The Daily Northwestern presents: The top 10 holiday movies and TV episodes of all time

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Carly Schulman/Daily Senior Staffer

In Focus Editor Haley Fuller and Editor in Chief Isabelle Sarraf. The duo has collaborated to spread holiday cheer that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your couch.

Isabelle Sarraf and Haley Fuller

Maybe the real Knight Before Christmas (2019) was the chocolate gelt we ate along the way. 

There’s nothing quite like curling up with a mug and a pile of blankets to watch snow glisten on the silver screen. It almost makes you forget that you still haven’t gotten a gift for your brother and that the dog broke your favorite tree ornament.  

After months of deliberating, planning and arguing, here is our definitive list of holiday classics that can warm even Scrooge’s heart. Spoilers ahead.

Movies

The Holiday (2006)

Technically, there is no winner in this holiday media listicle. However, the 2006 cinematic masterpiece, “The Holiday” absolutely takes the fruitcake. Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black and Jude Law​​? This star-studded cast presents a rom-com that’s so delightfully cheesy, you really do wonder if anything can happen when the Santa Anas blow. 

A Christmas Prince (2017)

As journalists, we are suckers for rom-coms starring female journalists who are on assignment or trying to find work-life balance. We know we shouldn’t be. But we are anyway. Aldovia may be an off-brand Genovia, but the spunky young princess who warms up to the undercover journalist and helps save the day makes up for the country’s obviously ripped-off name. Binge all three movies in the trilogy — even though they are royally predictable, you won’t be able to stop watching.

Full-Court Miracle (2003)

A Hanukkah staple inspired by a true story, “Full-Court Miracle” is the only Disney Channel Original Movie to center the Jewish holiday. Amid the Christmas-heavy December movie lineup is this buried gem that follows a struggling boy’s basketball team at a Jewish day school. When a former college basketball player is convinced to coach the team, the Lions (yes, of course that’s the team’s name) try to turn things around before facing their rivals, the Warriors. Between the gefilte fish at Shabbat dinner and the David-versus-Goliath stakes, the movie holds a special place in the hearts of early-aughts Jewish kids and basketball fans alike. Alex Schlotsky walked so Troy Bolton could run.

It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992)

This is not the iconic Charlie Brown special where Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Linus and the gang see the beauty in a wilted Christmas tree and sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” No, this is better. They prepare for the Christmas pageant, and everything devolves into chaos. “Hark!” is confused for “hockey stick.” Peppermint Patty wears a sheep costume, but forgets what sound sheep make. Charlie Brown struggles to sell Christmas wreaths. Snoopy is a violent bell-ringing Santa. This is the best Charlie Brown special of all time.

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997) 

A little known fact: Disney’s 1991 classic “Beauty and the Beast” has two direct-to-video spinoffs, one of which was a self-described Christmas musical fantasy film. Entertainment Weekly may have called the 74-minute long feature “all in all, a pretty soggy Christmas fruitcake.” But this deep cut — which features Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, mind you — is entirely worth it for the original song “As Long As There’s Christmas.”

TV

Glee (Season 4, Episode 10): “Glee, Actually”

A week before the world was supposed to end, Dec. 13, 2012 delivered us one of the most significant cultural shifts of all time. That fateful night changed the course of holiday music history the moment Jake and Puck sang a Hanukkah song for Glee’s third and arguably best holiday-themed episode. No modern Hanukkah playlist would be complete without the Puckerman brothers’ cover of Yiddish classic “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah” arranged by the Barenaked Ladies.

Rugrats (Season 4, Episode 1): “A Rugrats Chanukah”

Were you really a Millennial/Generation Z cusper if you didn’t own “A Rugrats Chanukah” on VHS? You may be asking yourself what a 1996 cartoon is doing on this list, but a Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do. “A Rugrats Chanukah” was the first episode of a children’s television show to focus on the holiday, and its heartfelt storytelling sticks with you even 25 years later.

The West Wing (Season 2, Episode 10): “Noël”

Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G major will never hit the same. “Noël” won Bradley Whitford the 2001 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Emmy Award, and for good reason. Amid the show’s quick, chaotic second season is this gem of an episode, set around Christmas, that centers a singular character processing trauma and tragedy. There’s something comforting about the way “The West Wing” acknowledges that healing takes time. We can all find solace in Josh Lyman’s struggles with his mental health, and the way friends will do anything to lift you out of darkness.

The Proud Family (Season 1, Episode 11): “Seven Days of Kwanzaa”

Tucked into the first season of objectively one of the best cartoons of our childhoods is a timeless history lesson interspersed with the comedic relief of “The Proud Family” we all love. After inviting a houseless family to spend Christmas dinner with them, the Prouds discover they celebrate Kwanzaa, and spend the week learning and indulging in each other’s traditions. The episode, which provides a refreshing perspective on cultural appreciation, is one of the only Disney shows to date that celebrates Kwanzaa. 

Downton Abbey (Season 2, Episode 9): “Christmas at Downton Abbey”

Like all seasons at Downton, the holidays are full of drama — clearly the writers never heard of the importance of a long winter’s nap. But at least we get to enjoy the turmoil with a mug of hot cocoa in hand. Mary risks her dignity by shunning her fiancé and instead choosing Matthew, who proposes as snow gently falls around them. They conclude the season with a heartwarming kiss in front of Highclere Castle, and that’s all we could really ask for. 

Honorable Mention: High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Season 2, Episode 1): “The Holiday Special” 

The “Something in the Air” music video is everything. Even in the middle of the summer, Haley will watch that scene. The ugly holiday sweaters, the onesies, the overly decorated school hallways, the camera work. Nothing else matters: this is“What Time Is It?” in “High School Musical 2,” holiday edition. Also, Olivia Rodrigo. Enough said.

Email: [email protected]hwestern.edu

Twitter: @isabellesarraf

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @haley_fuller_

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