What are best message-driven Christmas films?

By Dallin Kimble

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 23 2010 4:46 p.m. MST

Alex Ferns, Daniel Bruhl and Guillaume Canet in "Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)," which is based on a true story.

J.C. Lother, Sony Pictures classic

Somewhere in all the mayhem of shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking and gathering, the true Christmas spirit can be lost.

Watching Christmas movies as a family can remind us of the reason for our celebrations.

The following movies are particularly good at keeping the focus on what's most important.

"A Christmas Carol": No Christmas movie collection would be complete without this Charles Dickens classic.

With more than 50 video renditions, the lead character of Ebenezer Scrooge has been played by the likes of Alastair Sim (1951), Tim Curry (1997, animated), Michael Caine (1992), George C. Scott (1984), Bill Murray (1988) and Jim Carrey (2009).

Scrooge is a heartless businessman who is haunted by four ghosts — an old business partner and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

Over the course of a long night, Scrooge learns the spirit of Christmas is not "humbug" and pledges to keep it his whole life long. He keeps his promise by celebrating Christmas Day with family and extending generosity to the poor and afflicted.

"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946): When compassionate but despairing businessman George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, contemplates suicide, an angel helps him see what the world would be like without him.

Along the way, we are all reminded of the good we can do in the world and the value of Christian ideals. This is a Christmas must-see.

"The Christmas Box" (1995): This movie is based on a novel by Richard Paul Evans that follows a young entrepreneur and his wife as they move in with an old widow and discover the first gift of Christmas.

Starring Richard Thomas, Maureen O'Hara and Annette O'Toole, the film's balance of sentiment and entertainment grabs the interest and the heartstrings of its viewers.

"Mr. Krueger's Christmas" (1980): Stewart stars as Willie Krueger, a humble janitor with a vivid imagination. His encounter with a group of carolers encourages us to be generous and inclusive. Mr. Krueger's frequent daydreams make us wonder what we would do and how we would feel if we were in the stable where the Christ child was born.

Also featuring the music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, "Mr. Krueger's Christmas" is a classic.

"The Fourth Wiseman" (2003): This film features Martin Sheen and Alan Arkin in the story of a Magi that spends his life seeking to find the Christ foretold by the signs in the heavens.

After 33 years of just missing the Savior, the Magi eventually gives away all the gifts intended for Christ to people he meets in dire need of help. Finally, on Easter Sunday, the old and dying Magi meets the Christ, bringing peace to his life.

"Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)" (2006): This film is based on a true story from the front lines of World War I.

On Christmas Eve of 1914, opposing soldiers put down their weapons to exchange chocolate, cigarettes and heartfelt Christmas wishes.

Starring Diane Kruger, Benno Fuermann, Guillaume Canet, Gary Lewis and Dany Boon, "Joyeux Noel" is available in English, French or German.

Because this movie is rated PG-13, it may not be suitable for young children.

Honorable mentions include: "Ben Hur" (1959), "Forgotten Carols (1998) and "The Note" (2007).

The Christmas spirit so often lost in the mall can be rekindled with some popcorn, a good Christmas movie and loved ones.

e-mail: features@desnews.com

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