10 Lost Treasures That Could Make You Very Rich

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You’ll need more than a map and a shovel to find these cultural gems. But trust us, it will be worth the effort.

1. Hitchcock's Missing Ending

Just a few years into his career, 24-year-old Alfred Hitchcock was already wearing a lot of hats. On 1923’s hastily produced The White Shadow, Hitchcock served as writer, set designer, assistant director, and even editor. Unfortunately, he didn’t reap much reward for all that effort. The film about twin sisters, one of whom was good while the other was—brace yourself—evil, quietly bombed at the box office. Before long, all known copies had disappeared.

That is, until 2011. In a twist straight out of one of his own films, three of the movie’s six reels turned up in New Zealand. The reels had been nestled safely in the New Zealand Film Archive’s holdings since 1989.

How did the British film stock end up on the other side of the world? Blame nitrate. In movies’ early days, reels of nitrate film circled the globe as a picture played in one country after another. Because the reels were incredibly flammable, transporting them was risky and expensive. And because New Zealand was often the end of the theatrical line, studios usually destroyed a film’s reels there rather than shipping them home.

One projectionist, Jack Murtagh, couldn’t bear to trash the art, so he built up a formidable collection of terrible films—including half of The White Shadow—in his garden shed. When he passed away, his grandson donated most of the shed’s contents to the Film Archive, where the reels sat patiently for nearly 22 years.

Surprisingly, the first half of The White Shadow held up quite well during its stay in Murtagh’s shed, but the last three reels remain lost—as do several of Hitchcock’s other early projects. Today, any one of those films would fetch millions of dollars on the market.

2. The Makings of a Very Pricey Omelet

A Carl Faberge Easter Egg on display in London in 2014
A Carl Faberge Easter Egg on display in London in 2014
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

From 1885 until the Russian Revolution in 1917, Saint Petersburg’s House of Fabergé created 50 Imperial Easter Eggs as special commissions for the Tsar’s family. These baubles weren’t just encrusted with the world’s most precious stones and metals; each shell opened to reveal a “surprise”—anything from a ruby pendant to a tiny bejeweled train with working mechanics.

When Communists seized control of Russia, they didn’t have much use for these decadent symbols. In 1927, Joseph Stalin’s young regime was dangerously low on cash, so the Soviets decided to hold what amounted to an extended high-end yard sale. Foreign collectors snapped up the Fabergé offerings, and today only 10 of the 50 original eggs still reside at the Kremlin. Of the remaining 40, 32 are in museums or private collections. But eight have vanished entirely. Estimates value the missing Imperial eggs at as much as $30 million apiece! Whether they’re lost or residing in private collections, these Easter eggs are definitely worth finding.

3. The World Loses Its Cup

Two years before soccer’s governing body, FIFA, staged the first World Cup in 1930, it commissioned a trophy to match the quadrennial tournament’s prestige: a gold-plated silver cup atop a sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike. After every tournament, the victorious nation would hold onto the fancy hardware until the next Cup. As added incentive, the first nation to win the Cup three times would become the trophy’s permanent owner.

In 1970, Brazil accomplished that feat with a Pelé-led squad. FIFA held a design contest to create a new award, while the original trophy was sent to Rio de Janeiro for a quiet retirement. The Brazilian Football Confederation kept it displayed in a special cabinet fronted with bulletproof glass. Unfortunately, the cabinet’s wooden frame was less secure. In 1983, thieves burst into the confederation’s headquarters, overpowered a guard, and pried open the display to make off with the trophy. Although four men were later convicted for the heist, the trophy was never recovered.

While Pelé has appealed for the hardware’s return, police believe it was likely melted down for its precious metals. The trophy’s true whereabouts remain unknown, but fans can still enjoy a tangible symbol of Brazil’s futebol supremacy—in 1984, Kodak’s Brazilian division presented the country with a gold replica.

4. The Classic Novel No One's Read

Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When the Modern Library pegged Arthur Koestler’s 1940 novel, Darkness at Noon, as the eighth-best English-language novel of the 20th century, it was a curious choice. Not because the book is bad; the incredible account of a Communist revolutionary’s fall from grace, imprisonment, and interrogation gave the West a glimpse of the paranoia and repression that infected Stalin’s regime. No, praising Darkness at Noon as an English-language novel is odd because it was written in German.

Koestler penned the work in France while living with his companion, the British sculptor Daphne Hardy. The couple sent the German manuscript to Koestler’s publisher, but held onto one copy that Hardy had translated into English. With the Nazis advancing on Paris, Koestler and Hardy fled to Bordeaux, where Hardy took the manuscript and boarded a ship home to the United Kingdom. Soon after Hardy set sail, Koestler received terrible news: Her boat had been sunk by a torpedo. Having lost both his lover and the last remaining copy of his novel, Koestler attempted suicide, but failed—and before he could try again, the bereaved novelist learned that the reports had been erroneous.

The English translation of Darkness at Noon was published to great praise in London, but in the chaos of the early days of World War II, the German manuscript disappeared, leaving scholars with no clues about the original text of one of the 20th century’s greatest novels.

5. A Prehistoric Bird Flies the Coop

As any dinosaur-obsessed kid knows, Archaeopteryx is the link that proves that today’s birds are descendants of Jurassic dinos. But for all its fame, the Archaeopteryx is one rare creature—only 11 fossils are known to exist, and one of those is hopelessly lost.

In 1956, German quarry workers unearthed the “Maxberg specimen,” but the dino-bird sat in storage for two years as an anonymous slab of rock until quarry owner Eduard Opitsch loaned it to a geologist. Only then did paleontologists realize that the fossil was an Archaeopteryx. At the time, it was just the third known Archaeopteryx fossil, so the scientific community went nuts for it. Opitsch allowed the Maxberg Museum to display the specimen (hence the name) while he worked out a plan to sell it to the highest bidder. A German museum offered $10,000, but the notoriously cranky Opitsch balked at the idea of paying taxes on his windfall. In 1974, he simply took his Archaeopteryx and went home.

It’s unclear what exactly Opitsch did with one of the most important paleontological finds of the 20th century, but he refused to show his Archaeopteryx to anyone. According to one story, he kept the fossil under his bed. Others speculate that he buried the slab for safekeeping or secretly sold it to a collector. Whatever happened, the Archaeopteryx was nowhere to be found when Opitsch passed away in 1991. Fossil sleuths have been digging around for it ever since, but the Maxberg specimen seems to have flown away.

6. Wheeeeeere’s Johnny?

Johnny Carson at a microphone
Johnny Carson
Keystone Features/Getty Images

Host Johnny Carson’s three-decade stint at The Tonight Show is the stuff of late-night legend, but physical evidence of Carson’s first decade behind the desk is surprisingly scarce.

In the 1960s, archiving was not a priority; NBC would air an episode of The Tonight Show and then promptly erase the tape. While it sounds unthinkable now, it was standard business practice at the time. Though the show was making NBC millions, tapes cost $300 apiece (nearly $2000 in today’s money). Because each one could be erased and reused up to 50 times, watershed moments such as Carson’s debut show—when he was introduced by Groucho Marx—are lost forever. The network did save a few tapes for reruns, but more than 90 percent of Carson’s jokes aired just once.

There is some hope for Carson fanatics, though. Other lost recordings from the same era have turned up in recent years. In 2011, a tape of the 1967 broadcast of Super Bowl I (the holy grail of missing sports footage) was discovered in a Pennsylvania attic, so we may still get a chance to hear a young Ed McMahon bellow, “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!”

7. The Best Argument for Paying Ransoms

The Bishop of Ghent probably wished he’d stayed in bed on the morning of April 11, 1934. The Belgian clergyman awoke to learn that a burglar had broken into St. Bavo’s Cathedral and pilfered a section of “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” a 15th-century altarpiece and national treasure painted by Flemish masters Hubert and Jan van Eyck. Because swiping the entire artwork would have been cumbersome—it measures 11.5 by 14.5 feet—the thief instead boosted two of the 20 panels, including “The Just Judges,” the bottom left section.

Shortly after the theft, ransom notes appeared demanding 1 million Belgian francs for the work’s return. The bishop agreed. He put down a 25,000-franc installment on the ransom, but he couldn’t get the full million. Instead, the police pressed the bishop to play hardball by offering another 225,000 francs and not a centime more.

The thief was not impressed, writing, “[W]e keep thinking that what we ask is not excessive or impossible to realize.” After the church rebuffed an offer to hand over the ransom on a payment plan, the thief dropped the correspondence and kept his prize.

Authorities believe the frustrated burglar was a stockbroker, amateur artist, and crime-novel buff named Arsène Goedertier. Just a few months after the theft, Goedertier allegedly made a deathbed confession. But he died before he could reveal the piece’s whereabouts. If Goedertier actually squirreled the panels away, he did a terrific job of hiding them. Although “The Just Judges” was replaced with a copy, the work’s fate remains one of the art world’s most elusive mysteries.

8. The Found Object That Got Lost

A woman looking at a replica of Duchamp's "Fountain"
A woman looking at a replica of Duchamp's "Fountain"
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

French artist Marcel Duchamp shocked the world in 1917 when he unveiled a run-of-the-mill urinal as the sculpture “Fountain.” Eager to make the point that ordinary found objects could be art, he submitted the piece to an avant-garde Society of Independent Artists exhibit that promised to show the work of any artist who forked over a $6 fee. Duchamp signed the work “R. Mutt,” presumably so his fame from paintings such as “Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)” wouldn’t affect the piece’s reception. Still, he hoped his readymade idea would get a big showcase.

Unfortunately for Duchamp, not even his artist pals got the joke. The show’s board of directors dismissed the piece as vulgar, while a magazine essay decried it as “plagiarism, a plain piece of plumbing.” Forgetting its promise to exhibit any submitted work, the show refused to display “Fountain,” forcing Duchamp to convince journalists to write essays about the work to spread his message. Famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz snapped a picture of the piece, but the original disappeared shortly thereafter. Someone probably made the assumption that the stray urinal was trash and tossed it.

Years later, Duchamp began overseeing a painstaking re-creation of “Fountain” for collectors and museums. Today, more than a dozen of his meticulous replicas—absolutely identical to his original found object—exist and are priced at as much as $2.5 million when they hit the market. But Duchamp’s original is lost to the ages.

9. Lincoln's Speech That Wasn't Fit to Print

Contrary to what your history teacher said, Abraham Lincoln’s finest speech didn’t begin with the phrase “four score.” Instead, it was a thunderous antislavery oration delivered to the first convention of the Illinois Republican Party on May 29, 1856. Schoolchildren don’t recite these words for a simple reason: Nobody wrote them down.

It’s not clear how the text of the speech became lost, but the traditional explanation is that the speech was too powerful. Instead of transcribing Lincoln’s fiery words, entranced journalists forgot to take notes. The Chicago Democrat reported, “Abraham Lincoln for an hour and a half held the assemblage spellbound by the power of his argument, the intense irony of his invective, the brilliancy of his eloquence. I shall not mar any of its fine proportions by attempting even a synopsis of it.”

Some modern scholars have a different theory; they speculate that the speech was suppressed, not lost. Lincoln’s words may have been such an intense rebuke of slavery that their publication had the potential to shake a fragile nation. The speech’s reputation only grew as Lincoln’s national stature skyrocketed. Several “firsthand accounts” of the speech have surfaced over the years, only to be debunked, leaving historians hungrier than ever for an accurate transcript.

10. Russia and Prussia Get a Room

Guests at a reconstructed version of the Amber Room
Guests at a reconstructed version of the Amber Room
Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images for Montblanc

What do you give the tsar who has everything? In 1716, Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I needed to give Russia’s Peter the Great a gift magnificent enough to solidify the countries’ alliance against Sweden. Friedrich Wilhelm’s present swung for the diplomatic fences: a room with walls made from six tons of amber backed with gold leaf. At 180 square feet, the Amber Room lived up to its nickname, “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” Needless to say, the gift went over swimmingly. The room was installed in a palace near Saint Petersburg, where it instantly became one of Russia’s greatest treasures.

When the Nazis embarked on a massive art-looting binge more than two centuries later, the Amber Room posed a bit of problem. Unlike a canvas or a sculpture, there was no sneaky way to stash a very large, very famous room. Amber’s fragility made moving the entire chamber a dicey proposition, so the room’s caretakers attempted to hide its opulence behind a layer of wallpaper.

Given the room’s fame, this bluff didn’t stand a chance. Nazi soldiers located the Amber Room in October 1941 and shipped its panels to a castle in Königsberg, Germany. The reconstructed room was briefly on display in Königsberg before it was crated up as the war drew to a close. And nobody has seen it since!

Many scholars think the room was destroyed when Königsberg weathered heavy Allied bombings in 1944 or during the city’s surrender the following year. Others speculate that the Nazis tried to sneak the treasure out of the city on a boat that sank or buried it in a shallow lagoon off of the Baltic Sea. Art historians estimate the Amber Room would be worth as much as $250 million today, but nearly seven decades of treasure hunts haven’t turned up anything aside from a pair of small pieces. Still, if you’re itching to see what the room looked like, there’s a way. In 1979, Soviet craftsmen began using photographs to reconstruct the Amber Room in its pre-looting home; the project was completed in 2003, just in time for Saint Petersburg’s 300th birthday.

8 Things You Might Not Know About James A. Garfield

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Owing to his untimely demise at the hands of assassin Charles Guiteau in 1881, 20th U.S. president James Garfield served only seven months in office, the second-shortest tenure after William Henry Harrison. (The equally unfortunate Harrison famously succumbed to pneumonia—though it might have been typhoid—one month into his term.) Not quite 50 at the time of his passing, Garfield nonetheless managed to pack a lot of experience into his short but eventful life. Read on for some facts about his childhood, his election non-campaign, and why Alexander Graham Bell thought he could help save Garfield's life. (Spoiler: He couldn't.)

1. He originally wanted to sail the open seas.

Garfield was born in Orange, Ohio on November 19, 1831. He never had a chance to know his father, Abram, who died before James turned 2 years old. As a child, Garfield was enamored with adventure novels and imagined a career as a sailor. "Nautical novels did it," he once said. "My mother tried to turn my attention in other directions, but the books were considered bad and from that very fact were fascinating." As a teenager, he got a job towing barges, but that was about as far as his seafaring would get. He attended the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (now called Hiram College) in Hiram, Ohio and Williams College in Massachusetts before settling in as a Greek and Latin teacher at Hiram, where he would later become president.

2. He was a Civil War veteran.

James Garfield in his military uniform
Mathew Brady/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

If Garfield longed for adventure, he eventually found it, though perhaps not quite in the way he anticipated as a child. After being elected to the Ohio senate in 1859, Garfield joined the Union army at age 29 during the outbreak of war against the Confederates in 1861. Garfield saw combat in several skirmishes, including the Battle of Shiloh and the Battle of Chickamauga, before then-president Abraham Lincoln convinced him to resign his military post so he could devote his time to advocating for Ohio in the House of Representatives in 1863. He became the leading Republican in the House before being elected to the Senate for the 1881 term.

3. He never pursued presidential office.

Garfield thought he was attending the 1880 Republican National Convention to stump for Treasury Secretary John Sherman as the party's presidential candidate. Instead, the convention came to an impasse over Sherman, James Blaine, and Ulysses S. Grant. To help unclog the stalemate, Wisconsin's delegation threw Garfield's name into the hat as a compromise candidate. Not only did he win the election (opposing Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock), but he became the only sitting House member elected president. The whole process took Garfield by surprise, as he once told friends that "this honor comes to me unsought. I have never had the presidential fever, not even for a day."

4. He got caught up in an immigration scandal.

Just weeks before the general presidential election in November 1880, Garfield's political opponents tried to deal a fatal blow to his campaign by circulating a letter Garfield had written to an associate named H.L. Morey addressing the matter of foreign workers. In it, Garfield supported the idea of Chinese laborers, a controversial point of view at a time the country was nervous about immigration affecting employment. Democrats handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the letter in an effort to sour voters on his candidacy. In Denver, the prospect of foreign workers prompted a riot. At first, Garfield remained silent, but not because he was ashamed of the letter. He simply couldn't recall writing or signing it—it was dated just after he was elected to the Senate, and he had signed lots of letters that he and his friends wrote in reply to the congratulatory messages he had received. But after consulting with his friends he issued a denial, and after seeing a reproduction in a newspaper, Garfield announced it was a phony. Furthermore, "H.L. Morey" didn't seem to exist. Turns out, the letter was planted by the opposition to discredit Garfield's name. Journalist Kenward Philp, who published the letter, was put on trial for libel and forgery but acquitted. One witness who claimed they met Morey was jailed for eight years for perjury.

5. He defended civil rights.

Several presidents in or near Garfield's era—Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson—had less than flattering views on Reconstruction and civil rights. But Garfield made his opinion abundantly clear. Speaking during his inauguration, Garfield celebrated the dissolution of slavery and called it "the most important political change" since the Constitution. Garfield also appointed four black men to his administration, including activist Frederick Douglass as recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia.

6. He didn't get particularly great medical care after being shot.

Illustration of Garfield's assassination.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

A former Garfield supporter, Charles Guiteau, was erroneously convinced that Garfield owed him a European ambassadorship. After his letters and drop-ins were ignored by the administration for months, he shot Garfield twice at a train station in Washington, D.C. The president was quickly tended to by a number of physicians in the hopes he could survive the bullet stuck in his abdomen, but the doctors didn't bother washing their hands before sticking their fingers in his wound. (At the time, the idea of an antiseptic medical environment was being promoted but not widely used.) For two weeks, Garfield languished in bed as his caregivers attempted to remove the projectile but succeeded only in worsening both the incision in his stomach and the accompanying infection. A heart attack, blood infection, and splenic artery rupture followed. He hung on for roughly 80 days before dying on September 19, 1881. Guiteau was hanged for the crime in 1882.

7. Alexander Graham Bell tried to save his life.

During Garfield's bedridden final days, the public at large tried their best to lend sympathies and possible solutions. One letter writer suggested that doctors simply turn him upside-down so the bullet would fall out. A slightly more reasonable—but no more effective—tactic was offered by Alexander Graham Bell. Inviting a large measure of respect for his invention of the telephone, Bell was allowed to use a makeshift metal detector over Garfield's body to see if the electromagnetic fields would be disrupted by the presence of the bullet, revealing its location in Garfield's abdomen. Bell was unsuccessful, though he reportedly did manage to detect the metal in the president's mattress.

8. A classical statue was erected in his honor soon after his death.

Despite his short and somewhat uneventful tenure, Garfield quickly (as in, within six years) received an honor equal to more renowned American presidents. Sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward, who is probably best known for his oversized bronze of George Washington that stands on the grounds of his inauguration at Federal Hall in New York, unveiled his Garfield monument in 1887 at the foot of the Capitol building. The statue, which depicts Garfield giving a speech, also sports three figures along its granite pedestal base: a student (representing Garfield's stint as a teacher), a warrior (for his military service), and a toga-sporting elder statesman (to signify his political career).

The 20 Best Christmas Movies of All Time

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iStock.com/Satyrenko

There’s a difference between a Christmas movie and a movie that happens to be set at Christmastime. One evokes the spirit of the holiday—the atmosphere, the charity, the awkward family meals—while the other shows snow falling and the occasional Santa hat to set the mood. This key difference is why the debate surrounding Die Hard being “a Christmas movie” is always so heated. Is it solely a matter of the calendar or does a true Christmas movie need to reflect the soul of the season?

It’s also a genre that’s oversaturated with new, harmless movies every year seeking to thaw icy hearts and let them grow three sizes after a tub of popcorn. Which makes the enduring legacies of the very best Christmas movies that much more impressive.

We all have our own lineup of movies, old and more recent, that instantly leaps to mind when you think of Christmas. Movies that you watch on repeat without fail this time of year. Movies that have achieved Christmas immortality.

Here are the 20 best movies that capture the heart of Christmas (in alphabetical order, as we love them all too much to play total favorites).

1. Babes In Toyland (1961)

There were more than a few adaptations of Victor Herbert’s operetta before this one, but the Disneyfication of the fairy tale mash-up created a Technicolor jolt of Christmas adventure. Mouseketeer Annette Funicello shines as the secret heir to a fortune, but the movie’s best weapon is Ed Wynn as the Toymaker, pouring pure delight on everything he touches. 

2. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

This may be the only romantic comedy where a handsome young man helps a beautiful woman stay with her slightly cranky husband. Of course, Cary Grant is actually a handsome young angel whose mission is to help a Bishop (David Niven) in the midst of raising money for a new cathedral. Sometimes you pray for help and God sends the hottest actor in Hollywood to take your wife ice skating in order to remind you that kindness isn’t about funding a fancy new building.

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

The shortest of the movies on this list, Charles M. Schulz’s holiday special left an indelible mark on pop culture in less than half an hour. The animated wonder simultaneously gave us the best Christmas monologue about the crappiest tree and a jazzy Christmas soundtrack courtesy of Vince Guaraldi.

4. A Christmas Story (1983)

There’s a reason TBS plays this on a loop for a full 24 hours heading into the big day. Endlessly quotable, the youthful memoir is stacked with iconic moments involving tongues on flagpoles, risqué leg lamps, a sadistic Santa, and a super safe BB gun. Go ahead and shout out all your favorite lines right now. Just don’t shoot your eye out.

5. The Christmas Toy (1986)

Long before Buzz and Woody, Jim Henson produced a movie about an overconfident toy tiger who puts a playroom full of toys at risk because he can’t handle being supplanted by a new favorite toy. They all come to life when people aren’t around, and flop down when the playroom door opens, but they get frozen forever if a human touches them out of their original place. It’s a funny, imaginative gem, and I wore out the VHS when I was a kid.

6. Christmas Vacation (1989)

The blessing! More outright embarrassing and less sardonic than A Christmas Story, the Griswold family’s suburban misadventures lovingly devolve into the kind of chaos that requires a SWAT team. If you’re hosting your whole family, a flaming, flying set of plastic reindeer may just be the best symbol for the season. Fun fact: Mae Questel (who stole scenes as Aunt Bethany) sounds familiar because she was the voice of Olive Oyl and Betty Boop.

7. Die Hard (1988)

Yup, it’s on the list. Not merely set during Christmastime, John McClane’s harrowing rescue of his wife’s office mates is a bit like an action version of Ebenezer Scrooge. He starts off cranky and hateful of the season but remembers the true value of love and kindness after being visited by multiple people with guns who teach him to share what he has with others and give selflessly to those in need.

8. Elf (2003)

There is no tamping down Buddy the Elf’s enthusiasm. Like a retelling of Big with yellow tights and a green, pointy hat, Will Ferrell navigates the big city world of cynics to help them locate their inner child and believe in Christmas again. The main gag is how ridiculous Ferrell is as a giant elf, but the movie turns to magic because of its refusal to be even slightly mean-spirited. It’s like taking a big bite out of spaghetti topped with M&Ms, marshmallows, sprinkles, and chocolate syrup.

9. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1977)

It’s “The Gift of the Magi” with singing river otters. That’s an automatic win on the adorability scale, but Jim Henson’s tale of family togetherness glides by on sheer sweetness and joy, revealing that you don’t have to have expensive equipment (or even a good band name) to create beautiful harmonies.

10. Frosty The Snowman (1969)

The tip top of children’s Christmas movies is dominated by Walt Disney, Jim Henson, and Rankin/Bass, who stepped away from stop-motion animation for this story based on the wildly popular holiday tune. It’s wondrous, but it’s also more harrowing than you remember. As soon as Frosty is given life, he’s aware of his own melting mortality, and the entire plot of the story is about figuring out how he can survive. It’s also impressive for having a mediocre children’s party magician as the villain.

11. Home Alone (1990)

John Hughes must have suffered some kind of vacation-based trauma, because this and Christmas Vacation both focus on the hilarious worsts of time away from the office. For the Griswolds it’s living beyond their means and needing more lights. For Kevin McCallister, it’s about neglect that should demand a call to CPS. The lesson of every elementary schooler’s dream of independence is that it’s okay to order your own cheese pizza as long as you also buy more toothpaste and fight off violent robbers. And if you love seeing Home Alone on this list but bristle at Die Hard’s inclusion, think twice, because they’re essentially the same movie.

12. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Why they keep trying to improve on perfection is beyond comprehension. Keep Jim Carrey. Keep Benedict Cumberbatch. Give me Chuck Jones’s animation team featuring Boris Karloff and the legendary voice talent June Foray. It’s a madcap comic masterpiece with a message of kindness served up piping hot next to the roast beast. Sadly, the sequel, Halloween is Grinch Night, never quite caught on.

13. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Like most of you, I often fantasize about what It’s a Wonderful Life would be like starring The Grinch. I mean, who’s The Grinch’s guardian angel? Obviously, Frank Capra’s classic tale of redemption is in the eternal top five of Christmas films thanks to Jimmy Stewart’s mournfully enthusiastic performance and its overall message that one life matters. It, more than just about any other movie, has come to represent Christmastime itself—a ubiquitous presence on TV screens everywhere throughout December.

14. Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

Not just one of the best Christmas movies, but one of the very best films of its release year, Miracle on 34th Street soars with a charismatic performance from Maureen O’Hara and precocious side eye from a young Natalie Wood. Is Santa real? And is he the old gentleman you helped get a job at the department store? Cynicism is incinerated by this infectiously warm movie—one of the only films in history where the US Postal Service acts as Deus Ex Machina.

15. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Undoubtedly controversial, everyone has their personal favorite version of Charles Dickens’s important treatise on humanity and self-inflicted loneliness. The 175-year-old story has been adapted more than 100 times counting movies, TV, radio, and graphic novels. Maybe 1951’s Scrooge is your favorite, maybe you like George C. Scott or Patrick Stewart best. The Muppets and Michael Caine, though, brought a fresh, playful flavor that allowed a rat to co-narrate.

16. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What’s this? What’s this? It’s Henry Selick’s perfect stop-motion celebration of Christmas cheer through a Gothic lens. With so many Christmas movies, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd, but The Nightmare Before Christmas is defiantly different. Mostly because it has werewolves, a singing sack filled with bugs, and a ghost dog who saves the day. So many movies focus on Christmas getting canceled because Santa gets detained, so it’s nice to see a movie about the ghouls who detain him.

17. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

The epic story of a misfit caribou who finds purpose because of what makes him unique, this Rankin/Bass tale is the longest continuously aired Christmas special of all time. It’s shown up on screens every year since 1964, thrilling young and young-at-heart viewers alike with vibrant animation, fun songs, and, for some awesome reason, an abominable snowman.

18. The Santa Clause (1994)

So many great Christmas movies follow Dickens’s blueprint of transforming someone skeptical into a true believer, and this Tim Allen comedy goes one step further by converting the crank into Kris Kringle. It’s ostensibly an argument against growing up too soon (or at all), and it established the Highlander-esque rule that, if Santa dies from falling off your roof, you become Santa.

19. Scrooged (1988)

Another stellar adaptation of Dickens, Richard Donner’s manic spree recasts Scrooge as a power-hungry television president played by a breathless Bill Murray. Beyond its intrinsic entertainment value and Carol Kane’s national treasure status, it also gives us all a break from a season of sentimental stories. It’s also a reminder that we should petition to make “Robert Goulet’s Cajun Christmas” a real thing.

20. White Christmas (1954)

There’s just nothing better than opening those big stage doors to discover the snow you’ve waited months for has finally arrived on Christmas Eve while Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Danny Kaye croon about our days being merry and bright. The songs and dance routines are fantastic, the story is nostalgic and goofy, and the charm is on full blast. Even growing up in a place where it never snowed, this was the ideal.

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