One of the enjoyable parts of the Christmas season is re-watching the great films that the season has inspired. The best among these only get more enjoyable as they become more familiar from repeated viewing. It’s a Wonderful Life no doubt heads the list of such films, but we could also mention the various versions of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, as well as lighter fare like Christmas in Connecticut and The Bishop’s Wife.
There is also a lot of good, wholesome entertainment to be found in the many short films inspired by Christmas. Some of these are TV episodes, while others were made for theatrical release. Here are four good ones. If you have not seen them, you might want to check them out. If you have, they are worth watching for the umpteenth time.
- “The Christmas Story.” This is the only Christmas episode done by the makers of the Andy Griffith Show. A somewhat loose imitation of A Christmas Carol, it follows the thawing of the heart of the Scrooge-like department store owner, Ben Weaver. While Ben is saved only by human kindness (unlike Scrooge, who requires supernatural intervention), the show does acknowledge Jesus through a lovely rendition of “Away in a Manger.”
- “Night of the Meek.” A classic episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. Fans of that show know that Serling’s interests were primarily moral, that he used fantastic tales to make a point about the human condition. Somebody once observed that the Twilight Zone had two recurring themes: 1) Bad guy gets his comeuppance, and 2) Beaten down guy gets a second chance. “Night of the Meek” falls squarely in the second category.
- “A Star in the Night.” This 1945 film won an academy award for best short subject. Directed by Don Siegel (who later went on to direct Dirty Harry, which has its merits but does not belong on a list of Christmas movies), this film tells the story of an embittered hotel owner whose outlook is changed when he has to find room for some unexpected guests, the young couple Jose and Maria Santos.
- “The Small One.” This is the only animated film on this list, and I have heard that this is the only explicitly religious film that Disney ever made. It tells the back story of the donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem.