We’re nearing the finish line of the first set of the Ultimate Christmas Movie Showdown eliminations. Mighty favourites have toppled, while some more modern festive hits have remained afloat. In today’s two face offs, we’ve got a head-to-head battle of holiday romances and a battle of the certified Christmas classics. Will George Bailey and It’s A Wonderful Life reign supreme over Judy Garland and Meet Me In St. Louis? And will Love, Actually prove victorious or will dark horse The Holiday sneak in for a surprise win?
Read up on all four films below then weigh in and vote for your picks!
Love, Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis’s crowd-pleaser is full of cliches from top to bottom, but it doesn’t follow that Love, Actually is a bad movie. It has decidedly less-than-stellar storylines, that’s true—the less said about the American stunners enchanted by an English accent, the better—but it also has some pretty great ones. Okay, maybe great is pushing it. But the film is cast so well that it’s easy to look past the less original aspects and focus on the good, like possibly the best British cast this side of Hogwarts: Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Martin Freeman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln, and Liam Neeson. With a gorgeous score courtesy of Craig Armstrong, a positively festive London setting, and a heart-warming core message that love is all around, Love, Actually has rightly become a holiday tradition for movie fans looking for some genuine, cozy cinematic comfort. – Emma Badame
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%
The Holiday (2006)
House swapping has never looked as good as it does in The Holiday. With Cameron Diaz trading in her Hollywood mansion for Kate Winslet’s cozy winter cottage, the Christmas rom-com manages to deliver some genuine laughs despite an inevitable conclusion. Here, Jude Law is at his mid-2000s era handsomest as a doting dad and Jack Black managing to not be at his most over-the-top. Sure, like most Christmas movies, the transatlantic romance is corny, but thanks to Nancy Meyers’ direction and a smart script, it rises well-above the normal Hallmark movie schmaltzy-ness one might expect. With visual gags, sparkling dialogue, and a look at singledom that actually feels honest, The Holiday is a festive flick that will warm even the coldest hearts. – Rachel West
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Voting ends December 8 at 11:59 EST.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
The timeless tale of George Bailey (James Stewart) begins with our hero planning to end it all on Christmas Eve. Yet for a Christmas movie with an unusually dark premise, few films tug at the heart as warmly as It’s a Wonderful Life does. George’s guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes and shows him how his family and the town of Bedford Falls would suffer in his absence. In doing so, and contrasting George’s radiant spirit with the coldness of his greedy foe Mr. Potter, the film reminds audiences that one should not define success or happiness by material wealth.
Driven by Stewart’s iconic performance as a middle-class American everyman who simply wants the best for his family, It’s a Wonderful Life delivers an enduring message about the value of family and community. It’s a Wonderful Life is as unabashedly sentimental as it sounds, but the film’s earnestness is as comforting as a cup of mulled wine by a fire. Its message on kindness and neighbourly cheer is more important than ever as we all hunker down with a “we’re all in this together” mindset for the cold months ahead. Perhaps more powerfully than it does every year, It’s a Wonderful Life should reaffirm its status as the ultimate Christmas movie. 2020 might yield a difficult holiday season for many of us when COVID limits gathering with family and friends. For anyone feeling lonely these holiday, the film should provide a reassuring reminder that “social distancing” is just a state of mind. – Pat Mullen
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Nostalgia and family are the orders of the day in this colourful Vincente Minnelli-directed MGM musical comedy. Like several of our other Showdown films, Meet Me in St. Louis deals with more than one annual holiday but it’s the winter vignettes that remain the film’s most memorable. The film follows the Smith family as they learn about life, love, disappointment, and heartbreak all as their beloved city prepares for the 1904 World’s Fair. Star Judy Garland, positively luminous here as daughter Esther, introduced audiences to a host of now-familiar songs like “The Trolley Song” and “The Boy Next Door”. But it’s the debut of the stellar “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in a scene with Garland and a heart-breakingly good Margaret O’Brien for which the film is most famous. Walking a thin line between hopeful and weary, the song struck a chord with WWII audiences and has since gone on to become one of the most-performed Christmas songs of all time.
Unlike It’s A Wonderful Life, Meet Me in St. Louis was a massive critical and commercial success when it was released. Sweet without becoming saccharine and optimistic without becoming idealistic, it remains one of classic Hollywood’s best musicals and a holiday treat for audiences of all ages. – EB
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Voting ends December 8 at 11:59 EST.
The elimination showdown runs from December 1 until the 23, with the Ultimate Christmas Movie being unveiled on Christmas Eve! You can vote here, on Twitter, or on Instagram. Find out if your favourites are in the running below, then tune in tomorrow for two new face offs…