Enough with all the black-and-white, syrupy holiday musicals! If we hear about one more roasting chestnut or watch another lunatic running down the street in Bedford Falls screaming "Merry Christmas" at buildings, we're going to lose it. Sorry to come across as an Ebenezer … (talk about the most dated name in history; seriously, do you know any Ebenezers?) What we really want most for Christmas is a holiday movie that lives in the now. To that end, we've picked out five favorite holiday movies released in the last 20 years. Chances are these will become classics in time and wind up running in movie marathons on Christmas Eve. In the meantime you may have to settle for renting these flicks because they don't appear on TV quite as often yet.
•ELF (2003): We still cringe when Will Ferrell pours maple syrup on spaghetti and shovels it down his throat. (At least he had the good taste to fall for the enchanting Zooey Deschanel.) As Buddy the elf, Ferrell dispenses the best holiday advice in years: "The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear."
•LOVE ACTUALLY (2003): This British heart-tugger follows the dysfunctional romantic lives of a group of loosely intertwined friends one December in London. Hugh Grant lends his star power as the lovelorn prime minister. But Bill Nighy steals the laughs as an aging rock star whose only Christmas wish is one more hit record.
•CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989): National Lampoon's Vacation franchise should have folded its tents after this masterpiece. Chevy Chase reprises his role as Clark Griswold, a father desperate to give his family the best Christmas ever — only to be sabotaged by a cast of in-laws that make the Nuremberg Trials feel like an episode of Friends.
•POLAR EXPRESS (2004): Director Robert Zemeckis used motion-capture animation technology to tell the story of a magical train on a journey to the North Pole. Zemeckis used the same trickery for 2009's A Christmas Carol, but it's too early to say whether that flick belongs on any "best of" list.
•BAD SANTA (2003): Make sure the kids are all tucked away — better yet, let them sleep over at grandma's — before breaking out this R-rated flick because Billy Bob Thornton earned an engraved spot on St. Nick's naughty list for this. The story of an alcoholic Santa and his thieving "elf" partner is rude, crude and maybe the funniest holiday movie ever.1 inch 1 inch of body