Holidays and winter nights are especially good for watching films. Around the holidays, this may mean watching films with a wide-range of ages in your living room. Everyone has different sensibilities (that’s my disclaimer!) but here are some of my favorite films that I think would appeal to a large span of ages and keep everyone glued to the screen.
The Court Jester (1956): this is one of my top films of all time. Danny Kaye is absolutely brilliant playing the jester and the outlaw, as well as the jester who under the influence of magic thinks he is the outlaw. This is witty, funny, and with goodness prevailing. Set in 12th century England, Danny Kaye plays a court jester who becomes involved with outlaws trying to overthrow a ruthless and illegitimate king.
Groundhog Day (1993 ) After a surprise blizzard traps TV weatherman Bill Connors (Bill Murray) in a small-town, he discovers that each morning, his day is back to yesterday. Groundhog Day keeps repeating over and over and over…until perhaps Bill Connors learns how to live. This is a sweet romantic comedy about understanding what truly matters.
D.O.A. (1950 ): Another one of my top films of all time! How can you beat a film that begins with a man staggering into a police station and proclaiming, “I’ve been murdered” This is a suspenseful murder mystery with twists, turns, and total originality. Excellent western for everyone.
The Sons of Katie Elder ( 1965 ) : John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holliman, and Michael Anderson, Jr. play the four sons of Katie Elder. The day she is buried they all return home to Texas to pay their last respects. But that is just the beginning, now they are set to avenge her death… and encounter all the sibling problems along the way.
Never Cry Wolf ( 1983 ): This film is a true story and based on the book by Farley Mowat. A scientist is assigned to travel to an isolated Artic wilderness in Northern Canada to study the “savage wolf populations”. His orders are to gather proof that the wolves are killing off the caribou herds. This dramatic telling is what he discovers and his journey to that discovery as well as the personal growth he experiences while isolated in the Artic wilderness. Superb.
Key Largo ( 1948) : When a hurricane swells outside and prevents travel, mobsters hold hotel owner Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall), her father-in-law (Lionel Barrymore) and ex-GI Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) hostage. McCloud is their only hope but will he help them or has the post-war world realities taken all the fight out of him? In contrasts to today’s “in your face” violence and romance, this film builds tension, suspense, and subtle romantic overtures.
All the President’s Men: (1976): This film is based on the book written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about their investigation and ultimate reporting on Watergate. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play the two reporters as they unravel the mysteries of the scandal and explore the realities of reporting for a newspaper. Outstanding.
The Princess Bride (1987): Peter Falk is the grandfather who reads this tale to his skeptical grandson. Soon he doesn’t want his grandpa to stop reading. This is a family film par excellence. It is absolutely hilarious, sweet and a perfect fantasy film.
White Christmas (1954) : I was trying to avoid including a Christmas film but decided to add this one. I absolutely adore this film. The musical and dance numbers are superb. Danny Kaye’s satire of modern dance is absolutely brilliant. Serving together in WW2, Danny Kaye ultimately convinces Bing Crosby to form a musical partnership at the conclusion of the war. They become very successful in their careers but not in love. In walks Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. After a series of events finds them all in a Vermont lodge for the Christmas holiday, they decide to host a benefit show for their retired general who now runs the lodge.
And don’t forget the popcorn or in my house the nut, dried fruit, and seed mix!
Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library