They’ve been making Christmas movies for about as long as they’ve made films. That’s almost literal. A movie called Santa Claus was made way back in 1898. No, I didn’t transpose two numbers. That movie came out in the 1800s. That’s “train coming at the screen” era. Since then, they’ve made dozens of Christmas movies, the exact number coming down to your personal definition. Some of them I really like. The thing is, as I look over the history of Christmas movies, they didn’t really start making good Christmas movies for quite some time.
I’m not just talking about the obviously bad ones. Of course Santa Claus, the one where Santa squares off with Mr. Pitch, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians are bad. Babes in Toyland is lame. Even some of the ones people like I’m not that into, though. I’ve never been a fan of It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a big maudlin and saccharine for my tastes. The kind of movie that made people think Frank Capra only made corny flicks. The original Miracle on 34th Street? Not so good. Well, that’s true of every version of that story.
I don’t really like any version of A Christmas Carol save for maybe the Muppets version. Well, Scrooged came out before that and is sort of a version of that story too. Can’t go wrong with Bill Murray…usually. There is that movie with an elephant he made.
The first definitive, without a doubt really good Christmas movie to come out, in my mind, is Gremlins. That came out in 1984. Yes, one year after Trading Places. That movie is not good. It’s ridiculous and mean spirited and not all that funny. However, there are a couple films that are basically Christmas movies that I think are solid. I wouldn’t call either of them really good, or even good, but they are pretty good. That way, I’m not saying there was almost a century of Christmas films before they made one worth seeing.