Our Most Memorable Holiday Movie-Watching Experiences

Do you have a tradition of watching Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas every Halloween? Did you watch Home Alone on Thanksgiving when it came out 22 years ago, or have a Lord of the Rings movie marathon with your family when you celebrate whatever you’re celebrating in December? We’re looking forward to turning on the classics, and asked some of our contributors to share their most memorable holiday movie-watching experiences.

Julie Beck
When I was in middle school, pretty much all I thought about was The Lord of the Rings, so even though we’d just seen The Two Towers (which came out during the Christmas of 2002), my best friend and I were already scheming ways to go see it again. One day, when she was planning to spend the night at my house, we spent the afternoon strategically working it into conversation, peppering my mom with not-so-subtle hints à la those kids in the Nickelodeon Magazine commercials who would mow “PLEASE BUY ME NICK MAG” into their parents’ lawns. “Doesn’t that guy over there look like Legolas?” I asked. “Mrs. Beck, look!” my best friend said. “I think I saw Shadowfax galloping over that hill!”

We didn’t really expect her to take us—we were mostly just having fun. Eventually, we gave up the chase. By 10 p.m. or so, it seemed hopeless anyway. My mom was pretty strict about curfews and bedtimes, and I said as much. About half an hour later, my mom waltzed through the living room with her car keys and told us to put our coats on and meet her outside.

“See?” she asked me. “You don’t always know what I’m going to do.”

Lisa Lenner
I remember going up to the Poconos every year with my parents and their political friends for New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, the kids would sit around and watch the Twilight Zone marathon. But what I DON’T remember is that every year since I moved to L.A., a group of friends and I get together the week before Thanksgiving to watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles and eat a lot and drink a lot. So much so that the following year, when get back into position on someone’s couch and start playing the movie, I’d have no idea what happens. Thinking about it now, I have no recollection why John Candy and Steve Martin land up traveling together.

Caroline Leung
My mom and I spent the first Christmas after she left my father watching It’s Complicated. (My mother, bless her: a devotee to all things cornball, though hardly a connoisseur.) The plot, though all too appropriate, wasn’t an issue. As far as she was concerned, the only worthwhile romance in that film lay strictly in the impossible conveniences of a Californian life: The behemoth of a kitchen; a sofa you can drown in; lavender-honey ice cream—homemade, natch. My mom had moved out only a week prior to my visit, and her new apartment was still relatively bare.

A few days later she bought something large, wooden, and disturbingly rustic, though not the Christmas tree my dad never bothered with growing up. It was a ridiculously overpriced and oversized bench for her new foyer, delivered during the lull between Christmas and New Year’s.

“Merry Christmas,” the man mumbled as my mom, gleeful for the first time in decades, signed off on the slip. It was the best present she’d ever bought herself.

Bennett Madison
My boyfriend and I watched all of Twin Peaks together around the vicinity of our first Thanksgiving together, when we were very poor. It is a “tradition” in the sense that we always mean to do it again every year, but we haven’t yet. And he always watches the James Bond marathon on Thanksgiving while I cook and yell at him.

Mike McGrath
Way back in the winter holiday of 1995, my grandmother, “Dearie,” took me and my cousins Sarah and David on a trip to Cleveland for David’s 10th birthday. The highlight was supposed to be the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I can’t recall a single exhibit. Instead, I remember our hotel room double feature, Waterworld and Desperado. We sat on the floor and ate room service cheeseburgers. I don’t think Dearie expected quite so much sexy action in Desperado, but she didn’t make us turn it off or feel embarrassed. Later that year, while visiting Dearie’s house, I found a VHS copy of Desperado in her basement. I miss her every day.

Eric Spiegelman
There’s a weird tradition of watching a James Bond marathon, not on Thanksgiving itself but in those slow lazy days after. It’s not really a tradition, just something that seems to happen; it probably started with a James Bond marathon on TNT or something. My favorite Bond is Sean Connery, my favorite Bond film is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (with Lazenby) and my favorite Bond screenplay is Living Daylights (with Dalton). I’ll watch Bond movies any time. Thanksgiving is just as excuse to watch like five of them.

Kate Tellers
Growing up, I assumed that everyone’s holidays, like mine, were “like a picture print from Currier and Ives.” On Christmas Eve, in every house in America, baby Jesus was ceremoniously being placed into the creche under a tree hung with colored paper ornaments stuck together with Elmer’s glue. Aunts and uncles caroled as Grandy lined the younger generation up in height order for the March of the Wooden Soldiers, which would send the older generation, now drunk, stumbling off to Midnight Mass.

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, and on a date at a tea shop with a Jewish Anglophile, that I realized that our family’s exuberant approach to Christmas fell outside of the norm (oh, and also some people don’t even have Christmas). To build anticipation for the day, in addition to the advent calendar (obviously), when I was in third grade, my father decided to read a few pages of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to me every night before bed. It was arguably a dense story for an eight-year-old, but I was on board until Tiny Tim died. I was heartbroken. And then I turned and saw my father, the unflappable man who once when grating mozzarella for pizza and accidentally scraping off the tip of his finger shrugged, continued grating, and said “I guess somebody is going to eat that,” was crying.

My entire world was turned upside-down. I couldn’t tell any of my friends (who I presumed were also reading A Christmas Carol with hardcore stoic dude-dads). I spoke of this only in one feverishly scrawled entry in my diary. The following year, my father got a copy of George C. Scott’s A Christmas Carol on VHS, and announced that we would be having annual viewings (because we needed more traditions). So every December, I invented last-minute science projects and headaches so I could opt out. I just wasn’t ready to accept that my father was fallible and human. I’ll probably be ready in two hundred years.

Jia Tolentino
Like many families with first-generation Americans at the head, the Tolentinos aren’t too traditional about Thanksgiving. One year we went out for sushi; another time, we picked up pizza; once, when I was in high school, my mom chucked a to-go bag of Boston Market on the kitchen table and trilled happily that she’d snagged the last of the cornbread.

I protested. I wanted to have a real Thanksgiving (relatedly, I also wanted to make cheerleader, to get my braces off, to stop being an ethnic 12-year-old in a homogenous country club of a high school). So my family made plans to spend our next Thanksgiving with friends, gorging ourselves in the all-American way, or at least an approximation of its spirit. For the potluck, we made spaghetti instead of stuffing, roasted a big fish in the oven right underneath the turkey. My mom went to the supermarket for apple pie, and returned with a sheet cake festooned with autumnal flowers, reading “Happy Thanksgiving!” in orange cursive.

And then, in the damp warmth of a Texas late fall, we drove out to a house in the suburbs. We sat down at a warmly lit table, a dozen Filipino-Americans at a heavy, hybrid feast. We refilled our plates and stuffed ourselves, and once we were done, we looked around blankly. We’d fulfilled tradition. What next?

“I have a movie,” someone said. “But it’s Jackass: The Movie.

“Sure!” we said. We moved to the living room and curled up on the couches, and as we passed cups of coffee and plates of cake, we watched Steve-O stuff raw chicken down his pants and walk a tightrope over a pit of alligators. Shamelessly, we gawked at grown men snorting wasabi, sticking toy cars up their butts, then shooting firecrackers out of them. The light from the television made the fake gourds glow. It was Thanksgiving, my first real one, and my best.

Amanda Tomas
My dad is LOTR obsessed. He is a huge sci-fi/fantasy nerd, and grew up reading Tolkien’s books. When the LOTR trilogy came out, he was beside himself. Every Christmas morning since the first movie came out on DVD, my sisters and I would wake up early, sneak downstairs to open our stockings, wait for our parents to wake up, then we’d all eat breakfast and take turns opening our presents.

After all the wrapping paper had been cleaned up and we had gorged ourselves on chocolate oranges, my dad would say, “Time for Lord of the Rings, everybody!,” my mom would say, “Ugh, again, Steve? I’ll be up in a while,” and my sisters and I would all run upstairs and pile into my parents’ bed, and my Dad would start up the first movie with great fanfare. It was an all-day LOTR marathon, and sometimes he’d even play all the DVD extras at the end as well. We would wander in and out of my parents’ bedroom throughout the day and evening, stopping in to watch our favorite scenes. The day after Christmas was usually a Matrix marathon.


Editor’s Note: This story is brought to you by the Samsung Galaxy S III. Stories like this are purely editorial, presented by a participating sponsor; advertisers do not produce them.


50 Comments / Post A Comment

Holy shit, that Desperado story is heartbreaking.

thecoffeestain (#1,483)

The video was PERFECT! *Swoons*

Great Job Logan & Mike!

blair (#1,962)

Your holiday memories are, of course, wonderfully charming, but mostly it’s just cool to see people from the internet moving and talking! VIDEO

jfruh (#161)

@blair GOD YES HOW ADORABLE ARE MIKE AND LOGAN??? (Answer: Super adorable)

readyornot (#816)

@jfruh super duper adorable. love this so much.

OhMarie (#299)

@jfruh SO ADORABLE. I feel like I have similar hair to Logan and stylists always give me crappy insubstantial bangs. I am legitimately considering getting a screencap and bringing it next time. Or maybe only huge tippers can get those bangs?

Nick (#1,548)

They really are surprisingly adorbs. I want Mike & Logan action figures!

@Nick I was like “Logan looks different” and was puzzled until I realized that yes, Logan indeed looks different from a dream I had where I met her in a weird coffeeshop and we talked about pens or something. God. I’m creepy sorry ):

jfruh (#161)

Nothing says “Easter” to me like flipping between The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur, which are inevitably programmed against each other.

@jfruh I read this too quickly and thought you said, “Nothing says ‘Ester’ to me like ‘The Ten Commandments’ and ‘Ben Hur,'” which would have been hilarious. But yes! Thanksgiving in my family meant Indiana Jones marathons on basic cable. That kind of routine provided order in a chaotic world.

Brunhilde (#78)

@jfruh Which is why I own them both on DVD now. And also they sometimes split the Ten Commandments up into two nights? Screw that. I want to see that stoned out of his mind fucker coming down from the mountain 4 hours after I see him get pulled from the Nile.

Nick (#1,548)

Kingdom of Heaven (Director’s Cut) is my go-to Easter movie. SO good (and SO beautiful on Blu-ray).

wearitcounts (#772)

AHMAHGAH i love this!

wearitcounts (#772)

@wearitcounts also no holiday movie traditions as of yet but i’ve noticed right around football season is when i really want to watch Jerry Maguire and Any Given Sunday.

Nick (#1,548)

@wearitcounts Add Moneyball to that list, it’s the best! (Not football, but still sports, so.)

So no one else’s holiday movie tradition is everyone escaping to the couch to read at least one/possibly all of the new books they got? The best holidays with my family are the quietest (so, not Thanksgiving, ergh).

pizza (#599)

@polka dots vs stripes I do that! Well, I do that early then I spend a few hours cooking. Then I get drunk and watch Home Alone and Meet the Parents so I guess I have a book/movie tradition.

Dancercise (#94)

My family always had the Comedy Central “Turkey Day” marathon of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on all day on Thanksgiving. To this day, it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without at least one MST3K episode.

@Dancercise um that sounds real fun

Dancercise (#94)

@Logan Sachon
It is the best. I always lobby hard for Space Mutiny or Riding with Death, and my dad just wants to watch Pod People every year.

faustbanana (#2,376)

@Dancercise Holy crap, yes. I think I have an old VHS tape with some OG Turkey Day footage on it. Must unearth this tape!

Riding With Death: The Ted Kennedy Story

bookworm (#481)

@Dancercise Space Mutiny is the best. “My Buns of Steel tapes!”

So many good memories of watching MST3K with my best friend and her cousin and with my mom and brother.

Dancercise (#94)

My favorite line of the whole series is from Riding with Death.
Buffalo Bill: “Looks like there’s a bear in the air back your way.”
Crow: “Wingéd bears?! Oh my God, it’s the end time!”

Megano! (#124)

I always watch The Nightmare Before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow on Halloween. Sometimes From Hell. And then any other horror movies I have around that I haven’t seen yet (which is uh, a few).
Also: Home Alone 2 is the way better Home Alone. Because luxury hotel beats your own home any day.

Nick (#1,548)

@Megano! Watch The Cabin in the Woods this year. Best horror movie ever.

@Megano! Home Alone 2 for liiiiiiife!”You was here, and you was smoochin’ with my brotha!”

I strongly object to the absence of Titanic in this piece. TITANIC + CHRISTMAS 4EVA.

Hocus Pocus on Halloween! Oh, what a great movie. So great. And also a double feature of the Garfield Halloween special and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (yes, not movies, but still totally awesome).

selenana (#673)

@Amanda Webber@facebook Charlie Brown 4-eva. That is my holiday tradition – watching Peanuts specials on tape or DVD.

muggles (#1,525)

I guess my everyday reality is too close to Halloween… but I always watch Nightmare Before Christmas on ~Christmas Eve~, of course!

Also Love Actually and/or The Holiday with my mom!

lhorntx (#2,302)

seriously loved this video. You guys should do this more often!

We always watch My Cousin Vinny at the holidays. It’s the one movie everybody can agree on.

Brunhilde (#78)

My family tends to marathon National Lampoon movies. My aunt and uncle wear tacky sweaters and drink Bailey’s spiked beverages from mugs with moose ears, even.

nerd alert (#436)

Trading Places is a MUST for Christmas at my house. That and drinking whiskey with my dad and brother while playing Monopoly.

deepomega (#22)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was always on during my mom’s holiday parties, and when I got tired of old people I’d go upstairs and watch it. Real thematically appropriate.

BornSecular (#2,245)

My dad always makes us watch A Christmas Carol, the version in black & white with Alastair Sim at least once between Thanksgiving & New Year’s. We’ve seen it so many times at this point that even our in-laws are in on the quotes, jokes, and tradition. At this point, it wouldn’t be the holiday season with out it.

BornSecular (#2,245)

@BornSecular My husband and I were actually just quoting lines from it to each other a few nights ago, in anticipation.

faustbanana (#2,376)

Last year my sister and I watched What About Bob?, but that was a one-off. Our only tradition involves eating all the candy from our stockings withing one (1) hour of opening gifts, and cracking the wine around 11 AM. Why, this will be the gout-iest Christmas of them all!

j-i-a (#746)



florabora (#123)

I ended up watching the first Harold & Kumar movie with my mother in a hotel last summer, somehow, we found out they were making a Christmas one, and I joked that we could go see it because she liked the first one and it somehow became a plan. We didn’t have time when I was home for Thanksgiving. I went home for Christmas, and before Christmas, the movie was already out of theatres! What! Doesn’t even make sense.

Tragically, all through college, every Passover I would try to get people to watch The Ten Commandments with me (I’m not Jewish, I just like the movie). For some reason no one ever wanted to sit down and watch a four hour long epic religious movie with me. Hm.

And nearly every Halloween and Thanksgiving I manage to miss the Charlie Brown specials (and now I don’t live in America, boo).

This is a comment full of sob stories.

pandajerk (#1,737)

I have to watch Scream every Halloween, and I talked about it so much so that my friends and I have started a Chili and Movie Marathon. Last year was every Scream movie (which required a combination of Netflix, Blockbuster and Amazon Instant Video to cobble together). This year is Hocus Pocus and Ghostbusters, which my friend has never seen and that upsets me because it practically defined how I am as a person (Print is dead.)

I also watch The Santa Clause every Christmas and I’ll just show myself out now.

eraserface (#1,628)

You guys sound nothing like I thought you sounded like in my head. ILLUSIONS SHATTERED.

Also, I annoy my family endlessly by requiring that It’s a Wonderful Life be watched every Thanksgiving regardless of circumstance. I usually end up watching it alone in my parents bedroom. BUT I got married this year which means I can at least force one other person to watch with me mwhahaha marriage

meg (#329)

sausage in pastry = pigs in a blanket!

bookworm (#481)

Home Alone always reminds me of Christmas with my mom and little brother (who was about the same age as MC when it came out). To this day a pizza cannot be ordered without someone saying “a delicious cheese pizza just for me.”

Smith4Life (#2,491)

My family watches White Christmas every. single. Christmas. And every single year, at the part in which Bing Crosby tells Danny Kaye that the Marilyn Monroe look-a-like with the Norma Cassidy voice that Danny is trying to get him a date is a hoe (in the nicest, most Bing-like way ever), and Danny says, “All right, so she didn’t go to college, she didn’t go to Smith!” My parents turn to me, their Smith graduate daughter and say, in unison, “SMITH!” and crack up. Every year. Every year. God bless them.

Then we watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and we all cry. Then my Dad and I watch James Bond. Just to get the crying out of our system.

James Bond. All the way. My mother gets pissed (I don’t know why; it’s James Fucking Bond) and goes to decorate the living room, and my dad & I break out some Jack Daniels and watch Bond. I am married, with a kid, happily in my own house, but around Thanksgiving I am with my dad. For James Bond.

Karencarrot (#2,492)

My mom’s last Christmas before she died, we kids drank red wine and Delirium Noel ale. After photo and gift time, my brother popped in A Muppet Christmas Carol and to this day, I tear up if one of its songs pops into my head. Our other favorites were A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott, A Christmas Story, White Christmas and Nightmare Before Christmas.
I’ve lived really far from my family for many years… Christmas doesn’t really mean much to me unless they’re around.

Whyyyy have you never seen Die Hard?! The first one (the only one, really) is one of the best action movies ever. Also taking place at Christmastime.

susanhan (#4,883)

My son loves the House at the end of the street movie and he insists to watch it in every week-end, this is one of my favorite movies and I don`t mind at all. I like Mike McGrath`s family tradition, my grandmother also likes watching a certain movie, I took her five times to the cinema so she could watch “La vita e bella movie”, this film is her favorite one.

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