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Murlie Joseph / Gavel Media

The Gavel's Holiday Movie Guide

A Gavel Guide to Movies for Every Week from Thanksgiving to Christmas


We’ve all been there: sitting on the couch, stuffed with Christmas cookies and pie, ready to watch a movie with no idea where to start. One of the most famous sports dramas to follow Thanksgiving? A romantic comedy set in both London and Los Angeles? Classics like “Home Alone” and “The Polar Express?” I’ve got you covered. Sit back, relax, and plug in the Christmas lights. The show is about to begin. 


Last Week of November


Are you looking for a way to ease the stress of your family Thanksgiving gathering? Look no further. Although predictable, Rocky’s 97% Rotton Tomatoes rating demonstrates why it is one of the greatest sports movies of all time. Rocky Balboa, an awkward and quiet boxer from Philadelphia, is chosen to compete against the current heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. As he trains, he falls in love with Adrian, a timid woman in his neighborhood. Although Rocky is not explicitly a holiday movie, the failed Thanksgiving dinner with an infamous screaming match is perfect for those wanting to feel better about their own family holiday meltdowns. 


Instant Family

Another movie featuring nosey relatives at Thanksgiving, Instant Family, starts with the familiar “family questioning all your life decisions” that many experience at Thanksgiving dinner. Instant Family is based on the true life experience of director Sean Anders. A couple, played by Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, foster three children and face struggles that many new foster families endure. This movie is bound to make any audience member shed a tear and is a great addition to any family movie night. 


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Have you ever had a terrible holiday traveling mishap? Planes, Trains, and Automobiles will most certainly make you feel better about any long-lost luggage or flight delays while trying to visit family. In this classic comedy, Steve Martin stars as Neal Page, an advertising worker struggling to make it home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. His journey starts with a stolen cab and a redirected flight to Kansas, where Page is accompanied by snoring, slobby, shower curtain ring salesmen. There, they determine the only way home is a train, where their journey faces more mishaps than anyone could imagine. Although their trip is imperfect at best, Page learns the true holiday spirit of thankfulness and forgiveness along the way. 


First Week of December: 

Batman Returns

In Batman Returns, director Tim Burton brings the holiday magic to Gotham City. In the Christmas setting, Batman faces two foes, Catwoman and the Penguin. The movie opens with Oswald Cobblepot thrown in the sewers on Christmas night, and the Christmas vibes continue from there. While embracing the quintessential Christmas movie themes such as good versus evil, Batman Returns also explores true loneliness during the holiday season. From Alfred’s Christmas tree in Wayne Manor to the evil master plan at Gotham City’s tree lighting, Batman Returns is perfect for those looking for a different type of Christmas movie. 


The Holiday

Starring both Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, The Holiday explores the experience of two lovelorn women when they switch houses in a house exchange. The two women lead contrasting lifestyles; Winslet plays a columnist living in a quaint cabin in England, and Diaz acts as a movie producer in a modern mansion in Los Angeles. However, they find joy in themselves and the people they meet, resulting in a not-so-lonely Christmas after all. 


A Bad Moms Christmas

In this comedy, three moms—Amy, Kiki, and Carla—struggle with the pressure of creating a perfect holiday season for their children. When their own mothers arrive unexpectedly, Amy, Kiki, and Carla must prove that they can tackle the Superbowl for moms: Christmas. Throughout the ups and downs, the moms must learn the true meaning of Christmas is not in toys or obscene decorations; rather, Christmas is about the bonds between family and friends. 


Second Week of December: 

Home Alone

Home Alone is one of the most iconic Christmas films for good reason. When eight-year-old Kevin McCallister is accidentally left at home during Christmas, he immediately discovers what it is like to be on his own as an eight-year-old. From ice cream for breakfast to television all day, Kevin enjoys the newfound freedom. However, once Kevin discovers that two burglars are attempting to rob his house, Kevin must do everything he can to protect himself and his home. Home Alone is perfect for all ages and a great reminder that Christmas isn’t Christmas without family. 


Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

How can a family leave their child, not once, but twice, over Christmas vacation? Many lovers of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York have pondered over the same question. However, there is still nothing more delightful than experiencing what it would be like for a nine-year-old in New York City with access to a credit card during Christmas. When Kevin boards the wrong flight to New York, he finds himself, again, with unbridled freedom. He stays in a luxury hotel, explores the city’s attractions, and galavants around toy stores. Kevin once again crosses paths with the robbers from Home Alone and sets up a series of traps and pranks to thwart their plans. 


A Christmas Prince

A Christmas Prince is perfect for those needing mindless entertainment while baking cookies, wrapping presents, or decorating the Christmas tree. When young journalist Amber Moore is sent to Aldovia to cover the upcoming coronation of Prince Richard, she finds more trouble than expected. Posing as Prince Richard’s sister’s tutor, she gets close to the royal family and kindles a relationship with Prince Richard. She uncovers many truths about not just about the royal family but also about herself. If one movie is not enough, continue the mindless movie marathon with A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby.


Christmas Eve:

Polar Express

Climb aboard the most magical train around, the Polar Express. Every Christmas Eve, a group of children rides the Polar Express to see Santa Claus. There, they go on a whimsical journey and discover the power of believing in magic. Polar Express is best enjoyed with a mug of hot cocoa on Christmas Eve. 


Christmas Day:

Love Actually

No December would be complete without at least one viewing of Love Actually. Set in London, Love Actually follows the intertwined lives of six couples during the holiday season. From the Prime Minister to a young kid who recently lost his mother, the film explores romance, familial ties, and new friendships. Always remember…  “Love Actually is all around.”