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Classic holiday movies - grab the hot cocoa and a blanket

Let me kick this post off by admitting I'm an old soul. I grew up in a family where it was more likely to see a black-and-white movie glowing on the television screen than the latest flick from Hollywood or a network sweetheart sitcom. Names like Sidney Poitier, Bing Crosby and Audrey Hepburn were more frequently spoken in our household than Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts. For years, I hid this fact, laughing awkwardly whenever the topic of new releases and recent VHS rentals came up (that's right...VHS. 1980's represent!) Alas, at some point in college, I realized that this really wasn't a disadvantage at all, but rather had equipped me with an invaluable perspective on film history, especially of the American variety. There's no other time that epitomizes the warmth and memories I hold for classic films as perfectly as the holiday season. For my family, blustery weekends or snow days home from school were the perfect opportunity to enjoy the classics that my parents had grown up with and which marked the season of thanksgiving and joy for me as well. So, even if AMC and TCM are not exactly cable destinations for you the way they are for me, I've got a collection of holiday classics that everyone could stand to be familiar with.

As you're planning your holiday festivities (or ways to keep from going stir-crazy if snowed-in), be sure to include these films. Without further ado, here's the Top Five Holiday Classic Movies from the 32 year-old, going on 65 year-old Brian.

1. It's a Wonderful Life This is the quintessential holiday classic. Bar none. You must watch this. It truly gets to the root of the real spirit of the holidays, family and what it means to be grateful. The film's themes, brought to life by none other than Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, aren't simply saccharine-sweet, but traverse a wide array of emotions and acting skill. Watch this movie and it'll provide a little helpful perspective as you usher in the holiday season.

2. White Christmas This classic takes a lighthearted look at the Christmas holiday as it follows two former soldiers (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) in their newly-discovered life as a vaudeville duo. Ok, it may sound tired, but with Kaye's slapstick-ish antics, Crosby's dulcimer tones and even a stoic performance from Dean Jagger as the duo's former General, this one delivers. Rosemary Clooney also gets ample airtime to showcase her vocal spectrum as well. It's not officially the holiday season in my family until this movie's been watched (at least once!)

3. Miracle on 34th Street This film follows the exploits of a department store Santa who truly claims to be Kris Kringle. Edmund Gwenn's celebrated role has led to several updates of this classic, but none so warm and genuine as the original. Also starring the famous Maureen O'Hara and a very young Natalie Wood.

4. Holiday Inn Bing Crosby and his baritone voice make another appearance on this list in a story about a holiday love triangle. Crosby and Fred Astaire go head-to-head in pursuit of Marjorie Reynolds' affections. Another warm and cozy feel-good holiday classic. (And no, this is not based on a hotel chain ;)

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas What can I possibly say about this classic based on the renowned "Peanuts" comic strip by Charles Schulz? Whether you're familiar with the comic strip or not, this walk through the season with the Peanuts gang is sure to warm your heart - plainly and simply. It features a forlorn Charlie Brown, a fiery and opinionated Lucy, an overburdened little Christmas tree and a surprisingly perceptive speech from the soft-spoken Linus. Did I mention Snoopy and Woodstock make several appearances?

Honorable mentions (a.k.a. I can't get myself to admit the 80's and 90's are now fair game for the term "classic")

1. A Christmas Story

2. A Nightmare Before Christmas

3. A Muppet Christmas Carol

4. Home Alone

5. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

What movies have a become tradition in your family as you usher in the holidays?

Image courtesy of Union Films

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