“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
There have been a lot of Christmas movies over the years, but few that have really stood the test of time to be remembered long after they come out, and even fewer that are as fun to watch as A Christmas Story. Directed by Bob Clark (Porky’s) and starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Darren McGavin, this might just be the perfect Christmas movie. It’s wholesome and nostalgic without being sappy or boring. It’s witty and hilarious and these things seem to get better as the movie ages. And it’s uplifting without being preachy or puritanical. I didn’t watch a lot of movies growing up and I still don’t watch a lot of television, so I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I didn’t discover this movie until just a few years ago. I’m glad I did, though. This movie is a joy to watch, and it’s become one that really rings in Christmas for my family.
The plot is simple. It follows young Ralphie as he devises plan after plan to receive the gift he really wants, a Red Ryder BB gun, for Christmas. We see him drop hints to his parents, teacher, and Santa as he also goes about his daily life in 1950s America. We get little snippets of all aspects of his life, creating a well-rounded portrait of a little boy growing up in a wholesome bygone era.
Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.
The best thing about A Christmas Story is the perfect and tasteful blend of nostalgia and humor. When this came out in 1983, there were a good number of movie-watchers who grew up in the 50s and experienced life much like Ralphie did. The truly amazing thing about this movie is that it somehow manages to be familiar today as well. I grew up in the 80s, not the 50s, and life was very different for me than it was for Ralphie; but many of the issues portrayed here are timeless childhood themes (and, now that I’m grown up, parental themes) that still ring true for modern audiences. My fifteen-year-old son enjoys this now too, even two generations removed. This movie captures the innocence, awkwardness, and hilarity of childhood like no other Christmas movie.
I’ll admit, Christmas is actually my favorite time of year, but many of the classic Christmas movies end up being too sentimental and sugary-sweet for my tastes. A Christmas Story is not cynical, but it is very real. The family is not perfect. The kids are not little angels. There is no life-changing message to be observed. This movie manages to take all that and make it heartwarming, in spite of the character flaws and moral mishaps. I’m probably overselling the imperfect nature of the film here, but this is the earliest Christmas film I know of that’s both wholly real and wholly heartwarming. It set the stage for a lot of modern Christmas movies that do the same thing, albeit not as well.
I know not everyone likes Christmas, so that right there might be the deciding factor in recommending this. But if you’re looking for the ultimate classic Christmas movie to ring in the holiday, A Christmas Story might just be it. It’s very enjoyable and appropriate for just about anyone. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a movie to watch around Christmas.
View my complete list of classic, essential, or just plain good movies!
Director: Bob Clark
Genres: Christmas, comedy