The pantheon of Christmas-themed movies is vast and downright overwhelming. Everything from kids fare to horror movies to odd hybrids (read: Home Alone) has been made. So this selection will miss a few particular hallmark holiday cinema-going experiences. But hopefully consuming a few of the drinks paired with these five Christmas-themed movies soften any insults felt by the unavoidable omission.
This all-time Frank Capra classic stars James Stewart as George Baily, a man who contemplates committing suicide on Christmas Eve until his guardian angel intervenes. Dark stuff on the surface, but the deft direction and acting taps into the central truth that life really is the greatest gift of all. Hokey, but true. As for the drink, we’ll lean into the advice given by the movie’s Nick the bartender: “We serve hard drinks here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don’t need any characters around to give the joint ’atmosphere.’” Interpret that as you see fit.
Almost all of Will Ferrell’s cinematic characters could be described as man-boys, but Elf—one of his first star roles—perfects that artful balance. Buddy, a “human” elf that traipses to the Big Apple to reconnect with his family, offers countless memorable comedic sequences: bear-hugging a Christmas tree, consuming meals that are so sweet your teeth actually ache, an epic snowball fight, just to name a few. Even the end, which includes a singing Zoey Deschanel long before her Him and Her days, manages to be touching, not cloying—proof that there’s a kind heart beating at the core of the movie. Pair this with a big glass of peppermint Schnapps, in honor of Buddy’s undying affection for syrup.
For a certain generation, A Christmas Story is the quintessential holiday movie. It documents a family’s exploits as they weather through the wintery confines of a small Indiana suburb. First released in 1983, it’s since gained wide viewership thanks to 24-hour marathons on cable channels, where the oft-quoted lines (“You’ll shoot your eye out!” “Fra-gil-e….must be Italian.” “Show mommy how the little piggies eat.” “The F-dash-dash-dash word”), partner with the equally memorable scenes (the tongue-stuck-to-a-flag-pol, the electric sex gleaming in the window, the snowsuit so fluffy you can’t put your arms down, the pink bunny costume). Pay homage to Ralph’s need to drink all the Ovaltine so he can acquire that decoder ring by mixing a Spiced Chocolate, a bracing cocktail of good tequila, dark chocolate liqueur, and Patron XO Café Liqueur, garnished with crushed red pepper and whipped cream.
This is the anti-holiday movie, one with more imprecations and craziness in one scene than most Christmas movies boast during their entire running length. Kudos to Billy Bob Thornton for making such an asshole so damn lovable, and to the supporting cast of characters, including Tony Cox and Lauren Graham, who plays a character that’s a far cry from her squeaky-clean mother on Gilmore Girls. This is the movie to watch after the kids have gone to bed and the adults need to feel human again. As for what to drink, it’s be easier to list out what not to have, considering the variety of things consumed by the protagonist. So…a fifth of any cheap booze will do ya.
If this film focused on just one of its central stories instead of intertwining nine different narratives, the film would probably tip the scales too heavily into sappiness. But for every potentially groan-worthy moment there’s also great stuff, from Bill Nighy’s aging rock star to Colin Firth’s…Firthness to Hugh Grant’s charm to Keira Knightley’s beauty. Yes, it’s more confectionary than earth-shattering. But for a Christmas movie, that seems appropriate. Try some mulled wine to drink while watching this, a drink that soothes and sneaks up on you, just like the movie. Mix a bottle of Cab Sav with four cups of apple cider, a quarter-cup of honey, the zest and juice of an orange, four whole cloves, and three star anise, boiled and left simmering for 10 minutes.