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Top 5 classic holiday movies

After more that six decades, It’s a Wonderful Life remains a benchmark holiday classic.

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After more that six decades, It’s a Wonderful Life remains a benchmark holiday classic.

Holiday TV specials are all well and good, but sometimes we need our peace-on-earth, good-will-toward-mankind messages in doses larger than 30 minutes. Especially after this crazy year. (Rumor has it even Rudolph had to suffer through a two-week, unpaid furlough and was forced to switch the bulb in his nose to a lower wattage.) Thankfully, our favorite classic holiday movies are about to hit TV again. Here are our five favorites that are more than 20 years old.

1IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946): Six decades later, Frank Capra's signature tale — about a frustrated businessman (Jimmy Stewart) learning what life would be like without him — might seem like a Christmas cliche. But try to fight off the tears when Harry Bailey delivers the line, "A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town."

On TV: 8 p.m. Dec. 12 and 24, NBC.

In theaters: Tampa Theatre Dec. 18-20.

2A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983): Jean Shepherd's warped recollections of childhood Christmas seasons in fictional Hohman, Ind., barely makes the cut. It just seems older because it's set in the 1940s. Thanks to the greatest collection of memorable lines on the silver screen — "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" and "I triple-dog dare ya!" — this is now the unofficial Wonderful Life tradition for the '80s generation.

On TV: Marathon begins at 8 p.m. Dec. 24, TBS.

3miracle ON 34th STREET (1947): When you put Kris Kringle on trial for being legally insane, you know this isn't the candy cane Christmas fluff you're used to seeing this time of year. But just wait till the good ol' U.S. Postal Service saves St. Nick. (If you dare suggest the '94 remake is in the same class, we're going to go postal!)

On TV: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23; 3:30 p.m. Dec. 25, ABC Family.

4MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944): A St. Louis family sings its way through the seasons beginning in the summer of 1903. Judy Garland stars as Esther Smith, a girl in love with the boy next door. By the time you've heard rousing versions of Skip to My Lou and The Trolley Song, you find yourself sniffling as she sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. And you realize that even though there are only a few scenes about that holiday in this film, you couldn't make it through Christmas without seeing it just once.

On TV: noon Dec. 19, 1 a.m. Dec. 24, Turner Classic Movies.

5A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951): There are so many versions of this classic that they could probably be shown back to back on Christmas Eve and Scrooge still would not have come to his senses by the end of Christmas Day. But if you are looking for one that stays true to the story, look no further than this version starring Alastair Sim. He is filled with venom before that fateful night and then filled with joy to have made it through to help Tiny Tim and his family. We'll have to wait to see if Jim Carrey's Disney version eventually measures up.

On TV: We couldn't find it in the TV listings — Humbug! — so you'll need to rent this classic.

Steve Spears can be reached at smspears@sptimes.com.

Sherry Robinson can be reached at (727) 893-8305 or robinson@sptimes.com.

Top 5 classic holiday movies 11/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2009 9:07am]

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