Andy Bockelman: Movies to mark the Christmas season

— In the multitude of Christmas movies made, there have been some truly awful ones. Seeing the Governator slug it out with a rampaging reindeer ("Jingle All the Way") or grimacing as Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito ogle their own daughters ("Deck the Halls") is enough to dampen anyone's holiday spirit.

However, this list of the top 10 Christmas films should please a variety of viewers.

10. "Bad Santa" - A drunken criminal (Billy Bob Thornton) who poses as a mall Santa to cover for his annual heists gets his life changed by a clueless kid (Brett Kelly). Easily the most unconventional holiday movie ever conceived, this unbelievably obscene comedy has a bizarrely heart-warming slant to it. Still, save this one for after the kids are in bed.

9. "Ernest Saves Christmas" - Well-meaning bumpkin Ernest P. Worrel (Jim Varney) assists Santa Claus (Douglas Seale) as he searches for his replacement (Oliver Clark), and helps put a teen runaway (Noelle Parker) back on the right path. Depending on your tolerance for the dim-witted character, this one does have a lot of heart. Isn't that right, Vern?

8. "The Santa Clause" - Through an odd turn of events, divorced dad Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) gets roped into being Santa Claus. The first of the three "Clause" movies is both the funniest and the most magical.

7. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" - Lovably oblivious Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) does everything in his power to arrange the perfect family Christmas with hilarious results. One of Chevy's better works, this entry perfectly conveys the maddening atmosphere that takes place in December.

6. "Elf" - A human (Will Ferrell) raised by elves at the North Pole ventures to New York to find his real father (James Caan). This refreshing, non-cynical look at the season benefits from Ferrell's bubbly charisma and a story that knows when and when not to be sappy.

5. "The Muppet Christmas Carol" - Miserable Ebeneezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) is given a chance at redemption with the help of a trio of spirits. Although it may not be the best version of the story, this umpteenth rendering of the Dickens tale (with many more to come) is still delightful, thanks to Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and the rest of the gang.

4. "Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" - The green goon attempts to ruin the holiday for the town of Whoville. Although this list is reserved for feature films, this is an exception. The uncomplicated cartoon voiced by Boris Karloff excels compared to the exorbitant Jim Carrey version, which, frankly, has an appeal that is two sizes two small.

3. "Miracle on 34th Street" - A man (Edmund Gwenn) boasting the name Kris Kringle is put on trial when he continually claims to be the real thing. Gwenn won an Oscar for his performance in the 1947 version, making the 1994 remake seem all the more strained.

2. "A Christmas Story" - In 1940s Indiana, young Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) dreams and schemes to ensure that the coveted Red Ryder BB gun awaits him underneath the tree Christmas morning. Simultaneously brilliant and simple, author Jean Shepherd's nostalgic musings will forever remain one of the most beloved movies ever made.

1. "It's a Wonderful Life" - As despondent George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve, the entirety of his life plays out, showing what kind of effect he had on his family and friends. The granddaddy of them all, Frank Capra's holiday masterpiece remains powerful year-round with its inspiring message.

Although I probably left out a few favorites, these are just my thoughts on the best films to watch this time of year. Happy holidays.

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