There is no getting around bringing some sort of electronic distraction while traveling with kids of any age. Depending on the length of your flight or road trip, everyone is bound to burn out on auto bingo or required reading.
Here is my list of the top 20 holiday films that will keep you in the Christmas spirit even if fights or smells continually break out in the back seat of a plane, train or automobile. Full disclosure: my children are ages 6 and 9, and the only film they have not seen is Christmas Vacation (due to language and some subject matter.)
1. It’s a Wonderful Life. Rated: PG -Director Frank Capra manages to always pull tears from my eyes no matter how many times I’ve seen this film. In short, it’s a story of how valuable every person’s life is.
2. The Polar Express. Rated: G- Hot chocolate flow and mayhem ensue when a little boy makes the trip of a lifetime on a train to meet Santa and some new friends.
3. A Christmas Story. Rated: PG- Based on the true tales of boyhood by the late novelist, Jean Shepherd, A Christmas Story embodies the spirit of Christmastime as told through the eyes of a kid.
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Rated: PG-13- The Griswold’s are at it again. Except this time, Clark is attempting to craft the perfect family staycation complete with every Christmas clique and disaster known to the holidays up until the late 80s. Randy Quaid (as cousin Eddie) is at his best in this National Lampoon’s Vacation film series. (Not recommended for kids under age 10.)
5. A Christmas Carol. Rated: PG- My top pick is the 1984 George C. Scott version, but you can’t go wrong with this Dickens classic. If your kids are under the age of 7, you may want to go with Disney’s version or #20 on this list.
6. ELF. Rated: PG- Will Ferrell of SNL and Anchorman fame, stars in this tale about a North Pole elf that tries to make his way in the human world after learning that he is a human himself.
7. Frosty the Snowman. Rated: G- Watch the original cartoon that keeps generations of kids singing this classic Christmas song. Oh, Jimmy Durante lends his voice to the cartoon’s narration as well.
8. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rated: G- Apparently, the 1960s were a great time to make Christmas flicks for kids. Follow Rudolph and his other misfits during their journey of self discovery and acceptance. Most importantly, your kids can learn more about why bumbles bounce and why elf dentists face discrimination.
9. Home Alone. Rated: PG- What happens when an eight-year-old boy is left behind from a trip to Paris? If you said child services shows up, you’re wrong. Although, Lifetime or the Hallmark might have a similar movie. Remember, this film predates cell phones.
10. White Christmas. Rated: G- Bing Crosby stars and performs the song that shares the film’s title. Crosby co-stars with none other than George Clooney’s mom, Rosemary Clooney, and dancing legend, Vera-Ellen.
11. Christmas in Connecticut. Rated: G- The 1945 black-and-white version stars Barbara Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane-the Martha Stewart of her time that can’t even boil eggs.
12. The Bishops Wife. Rated: G- Cary Grant is dashing as ever in this 1947 classic about an angel that helps patch up the life of a man-of-the-cloth.
13. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Rated: G- Boris Karloff narrates this 1966 short animated classic by Dr. Seuss. Sing along, it won’t make you grinchy if you do!
14. The Santa Clause. Rated: PG- Released in 1994, this is the first in the three-part Santa Clause series about a dad that becomes Santa Claus in spite of being a grown-up and a Santa doubter. Tim Allen stars in this movie during the heyday of his hit TV series, Home Improvement.
15. The Nightmare Before Christmas. Rated: PG- This Tim Burton animated film centers around the character, Jack Skellington, as he makes the leap from Halloweentown to Christmas Town.
16. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Rated: G- Leave it to the Peanuts Gang to tell the true story of Christmas. The 25-minute cartoon originally aired in 1965 and continues to entertain generations during the holidays.
17. Miracle on 34th Street. Rated: G- The 1947 version will have everyone believing in Santa Claus. Miracle on 34th street is the story of a young lawyer that ends up defending the existence of Santa Claus and a little girl that never lost faith.
18. Arthur Christmas. Rated: PG- This animated film released in 2011 is about Santa’s younger and more clumsy son, Arthur, that ends up saving Christmas.
19. Gift of the MAGI. Rated: G- The short film released in 1958, is based on one of the works of O. Henry and is the story of poor newlyweds that discover the real gift of Christmas is not about the presents.
20. Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Rated: G- As much as I love Dickens and his masterpiece, Jacob Marley’s ghost might be a bit too frightening for youngsters under 7-years-old. Disney’s 1983 cartoon gives this story a softer touch, and who doesn’t love Disney during the holidays?