’s been a family tradition for as long as I can remember to crack open and watch the direct-to-video holiday midquel to Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” — subtitled “The Enchanted Christmas,” which came out in 1997.

The frame is set during the post-curse Christmas, and Mrs. Potts tells Chip and all of the guests the real story of who saved Christmas during the enchantment. The castle decorated for Christmas and the outdoor scenes in snowy environments set the holiday mood perfectly. New characters Angelique, the Christmas angel decoration, Forte, the pipe organ, and Fife, the piccolo, steal the show. If you love “Beauty and the Beast” and Christmas, then “The Enchanted Christmas” is a must-see for the holidays. For me, there’s no Christmas without it.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” // Sarah Gross, Staff Writer

Christmas is my favorite holiday and has been for as long as I can remember. Naturally, I love all Christmas movies, but my favorite one has always been “Charlie Brown.” It’s got the signature charm and feel-good elements that come with all of the Peanuts movies, including beautiful music and a heartfelt message — and who can forget the now-iconic image of that sad little Christmas tree?

The original TV movie aired in 1973, following Charlie Brown as he tries to find the meaning of Christmas since he just can’t get into the holiday spirit. While he’s on this journey, aided by the ever-philosophical Linus, the rest of the kids get ready for the holiday play.

The movie hits me with all sorts of feelings every time I watch it, and the ending always impacts me especially hard. That final image of the decorated Christmas tree and all of the kids standing around it singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” always turns me into an emotional mess. While this may not sound like how most people would like to spend their Christmas, I love it and it’s a movie that puts me into just the right holiday spirit.

TIE: “The Santa Clause 2” and “Barbie and the Nutcracker” // Alexa Marzina, Staff Writer

For some reason, I’m a sequel kinda gal. I almost always like the second movie in a series more than the first, normally because they take themselves less seriously. “The Santa Clause” is obviously a Christmas classic with Tim Allen playing perhaps the goofiest Santa in all of movie history. But “The Santa Clause 2” really has the comedic whimsy that the first film only hinted at. Even childhood me lost it every time the imposter Santa said, “Santa feels a little buzz! Woo!” when he first sipped the delicious North Pole hot cocoa. Though the plot is admittedly not great, fake Santa makes this movie worth watching every Christmas season.

On the other hand, “Barbie and the Nutcracker” offers a more traditional Christmas vibe and is how 8-year-old me started my Christmas season — by popping this bad boy in the VHS player and snuggling up with hot chocolate. I didn’t even particularly like Barbies as a child — I used to put maple syrup in their hair and rip their legs off — but the inclusion of the Barbie-verse characters in the Nutcracker story made for a very enjoyable watch.

“Love Actually” // Siddhi Shockey, Staff Writer

I’ve always been a sucker for a good love story — and what better way to watch a romance unfold than with a backdrop of winter snow? “Love Actually” first hit theaters in 2003 with a star-studded cast, featuring actors such as Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson. It plays for an older audience while still incorporating the nostalgia for the holiday season by exploring nine different love stories set in London, each intertwined in comedic and heartwarming ways. Whether it’s a kid finding his first love or a writer looking to find himself but stumbling across a great romance along the way, the film’s story lines are sure to tug at your heartstrings.

The movie also showcases a raunchy twist to traditional Christmas love stories with characters like Billy Mack, a jaded musician who’ll be sure to remind you of your weird drunk uncle. But on his journey back into the spotlight with a corny Christmas pop ballad, he fosters a friendship with his manager.

But more than any of the stories, I’ve always loved that the movie is about hopeful new beginnings rather than merely happy endings. Whether the characters were searching for love within themselves or elsewhere, they all find that “love actually is all around.” And not to mention, the film stars a young Hugh Grant, so it’s impossible to resist.

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