My Favorite Films for Getting into the Holiday Mood

Now that Thanksgiving is officially over, and the holiday season is officially here, it’s high time for me to curl up in the coziest blanket ever, prepare a gigantic bowl of kettle corn popcorn, and watch some of my favorite movies to get in the mood for the holidays.


Unlike many people–who may need to watch Elf every year to kick off the season or who love Love, Actually–I feel as though my favorite holiday movies are a bit less conventional.

Sure, I’ll probably view some more traditional holiday movies during the season. But when I think about the films I just can’t do without between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I’m not mulling over White Christmas, A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life. or totally predictable Hallmark Channel fare.

Here’s what I want to watch instead when it’s time to deck the halls:

The Sound of Music (1965)

If you’re wracking your brain to come up with the holiday connection in this film classic, there isn’t one. However, during my early teens, our local NBC affiliate would broadcast this movie musical on Thanksgiving evening, so it’s become a subconscious signal that the holiday season has finally arrived.

The Sound of Music isn’t just one of my favorite holiday films. It’s my favorite movie of all time. Based on a true story, novitiate Maria is sent to be governess to the seven children of a retired naval captain in Salzburg, Austria. War looms while romance blooms–you know the story.

Favorite scene: When the captain invites Maria to dance the Laendler, an old Austrian folk dance, and that moment happens. You know the one.

Little Women (1994)

Long before she featured in Stranger Things, and decades before he starred in Ford vs. Ferrari, Winona Ryder and Christian Bale were Jo March and Theodore Lawrence in 1994’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s literary classic Little Women.

The start of the film is set on a snowy Christmas morning in Concord, Massachusetts, and the narrative begins as the four March girls navigate their first Christmas without their father at home, while he’s away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War. It’s ultimately a coming-of-age story told through the eyes of budding writer Jo.

Favorite scene: Do I have to pick just one? The whole sequence of Beth’s illness still leaves me in tears 25 years later and after countless viewings.

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

One of my favorite actresses, Sandra Bullock, the effortlessly charming Bill Pullman, and a cast of so many memorable supporting characters.

When Chicago metro toll-collector Lucy Moderatz witnesses the robbery of Peter Callahan in the train station on Christmas Day, hijinks ensue. Enter a huge misunderstanding, a busybody family, and a budding romance. Le sigh.

Favorite scene: When the whole Callahan family (sans Peter and Jack) are gathered around the living room, and Lucy finally gets a glimpse of what it might be like to be part of a family at Christmas. Sniff.

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth cast as the Darcy character? Peak Renée Zellwegger? Win, win. Told over the space of a whole year, beginning and ending with the Christmas holidays, it’s your typical boy meets girl, boy and girl hate each other immediately, boy and girl realize they’ve been all wrong about each other, and boy and girl fall in love. Yes, it’s a tired trope, but this telling is beautifully irreverent and is ultimately all about self-acceptance.

Favorite scene: When Bridget scores the interview everyone wants (with an assist from Mark Darcy) and finally gets an honest-to-goodness career win. It’s a true fist-pump moment.

Where to Watch

While I’ve got each of these four films on DVD, you can watch all of these movies on Amazon Prime Video.

What holiday films are you watching this year to get in the mood for the season? An out of curiosity, you have seen The Sound of Music, haven’t you?

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