My Favorite Classic B&W Christmas Movies


To each, their own! I know many people who can't watch a black and white movie without dozing off or at the very least rolling their eyes excessively when viewing an old musical and the ludicrous way people randomly burst into song and dance. But for me, I can't help but roll my eyes and say something sarcastic with every meme I see online about how the best Christmas movie is Love Actually--or no, Love Actually is the worst, the Holiday is the BEST--when I can't sit through either film without cringing. To me, those aren't classics. They aren't even good. Again, it's a matter of opinion and I think in my case, nostalgia too. I grew up watching old films, I think that's where my love of vintage fashion comes from. It also means at Christmas, a season where we get especially nostalgic remembering our childhoods, I really start to long for some classic black and white movies. These are a few of my favorites that I look forward to watching every year.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946): It's no exaggeration to say this is one of best films ever made and worth watching in any season, although it is always especially poignant this time of year. It stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man who throughout his life sacrificed his own dreams for others and finds himself suicidal on Christmas Eve. An angel, Clarence, intervenes and shows Bailey what his community would have been like if he had never been born. It's heart-warming and optimistic without being naive and I dare anyone to finish the film with a dry eye.
Christmas In Connecticut (1945): To anyone frustrated with Pinterest perfect homes and Insta-fame that seems to set everyone up for an impossible standard--watch this film. It's a comedy made decades before the Internet, let alone Pinterest existed, but it shows that trying to portray your personal life as something perfect (when it is anything but) is not a new concept. The film stars Barbara Stanwyck as a food writer who writes about being the perfect housewife in the country, but she's actually single, a terrible cook, and lives in a flat in the city. She has to attempt to live the lie when her editor wants her to host a soldier for a classic Christmas feast in her non-existent Connecticut home complete with make-believe husband and child. The holiday is a disaster, but through the chaos there's a lot of truth and love to be found.
The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942): “Guests, like fish, start to smell after a few days,” is perhaps the best briefest summary of this film about a critic who injures himself while at a dinner party and is forced to stay at his host’s home much to mutual dismay of his host and himself. It's perfect for anyone hosting family or friends this holiday and feeling the strain of a full house! The unwelcome guest list for this unfortunate family only continues to grow as the critic starts bringing his work, actors, penguins, and a mummy into their home. It will make you laugh and perhaps realize that sometimes even unwelcome guests can herald in welcome change.

The Thin Man (1934): Speaking of my love of vintage fashion, Myrna Loy's character (Nora) in the Thin Man series is a true clothes horse! I covet every one of her outfits in this film. She is the wealthy wife of a semi-retired, slightly drunk detective (Nick) who keeps getting dragged into new cases--cases which she encourages him to pursue so she can join in the chase as well. It’s not technically a Christmas movie, but it is set at Christmas time complete with holiday jingles playing in the background and a glamorous Christmas Eve party in a hotel suite. Once you watch this film you'll want to find the rest of the series to keep up with Nick and Nora's further adventures.
The Shop Around The Corner (1940): If you like You've Got Mail, then you should already be a fan of this film, since that Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan pairing is a remake of this classic film. Instead of e-mail, two co-workers who don't get along in person, unwittingly exchange love letters. Even moments like the restaurant scene where he sits behind her were re-created nearly shot-for-shot and word-for-word with a few modern updates. It's a lovely story about getting past quick judgments and early prejudices to see people for who they really are--not just for the couple at the center of the story, but the supporting cast as well.
The Bishop's Wife (1947): This is another old film with a modern remake and once again, the original starring Cary Grant as an angel who visits a bishop and his wife at Christmas time is worth a viewing. Bishop Henry Broughman prays for divine guidance and his plea is answered by a suave angel named Dudley who quickly starts to turn the bishop's life upside down. Instead of giving the bishop exactly what he wants, Dudley seems to spend his time trying romance the bishop's wife! One of my favorite scenes as a child was watching Dudley "magically" decorate the Christmas tree...
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20 comments:

  1. Jimmy Stewart. Swoon. It's A Wonderful Life is the be-all-end-all to christmas films and it will never be topped! xD I always cry. always. year after year. and maybe one day I'll name my daugher zuzu. who knows??

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  2. i've only seen two of these films, but yay, now i have more to watch! thanks for the recommendations rebecca. i always trust your taste in movies--classic or otherwise. x

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly with you about "Love Actually." My whole family loves that movie and I have to sit through it (or it's on in the background) every Christmas afternoon. It just gets creepier with each viewing to me. I keep my mouth shut because, as you say, to each their own!

    To your wonderful list, I would add "Miracle on 34th Street." :)

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  4. I love all of these! Especially The Shop Around the Corner. And if we include older movies that are in color, I'd include White Christmas and Desk Set. Desk Set isn't exactly a Christmas movie, but is set in winter and has a big Christmas party scene.

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  5. I'm not the biggest fan of movies and the only black and white movies I've watched are Portuguese ones and I really like them even though most of the time I don't even pay attention to the story because I'm so interested in thinking ho the filmed certain scenes or I'm mesmerized at the awesome clothing haha

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  6. I have only seen the first one, I will have to check out the other ones
    xo
    www.laurajaneatelier.com

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  7. Hello there Rebecca! Since I have been reading your blog for a few years now, I look forward to your list of old films. I have to thank you for the lists because it is through them that my 10 year old daughter and I got to watch them and look forward to many more! This year it will be 'Christmas in Connecticut". I would add to your list 'Meet me in St Louis" because of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in Judy Garland's voice.
    Thanks again!

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  8. I love older Christmas specials as well! This list was so great!

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  9. Oooh thanks for sharing this list, Rebecca! Looks like I'll be watching some B&W Christmas films this season! :)

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  10. Ahhh, It's a Wonderful Life. My favorite movie of ALL TIME! So many of my friends haven't seen it and it kills me. They don't know what they're missing. It's the only movie that makes me cry every single time, no matter how many times I see it. We watch it on Christmas Eve and it's my favorite tradition of ours. :') I can't wait to see it again this year!

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  11. I've never been a fan of B&W movies. But hmm, after reading your post and the comments gushing on about It's a Wonderful Life... maybe I'll give it a go this Christmas!

    - Charmaine
    http://charmainenyw.com

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  12. Some of these sound really good! :)
    You've convinced me to put at least 4 of them on my "to watch" list, even though I love both "Love Actually" and "The Holiday". But I think I might be starting to evolve a liking for black-and-white movies as well ;)

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  13. Those are all of my favorite Christmas movies as well! I'd add "Welcome Stranger" to your list (a black and white Bing Crosby Christmas film) and White Christmas too. Perhaps even "Holiday," a wickedly witty movie starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

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  14. Thank you for these suggestions I will definitely watch some of them. While I agree with you about "Love actually"I cannot say the same for "The Holiday". I think it is a lovely film. But we all have our taste in movies!

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  15. Oh <3 Just by seeing this post I feel like watching them all again! Love all of these!
    x Angela

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  16. I love Jimmy Stewart, right down to his voice. I love black and white movies. To me, no Christmas is complete without a watch of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

    http://clossest.blogspot.com/

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  17. Oh, I love It's a Wonderful Life! I watch it every year with my mom, and I never fail to bawl like a baby when everyone starts singing at the end.

    I haven't seen the rest of the movies on your list, but they look great and I'm looking forward to seeing them for myself!

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  18. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!. Salsero t-shirts

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  19. I must give all of these a watch! Merciii !!!

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  20. You have named every single one of my favourite black and white movies for Christmas! I have so much love for those old movies and so many other ones that are not Christmas themed.

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