Miracle on 34th Street
A true Christmas classic that will lift any spirit during the cold, winter season—Miracle on 34th Street is about an old, selfless man who believes he’s Santa Claus. The power of this story lies within its unabashed sentimentality and shows that sometimes we need to believe in the impossible to better ourselves and the world around us.
Watch Miracle on 34th street to learn how to write subtle comedic moments. Balancing realistic humor with sentimentality is key to writing a charming feel-good film.
Both a classic rom-com and a Christmas-themed film, Love Actually deals with love in many forms as we follow eight couples and how they’re finding themselves around the holiday season. While some find this wintry Rom-Com too cheesy, others find satisfaction in the main point of the film: the holidays are meant to spend time with those we care about.
Watch Love Actually to learn how to craft clear motivations for a wide-ranging cast of characters. Each person in the film has a tangible goal that allows the audience to become emotionally invested despite having to keep track of multiple storylines.
Another film where comedy meets Christmas, Elf is a well-loved holiday film that will leave you smiling. Elf does a wonderful job of taking traditional holiday themes and presenting them in a new and charming way. Buddy (Will Ferrell) learns about finding love, acceptance, and family—all themes that are time-honored for holiday films.
Watch Elf to learn how to write a lovable character-centric story that grabs the audience straight from its inciting incident. We’re immediately launched into the story when Papa Elf tells Buddy that he’s not an elf, but a human.
An entertaining and cautionary tale about gift-giving during the holidays, Gremlins may not be the first film that springs to mind when you think about Christmas. Other than being set during Christmastime, Gremlins is about an inventor trying to find the perfect gift for his son, Billy. While the gremlins are horrific yet fun, the movie also reminds us that not all people experience Christmas in the same way.
Watch Gremlins to learn how to write an effective horror-comedy—that just so happens to involve Christmas. In fact, if you’ve ever read Save the Cat!, you’ll see how Gremlins fits exactly in the Monster in the House genre (with its three key elements: Monster, House, and Sin).
Tap to read the scripts for Gremlins and Die Hard as part of our amazing 1980s Script Collection!
A controversial choice for a top-ten holiday film, Die Hard is also widely debated whether it is a Christmas film or not. Both director John McTiernan and writer Steven De Souza have confirmed that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and the film does involve a man returning to his family for Christmas—so what do you think?
Watch Die Hard to learn how to incorporate an effective ticking time bomb into your plot. Die Hard’s “ticking time bomb” element is the seven locks to the safe that the computer expert is hacking. Both clever and effective, time pressure is key to raising the stakes in your story.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
A fantastical, stop-motion animated cross between Halloween and Christmas, this cult classic holiday film is not to miss. Much of the film takes place in Halloween Town and the main character Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King, but once Jack travels to Christmas Town, plenty of the holiday spirit is there (not to mention Santa Claus).
Watch The Nightmare Before Christmas to learn how to implement the Out of the Bottle genre featured in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. The protagonist has a wish that’s granted and a spell that envelops them which results in a lesson (often be careful what you wish for).
It’s a Wonderful Life
One of the most classic Christmas films of all time, It’s a Wonderful Life involves the joy and hope contrasted with the darker, less cheery parts of the holiday season. An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.
Watch It’s a Wonderful Life to learn how to write compelling secondary characters. Sam Wainwright, Bert and Ernie, Annie, Uncle Billy, and others are there to bring our protagonist George into the action.
A Christmas Story
The magic of being a child on Christmas can be revived through watching A Christmas Story. Both warmly nostalgic and darkly humorous, A Christmas Story deserves its status as a holiday staple and brings out the true essence of holiday cheer.
Watch A Christmas Story to learn how to incorporate voice-over narration into your screenplay. Ralphie as an adult narrates his younger antics which adds a healthy dose of humor to this classic, charming story.