Just like the rest of 2020, this holiday season is, well, strange.

While spending the holidays in quarantine, movies are an escape from loneliness and isolation. Not only do they entertain us, but they alleviate stress that comes from final exams and the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. Whether you’re a fan of winter or despise the cold, and regardless if you celebrate Christmas or not, these holiday-themed films invite you to slow down, drink a cup of hot cocoa, cozy up by the fire and be joyful.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

What would a holiday movie list be without at least one flick from the Home Alone franchise? Most people have watched Home Alone 2 at least once, and winter break is a great time to watch it again. The film features Macaulay Culkin as the iconic Kevin McCallister, who is once again stranded during the Christmas holiday — this time in New York City, where he crosses paths once again with the burglars Harry and Marv. This movie is my favorite from the Home Alone series; it’s funny and sweet, and it wraps up with a perfectly cheesy, Christmas-y ending. If you’re looking for a lighthearted movie to pass the time, you can’t go wrong with this movie.

The Polar Express (2004) 

While the characters in The Polar Express often invoke a sense of uncanny valley because of how eerily realistic the animation is, this movie is a popular one that I, and many others, have watched almost every Christmas season. The movie begins with a boy who doubts whether Santa is real, but when he is given the chance to travel to the North Pole on the Polar Express train and meet Santa in real life, he discovers the truth. This is another iconic movie with the typical “true meaning of Christmas” storyline. With metaphors for faith and believing in something many people cannot see, this is a classic Christmas-themed movie that might stir a sense of hope this year. That is, if you aren't creeped out by the animation.

Godmothered (2020)

Godmothered, a newly released movie airing on Disney+ this year, follows the story of a fairy godmother, Eleanor, who decides she must prove people still need fairy godmothers at Christmastime. Enter Mackenzie, a 40-year-old single mom who has lost faith in having a "happily ever after." Eleanor takes on the task of proving Mackenzie and her kids otherwise. Though this movie is somewhat cliché, it's still endearing and invokes a sense of childhood nostalgia.

Mistletoe and Menorahs (2019)

Hanukkah movies are relatively rare in comparison to Christmas movies, but in 2019, Hallmark and Lifetime added to the limited repertoire with Mistletoe and Menorahs. This movie tells the story of Christy, a toy designer who wants to impress a client by learning about Hanukkah. In order to do so, she meets Jonathan, who needs to learn about Christmas. The two enlist each other's help, and of course, typical of any Lifetime or Hallmark movie, romance ensues.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 

This one is for fans of the Peanuts comics. A Charlie Brown Christmas follows the story of Charlie Brown, who feels dejected, despite joys of the holiday season, and attempts to learn what “Christmas is all about.” This movie is a longtime classic, loved by all generations. Unfortunately, for the first time, it will be exclusively airing on Apple+ this year. If you can find a way to watch it, I'd highly recommend doing so. The old-timey animation and voice acting are comforting and nostalgic — perfect for the holidays.

Happy Feet (2006)

This might not fit the typical holiday lineup, but there are penguins in it! Happy Feet tells the tale of Mumble, a tap-dancing penguin who seeks to woo Gloria, a popular and talented emperor penguin. Mumble also tries to find a solution to overfishing and human influence that is threatening penguins in Antarctica. If you like animation, snow and penguins, this is a perfect — and totally adorable — movie. 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) 

This list would be utterly incomplete without How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In this movie, the Grinch, played by Jim Carrey, attempts to steal Christmas from the town of Whoville. Like other movies on the list, a large part of this plot is centered around “finding the true meaning of Christmas." While the plot doesn’t suit everyone’s tastes and interests, Carrey does an amazing job at playing a cynical, fuzzy green creature, and the visual effects and soundtrack are unbeatable. This is another one of my favorite Christmas movies, and if you need a flick to cheer you up and make you laugh, this is the way to go. Your face might hurt from all the smiling — something we could all use right about now.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

This movie is a hybrid between a Halloween movie and a Christmas movie. In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington, also known as the Pumpkin King, tries to restore Christmas in Halloween Town. The stop-motion animation and the visual effects are gorgeous, and it’s easy to see how much time was put into making the movie. Plus, if you’re tired of the cliché Christmas storyline, this is a great movie to watch.

Niveditha Bala is a senior at Mandela International Magnet School. Contact her at niveditha.bala@mandelainternationalschool.us

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