Whether you’re hosting a house full of company or hoping for some welcome time to yourself this holiday season, consider watching one of these endearing but often-overlooked popular films with Christmas or New Year’s Eve themes. Modern comedies, sublime romances, and forgotten classics, they’ll help keep everyone cozy and entertained through the winter holiday season. Oh, and P.S., they would also make great last-minute gifts.
• “It Happened on 5th Avenue” (1947). This delightful screwball comedy from the post-WWII era is reminiscent of Miracle on 34th Street and stars Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Gale Storm, and Charlie Ruggles.
• “The Shop around the Corner” (1940). A forgotten Jimmy Stewart Christmas classic that was later remade as “You’ve Got Mail,” this film is a sometimes bittersweet romantic comedy set in a shop in Budapest, and co-stars Margaret Sullavan and a host of wonderful supporting characters.
• “While You Were Sleeping” (1995) with Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Boyle, and Glynis Johns. Sandra Bullock plays a lonely Chicago transit worker who is secretly in love with one of her daily commuters. When he is injured and in a coma, she pretends to be his fiancée and is embraced by his warm and wacky family for the holiday season.
• “Scrooge” (1970). This late 1960s British stage musical was filmed with Albert Finney in the title role and has come into its own as a holiday classic, with the well-loved Dickens story line and wonderful song and dance numbers. Also stars Alec Guinness and Dame Edith Evans.
• “The Sure Thing” (1985). This edgy, intelligent romantic comedy, a 1980s sleeper hit and now a cult classic, stars John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga as two college students brought together by the campus ride-share board for a cross-country Christmas break trek.
• “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989). For so many of us, the crazy, outsized humor of the Griswold family films never seems to grow stale. Treat yourself to low-brow holiday hilarity starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, and Randy Quaid.
• “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945). Barbara Stanwyck is a big-city magazine writer whose column portrays her as a domestic goddess reigning over a (fictitious) bucolic Connecticut farm and loving family.
When she’s given the surprise assignment of treating a recovering veteran to an old-fashioned family Christmas, she scrambles to come up with a farm, a husband, a baby, and a well-cooked Christmas dinner.
• “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (1987). Okay, it’s actually set at Thanksgiving, but this John Hughes film, starring Steve Martin and John Candy as a mismatched duo trying to navigate holiday travel and get home for the holiday, is comic genius, a hilarious screwball holiday comedy with a big heart.
• “Serendipity” (2001). The wintry beauty of New York City stars along with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in this humorous, charming, and magical story of romantic destiny and happy endings.
• “When Harry Met Sally” (1989). The essential Happy New Year movie with comedic stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, a witty and “explosively funny” (Newsweek) screenplay by Nora Ephron, directed by Rob Reiner, and music by Harry Connick, Jr. (and the Gershwins).
• “The Apartment” (1960). with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, was nominated for 10 academy awards and won five, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director. Most of the action of this sweet, funny, poignant film takes place between a company Christmas party and New Year’s Eve. It was considered very risqué for its time but won huge acclaim, and if you’ve never seen it, you must.
• “New Year’s Eve” (2011). Telling the intertwined stories of several New York City couples and singles over a New Year’s Eve, this Garry Marshall film offers a massive, star-studded cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, and more.
To finish out your holiday movie marathon, why not skip ahead on the calendar and treat yourself to Groundhog Day (1993) with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Feb. 2 is only a few weeks away.
Happy holidays from Manhattan Public Library!