You have heard friends and family tell you their favorite holiday films: It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Some people absolutely cannot go through the holiday season without a viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas whereas others feel the same about A Christmas Story. Whatever it may be, this collection features holiday films that were released in the 90s, a few of which remain mainstays every holiday season.
Best Holiday Movies for Kids/Families
Home Alone (1990)
For those of us that grew up during the time this was released, it was the holiday blockbuster that came out of left field. Nobody expected it to become a holiday classic nor did anyone foresee how much money it would make at the box office (17th biggest hit of the 90s with over $476 million worldwide). Macaulay Culkin was a nobody until every kid was trying to mimic him after watching him play an entertaining and comical game of cat and mouse with two burglars played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Is it my favorite? No. Is it a good time? Absolutely, especially if you have children of your own in the 7-12 age range.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1993)
If Home Alone goes on any Christmas movie list, you have to include the sequel for the mere fact that it is on par with the original. Kevin returns, but this time the situation drops him in the heart of New York City where the Wet Bandits have reappeared, played again by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Featuring a funny little cameo by future President of the United States Donald Trump (even if you don’t like him, it’s a nice moment), Home Alone 2 can be watched right after the original or as a standalone film. Yeah, this sequel is that good.
The Santa Clause (1994)
Tim Allen was one of the biggest TV stars of the 90s due to the incredibly successful sitcom, Home Improvement. That success never translated to the big screen with the exception of this sincere film about an ad executive that has to replace Santa Clause after St. Nick has an accident on his roof. Usually known for crude and obnoxious humor, Allen reins it in for this film and delivers what is most likely his best movie performance. It’s a sweet homage to the jolly man in the red suit as well as a enjoyable film the family can enjoy together over Christmas cookies and hot chocolate.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
One of the only films in history that can be called both a Christmas and Halloween film. It is the quintessential holiday film that magically meshes the two festive holidays into one phenomenal piece of cinema. A lot of people think Tim Burton directed this, but he was the producer and has his name in the title of course. However, Henry Selick is the director and does not get enough credit for a holiday classic that has had far more success after its release in theaters as newer generations have taken a liking to it.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Quirky yet dark; sweet, but gloomy, Edward Scissorhands is Tim Burton at his emo Gothic best. While it does not have nearly the amount of laughs as Burton’s previous film, Beetlejuice, this tale, also starring Winona Ryder, is more of an old-fashioned romance between the girl next door and a social outcast to the extreme. As much as the film gives off an eerie feeling, it pulls at the heartstrings and is an amazing visual adventure as well. It also gives a peek at Johnny Depp in a leading movie role with this being the second such role for the year (Cry-Baby was the other).
The Below are NOT Family-Friendly Christmas Movies From the 90s
The Ref (1993)
If you did not grow up or live through the 90s, there is a strong chance you are unfamiliar with comedian Denis Leary, who starred in this dark comedy about a burglar that kidnaps a dysfunctional couple on the verge of divorce. What is great about this film is its humor comes strictly from dialogue and character, most notably Leary and the incredibly tense back and forth bickering between Kevin Spacey, who plays the husband, and Judy Davis, who plays his wife.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
I miss Geena Davis. She was once an A-list actress and this is perhaps the last film in which she was the leading lady. If you enjoy a great action flick, this one is filled with it and Davis plays one bad ass heroine. It also stars Samuel L. Jackson as a private eye trying to discover the truth behind Davis’ past. Not only does Jackson provide a lot of the film’s comedy, he has claimed The Long Kiss Goodnight is his favorite film to watch of all the movies he has been in. This is a great one for the holiday, especially if you’re a fan of action films.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
I almost did not include this one until I realized it is a decent action flick set against the backdrop of the Christmas season. It also features Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans, and a young, up-and-coming Halle Berry. More importantly, it was written by Shane Black, a writer and director who almost always sets his films and screenplays around Christmas. An interesting caveat about this film is that it helped Willis maintain (or regain) his action star status after his Hudson Hawk came out six months earlier to disastrous results. Truth is, after Die Hard 2, Willis had a string of bombs and unsuccessful films in the early 90s. This was one of the few decent ones during those years until he turned it around beginning with Pulp Fiction in 1994.
Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) turned out to be one of the most successful films of the 80s and set up this successful sequel. It could be said that the Batman Returns was more anticipated than its predecessor because it featured Danny DeVito as Penguin and bombshell Michelle Pfeifer as Catwoman. While it does not quite have the impact that Batman did, it still possesses many of Burton’s great traits: great scenery and costume design. In addition, DeVito and Catwoman turn in a great Penguin and Catwoman so this one should not be overlooked come Christmastime.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
It truly amazes me how overlooked this Die Hard is in terms of the franchise itself. Many fans of the franchise often pick the original and than the third installment as the best. I disagree with both. Die Hard 2 is fantastic and easily, in my opinion, the best non-family Christmas movie of the 90s. There are no dull moments in this one as John McClane returns on Christmas Eve to pick up his wife at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC, one of the busiest airports in the world. That, in itself, creates a continuous tension in this film that leaves you bouncing on the edge of your seat. Add to that a villain that has taken over control of the air traffic tower at Dulles where planes are circling above due to inclement weather and you have a nightmare situation that makes the situation in the original Die Hard seem easy.