Christmas lights twinkle, seasonal carols ring out and Santa Claus counts down to his busiest night of the year. But for many, the lead up to December 25 usually involves its share of travel, too. But things are different this year and many folks are opting to stay home. So, as you prepare to cozy up this holiday season, here are some Christmas classics to download and snuggle up with.
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Traveling at Christmas can be a lot to take on. But at least you’ll be doing better than the McCallister family whose Christmas break to Miami get off to an unfortunate start when 10 year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) flies to New York by mistake and books himself into the iconic Plaza Hotel close to Central Park (we’ve all done it). Less syrupy than many seasonal films Home Alone 2 instead features Culkin outsmarting bungling burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Christmas slapstick doesn’t come any more addictive.
Gooier than a bucket of novelty slime Richard Curtis’ rom-rom may be. But no one can argue with the emotional punch of scenes such as Liam Neeson as Daniel and stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) dashing through Heathrow airport to connect with Sam’s potential love interest Joanna (Olivia Olson). Incredibly schmaltzy – but isn’t that was Christmas is about? Curtis’s insight is that airports can be a well-spring of emotion. Yes, they are often crowded and anonymous. But they are where loved ones rendezvous and say good bye and thus where our feelings often run most raw.
Is it a Christmas movie? Or an action film that just happens to take place at Christmas? Who cares – that debate has run itself into the ground. Instead, let’s give a big hearty “Yippee Ki Yay” to this story of a hard-toiling everyman (Bruce Willis) who just wants to spend Christmas with his family but is derailed by a mob of international terrorists led by Alan Rickman. All told, it’s an underwhelming Christmas Eve for Willis’s John McClane who is introduced to us on a flight from New York to Los Angles, where he hopes to reconcile with his estranged wife.
From there it’s a quick limousine ride to a Xmas party at Nakatomi Plaza, in reality Fox Plaza at Century City on LA’s West Side. After a journey like that, he could be forgiven for looking forward to putting his feet up. Instead, he has to scuttle around in an increasingly sweaty vest, taking out the bad guys. No matter how over-scheduled your December 24, console yourself that John McClane’s was an even bigger inconvenience.
The Polar Express
Choo…choo! Robert Zemeckis’s 2004 animated feature does include some rather unnerving flourishes (all the characters have the same soulless glassy eyes, for instance). But the thrill of train travel is powerfully conveyed in this tale of a young boy (Daryl Sabara) hitching a ride on a non-stop express to visit Santa Claus. Throw in Tom Hanks as the kindly conductor and you’ve got the Christmas treat that keeps on giving.
Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas especially for this 1942 Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire two-hander. One of the film’s unofficial themes is that travel can expand the horizons, as Crosby’s character quits New York to establish a countryside hotel where it literally is Christmas – or some other holiday – every day of the year.
Many people travel to a big city at this time of year. But none of us will have a journey quite like Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf, who goes to New York in search of his destiny. It’s heart-warming and also set largely in a huge department store – just the sort of haunt many will find themselves frequenting as December 25 approaches.
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This article was originally published in December 2019 and updated in December 2020.