(Photo by New Line, Warner Bros., Miramax, RKO, 20th Century Fox/ courtesy Everett Collection)
From Home Alone and Elf to classics like Miracle on 34th Street, we’ve made our list of great holiday films and checked it at least twice. Now, to all you nice boys and girls out there, we present the Best Christmas Movies ever!
Christmas has come to represent different things to people over the years, and the movies here reflect that in kind. If you’re traditional and feeling nostalgic, you’ll be pleased to see where It’s A Wonderful Life and Holiday Inn made it on our list of top holiday films. If this time of the year reminds you of sitting around the TV, eagerly awaiting those annual specials, look out for A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There’s horror (Black Christmas), comedy (Trading Places), horror and comedy (Gremlins), and even a superhero covered in tinsel somewhere (Batman Returns). For those with an independent streak to celebrate, check out Tangerine and Carol. Meanwhile, Netflix has made great strides in the Kris Kringle quadrant with The Christmas Chronicles and Klaus. And if Christmas means traveling somewhere you don’t want to be, stuck in a building with people you don’t like, have we got the ultimate movie for you: Die Hard! Ho ho ho, now we have a complete list of great Christmas movies.
Wondering how we put this Christmas movie list together? Every movie on the list is Fresh and plays around with the spirit of Christmas and the holidays as a central theme. Then we sorted them all by our ranked formula, which factors in the movie’s release year its number of reviews, to make the ultimate list of holiday films that melted even the most cynical critics’ hearts.
One movie you won’t see on this list: the Rotten-rated Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. On our podcast, we discuss whether ‘Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong’ about this sequel.
And now you’re ready to enter a wonderland of cinematic history, with the Best Christmas Movies ever!
(Photo by New Line/courtesy Everett Collection)
When most people think of classic Christmas movies, their minds sleigh-ride back through the decades to films like It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, and Christmas Vacation. To movies that they’ve grown up with, movies they’ve spent dozens of holiday seasons sprawled out in front of, digesting Thanksgiving and Christmas and other holiday dinners. But there are a number of holiday-themed and holiday-set movies released in the last 20 years that are just as worthy of your Yuletide viewing as those tried-and-true favorites. These are the world’s modern Christmas classics – or should-be-classics – and we think that this year, once that bell rings and the angel gets its wings for the umpteenth time in your household, you should try something Fresh for your festive viewing.
We compiled this list of modern Christmas classics using a very simple set of criteria: the movies had to be about Christmas or set firmly during the holiday; they had to have been released after the year 2000; and they had to have a Fresh score with a minimum of 20 reviews. Some are titles you will no doubt be familiar with, movies from the earlier years of the 21st Century that have already assumed the “classic” label in the ensuing years – we’re looking at you Elf and the ever-divisive Love Actually. Others are Certified Fresh gems that have gone totally under-appreciated in our opinions. (Why Arthur Christmas, at 92% on the Tomatometer, isn’t every kid’s go-to holiday flick is beyond us.) Others still are off-beat foreign gems, like the scary, weird, and wonderful Finnish killer Santa movie, Rare Exports, or the anime Tokyo Godfathers.
And with our most recent update, we’ve added Klaus, Jingle Jangle, and the 2018 Grinch, which is just barely Fresh. Because we can’t make green meanie too happy, right?
If you’re looking for something different this season, slip a sack-full of these charming/hilarious/weird/heartwarming/scary flicks into your holiday rotation.
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail image: 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.; Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection; MGM.)
Looking to enrich your kid’s viewing habits? Or if you’re under 13 yourself, love movies, and you want to watch some of the best ever made, take it from us when we list 50 Essential Movies For Kids!
These are not just great children’s movies, but movies that play well for the curious and growing mind. While all these movies are classics and can be seen at any age, some have stronger themes than others that would play better during upper years. So, we separated the movies in suggested age categories:
Ages 1-5: Kids may not actively recall everything from this age, but a good baseline is fundamental in developing a healthy appetite for movies. Here we feature colorful classics (The Wizard of Oz), fun adventures (Chicken Run), and tales as old as time (Beauty and the Beast).
Ages 6-9: As more time is devoted to school and outside life, movies become more of an escape, and their power to transport starts to become apparent. Don’t miss out on epic quests (Star Wars), wish fulfillment (Home Alone), and dazzling fantasies (Spirited Away).
Ages 10-12: The magic window, the time in life when movies can move and change tweens, and stick for the rest of time. A good era for the classic portrayals of youth (The 400 Blows), face-melting action (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and romance (Romeo & Juliet).
Whether you’re a parent looking for a moral, entertaining movie night with your kids, or you’re a young student of movies making the leap on your own, check out these 50 Essential Movies For Kids!
This August, Rotten Tomatoes turns 21 and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating the 21 Most Memorable Moments from the movies over the last 21 years. For this special video series, which we’ve been publishing over the last four months, we spoke to the actors and filmmakers who made those moments happen, revealing behind-the-scenes details about how the moments came to be and diving deep into why they’ve stuck with us for so long. You’ll find big ’90s twists – yep, he sees dead people – as well as super-recent cliffhangers, like Thanos’s universe-halving Snap. There are laughs (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Elf, Bridesmaids) and romance (The Notebook, Spider-Man) and more than a few scares (The Blair Witch Project, 28 Days Later…). But which moment is the single most memorable of the last 21 years? Well, that’s where you come in. We’re asking you to watch the below videos and then vote on your favorite movie moment of the last two decades (and a bit).
Voting is open now and runs until midnight Friday August 16 and we will announce the winner on August 19. Fans get a single vote – so choose wisely – and moments are listed in the order they were published over the past few months, most often to tie in with anniversaries and relevant occasions.
Director George Miller: “It’s a moment by the way, I think, is available only to her. I don’t think any other character could have done it. I remember the line. I remember Charlize on that day said that she wanted to say the line. It wasn’t a written line. She said, ‘Look, I feel like I really want to say it. OK by you?’ I said, ‘Great.’ It just hit a sweet spot in amongst that action, and it was a little pause before the brutality of the moment and the continuation of the action that was to come.”
Co-director Joe Russo: “Anth and I, through our entire experience at Marvel, always tried to make very disruptive choices with each film. The end of Winter Solider, good guys and the bad guys, we flip everything on its head. In Civil War we divorce the Avengers. With Infinity War we knew we wanted to make a strong narrative choice. There’s an adage where you write yourself into a corner, and you try to figure out how to get out. That usually creates really dramatic moments for the audience. There’s no bigger way to write ourselves into a corner than killing half the characters.”
Director Baz Luhrmann: “I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we put her in a circus trapeze and we did a trapeze number, but we’ll have to have a stunt person. But Nicole being Nicole was like, ‘No way.’ So she trained with a circus person for a good, I would say, two weeks to do that number and when you see her swing around that’s her. It’s her all the way through that footage. She’s on the trapeze, she’s being swung around, she comes down, she falls into all those guys. So she was 100% stunt-free on that moment.”
Makeup artist John Caglione Jr.: “Heath [Ledger] was great in the chair. Special actors like Heath – and my experience with Al Pacino over the years – these actors help you relax so that you can bring your game… I always got the feeling that [Heath] had already worked it out in his head, from what I remember. He knew where he was going. Early on, in first meeting Heath and playing around with the makeup, he already kind of had it all figured out. It was my job to just basically gild the lily and try to catch up with him, really. That’s what I felt.”
Co-writer and co-director Eduardo Sánchez: “The direction was: You’re not going to make it out of here. This is like an internal monologue. We were directing these actors to almost be like their conscience speaking to them. For Heather, it’s like, ‘You’re responsible for this. You’re the one who brought them out here. You didn’t heed the warnings. You knew this is dangerous and you brought these guys out here. Say your goodbyes. If you want to apologize to people, apologize to people, just basically say goodbye.’ We called it a confessional, your last confessional before you’re going. You’re not going to get out, and hopefully, somebody will find these tapes and will be able to tell your story, but tell your mom goodbye, and tell your family goodbye.”
Director Sam Raimi: “In the rain while he was doing the scene, I remember, he was slightly drowning because he couldn’t wipe his nose and the water was falling down into his upside-down nose, into his nostrils. So he was kinda drowning, and the only way he could breathe was through his mouth. It doesn’t look un-pleasurable, but I think it must’ve been.”
Director Danny Boyle: “One of the technical advantages of using these smaller cameras is that you could shoot a location, not multiple times, but you could shoot it from multiple viewpoints simultaneously. Cillian was in no rush, he could just walk across. But you don’t get much time at these locations free of people even at four o’clock in the morning when we shot. So what happened was we hired a lot of students, because they’re cheap, to be our traffic marshals.”
Director Nick Cassavetes: “There was something built up between these two kids, and it has nothing to do with directing. Because when we turned the cameras on, the scene was like: He’s mad at her, she’s mad at him, and then he says that he wrote her every day, and that’s the key that unlocks the door. And when that door got unlocked, I didn’t need to direct nothing. They wound up together for many years after the movie, which is…I don’t know if I’m proud of it, but I think it’s fantastic that they found each other like that. And I think that was the moment, because they weren’t together before that kiss. But they were together after that kiss, so maybe that was one of the deciding moments.”
Representative John Lewis: “I truly believe that Oprah, Ava, and the staff working on the film sought my involvement because they knew my history. Selma represented an attempt to redeem the soul of America, to help us move closer to the participation of all people in the political process. This film can educate and inform the mind of hundreds and thousands of young people around America and around the world.”
Actor Vin Diesel: “And it was that moment where we realized that Fast and Furious didn’t need to be restricted in any way. That we were so thorough about story and character, and it’s so much a tale of brotherhood and family, right, that we were allowed these kind of outrageous and fantasy-filled moments, and flying through the air was playing to that. Flying from building to building was playing to that. It was one of those solutions to the riddle, or answers to the riddle, ‘How do we one-up the spectacle of each film?’”
Cinematographer James Laxton: “When Barry alerted us to the storm approaching, we gathered our equipment together as quickly as possible, ran out into the water, and in some respects… I don’t want to say improvised, because what is in the script is on camera, if not in the exact way it was depicted. But we had a lot more shots in our shot list, and [were going to be] much more organized about capturing it. We had to really get out there and… let Mahershala as Juan guide this young man, and [have] me out in the water, as well, trying to capture this swimming lesson as it came. It [was shot] almost like a documentary, less so like a film in some respects. Sometimes your reaction to moments is as good as a well detailed plan might be. Sometimes it’s even better.”
Director Pete Docter: “There’s one moment in that montage where Ellie has to go to the doctor and it’s implied that they can’t have children for whatever reason. That raised some eyebrows even here at work as we were developing the film. So, we did experiment with taking it out. And we thought, ‘Well, maybe [the sequence] could still work [without it] because there’s some really charming stuff.’ But the strange thing was, not only did we not feel the emotion as strongly in that one little sequence, but as we watched the rest of the film the whole film lost a little bit. I can’t really fully explain that other than to say it was a real dark, low moment for them that I think made that relationship feel more real. The sort of pain and loss of that situation bonded those characters together and made you empathize more with them.”
Actor Andy Serkis: “I’d never considered myself a voice actor, just a regular actor, and I had to kind of think my way into it. I started to work on this notion that he’s called Gollum because of the way he sounds – and what would make his voice sound like that? I started to think about constriction of the throat, and as I was doing that, I was actually fortunate enough to witness my cat throwing up a fur ball. It suddenly gave me this idea that the whole physicality of the role would be determined by this force within, which is kind of built out of guilt and torment – this involuntary physical action is what caused this sound coming out of his mouth. The cat throwing up a fur ball is actually what generated the idea for this involuntary spewing out of words.”
Co-Writer Annie Mumolo: “We [originally] had a fantasy sequence where they go into the dress shop, and Kristen’s character tries on this dress and she has this fantasy that when she wears this dress, she’s all of a sudden in a castle. And all the men at the wedding are fawning over her. There’s so many of them wanting her so badly [that] just to escape from the castle she goes running out into this field and runs into the forest. And she naturally sees Christian Bale there, who’s chopping wood without a shirt on. And they end up on a bearskin rug, and he was combing her hair, and it was this expansive sequence of her little love affair with Christian Bale. In the meantime, [back in the real world] Helen gets the women to get the dress she wants because Annie is caught up in her fantasy. So that was the original [scene]. And then I think Judd said at one point we’ll never get Christian Bale to do this. And then we tried to put in Matt Damon and then we’re like, ‘As if we’re going to get Matt Damon to do this.’ He was concerned we weren’t going to get anybody to do it. And also he felt it needed harder comedy there, rather than what we had. So, we sadly let that go. We did not want to let that go. We loved that sequence.”
Director David Yates: “Harry sort of carries the spirit of Voldemort, in part, and they have this unity, and I had this idea that Harry and Voldemort are at the top of a school tower, and as they confronted each other… Dan would grab Ralph, and actually pull him off this tower, and they would apparate around the school together, and as they apparated around the school together, we’d explore this weird visual synthesis that exists between the two of them, and they’d eventually tumble down into the courtyard.”
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige: “The moment I realized that this could be an iconic moment, not just for the MCU, but for these kind of films, was on the mix stage. When the effects were final and when Alan Silvestri’s amazing score was coming in, and the timing, and the experience of watching the whole movie up to that point… That[‘s when] I got chills and I realized Joss had pulled it off.”
Stunt double Chad Stahelski: “So Keanu and I both had to back up to our number one marks and pretty much try to do all the choreography and the one-handed cartwheel and all the shooting with your eyes closed. Because once the squibs started going off, you couldn’t see anything. You had to count your steps and kinda go into it. And I remember looking at him and going ‘Uh, OK, this could be a little tricky.’ And he’s like ‘Eh, OK.’ And he nailed it first take. So that was pretty cool.”
Actor Haley Joel Osment: “There was an even-more morbid element to that scene that actually ended up getting cut out: When I tell Bruce my secret, [at] the last shot of the scene they pull back from my bed and you look out the window where you can see another entire wing of the hospital and in every window there is a person with some horrible injury or someone who’s gone pale because, you know, being in a hospital is a pretty heavy place for a ghost to linger around in this world. So, you pull back and you see all these people lined up on the other side of the frame.”
Writer-director Judd Apatow: “I basically set up four cameras and we had some basic beats we wanted to hit. We knew that we had to get Steve’s real reactions, so we shot it like a documentary. We wrote out tons of curses, because we did plan the main joke to be that he would just curse right into her face. And we also made lists of words that weren’t real curses that sounded like curses. That’s how we got to Steve screaming ‘Kelly Clarkson!’ Off to the side, Seth Rogen had made this enormous list of curses, and I would just yell them out to Steve, and each time they ripped the hair off of something he would scream out one of the curses.”
Director Patty Jenkins: “I think that the biggest reason I was obsessed with [the scene] was really from a character place. From Diana’s point of view, it is: What is the birth of a superhero? Just like Superman pulling his shirt open the first time and revealing the ‘S,’ these are definitive, incredible moments, and so I knew that Wonder Woman needed an incredible moment and because we were doing her origin story, it really needed to be the moment that she made the decision to go from being a younger person who was hopeful and idealistic to one who decides to be a hero despite knowing more. And so in this story, that was what I cared about.”
Actor Will Ferrell: “That kind of exclamation of ‘Santa!’ and screaming it, that was just my articulation of Buddy literally taking that piece of news [that Santa is coming] at face value and [thinking] what would be his literal reaction. A man without a country in this strange land finally getting to see someone he knows really well – it would just be the most jubilant reaction ever. I know that the first couple takes really took people by surprise, that I would go that big with it. And all of that, ‘Santa, I know him,’ all of that playing around we did, that was all improvised there.”
Watch: Chad Stahelski on the making of The Matrix above.
In 2019, Rotten Tomatoes turns 21, and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating the 21 Most Memorable Moments from the movies over the last 21 years. In this special video series, we speak to the actors and filmmakers who made those moments happen, revealing behind-the-scenes details of how they came to be and diving deep into why they’ve stuck with us for so long. Once we’ve announced all 21, it will be up to you, the fans, to vote for which is the most memorable moment of all. In this episode of our ‘21 Most Memorable Moments’ series, stunt double Chad Stahelski recalls working with Keanu Reeves to create some of the most memorable action sequences ever seen on screens.
It was 20 years ago when the world stood on the cusp of digital revolution. A new Star Wars was coming out, ditching handmade green puppets in favor of shellacking a movie in CG. The internet was still a sparse superhighway, stretching empty in-between frontier cities of anonymity and information gardens. A new millennium nested beyond the horizon, yet persistent trembling hinted that something awful would befall humanity when the clock struck midnight on December 31st: Y2K. The news cycle warned connected online systems would fail, banking accounts were to shatter, airlines would have to ground all planes as modern life as we knew it screeched to a halt.
No movie captured this zeitgeist of exhilaration and paranoia more than The Matrix, which opened in U.S. theaters on March 31, 1999. Like peak-James Cameron, the Wachowskis used state-of-the-art filmmaking techniques to pit man against the sleek, technological hell of our own creation. Perhaps we were slaves to our own comfort and science. And perhaps there would be a way to escape it. Enter Neo – the pale, withdrawn hacker played by Keanu Reeves – who discovers the true nature of our world: A shared simulation we processed in our minds as we slumbered in oozing pods, generating energy for the sentient machines that had turned our race into cattle. It would take a red pill, some kung fu, and guns, lots of guns, to wake up and win this war.
The Matrix combined existentialist philosophy with anime-inspired visual wizardry, wrapped with the perfect mix of CG and practical effects to make this wild world feel grimy, tactile, and lived-in. Chad Stahelski was among the chief operators in selling this new reality as Reeves’ stunt double, with first-hand experience in witnessing how the Wachowskis crafted this remarkable film. His working relationship with Reeves started here and has never ended, with the duo upholding The Matrix‘s legacy of high-impact filmmaking with the Stahelski-directed John Wick movies. Stahleski here recalls the enlightening, bone-crunching trip.
(Photo by Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
“I wasn’t hired initially at the beginning. I came on right after they started principal photography. At the time it was a script that read pretty crazy and didn’t make a lot of sense on paper. It filmed in Sydney, Australia. I get there, I get off the plane, I meet Yuen Woo-ping and his fight team, and within about four hours of being there it’s like, ‘Holy s–t, this is something pretty different.'”
“If you had seen the storyboards we’d been given before we shot even a frame of the movie, and see how close they were to the final edited product, [you’d see] the genius of the Wachowskis. No matter what the adversities were on The Matrix, the Wachowskis somehow, through force of sheer will and creative genius, got those shots. Got exactly what they wanted. Got the framing they wanted, and molded each and every one of us, both performers and department heads, to get their vision. It was one of the most precise, arduous things I’ve ever done in my life. [They had] attention to detail, complete nuance of every scene. In between takes they’d watch the fashion channel, they would do research in martial arts films. I’ve never seen two directors that had such an all-encompassing knowledge of every single department and aspect of the film.”
“[The Wachowskis would] take an old Jet Li or Jackie Chan movie, download it on their computers, and re-edit it just to understand why those edits worked, or understand the moves. They actually made breakdowns of other kung fu movies. They weren’t martial art or stunt people, but they went in and actually learned, through experience and exposure, different martial arts or different styles of kung fu so they could put them in.”
In a movie that drips with coolness like cascading lines of green code, you’d think it’d be tough to pull out the moment. But there was little debate that it wouldn’t be the lobby scene, where leather-clad Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) stage a full assault to rescue resistance leader Morpheus from capture. The set literally explodes in a hail of bullets, shot with signature slo-mo and kinetic gunplay and combat, all to a pulsating techno soundtrack. In 1999, it was the apex of style.
“It was literally walking in off the plane, drop bags off at the hotel, go stretch at gym, [and then] going into the government lobby choreography pieces. The Wachowskis — very quiet, very soft-spoken directors — had come in and said, ‘We’re gonna do this, we wanna do this, and there’s about 4,000 squibs in the walls so when we yell action, you’re probably not going to be able to see anything.’ Nowadays, we do it all digitally so it’s pretty quick resets, but it was pretty impressive at the time [what] went into it.
The first time when Keanu runs down the hallway and the guns are going off and everybody’s shooting at him – that was a week of prep just for the special-effects guys laying in all the squibs. So every time you do a take, it’s a half-day. So you get one go at it and if you miss, everybody goes home and they spend another day resetting the new panels in to blow it up again.”
(Photo by Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
“So Keanu and I both had to back up to our number one marks and pretty much try to do all the choreography and the one-handed cartwheel and all the shooting with your eyes closed. Because once the squibs started going off, you couldn’t see anything. You had to count your steps and kinda go into it. And I remember looking at him and going ‘Uh, OK, this could be a little tricky.’
And he’s like ‘Eh, OK.’ And he nailed it first take. So that was pretty cool.
The government lobby was a difficult sequence stunt-wise, but it probably wasn’t the hardest thing we did there. I mean, figuring out bullet time. The dojo fight was probably physically the toughest for Keanu. Logistically, the subway probably had a lot more stunt work and wirework than the government lobby. But then again you had Carrie-Anne walking on a wall, which was probably her most difficult wire move in the whole film. And Keanu doing an aerial cartwheel over an M16, picking it up, and shooting three guys.”
(Photo by Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
“A lot of guys can try and copy The Matrix, meaning you do a low angle thing here and you cover this kick in a wide. You can copy it, but it’s not the same as putting all those little pieces together. What the Wachowskis taught us the most was [how] you build a world. I’ll relate this to John Wick so maybe it’s a little bit easier to understand. The color, the wardrobe, the suit, the house, the pajama bottoms, the way the gun style works. The emotional hook with the dog and the puppy. All that comes from working with the Wachowskis. Every little thing builds the world. You never blink. You never let the audience think, ‘Oh they’re just kinda doing a cool move, they’re just kinda doing a cool color.’ Every little thing goes into building the world. Every little aspect, on camera, off camera, how you train the cast, what the dialogue rhythm is, know your editing style, just really, really immersing people.”
The Matrix broadened the tastes of audiences, and what they expected out of action movies. It officially signaled the end of the burly macho stars of the ’80s, who had hung on for dear life past the mid-’90s, and into more fluid fights, elaborate maneuvers, and lighter-than-air wirework. Fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping’s name was literally used in marketing future movies he worked on, the highlight being the Best Picture-nominated Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The Matrix had a fetishistic obsession with its own action sequences, something you’ll see later in Wanted, Kick-Ass, or Zack Snyder movies. Meanwhile, spoofing The Matrix became its own kind of cultural cred, as seen in movies and shows like Scary Movie, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Simpsons, Spaced, Shrek, and Kung Pow, or the Nintendo 64 game Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and beyond.
But for the people who made the movie, it’s the camaraderie that endures, and the gift of knowing that they got to participate in one of the most beloved, influential movies of the last 21 years.
“We use Laurence Fishburne [in the John Wick series], and I bumped into Carrie-Anne, and I bumped into Hugo Weaving the last couple of years and they still… Every single person, including department heads and cast that worked on that movie, still f–king cheer when it comes on. Everyone’s very proud of it. They can actually step outside their own performances and go ‘That’s f–king cool.’ For people in the business, that’s not a normal thing you can do. We all count ourselves as incredibly fortunate to have worked on that. Keanu and I see each other about every day, so we watched [The Matrix] again and had a nice talk about it yesterday. I don’t necessarily want to speak for Keanu, but it’s, like, still one of his favorite films of all time. To work on it, to be part of it, it is by far my favorite film.”
“The Wachowskis wanted to immerse us in a world that was both real and extreme. And when you sit and watch The Matrix, you are wrapped up in that movie. You are wrapped up in the real-world part of it, you’re wrapped up in the matrix part of it. You buy it all. They thought it down to a molecular level of detail. I’m both proud and somewhat ashamed to say it, but without the Wachowskis we couldn’t have done John Wick. We took a lot of lessons from them and hopefully tried to honor what they taught us by doing what we could with that.”
“Because of my relationship with Keanu, because we still work together and all that stuff…I mean how cool is it that I get to watch The Matrix with Keanu Reeves? And we still laugh, and we still cheer! And to see Keanu Reeves, the actual Neo sitting in a chair, where we’re both having a scotch watching The Matrix like that, or just to pull up a scene to fucking relive old times or something, or to get an idea, and to see Keanu Reeves jump up and go ‘F–k yeah! That’s awesome!’ I mean, I’m not gonna lie to you, that’s pretty cool!”
Watch: Jon Favreau and will Farrell on the making of Elf above.
In 2019, Rotten Tomatoes will turn 21, and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating the 21 Most Memorable Moments from the movies over the last 21 years. In a special video series launching next year, we will speak to the actors and filmmakers who made those moments happen, revealing behind-the-scenes details of how they came to be and diving deep into why they’ve stuck with us for so long. Once we’ve announced all 21, it will be up to you, the fans, to vote for which is the most memorable moment of all. As a special preview of the series, we’re dropping our first ‘21 Most Memorable Moments’ video right now: Will Ferrell and Jon Favreau take us behind the scenes of Elf.
Fifteen years after its release, Elf is a bona fide Christmas classic – arguably the only Christmas movie released in the last 20 years to truly deserve that title. Don’t believe us? Turn on your TV this month. Or take a look at a T-shirt rack this week and marvel at the number Elf-inspired memes plastering the seasonal tees.
A Christmas classic is exactly what director Jon Favreau, who initially came on board the project for rewrites, wanted to make. Inspired by Rankin Bass Christmas specials, as well as the joy and energy emanating from his fresh out-of-SNL star, Favreau hit the streets of New York City – less than two years after 9/11 – to craft a long-lasting piece of seasonal joy from the simple tale of an Elf named Buddy and his journey to the big smoke to find his dad.
Jon Favreau: “I was actually hired on to do rewrites. There was an original script that was quite different in tone. It was a much harder comedy. My pitch when I was hired to write was to make it feel like Buddy was a human that grew up in a ’60s Christmas special. And I brought it down from a harder PG-13 to a PG film. The innocence was something that I really wanted to lean into as I worked on it. He was always an innocent character, but he was a bit more of a foil to the action and to the comedy. I tried to strike a balance that was a bit sweeter.”
(Photo by © New Line)
Will Ferrell: “I [had] left Saturday Night Live. I think there’s always this impression where, when you leave a show like that, you just have all these things lined up – and I really didn’t. I had Old School, that was finished, but they were holding onto it. They weren’t releasing it quite yet, which is usually not a good sign. And then I had this script about a guy playing an elf…a human being raised by elves. And that was really all that was percolating. [But] this idea that a human is raised by elves at the North Pole, it just felt like something you’d never seen before. A classic fish-out-of-water story.”
Favreau: “Instead of hiring a lot of extras, we shot a lot of that stuff [Buddy on the streets of New York] independent-film–style with a van and a camera. Went out there and then we got people to sign releases. Of course, Will has really good comedic concentration so he was able to stay in character the whole time, and we used what worked. He’s really the key to the whole thing. He’s got such a wonderful energy and presence, and just him wearing that outfit was so inherently funny anyway because of his size.”
(Photo by © New Line)
Ferrell: “I was kind of known at Saturday Night Live for – yes, for sketches like the [Spartan] Cheerleaders and things like that – but also for a lot of really edgy stuff. For every grandmother that came up to me and said, ‘I love this,’ I had the rowdy frat guy who was citing something he liked from the show. So here I was running around the streets of New York in yellow tights thinking to myself, Boy, I do hope this works, for a number of reasons. But this could easily be my last movie.”
Picking one moment from Elf was nearly impossible. Would you go with the scene in which Buddy tells the Gimbel’s mall Santa, “You sit on a throne of lies”? (We almost did.) Perhaps his syrup-and-spaghetti feast? (The look on James Caan’s face: Priceless.) We landed on the moment when Buddy hears that Santa will be arriving at Gimbel’s and just about explodes with excitement. Perhaps no other moment in the film better captures Buddy’s infectious joy and innocence.
Favreau: “We’d originally hoped to shoot in Macy’s. And Macy’s was actually really open to the idea of us shooting there, and even saying that maybe we could participate in the parade. However, the one stipulation was that we could not say that there was a fake Santa in Macy’s. So that’s part of their brand and people go to their Santaland every year, and they didn’t wanna blow it for young kids. Which I get. So, we kept thinking about, what could it be? [When] I grew up there was always Macy’s and Gimbel’s. Of course, Gimbel’s is featured in Miracle on 34th Street, so it’s a bit of an Easter egg for Christmas movie fans.”
(Photo by © New Line)
Favreau: “I remember the scene in Gimbel’s where Faizon Love makes the announcement that Santa is coming, and he just screams, ‘Santa!’. [Will] just loves to commit. He really knows where the laugh is in the scene. And then the reaction of [Faizon] being the manager, looking, thinking his employee is screaming in his face, is probably one of my favorite moments of the movie.”
Ferrell: “That kind of exclamation of ‘Santa!’ and screaming it, that was just my articulation of Buddy literally taking that piece of news [that Santa is coming] at face value and [thinking] what would be his literal reaction. A man without a country in this strange land finally getting to see someone he knows really well – it would just be the most jubilant reaction ever. I know that the first couple takes really took people by surprise, that I would go that big with it. And all of that, ‘Santa, I know him,’ all of that playing around we did, that was all improvised there.”
(Photo by © New Line)
Favreau: “Will just did lots of different choices for lots of different moments. My biggest job on that film, along with the editor Dan Lebental, was to just sort through all the various takes. We didn’t have a lot of time, it wasn’t a big-budget movie. But there was always room to play and to have fun and try different alts. And then [we had to] string all of the great different performances or improvisations together into a cohesive performance that served the story, while still taking full advantage of all the laughs that he was able to find.”
Ferrell: “It’s funny. James Caan, we were at the premiere, and I took this as a great compliment…he was like, ‘Great job. I thought you were too over the top the whole time.’”
Go online and you can buy Elf snow globes. And Elf jack-in-the-boxes. And Elf costumes, of course. And many, many Elf storybooks. Meanwhile, Elf: The Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2010 in a testament to just how popular the film had become, is still touring the country. Elf, it’s fair to say, has become a pretty big deal since it premiered in 2003. But you don’t need merchandise and musicals to tell you that – just ask a friend. Or go up to Will Ferrell or Jon Favreau on the street and ask them how frequently people go up to them on the street to talk about the movie? You probably won’t be the first to do so that day. The duo set out to create a seasonal hit with legs, and they hit their mark.
Ferrell: “[At the L.A. premiere] I knew it was working at that moment where Buddy is in the back of the sleigh and everyone’s singing in Central Park and there’s enough Christmas spirit to get it lifted off, and he’s waving goodbye. I’m like, Oh, I can’t let everyone see me cry here at my own movie. I was like, Oh gosh, this is working on a level that I didn’t anticipate, and that was pretty cool. I remember getting a call from Nora Ephron, because we were just starting the sit down to get to do Bewitched. And during that opening weekend, she was like, ‘You really should enjoy this because this doesn’t happen a lot, where you have a movie that everyone is talking about.’ And she’s like, ‘I hope you enjoy it. Just really.’ So I remember her words, I was like, ‘OK, yeah. You’re right. This is crazy.'”
(Photo by © New Line)
Favreau: “When it came out what we really wanted a movie like that. It wasn’t too long after 9/11, it was filmed in New York, I think it brought some nice energy to us at a time when – if you think back that far – it was a really challenging time and it was nice to bring a nice breath of innocence to the world and especially to the city at that time. I’m really proud of it. If it’s ever in a theater or playing on television, I love to check in on it. And I can tell through social media that it’s something that people have made a tradition of. I’ll see pictures online of people saying, ‘Hey I’m introducing my son or my daughter to this movie for the first time.’ And they’ll post a picture of Elf on television and there’s a little three-year-old sitting there looking up at the screen. And that really makes me happy and it’s the best part of the job.”
(Photo by New Line courtesy Everett Collection)
On November 7, 2003, Buddy the Elf “passed through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gumdrops, and then walked through the Lincoln Tunnel” and right into our hearts.
Written by David Berenbaum and directed by Jon Favreau, Elf was the holiday hit of the year, taking in more than $200 million worldwide, and earning equal praise from critics (it’s Certified Fresh at 84%) and audiences (it sports a 74% Audience Score).
Since then, Elf has become a holiday TV stalwart, spawned a hit Broadway musical and a stop-motion animated special, and turned into one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time.
Even now, at 15 years old (old enough to doubt the existence of Santa), Elf is still full of Christmas cheer. So, why has this film earned a place on the Nice List for life?
(Photo by New Line courtesy Everett Collection)
Prior to Elf, Jon Favreau was recognizable actor, but a relative unknown as a director. Granted, true Favreau-heads (Favr-ites?) might look to his 2001 independent film Made (Fresh at 71%) as Favreau’s directorial coming out party, but he was better known as one of the “money men” from Swingers and Monica’s millionaire boyfriend from Friends. But that all changed when he stepped behind the camera for Elf.
With his innovative and charming direction, Elf would go on to make nearly seven times its budget, and Favreau would go on to direct Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Jungle Book, and the upcoming The Lion King.
But, if Favreau hadn’t taken on Elf (or if it hadn’t been quite a critical and commercial success), would he have been trusted to direct Iron Man? And if he hadn’t directed Iron Man, would the movie still have had the same vibrancy that made it such a hit? And would it then even spawn a sequel and set the stage for Captain America, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the rest of the blockbuster behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Thankfully, Jon Favreau is so money, and Elf made sure we all knew it.
(Photo by New Line Cinema)
In 2003, Will Ferrell had already notched his name in TV lore with an impressive run on Saturday Night Live and stolen scenes in classic grown-up comedies like Old School, Austin Powers, and Zoolander, but it wasn’t known if the rambunctious man-child actor could carry a movie as a leading man, let alone a family film. Until, that is, everyone saw Elf.
The risk to cast Ferrell paid off, and launched him from recent SNL departee to Hollywood’s next great comedy star. In the following years, Ferrell continued to rack up hits with both adult-oriented comedies like Anchorman, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys and family-friendly fare, including Kicking & Screaming, The Lego Movie, and Daddy’s Home.
Elf also marked a coming-out party for Ferrell’s co-star Zooey Deschanel. After small yet memorable parts in Almost Famous and The New Guy, Deschanel was dangerously close to being known better as “that girl” than as “Zooey Deschanel.”
But playing the role of reluctant mall elf and Buddy’s reticent love interest, Jovie, Deschanel delivered a star-making performance, showcasing the charm, singing talent, and adorkable-ness that would make her into a darling of the indie film world and a staple of the sitcom one.
Will Ferrell has always been a larger-than-life performer, but Elf took that quality and ran with it.
As the only human in the North Pole (and a 6’3″ one at that), Buddy the Elf stands out amongst the diminutive elves of Santa’s workshop, but Ferrell needed some movie magic to truly look like a fish out of water.
Thanks to forced perspective, which manipulated the set to make the other actors appear smaller, Ferrell managed to tower over his elfin counterparts without having to resort to CGI or green screens. Favreau called this process “painstaking,” but the end result looks seamless and allowed the actors to appear as normal as possible.
Who can forget “He’s an angry elf,” “You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don’t smell like Santa,” or “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear?”
Those are all well and good, but unfortunately, they’re only really well and good for about two months a year. But, you know what’s good almost all the time? Every other quote in the movie!
Answering the phone? “Buddy the elf. What’s your favorite color?”
Taking a trip to Northern California? “Francisco! That’s fun to say! Francisco… Frannncisco… Franciscooo…”
Watching Cersei Lannister plot a scheme? “You sit on a throne of lies!”
(Photo by New Line Cinema)
Unlike many Christmas movies of the 21st century, which sought to bring a modern sheen to the holiday, Elf went the opposite direction, drawing artistic inspiration from campy stop-motion holiday classics from Rankin/Bass like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, and Jack Frost to give a “timeless” feel to the whole film.
In an interview with 20/20 in 2017, director Jon Favreau said, “We used stop-motion animation… so when you watch it, it doesn’t feel like it ages the same way that a film that has a lot of digital effects does.” And even when Elf featured CGI, it used it to mimic the same classic stop-motion feel.
And it worked. Compared to other CGI-filled Christmas movies from the 2000s — including The Santa Clause 2 and 3 (55% and 17% on the Tomatometer, respectively), The Polar Express (55%), and Disney’s A Christmas Carol (54%) — Elf’s Certified Fresh 84% ranks on top. And fans agree as well, as last year Elf was selected as the Best Christmas Movie of the 21st Century by FandangoNOW users.
A holly, jolly holiday season kicks off now with our guide to the most festive TV coming in December. Read on to find out which network is airing those famous Rankin and Bass stop-motion television classics and where you can find all sorts of seasonal programming fare from Gwen Stefani to Bruno Mars to fragile leg lamps, the Grinch, and more.
(We will update this list with more holiday programming as new information becomes available.)
(Photo by Tristram Kenton/Ovation TV)
Turner Christmas Classics — Set your DVRs for these lesser-known black-and-white seasonal options starting with 1947’s Bush Christmas. It’s a family adventure film about a group of children who set out across the Australian bush to get back their horses from thieves. Airs Friday, Dec. 1 at midnight ET/PT on TCM followed by Tenth Avenue Angel at 1:30 a.m. ET/PT. Angela Lansbury stars in this 1948 drama about a child who helps an ex-con find love for Christmas. The triple feature ends with the hour-long documentary Night at the Movies: A Merry Christmas, which traces the history of Yule inspired movies at 3 a.m. ET/PT.
Nutcracker Overload — Ovation TV will air its 11th annual “Battle of the Nutcrackers,” a five-day marathon beginning Monday, Dec. 11 at 7 a.m. ET with Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker from the Australian Ballet. The latter is considered one of the world’s most beautiful renditions. Viewers can decide by voting on Ovation’s Facebook page. This will be followed by Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 7 a.m. ET, as performed by the Dutch National Ballet. The Nutcracker Semperoper Ballet will do the honors Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 7 a.m. ET with the Berlin State Opera performance airing Thursday, Dec. 14 at 7 a.m. ET. The Royal Opera House will close out the competition Friday, Dec. 15 at 7 a.m. ET.
A Christmas Story — Remakes are cool, but there is nothing like the original. Relive the fun from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story when it airs around the clock like it does every year. The fun kicks off Sunday, Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. ET on TBS.
Big Laughs — Enjoy the biggest and funniest pranks when the Impractical Jokers Christmas Day marathon spotlights some of Sal, Q, Joe and Murr’s best work. It airs all day Monday, Dec. 25 on truTV.
Harry Potter: The Entire Adventure — Every Harry Potter movie airs on HBO in handy binge-format Jan. 1, 2018.
(Photo by ABC)
A Charlie Brown Christmas —Celebrate the holidays with this digitally-re-mastered hit, which originally aired in 1965. It airs Thursday, Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration — Join Emmy winner Julianne Hough and multiplatinum recording artist and TV personality Nick Lachey, as they host the two-hour show from the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. The special airs Thursday, Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
A StoryBots Christmas — The StoryBots are headed to the North Pole in this all-new Netflix original holiday offering. The animated special begins streaming Friday, Dec. 1 on Netflix and stars Ed Asner and Judy Greer.
Masters of Illusion: Christmas Magic — Illusionist Michael Grandinetti will add his own brand of magic to the holidays in this new special. It airs Friday, Dec. 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
Miss Me This Christmas — The “perfect couple,” Regina (Erica Ash, Survivor’s Remorse) and Franklin (Redaric Williams), celebrate a fairy-tale Christmas wedding anniversary and seem to have it all. Yet their marriage is on the rocks. Can mistletoe and holly save their love? Find out when this made-for-TV offering airs Sunday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. ET on TV One.
Psych: The Movie — Catch up with fake psychic Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and his best friend, Burton “Gus” Guster (Dulé Hill) in this two-hour movie set three years after the series finale of the popular USA Network detective show. A mystery assailant brings the duo together during the holidays. Airs Thursday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on USA.
Freshly Baked: The Robot Chicken Santa Claus Pot Cookie Freakout Special: Special Edition — The Robot Chicken holiday special kicks off season 9 of the series. St. Nick meets his idol Jared Leto and more in the special, which airs Sunday, Dec. 10 at 11:30 a.m. ET/PT.
The Nightmare Before Christmas — Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s popular Pumpkin King, becomes obsessed with bringing Christmas under his control in this 1993 hit. It airs Friday, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform and repeats Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3:10 p.m. ET/PT and Wednesday Dec. 13 at midnight.
Elf – Buddy the Elf goes looking for his biological father in this hilarious holiday movie from 2003. It airs Friday, Dec. 1 at 9:15 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform. Look for re-airings at Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. ET/PT and Sunday, Dec. 24 at 9:15 p.m ET/PT.
The Chew: Snowed In For the Holidays — Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall whip up festive dishes and crafts, while pop vocal group Human Nature sings fun holiday carols. It airs Sunday, Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. ET/ 2 p.m. PT on ABC and re-airs Christmas Day at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT.
The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special — Tune in to this 50th anniversary celebration of the award-winning comedy series The Carol Burnett Show, which premiered on Sept. 11, 1967. The tribute airs Sunday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
Christmas at Holly Lodge — A business owner falls in love with a real-estate developer who wants to buy her lodge. The problem is, the lodge isn’t for sale. It stars Alison Sweeney, Jordan Bridges and Sheryl Lee Ralph and premieres Sunday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the Hallmark Channel.
My Christmas Prince — Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect) stars as Samantha, a dedicated teacher in Manhattan who returns to her small Wyoming hometown every year for Christmas. This year, she’s thrilled when her boyfriend Alex, a European diplomat, joins her. But when Samantha discovers Alex is actually a prince destined for the throne, her entire world is turned upside down. It airs Sunday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.
The Holiday — Cozy up to this adorable 2006 romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black when it airs Monday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.
Toy Story That Time Forgot – Woody, Buzz and more beloved Toy Story characters return for this holiday treat, which features Trixie the triceratops (Kristen Schaal) as the hero. The animated offering airs Dec. 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town — Feel warm and fuzzy with Rankin and Bass’ perennial favorite from 1970, which airs Monday, Dec. 11 at 1:35 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform.
Gwen Stefani’s You Make It Feel Like Christmas — The Grammy winning singer will perform holiday classics from her album of the same name including “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.” It airs Tuesday Dec. 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Taraji’s White Hot Holidays — The star behind Empire’s heroine Cookie is back to host another star-studded affair full of caroling and classic holiday songs. Special guests include Chaka Khan, Leslie Odom Jr., Salt-N-Pepa and more. It airs Thursday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas — Boris Karloff narrates this classic 1966 animated favorite, which airs Saturday, Dec. 16 at 9:15 p.m. ET/PT and Saturday, Dec. 23 at 9:20 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform. NBC is also airing the movie Christmas Day at 8:30 p.m ET/PT.
(Photo by Tommy Garcia/Fox)
A Christmas Story Live! — Enjoy this three-hour live musical television event, which like the original movie focuses on 9-year-old Ralphie (Andy Walken), a boy who incessantly dreams of getting a Red Ryder Range Model Carbine Action BB Gun for Christmas. It premieres Sunday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
Last Tango in Halifax Holiday Special — The drama follows Celia’s daughter Caroline as she moves the family to a less-than-desirable farmhouse in time for Christmas. It airs back-to-back Sundays, Dec. 17 and 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.
Decorating Disney: Holiday Magic — Tap into your inner child with this inside look at how Disney destinations are turned into winter wonderlands just in time for the holidays. It airs Monday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform.
I Love Lucy Christmas Special — This one-hour special features back-to-back classic and colorized episodes of the beloved sitcom. It airs Friday, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now In Living Color — Series creator Carl Reiner selected this pair of newly colorized episodes as two examples of the late great Mary Tyler Moore’s best work. They air Friday, Dec. 22 beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
How Murray Saved Christmas — Laugh along as Murray (Jerry Stiller), a very unlikely hero, saves the big day. The animated special airs Sunday, Christmas Eve at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
It’s a Wonderful Life — Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings in this beloved holiday classic from 1946. It airs Sunday, Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Christmas Eve with Fairfield University — This hour-long Christmas special features musical performances from the University Glee Club, an ensemble of jazz musicians and the alumni band Lionfish. Fairfield University is located on a 200-acre campus on the Connecticut coast. The special airs Sunday, Christmas Eve at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
Call the Midwife Holiday Special — Neither a thick blanket of snow nor the coldest winter in 300 years can stop this group of dedicated midwives from helping their patients. Tune in when this special installment airs Monday, Christmas Day at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.
Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration — This holiday showcase will be brighter and bigger bringing together the beloved Christmas Day parade, magical musical performances and surprise celebrity guests. It airs Monday, Christmas Day at 10 a.m. ET/ 9 a.m. PT on ABC.
Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time — Get into the holiday spirit when the Doctor comes face to face with the Doctor in this epic finale to the Peter Capaldi era. In “Twice Upon a Time,” the twelfth Doctor (Capaldi) still refuses to change but starts to see the light when he goes on an adventure with the first Doctor (David Bradley, Game of Thrones). Pearl Mackie and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) also star. It airs Monday, Christmas Day at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.
Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day — Peter, a young boy in a red snowsuit, jumps off the pages of this beloved children’s book and right into our hearts in this animated special. It begins streaming Tuesday, Dec. 26 on Amazon Prime Video.
Pete the Cat: A Groovy New Year — Pete the Cat needs a New Year’s resolution but first he must figure out what a resolution is. The animated special starts streaming Tuesday, Dec. 26 on Amazon Prime Video.
Great Performances — From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2018 — Ring in the New Year with the Vienna Philharmonic as they perform a selection of beloved Strauss Family waltzes with guest conductor Riccardo Muti. It airs Monday, Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.
Homicide for the Holidays — Season 2 of this perennial series features a whole new batch of holiday crime stories with interviews from the detectives who worked the cases as well as the friends and family of the victims. The five-part program premieres Saturday, Nov. 25 at 6 p.m. ET/PT on Oxygen.
The Great Christmas Light Fight — Nothing punctuates the holidays like Christmas lights and fights about Christmas lights especially when there’s a $50,000 prize. Season 5 of the holiday offering airs for three consecutive weeks beginning Monday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Happy! — Based on the graphic novel of the same name, this dark comedy follows Nick Sax (star Christopher Meloni), an intoxicated, corrupt ex-cop who becomes a hit man. After an assassination gone wrong, his inebriated life is permanently changed by an imaginary but relentlessly positive blue-winged horse named Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt). The series kicks off Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SyFy.
The Great American Baking Show — Feast your eyes and stomachs on this two-hour season premiere, which kicks off Thursday, Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
(Photo by Cartoon Network)
Teen Titans Go! — “TTG v. Santa,” Dec. 1, 6 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network
We Bare Bears — “The Perfect Tree,” Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network
The Powerpuff Girls — “You’re a Good Man, Mojo Jojo,” Dec. 3, 5:30 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network
Will & Grace — “A Gay Olde Christmas,” Dec. 5, 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC
Superstore — “Christmas Eve,” Dec. 5, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC
Dynasty —”The Best Things in Life,” Dec. 6, 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW
Bob’s Burgers — “The Bleakening Christmas Special Pt. 1” and “The Bleakening Christmas Special Pt. 2,” Dec. 10, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Fox
Family Guy — “Don’t Be A Dickens At Christmas,” Dec. 10, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Fox
(Photo by Eddy Chen/Fox)
Lethal Weapon — “Wreck the Halls,” Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox
Little Women: LA —”A Little Festive,” Dec. 13, 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime
Steven Universe — “Dewey Wins” and “Gemcation,” Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network
Great News — “A Christmas Carol” and “Sensitivity Training,” Dec. 21, 8 and 8:30 p.m ET/PT on NBC
Saturday Night Live — “Christmas Special,” Dec. 21, 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC
Peppa Pig — “Father Christmas,” Dec. 22, 12:30 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon
The Rap Game — “Holiday Remix,” Dec. 22, 10 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime
The Simpsons — “The Nightmare After Krustmas,” Christmas Eve, 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox
Married at First Sight — “Holiday Game Night,” Dec. 26, 9 p.m. on Lifetime
Cyberchase — “A Reboot Eve to Remember,” Dec. 29, air times vary so check your local listings, PBS
The list of Saturday Night Live cast members who have made us laugh is long — but the number of SNL vets who have managed to make a successful go of it on the big screen, especially over the long term, is much smaller. With over a billion dollars in global box office receipts to his name — a total that will expand when he returns to theaters with Amy Poehler in The House this weekend — it’s safe to say Will Ferrell is part of that exclusive group, and in honor of his achievements, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s list to his 10 best-reviewed movies. Get off the shed, because it’s time for Total Recall!
A race-swinging horror movie directed by a guy known for his sketch comedy…and it’s getting rave reviews? Get out! No, really, it’s Get Out, the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, one-half of comedy duo Key & Peele. It’s no secret many stars harbor dreams of one day directing. Few get to do it, fewer are any good at it. In this week’s gallery, here’s 24 Certified Fresh movies directed by actors on their first try!
Alice Through The Looking Glass may not be getting critics supremely high off caterpillar smoke (neither did the Tim Burton-directed original), but don’t let that stop you from having a lauded fantasy movie weekend with your family: simply check out this gallery list of 24 Certified Fresh PG and below fantasy classics and modern hits!
Some Santas want to spread joy to the world…and others just want to watch the world burn. As Christmas approaches, take some time to this week’s special extra 24 Frames gallery, looking at the variations of jolly St. Nick across movie history.
The list of Saturday Night Live cast members who have made us laugh is long — but the number of SNL vets who have managed to make a successful go of it on the big screen, especially over the long term, is much smaller. With over a billion dollars in global box office receipts to his name ? a total that will expand when he returns to theaters with Kevin Hart in Get Hard this weekend — it’s safe to say Will Ferrell is part of that exclusive group, and in honor of his achievements, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s list to his 10 best-reviewed movies. Get off the shed, because it’s time for Total Recall!
Any movie that comes with a tagline as corny as “Show Me the Monkey!” is deserving of skepticism, particularly if the film in question is an animated adaptation of an old series of children’s books — but 2006’s Curious George proved a worthy big-screen extension of H.A. and Margaret Rey’s beloved bestsellers, giving the furry little rascal a spiffy 21st-century makeover without losing any of the sweet charm that made the character an icon in the first place. As the voice of George’s longtime foil The Man in the Yellow Hat (here named Ted Shackleford), Ferrell certainly wasn’t the film’s chief draw for its target demographic, but he did add a bit of marquee value to a cast that included Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy, and Dick Van Dyke, helping George swing its way to a mildly surprising $69 million worldwide gross. The movie’s gentle spirit and extensive use of traditional animation couldn’t compete with the louder, flashier CGI fare prevalent at the box office, but they weren’t meant to; as Colin Colvert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote, “the makers of Curious George have figured out how to make an innocent cartoon that will amuse knee-nuzzlers without hitting adults like a liter of chloroform.”
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Will Ferrell has a knack for finding (or writing) scripts built around concepts so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh — and 2007’s Blades of Glory, a comedy about a pair of competitive skaters who are forced to form an ice dancing team after an awards ceremony brawl leaves them barred from men’s singles, is a perfect case in point. Ferrell’s brand of fearlessly stupid comedy is perfect for any script that requires him to spend time in a unitard, and Jon Heder’s sleepy-eyed hostility made him a worthy foil for his louder, hairier co-star. Although Ferrell had already done more than one sports-themed comedy, Blades of Glory still packed enough laughs to satisfy most critics — it earned a 69 percent Tomatometer rating, thanks to reviews from writers like the Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen, who praised it as “one of those rare comedies that puts a goofy smile on your face with the premise alone, and keeps it planted there right until its wacky finale.”
By the late 1990s, Ferrell had emerged as the next Saturday Night Live cast member to make the jump to movies — both within the SNL family, in projects like Superstar and A Night at the Roxbury, and also in non SNL-affiliated fare, such as the first two Austin Powers movies, the independently released The Suburbans, and 1999’s Dick. Supporting Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams in this 1970s-set comedy about a pair of teenage girls that exposes the nefarious deeds of Richard Nixon (Dan Hedaya), Ferrell appears as a bumbling, thin-skinned version of Bob Woodward opposite Bruce McCulloch’s equally incompetent Carl Bernstein. Though the allegedly investigative duo is more interested in insulting each other than cracking a story (in one memorable exchange, Ferrell tells McCulloch that he smells “like cabbage”), they’re eventually pointed in the right direction by Dunst and Williams; similarly, although audiences seemed not to know what to make of Dick, critics applauded it for being, in the words of Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, “a gaily funny, shrewdly inventive satire.”
For many comics, branching out from lighthearted comedies to more dramatic fare is seen as a rite of passage; Bill Murray had The Razor’s Edge, Jim Carrey started nudging away from straight comedy with The Cable Guy and The Truman Show, and even Dane Cook has popped up in serious films such as Mr. Brooks and Dan in Real Life. For Will Ferrell, the chance to flex his dramatic muscle came with Stranger than Fiction, a 2006 dramedy about an IRS auditor who slowly realizes that the events taking place in his life are the result of an unseen author who may be leading him to a rather unhappy ending. It’s the sort of heady premise that Ferrell’s detractors would say he lacks the depth or breadth to carry — but they’d be wrong, as evidenced by Fiction‘s Certified Fresh status and 72 percent Tomatometer rating. Though he was certainly surrounded with top talent — such as a supporting cast that included Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal — Ferrell’s performance was singled out by critics like Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who wrote that he “delivers a moving and surprisingly delicate — though not so surprisingly funny — turn as the lonesome bureaucrat bedeviled by a voice only he hears.”
Part buffoonish comedy, part NASCAR fable, Talladega Nights sped past all the cries of “not another Will Ferrell sports comedy” to an impressive $162 million worldwide gross — and, more importantly, a 73 percent Tomatometer rating and Certified Fresh status. Though the none-too-bright Ricky Bobby was essentially just another variation of the same character Ferrell had been playing for years, Talladega proved that character could still be funny — starting with the trailer and TV spots, in which an underwear-and-helmet-clad Ricky engages in a panicked run around a racetrack, screaming for Tom Cruise to “use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off me.” In the words of Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe, Talladega Nights is “the sort of cheerfully asinine comedy that twists your arm until you submit. So, to Will Ferrell — clown, freak, bully — I scream, ‘Uncle!'”
If you’re going to adapt a Raymond Carver short story about an alcoholic loser who reacts to losing his job and being kicked out of his home by camping out in his front yard and selling off his possessions, you could do a lot worse than hiring Will Ferrell to play your protagonist. Case in point: 2011’s Everything Must Go, in which writer-director Dan Rush affords Ferrell plenty of room to explore the premise’s dramatic depths while lending a healthy amount of laughs to a situation that probably wouldn’t seem all that funny if it happened to any of us. Unlike a lot of forays into more thoughtful territory by actors known for their comedic chops, Everything earned a surprising number of critical accolades along the way, including Simon Gallagher’s review for What Culture, which deemed the movie “a pleasantly engaging, entertaining human portrait — a journey that doesn’t physically stray very far, but which treads a million metaphorical miles within its main character as he attempts to go from broken man to redeemed man.”
Long after even its most ardent and/or munchies-tormented fans had given up hope of ever seeing a sequel, Ferrell and his frequent creative partner Adam McKay managed to get a follow-up to 2004’s cult classic Anchorman off the ground, reuniting the original’s brilliant cast (many of whom had been bumped up several pay grades in the interim) to show audiences what the endearing blowhard Ron Burgundy and his largely incompetent news team had been up to over the ensuing nine years. Surrounded by a gifted comedic team that included Anchorman vets such as Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Christina Applegate as well as new additions like Kristen Wiig, Ferrell helped make Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues another dose of dada bliss ? and one of the rare sequels whose reviews manage to surpass those of its predecessor. “Maybe McKay and his cast simply captured another bolt of lightning in Ron’s empty scotch bottle; more likely, they were just as inspired this time around as they were during the first film,” wrote Cammila Collar for TV Guide. “Regardless, they’ve definitely kept it classy.”
For much of his film career, Ferrell has scooped added helpings of laughs out of being placed alongside well-chosen comedic foils. John C. Reilly has gotten particularly good mileage out of matching him guffaw for dunderheaded guffaw, but Ferrell can also be brilliantly funny when his bozo routine has a fussy, tight-lipped straight man to bounce off, and 2010’s The Other Guys is a perfect example. By placing Ferrell’s knuckleheaded Detective Allen Gamble opposite Mark Wahlberg’s desperately straight-laced Detective Terry Hoitz, Guys pumped a few extra chuckles into the well-worn buddy cop formula ? and worked in a little savvy bailout-era social commentary in the bargain. “Just go and see it,” ordered Nigel Andrews for the Financial Times. “And send me the bill if you don’t laugh.”
You could put pretty much any 6’3″ actor in an elf suit and get some chuckles, but casting Will Ferrell as an orphan raised at the North Pole — by Bob “Papa Elf” Newhart, no less — was a stroke of comic genius. What tends to get lost in all the shouting and inappropriate nudity is that Ferrell excels at playing gentle, childlike men whose open-heartedness is exceeded only by their oafishness, and in Elf‘s Buddy Hobbs, he found a role that perfectly highlighted that skill. And the casting genius didn’t end there — Elf also includes inspired turns by Newhart in an elf’s cap, Ed Asner as Santa, James Caan as Ferrell’s gruff, exasperated biological father, and, for Pete’s sake, Leon Redbone as a talking snowman. Singling out holiday movies for critical beatdowns has becoming something of an annual tradition, but in this case, our top scribes were left filled with holiday cheer — such as Roger Ebert, who beamed, “this is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.”
Will Ferrell’s finest films are the ones that take full advantage of both sides of his on-screen persona, allowing him to indulge his gift for playing a belligerent man-child as well as displaying some real sensitivity. It’s fitting, then, that The LEGO Movie ended up at the top of our list of Ferrell’s 10 best movies: While he’s a dangerous buffoon for most of it, lending his voice to the maniacal, order-hungry Lord Business during the animated portion of the story, he’s also on hand for some of LEGO‘s most poignant moments during the part at the end where ? well, we won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that although we tend to take a hard look at animated features on most of these lists, this is one case where top honors are deserved. “It’s one of the few movies based on a toy with no explicit story behind it,” observed Katey Rich for Vanity Fair. “And it is, so far, the only one that’s really good.”
Finally, here’s Ferrell in the crystal verdant waters of the Mississippi searching for catfish and the American Dream: