Arts & Culture Film

Riley’s Christmas Movie Reviews

Riley Wilcosh ’22
Film Critic

Christmastime is here, and you know what that sometimes means: commercialism. All of those gifts, cards, and awkward dinners with relatives.

Today we are going to ignore all those negative elements of Christmas, and I’ll weigh in on some of the most beloved Christmas movies.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000): 3.5/10

I thought that this would be a wonderful start to my Christmas viewing experience, but I was rudely awakened by this adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s 1966 animated short film.

From past viewings as a younger, less cynical Riley, I had a positive opinion of this movie. But after my most recent viewing, I am able to see past that glossy contrast and see its shortcomings.

The sets are still incredible and Jim Carrey gives it his all, but the creepy facial prosthetic overabundance of cliches, and the childish humour is too over the top, and not in the good Jim Carrey way.

The Shining (1980): 9.5/10

After the disappointment of the last film, I forged ahead unfettered, moving onto another film I had not seen in a long time, and thankfully one of my cherished classics did not fall on its face again.

The Shining remained as wonderfully confusing and chilling as ever. The wonderful mind-bending cinema by Stanley Kubrick is the height of this movie, with the slow crawl of the film made suspenseful by the sporadic scenes of pure terror. It is truly a masterpiece of the horror genre (and a delightfully oxymoronic Christmas movie).

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): 8/10

Now I digressed to an old favourite of mine, another childhood nostalgia movie. And thankfully, this one does not disappoint (sort of).

This movie is very Muppet-centric for me. It is never going to be lauded as distinguished art or be nominated for an Oscar, and it knows that. It does not take itself too seriously and plays every joke perfectly with that classic Muppet charm.

As always, the practical effects are top-notch, and the sets look warm and inviting, while still being Dickensian London. This movie warms my heart and is worth the hour and a half it takes to watch it.

Elf (2003): 8.5/10

At first, I found this entry to be puzzling. It is too much of a classic to ignore, but the same things that make it endearing are what made me condemn The Grinch.

Then I realized that the difference is the balance and the quality of the elements. Both movies attempt to balance goofy, emotionally effervescent characters with some heartwarming moments.

However, since Jim Carrey had not yet discovered his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind range, Will Ferrell switches back between laughter and love wonderfully, making Elf the classic that it is.

Home Alone (1990): 8/10

For this entry, I could not decide whether to include the first or the second instalment. I love the character actors in the second, but when it comes down to it, I’ll always back the first movie.

I avoided this movie for a long time. I do not know why, but I never wanted to see it. So it is a testament to how funny and inventive this movie is, that even for 16-year-old me, it became an instant classic.

Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern really do not get enough credit for their performances in this movie, nor do Catherine O’Hara or John Candy. Home Alone is an undeniable Christmas classic that, unlike its star Macaulay Culkin, only gets better with time.

A Christmas Story (1983): 9/10

To wrap up our list, I wanted to end off with one of the most undisputed classic Christmas movies of all time.

Christmas stands the test of time, even though a lot of things have changed since the late ’30s when this movie is set. The pacing is a little slow, but the constant sibling conflict, the stupid friends, their stupid dares and that childlike wonder and excitement that surrounds those early years are captured perfectly.

Everything feels exactly like someone’s actual childhood, with its essence captured perfectly in an hour and a half. Call me a sucker for movies with older settings, but this might be my favourite Christmas movie, just because of the down to earth way the story is told.


Photo credits: Rotten Tomatoes