Joanna Wilson is the author of the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV and a long-time DVD Netflix subscriber.
As a researcher/writer, she has rented many films and shows to help with her work, and ended up collecting more than 1,500 DVD envelope fronts over the past 13 years.
What did she do with them? Turned them into a piece of wearable art to celebrate DVD Netflix’s 20th anniversary!
Being a huge fan of holiday films, she based the dress design off of Rosemary Clooney’s red dress in White Christmas.
You may have even seen the dress on the news or in one of our fall emails. Missed it? See the full post on the #DVDdress here.
Naturally, we asked the Christmas lover/DVD enthusiast for her list of the best holiday films to rent. Here are Joanna’s ten favorite Christmas DVDs.
George C. Scott delivers a heart-warming, Emmy-nominated performance in this faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ literary tale. This TV movie holds its own in critics’ lists for Best Christmas Carol, rivaled only by the 1951 theatrical release version starring Alastair Sim. Who says all TV movies are inferior?
This 1970 stop-motion animated, or Animagic, TV special was created by Rankin/Bass, the same team behind the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” But here, the story explains the legend and myth behind how Santa Claus came to be. This kiddie favorite also includes a favorite villain—the Burgermeister Meisterburger who outlaws toys at Christmas. Among all the Rankin/Bass animated TV specials, this one has one of the strongest soundtracks to sing along with.
A modern holiday classic due in large part to its availability on home video and repeated airings on television. A Christmas Story is one of those movies that seems to get better with repeated viewings. Everyone can relate to the burning desire for one specific toy on their Christmas list. The movie has nostalgia built right into its story as it looks back on a 1940s Christmas seen through the eyes of a sarcastic, ironic narrator, voiced by the author of the original short stories the movie was drawn from—Jean Shepherd himself. The family favorite is complex enough that I was able to write an entire book “The Triple Dog Dare” (2016) about the movie’s impact on popular culture.
Christmas TV history was made when the first Simpsons episode aired (after the family’s introduction on “The Tracey Ullman Show”) as a yuletide classic “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” This DVD collects five outstanding Simpsons holiday installments jam packed with yuletide pop culture references. However, my all-time favorite Simpsons Christmas episode “Marge Be Not Proud” in which Bart disappoints his mother when he’s caught shoplifting, can be found on Season 7, disc 2.
If you don’t immediately squeal in delight with the thought of Jim Henson’s Muppets dressed in Victorian garb, you probably are known to say ‘humbug!’ a lot too, aren’t you? This Dickens adaptation may be told with singing puppets but it’s still considered a fairly faithful adaptation—and one accessible to younger viewers too. Paul Williams’ strong soundtrack will have you singing “One More Sleep ’til Christmas” as early as November each year.
Holiday clips from previous installments of SNL serve as hilarious memories of Christmas past. This collection of clips from 1999 are pulled from the first two decades of the sketch comedy institution, with segments that are just as funny today as they have ever been. Remember Alec Baldwin’s parody NPR cooking show about Schweddy Balls? Eddie Murphy’s ghetto version of Mr. Rogers called “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood?” Who can forget Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song, Steve Martin’s A Holiday Wish, and the Lost Ending of It’s a Wonderful Life? These nostalgic favorites and more will keep you laughing through the new year.
Saturday Night Live-alum Will Ferrell hit a home run with this modern Christmas favorite. Loaded with laughs, Ferrell is a full-sized elf feeling like a fish-out-of-water in New York City as he looks to connect with his biological father. The supporting cast is outstanding as well, including wacky Amy Sedaris, straight-man James Caan, gruff Ed Asner, a grown-up Peter Billingsley, a singing Zooey Deschanel, comedy legend Bob Newhart, and even Peter Dinklage before his success on “Game of Thrones.”
Snuggle under a blanket by the fireplace to enjoy this classic Hollywood rom-com, but don’t spill your hot chocolate laughing! The great Barbara Stanwyck is caught in a web of lies struggling to keep her job as a lifestyle writer (a 1940s version of Martha Stewart). She needs to impress her publisher but she can’t help herself and loses control when she meets the handsome war hero she’s been asked to entertain for the holidays. This quintessential romantic comedy would inspire imitations for many decades trying to capture the yuletide magic seen here.
Christmas is about celebrating traditions—and this 1965 animated classic is an annual tradition. It doesn’t feel like Christmas each year until I’ve seen Charles Schulz’s much-beloved Peanuts comic strip characters, heard Vince Guaraldi’s playful jazz score, laughed at the raucous pageant’s dancers, and followed along as Charlie Brown once again searches for the non-commercial meaning behind the season.
Irving Berlin’s outstanding music surrounds two former army buddies, now song-and-dance men (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) who help out sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) with their start in show business. The feel-good ending sees all four entertainers travel to a ski lodge in Vermont to help a friend through a tough time—a wonderful holiday sentiment, indeed. Sing along with the unforgettable songs “Sisters,” “Count Your Blessings,” “Snow,” and the show-stopping “White Christmas.” Anyone who has seen this Technicolor marvel even once will understand why I was inspired to make a dress after Rosemary Clooney’s gorgeous red gown seen in the finalé.