A Christmas Story (1983)

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There are tons of holiday movies out there that tug at the heartstrings, make one glad to have loved ones, maybe take a moment to reflect upon the meaning of the season. But none capture the spirit of what the holidays mean to a child quite like A Christmas Story. That’s really why this small movie (largely filmed in Cleveland) has become a staple for so many over the years. We can watch other movies to be inspired, moved, learn something about ourselves. Fans watch A Christmas Story to laugh and reminisce about those wonderful mornings opening presents with their family.

There’s more to the film than just Christmas nostalgia, though. There’s a lot of little details about growing up that the movie gets just right. Despite its period setting, kids of all ages can see parts of themselves in Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his life, both at home and on the streets of his hometown. (A Christmas Story takes place in the fictional Hohman, Indiana, but it might as well be named “Anytown, USA.”)

We meet young Ralphie at the start of the Christmas season, as he stares in dreamy wonder at the present of his dreams…I don’t even have to say it, do I? You already know he wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. And you know what everyone who hears his wish says back to him. His pursuit of the ultimate gift is only part of the story, however, as hilarious vignettes detailing everything from buying a tree to his dad’s major award to dealing with the local bullies (“He had yellow eyes!”) and more fill every minute of screen time,

Based on the kinda-sorta true stories written by humorist Jean Shepherd, the film was directed by Bob Clark with a genuine love for the material and era he was emulating. Clark had already made an impact on film history a decade earlier, with another movie that had “Christmas” in the name: Black Christmas, often cited as one of the first slasher movies. In the interim, Clark made Porky’s, a raunchy flick with is often credited as launching the teen-sex-comedy genre. Remarkable, how one filmmaker could make such an impact in such a wide variety of genres. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

A Christmas Story is available for streaming on HBO Max.