Christmas is coming: What to watch?


“Yippee ki yay!” — Christmas is around the corner and it’s time to pop in a movie.

But with any other film, the Christmas movie genre has its own distinctions. Depending on who you ask, it might not even be a Christmas movie that gets people into the holiday spirit.

Even nationally, everyone’s favorite holiday movie certainly varies from state to state. According to, a wide array of films from across the decades popped up following an experiment with Google Trends. The top three titles, “Elf,” “Scrooged” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” all made it to the top of their list over several states.

Keep in mind, not every Christmas movie per state is for the whole family. The Stanley Kubrick-helmed thriller “Eyes Wide Shut” is preferred in Colorado, Florida and Massachusetts, according to the digital data collected. North Dakota’s favorite film was the 2015 horror film “Krampus,” while the comedy sequel “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” found love in the heart of Texas.

The more standard films in the genre have a special place for people living in Santa Clarita, too, some of which have connections to the city itself.

Parts of the Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy “Jingle All the Way” were filmed at Vasquez Rocks, and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was directed by CalArts alumnus Tim Burton, according to Evan Thomason, economic development associate with the Santa Clarita Film Office.

Thomason said he remembered watching holiday animations, featuring actor and singer Burl Ives, best known as Sam the Snowman in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

“Growing up, there were less channels on the television,” he said. “So (those movies) were just on. You’d look forward to your favorites and mark your calendar.”

Though she grew up watching “The Santa Clause” with her grandmother, Santa Clarita resident Jillian Smith has had a love of watching iterations of “The Nutcracker” ballet on PBS.

“‘The Nutcracker’ ballet is just beautiful to watch,” she said. “They’re so amazing.”

Not all of these traditions adhere to the Christmas film genre. Although “Bad Santa” is her favorite Christmas movie, Stevenson Ranch resident Sharlene Smith Nguyen said her family loves to watch the 2013 Marvel film “Guardians of the Galaxy” as a newer holiday tradition

“‘Bad Santa’ is hilarious, but it also shows how a ‘bad’ person can change with the Christmas spirit and be a better human being,” she said. “(As for) ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ we just stumbled on (it) one year and now it’s a new tradition. We like the theme that your family isn’t necessarily your blood, and it can be made up of the friends in your life.”

Responses to a Facebook post by The Signal about people’s favorite films and traditions ranged from classics like “White Christmas” to newer films like “The Polar Express.” Another film that received a lot of love was “Die Hard.” Though not a stereotypical Christmas movie, the setting of Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve has re-imagined the 1988 action film in recent years.  

Newhall resident Diane Bilyeu commented on the post with a list of seven films that play while she and her husband prepare for Christmas. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, they watch “Plains, Trains and Automobiles” to “get the holiday season started,” she said. As they decorate the house and set up their Christmas tree, they pop in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “A Christmas Story.” To maintain a festive mood, they watch “Love Actually,” “The Bishop’s Wife” and “Miracle on 34th Street” all while wrapping gifts.

This year will be the “49th holiday season” for Bilyeu and her husband, she wrote.

“Traditions like these are at the heart of our family celebrations,” she added. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Across town, a mother and her son rented the “Home Alone” films from Gina Lee, owner of Video Depot on Lyons Avenue. The young boy told Lee he had seen the first “Home Alone” five times.

“Everything’s so popular,” Lee said with a smile.

As she stocked up her Christmas movie shelves, she said people were renting movies rather than streaming as a way to connect with each other, going out as a family and choosing films together. She praised each DVD she picked up, making a note of why people rent a particular film. For example, children and teenagers will typically rent “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Lee brandished a copy of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” her personal favorite.

“Lots of people are watching this one,” she said, still smiling.

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