Tales of the Season –Favorite Holiday Films & TV Specials

Beth Fhaner
 | Nov 13, 2017


The holiday season inspires many different stories. A Christmas Carol (Nov. 24-Dec. 24, Segerstrom Stage) and Sugar Plum Fairy—Sandra Tsing Loh’s hilarious holiday tale of preteen angst, sibling rivalry and ballerina dreams (Dec. 2-24, Julianne Argyros Stage)—are just two tales of the season. Check out the list we compiled of some of our favorite binge-worthy holiday films and TV specials. Happy viewing! 

Other Holiday Traditions

Several other entertaining traditions mark the holiday season such as festive parades, dance productions and plays, tree-lighting events, decorating with lights and much more. Here are a few fun traditions to kick off the holiday season:

The Nutcracker
Balletomanes across the country eagerly await this classic production every year. With Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, dazzling set designs and gorgeous costumes, this two-act ballet is the perfect way to celebrate the season.

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
If you’re lucky enough to be in New York City over the holidays, don’t miss this annual musical holiday stage show featuring the women’s precision dance troupe, the Rockettes. Since the show’s first incarnation was presented in 1933, the Christmas Spectacular has become a holiday tradition in the Big Apple. The show tours nationally, too.

Tree-Lighting Festivities
Several cities across the country hold tree-lighting ceremonies to honor the holiday season. Among the most famous tree-lighting ceremonies in the world is the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which will be lit for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 29. Each year, thousands crowd the sidewalks for the event, while millions will view it live on TV. The tree will remain lit and can be viewed until 9 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2018.

Trees Closer to Home 
South Coast Plaza's annual tree-lighting ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m., on Thursday, Nov. 16 (Town Center Park, adjacent to The Westin South Coast Plaza).

Fashion Island's annual tree-lighting ceremony happens on two days: Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18, at 6: 30p.m. 

christmas_storyA Christmas Story (1983)
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” This beloved holiday movie follows the adventures of young Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who wants only one thing for Christmas—an official Red Ryder BB gun. Don’t miss this modern classic that has inspired a legion of fans to visit “A Christmas Story House,” a museum devoted to the film in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Since 1997, a marathon of the film titled “24 Hours of A Christmas Story” has aired annually on TV on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

love-actuallyLove Actually (2003)
A favorite film that is required viewing for many at the holidays, this Christmas-themed romantic comedy features an ensemble cast and interlinked stories about the different aspects of love. The stellar cast includes Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley and Bill Nighy. Most of the movie was shot on location in London including scenes at Trafalgar Square, the Millennium Bridge, the central court of Somerset house in the Strand, Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, Canary Wharf, Marble Arch, the OXO Tower, London City Hall, London Heathrow Airport and more.

ElfElf  (2003)
Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, who was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. The adult Buddy (in full elf regalia) decides to travel to New York to search for his biological father. After a DNA test proves that Walter Hobbs (James Caan) is Buddy’s real father, the cynical businessman attempts to start a relationship with his childlike son—with often hilarious results. The movie inspired the 2010 Broadway musical Elf: The Musical and NBC’s 2014 stop-motion animated TV special, Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas. Fun Fact: Will Ferrell is an alumnus of SCR’s Acting Intensive Program

white_christmasWhite Christmas (1954)
This sentimental yuletide favorite stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as singers who join a sister act (Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen) to perform a Christmas show in rural Vermont. While there, they run into Gen. Waverly, the boys’ commander in World War II, who is going through a tough financial time regarding his country inn. The charming foursome plans a holiday musical extravaganza to help Waverly and his business get back on track. This musical romantic-comedy features the music of Irving Berlin, including a new version of the title song, “White Christmas,” which was first introduced by Crosby in the film Holiday Inn.

Nightmare-Before-ChristmasThe Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Produced and conceived by Tim Burton, this stop-motion, darkly comic animated film was directed by Henry Selick. Jack Skellington, a resident from “Halloween Town” stumbles through a portal to “Christmas Town” and decides to celebrate the holiday with sometimes wicked results. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack. Fun fact: In 1982, Burton wrote a poem while he was working as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation and his verse was the origin for The Nightmare Before Christmas.

wonderful-lifeIt’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Directed and produced by Frank Capra, this fantasy/drama is perhaps the ultimate Christmas movie and it’s become traditional viewing during the holiday season. James Stewart stars as George Bailey, a frustrated businessman whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George all of the lives he has touched and the profound impact he’s had on the community of Bedford Falls. Zuzu Bailey’s oft-quoted line:  “Look, Daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

Other recommended holiday films: Miracle on 34th Street (1957), The Holiday (2006), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), Home Alone (1990), Scrooged (1988),  Holiday Inn (1942), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), The Santa Claus (1994),  The Polar Express (2004), Die Hard (1988), The Family Stone (2005), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), The Best Man Holiday (2013), Four Christmases (2008), Christmas with the Kranks (2004), You’ve Got Mail (1998), Bad Santa (2003), The Perfect Holiday (2007), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), Noel (2004), National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) and many more!

Favorite holiday TV specials: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), Frosty the Snowman (1969), Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1967)

Learn more and buy tickets to A Christmas Carol and Sugar Plum Fairy.