The top Christmas-themed movies according to Ball State Professor

When it comes to his favorite holiday movies, Ball State film professor Wes Gehring says each is a feel-good, populist film successful in pulling at the heartstrings by showing that no Christmas is perfect but can still be happy.

Gehring’s top five Christmas-themed movies are:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

“The Bishop’s Wife” (1947)

“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)

“A Christmas Story” (1983)

“Elf” (2003)

His second five favorites are “The Shop Around the Corner,” “Love Actually,” “Christmas Vacation,” “Holiday Inn” and “Scrooged.”

“These are all sentimental, a trait that works better at Christmas for a mass audience that might be more cynical the rest of the year,” says Gehring, author of 35 books about the movie industry and its stars. “But personally, I like them year-round.

“In some cases, such as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘A Christmas Story,’ around-the-clock television and cable broadcasts have added to their iconic status, but they were already well-crafted pictures to start with.

“The dark tone of ‘Wonderful Life’ with a key character contemplating suicide surprised viewers when it was released. It did decent business and received attention at Oscar time, but it wasn’t considered a classic until the world caught up with its modern slant and public domain status allowed it to be shown so much.”

Gehring believes the worst holiday movies include the entire “Silent Night, Deadly Night” series. The original and its sequels center on an ax-murderer dressed as Santa, but the final installment features killer toys.

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