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Monitor Picks

Five holiday movies we think you'll like

Tired of "It's A Wonderful Life"? Here are five Christmas-themed movies worth seeking out instead.

Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986)

Director Carroll Ballard is best known for "The Black Stallion," one of the most ravishing of all children's films. This little-known movie of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker," featuring the Pacific Northwest Ballet, is light and lyrical, with production design by the great Maurice Sendak. Please don't confuse this with the inferior 1993 New York City Ballet movie, "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker," starring - you guessed it - Macaulay Culkin.

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Babes in Toyland (1934)

Also known on video as "March of the Wooden Soldiers," this inventive version of the Victor Herbert operetta stars Laurel and Hardy as Santa's helpers in one of their best features. The attack of the Bogeymen in Toyland is a remarkable fantasy sequence but might be too scary for tots.

Little Women (1933)

George Cukor's movie version of Louisa May Alcott's classic is itself a classic and features one of Katharine Hepburn's most miraculous performances as Jo March. The 1994 remake, with Winona Ryder as Jo, is also quite good.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

This third installment in the Lampoon series is one of the best, maybe because it was written by John Hughes in top form. Lots of funny Yuletide sight gags and a remarkable cast featuring - besides regulars Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo - Diane Ladd, Randy Quaid, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, and even Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

A Christmas Carol (1951)

Of the many movie versions of Dickens's novella, this is the finest. Alastair Sim, the marvelous British character actor with the hooded eyes and vinegary smile, is the image of Scrooge. His redemption here is infinitely touching.