Christmastime at the movies made for some incredible memories in the 1980s. Although there were plenty of cheesy films that attempted to rehash tired Christmas traditions, there were also movies that became instant holiday staples. These are action films with Christmas themes, comedies, and even horror films taking advantage of the season. Despite the hundreds of titles that tried, only five movies made it out of the 1980s and are still being played every year on some cable stations, DVD, or Blu-ray player. Movie fans who grew up in the ’80s must have known all of these titles. Dispute them if necessary, but no one can resist the urge to recite a line from at least one of the films on the list.
5. “Gremlins” (1984)
Bringing a little gore and some uneasy laughs to the Christmas season, “Gremlins” is the story of what happens when pets are not tended to properly. Remember the rules, ’80s babies? The ones that brought out the devilish side of cute and cuddly Gizmo were:
* Don’t feed him after midnight
* Don’t get the fuzzy creature wet
* Keep him away from bright lights
Who knew that his spawn would be slimy, greenish, toothy, but hilarious gremlins? The movie combines a family holiday with monsters and survival, making everyone thankful for their mundane turkey dinner and gifts.
4. “Santa Claus: The Movie” (1985)
Of course, there has to be a traditional-style Christmas film on the list, and what better choice than “Santa Claus: The Movie?” Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, Judy Cornwell, and David Huddleston star in this tale of how the first Santa (Huddleston) got his job and how two little kids saved Christmas from a selfish and destructive elf (Moore). The first half of the film is a story of Santa’s origin. The second half is about saving Christmas. It is a heartwarming kid’s movie full of sparkly 1985 graphics (which are laughable now) and plenty of themes that play on the Christmas traditions.
3. “Scrooged” (1988)
At some point, there is only so much that can be said about Charles Dickens’ story, “A Christmas Carol.” In 1988, comedian Bill Murray reopened the conversation with his hilarious modern version of the tale, “Scrooged.” Murray plays a media mogul who wants to play violent movies during the holiday season. He mistreats everyone and hoards his money. That ego is scaled back a bit after a night with a fairy (Carol Kane), a cabbie (David Johansen), and a giant with a television head. These characters are also known respectively as Christmas Past, Present, and Future. After being harassed, laughed at, and conked on the head with a toaster, Murray’s character Frank Cross learns his lesson. Even the speech at the end, which should be very cheesy, works because of Murray’s masterful tongue-in-cheek delivery. This is a version of “A Christmas Carol” that no one will forget.
2. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)
Remember that family everyone could identify with in the 1980s? The Griswolds, led by Clark (Chevy Chase), went tromping across country, the ocean, and then at the family home as they acted out everything 1980s babies loved to hate about getting together with family. There was the senile aunt who made Jell-O molds full of cat kibble, the little cousins who broke everything they laid eyes on, and that one relative no one ever invites but shows up anyways (Cousin Eddie, played by Randy Quaid). Let’s not forget the dry turkey, tree fire, and condescending uncle. Topping it all is a Christmas bonus hoax attempting to make the perfect classic Christmas movie. Beverly D’Angelo reprised her role as Clark’s wife in the film, making the greatest sidekick to Chase’s antics ever played.
1. “A Christmas Story” (1983)
The film that no one from the 1980s can forget is “A Christmas Story.” Starring Peter Billingsley as little Ralphie, the movie touched on so many timeless issues that kids faced during the holidays-pre-PlayStation. There were dangerous dares that threatened people’s lives and reputation in one swoop (“triple-dog dare ya!”), presents a kid wanted so badly, but everyone else thought was dangerous (“you’ll shoot your eye out kid!”), and those wonderfully horrible gifts from relatives with no grasp of time, gender, or honor (the fluffy pink suit). All of these themes and more make the movie set at Christmastime in the 1940s a story that reverberated through generations when it debuted in 1983. The film quickly became a ranking must-have holiday film alongside heavyweights such as “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Audiences of all ages have enjoyed these movies from the day they were released and will continue to be so for many generations to come. Despite the ’80s’ graphics and sometimes cheesy dialogue, all of these films are easily some of the top Christmas movies of all time.