'Home Alone' (1990)

13 truly great films to get you through this year's weird, lonely holiday season

Bah humbug. The upcoming holidays are bound to be weird, what with the “most wonderful time of the year” overshadowed by a global pandemic. Unfortunately, infection rates are rising at an alarming rate, with some experts predicting the worst for mid-January. Since gathering together is only bound to exacerbate the outbreak, government officials are warning folks to hunker down, stay home, and celebrate solo.

It’s a real drag! After a long, lonely, disease and anxiety-ridden year, all people want to do is see their families and/or jet off to exotic locales. But the coronavirus has other plans for us this season. We may not be able to celebrate the way we want to, but we can still get into the holiday spirit. If IRL festivities are out of reach, might we suggest channeling warm fuzzies by way of Hollywood? Never before have we needed to be transported by the movies more.

Without further ado, here’s Mic’s roundup of the most reliably comforting and cheer-inducing films in the canon to brighten up the weird, lonely 2020 holiday season.

Home Alone (1990)

Honestly, is there a holiday movie better suited to this lonely year? Just like Kevin McAllister, lots of Americans will be flying solo this holiday season. Suddenly, rocking around the Christmas tree with some mannequins and life-size cardboard cut-outs doesn’t seem so crazy. Just keep an eye out for the Wet Bandits, you filthy animals.

Last Christmas (2019)

This endearing rom-com directed by Paul Feig (of Bridesmaids fame) and co-written by the legendary Emma Thompson stars Emilia Clarke as a down-on-her-luck Londoner who works as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop. Nothing seems to go right until she bumps into seemingly-perfect Henry Golding and the unlikely pair spark a Yuletide romance. This one’s a winner, because it’s not too saccharine — unlike a lot of holiday rom-coms made these days.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

With COVID-19 cases spiking across the country, government officials are urging people not to travel this holiday season. But if you find yourself missing the traditional home migration, queue up this classic comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy for a refresher on just how hellish the commute can be.

The Santa Clause (1994)

This enchanting movie came out in the early ‘90s, when most millennials were young kids, making it an enduringly nostalgic classic. But until recently, I’d never really pondered how dark the plot of The Santa Clause really is. You see, Tim Allen plays a divorced dad who accidentally kills Santa Claus, and the North Pole bylaws or whatever dictate that he has to become the next St. Nick. Talk about a wacky twist of fate!

Love Actually (2003)

Most people I know have seen this film approximately 13 billion times, but Love Actually doesn’t seem like it’ll wane in popularity anytime soon. As familiar and comforting as a cup of hot cocoa, this tale of a bunch of disparate Londoners juggling love, loss, and all the emotions in between is a modern classic.

Elf (2003)

Released the same year, Elf is another flick that’s become a staple in many households around the holidays. This year particularly, Buddy’s (Will Ferrell) iconic candy-coated spaghetti breakfast is all-too relatable. Raise your hand if 2020 has destroyed your nutrition habits!

The Preacher’s Wife (1996)

This remake of a classic Cary Grant film stars Denzel Washington as an angel sent to Earth a few days before Christmas to help a disillusioned reverend (Courtney B. Vance) through a crisis of faith. But the heavenly emissary is distracted by the preacher’s lovely young wife (Whitney Houston). What’s more, The Preacher’s Wife was directed by the legendary Penny Marshall.

The Family Stone (2005)

Sarah Jessica Parker stars in this all-star ensemble comedy about a woman meeting her boyfriend’s eccentric extended family for the first time. Diane Keaton and her brood (including Rachel McAdams and Luke Wilson) give SJP a nightmarishly hard time, but before the holidays are over, outrageous secrets are spilled and scandalous love affairs unfold. If you’re missing your own dysfunctional family, The Family Stone is a good one to revisit.

Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis thwarts a dozen terrorists on Christmas Eve to save his wife and a bunch of other innocents trapped inside an L.A. high-rise. There’s a reason Die Hard is an anti-Christmas classic. If you can’t stomach more sugar plums, break out the machine guns.

The Holiday (2006)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s this early aughts gem of a rom-com about a pair of single women (Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz) who swap houses over Christmas and wind up falling head-over-heels for dudes (Jack Black and Jude Law) who they meet in their respective vacation destinations. Everybody in The Holiday starts off pretty lonely and forlorn about their solo Christmases, but by the end they all come to embrace the magical, serendipitous moments that can unfold when you surrender yourself to fate and circumstance.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Truth be told, the very scary presidential election was a nightmare before Christmas fit for 2020. But not even Donald Trump’s terrifying hijinks can ruin the darkly charming allure of this Tim Burton classic from the early ‘90s. If anything, The Nightmare Before Christmas might be the perfect film companion for this topsy-turvy holiday season. Embrace the darkness, friends.

A Very Murray Christmas (2015)

If you can’t spend the holidays with your own family, might we suggest celebrating with your Uncle Bill? This Netflix-produced holiday variety hour features a bevy of other stars too, including Miley Cyrus, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and (gasp!) George Clooney.

Happiest Season (2020)

This one’s brand new! Specifically, it hits Hulu on November 25, the day before Thanksgiving. It stars Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis as a lesbian couple visiting the latter’s ultra-conservative parents for Christmas. The catch? Davis’s character hasn’t come out to her family yet, so lots of drama and hijinks ensue. Writer-director Clea DuVall’s holiday rom-com features a stacked cast, including Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, Allison Brie, and more.