Few holiday traditions are as time-honored as grabbing some hot cocoa, lighting a fire, and cuddling up in front of a Christmas movie. While films like White Christmas, Elf, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Story have rightfully earned their place as annually-watched classics, none of them focus specifically on Jesus Christ. The “reason for the season” is often absent from lists of the best holiday cinema. So, without disparaging those other films (which I very much enjoy), may I suggest a few movies that entertain while putting the Lord at the center of Christmas worship?
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
This is an annual must-watch for many families, as the Peanuts gang unites to celebrate Christmas. It’s very funny, with terrific music and a timeless message: charity and Christ, not commercialism, are the holiday’s true meaning. Available for instant download or DVD on Amazon.
CHRISTMAS WITH A CAPITAL C
Using a small Alaskan town as the setting to explore the culture wars between secularism and Christianity, Christmas with a Capital C admittedly struggles with some ham-fisted storytelling and “cheesy” characterization for its first half. To its enormous credit, however, it gains traction as it transcends initial “us vs. them” arguments to examine the real-world value of the Savior’s command that we love our enemies instead of judging them, and that our commitment to Him should be manifest in our actions and attitudes, not just our bumper stickers. Once it fleshes out the characters, it actually becomes quite moving, and the Alaskan scenery is lovely. Available on DVD and BluRay from Amazon.Available via Netflix streaming.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE
Faithful, big-budget Disney adaptation of the classic C.S. Lewis novel, this tale is rich with Christian symbolism. Imaginative storytelling and great special effects are among the highlights as four British children from the WWII-era step through a wardrobe into a mystical land where the righteous lion Aslan does battle with the evil White Witch. It’s essentially the story of Jesus Christ told through a fantastical allegory which, combined with abundant snow and a meaningful cameo by Santa Claus, makes this a perfect fit for families around Christmas. Available for instant streaming on Amazon, as well as on BluRay and DVD from Amazon Prime.
THE FOURTH WISE MAN
Terrifically moving TV movie stars Martin Sheen and Alan Arkin as the fourth wise man and his servant, respectively, who spend their days searching for the Messiah but are continually delayed when the magi cannot help but serve those in need. Though a made-for-TV budget leads to a few less-than-impressive displays of makeup, Sheen and Arkin, and indeed all of the key players, give fantastic performances in this extremely moving portrayal of the heart of Christianity: charity. Available on DVD on Amazon.
JOY TO THE WORLD
Wonderful short film, produced by the Church, portrays the Nativity story in both the Old World and the Americas, as well as the celebration of Christmas in modern times, with music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Perfect for getting you into the holiday spirit. Available for purchase from LDS.org.
MR KRUEGER’S CHRISTMAS
Legendary actor Jimmy Stewart’s Christmas movie is a touching 30-minute film in which an old janitor fantasizes about happier Christmases, singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and ultimately kneeling before the newborn Savior. First-rate music and a very touching performance by Stewart make this a must-watch during the holidays. Directed by Kieth Merrill (Legacy, The Testaments, 12 Dogs of Christmas). Available for purchase from LDS.org.And from Amazon.
THE NATIVITY STORY
This overlooked gem has it all: gorgeous visuals, wonderful acting, powerful music, and stellar direction. What’s more, it’s faithful to the biblical account while fleshing out the story with rich historical detail and thoughtful explorations of the challenges faced by Joseph and Mary. Absolutely mesmerizing, with one of the most exemplary husbands and one of the most faithful women in the history of film. Engaging from start to finish, this is one to put on your “must-view” list this Christmas season. Available to rent (stream) or buy from Amazon.
The latest from acclaimed LDS filmmaker Christian Vuissa (read my interview), . This is a sublime and inspiring true story, skillfully made and sweetly acted. You’ll want to watch it every year. is a story told with passion and subtle patriotism. This is the true story of Austrian priest Joseph Mohr, and how his ministry among the people of a small town drew him closer to Christ and inspired him to write the classic hymnAvailable for purchase from Deseret Book.
STATES OF GRACE
powerfully demonstrates the modern-day relevance of the Gospel, the painful consequences of sin, our need for the Savior, and the long reach of the Atonement. tells of how a drive-by shooting sets into motion a series of events that will alter the lives of an aspiring actress, a Pentecostal preacher, a gang-banger, and two LDS missionaries forever. Terrific acting and an uncompromising screenplay are the film’s greatest strengths.
This film is intense, so parents be warned. This film seems to divide LDS audiences; some love it, some hate it. I’m with the former. In my opinion, this is most Christ-centered movie of the Mormon cinema movement (at least of those not officially produced by the Church). Rated PG-13 for gang violence and thematic material. Available for purchase from Amazon.
THE ULTIMATE GIFT
Trying, for the most part successfully, to be many things at once (Christian drama, romance, coming-of-age morality tale, and adventure) The Ultimate Gift is an involving, well-acted movie that is definitely worth your time. A vain young man is left an inheritance from a recently deceased rich relative (James Garner), who requires him to perform a series of character-building tasks before he can acquire it. Some of the most poignant final scenes occur around Christmastime. Funny and touching, with a great cast including Abigail Breslin (. ), and Brian Dennehy (Available to stream or rent instantly or buy on DVD or BluRay on Amazon.
VEGGIETALES: THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS COLLECTION
Loads of fun, and a great value to boot, this collection is bursting with poignant storytelling, delightfully witty writing, and catchy songs. It includes all of the VeggieTales Christmas specials (“The Toy that Saved Christmas,” “The Star of Christmas,” “Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving,” “It’s a Meaningful Life” and “The Little Drummer Boy!”) as well as a sing-along special feature and a bonus CD of 25 Christmas carols by the VeggieTales gang. Going for about $15 on Amazon, this one will keep the kids entertained for hours while teaching them, time and again, that Jesus is the reason for the season. Adults will love it too (I can testify to that from first-hand experience) Available for purchase from Amazon, and some episodes available to stream on Netflix.
Did I miss any Christ-centered Christmas movies? Let me know in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to catch my latest Hollywood film reviews from a Latter-day Saint perspective at www.mormonmovieguy.com. You can “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter for updates!