Movies + TV

Home Movies

Things to watch over winter break.

Movies and TV shows (and made-for-TV movies) about HOME, hometowns, and/or the holidays.

Manhattan (1979)
Manhattan is one of those things whose moral implications I just have to ignore because I just have personal links to the movie and it comforts me and nostalgia, etc. Woody Allen plays himself (WELL THAT’S ODD) having a midlife crisis (OH REALLY? TELL ME MORE!) so he goes out with a 17-year-old to feel better about it (WELL THAT’S SHOCKING) or something. But that’s not really the centric plotline or anything…I mean, he goes out with Diane Keaton, too (NO WAY!), and at some point he ends up questioning his own validity as a human (WEIRD FOR HIM, HE NEVER DOES THAT), but not even that is the point! The plot isn’t the point! The movie is just a series of witticisms and observations that hit pretty close to home if you, like him, or like me, sometimes feel like a man in a midlife crisis. Or just generally insecure or shitty. Watch it in bed. It’s in black and white. Pretty. —Tavi

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Christmas can be a bummer. No one knows this better than Charlie Brown—although, granted, everything is a bummer to that little dude. If you were the only student in your third-grade class with male-pattern baldness, you, too, would be sort of gloomy. But A Charlie Brown Christmas is a classic piece of Christmas entertainment for that very reason, and many more: adorable large-headed children figure-skating; Snoopy’s prize-winning uber-decorated doghouse; Lucy—always Lucy—everything Lucy—Lucy, the proto-feminist blogger of the comics page—and her explication of why she will be playing the “beautiful Christmas Queen” and you cannot stop her (“You do think I’m beautiful, don’t you? I know when I’ve been insulted! I know when I’ve been insulted!!!!”); Christmas music so groovy it works even if you hate Christmas music. And, of course, Charlie Brown’s eternal search for meaning in this world, which is the only thing that makes that extended Linus monologue at the end seem beautiful rather than preachy. Watch it when you feel like a sad little tree. —Sady

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
This movie will make you want to wear a fur coat, become a cowboy, become a painter, become a tennis player, have cool wallpaper, have lots of kids, wear lots of eyeliner, live in a big house, live in a fort, live in a hotel, listen to Nico, listen to Elliott Smith, listen to Paul Simon. I would like my next lifetime to be directed by Wes Anderson, and to look and feel exactly like this. —Emma S.

Elf (2003)
Elf is about Will Ferrell being raised by elves BUT HE’S ACTUALLY A HUMAN (!!!!!) so he goes to the big NYC to find his papa, who is kind of dick. Story about love, family, Christmas, togetherness, etc. Will Ferrell is SUPER HAPPY but in a monotonous way, like a really happy deadpan. I can’t explain it but it works and is the only way I could see a grown man playing an elf not be super annoying.
Choice quotes:
[Answering phone] “Buddy the Elf! What’s your favorite color?”
[Joining a conversation where people are whispering about him] “I LIKE TO WHISPER TOO!”
[Upon discovering a shopping mall Santa is not the real Santa] “You sit on a throne of lies. You don’t smell like Santa, you smell like beef and cheese.”
Also, here the GUY plays the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, opposite Zooey Deschanel, playing a DEADPAN MOODY GIRL! This is oft forgotten, and I would like to point it out. —Tavi

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s become the gold standard of cornball tearjerkers and plays on television ad nauseam around the holidays, but It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t what you (or most people, anyway) think it is. At once deeply cynical and profoundly moving, the story opens with George Bailey (played by the incomparable Jimmy Stewart) standing on a bridge, preparing to end what he sees as his failed life and exclaiming his wish that he’d never been born. But before he can jump, his guardian angel, Clarence, intervenes, and shows George what would have happened had he never existed. A rare and bittersweet exploration of the difficult business of being alive, the movie investigates the gap between what we expect from life and what it actually delivers, as well as the ways in which we sabotage ourselves—through pride, hubris, the fear of revealing weakness (to name a few). Rent it, stream it, try to catch it on TV—no other holiday movie is quite as poignant, and it’ll lay awfully good groundwork for your New Year’s resolutions. —Emily C.

Home for the Holidays (1995)
You know that feeling of going to the supermarket with your parents and having them talk to the cashiers about their warts/constipation/etc.? Watching Home for the Holidays is like that, only instead of cringing and hiding and pretending to be invisible, you get to laugh, because it’s not your family. As a bonus, the gorgeous Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate) plays against type as a nonglamorous human. Warning: the movie contains so many food scenes that you will require a lot of snacks. —Emma S.

Grey Gardens (1975)
If ever in need of a burst of inspiration, I always watch Grey Gardens. Firstly, I’m a bit of a crazy cat lady, so a documentary about a mother and daughter living in a beautifully decaying mansion full of cats is RIGHT up my street. But it’s the charm and delightful personalities of Big and Little Edie Beale that makes the film so likable. And as if that’s not enough, the mise-en-scène and cinematography are like NOTHING else. Every still from the film could be a little work of art in itself. The movie is a collage of scenes from the Beales’ day-to-day life in the house, and it makes the idea of living out your days in a secluded, empty house—with your MOTHER—seem oddly appealing. —Eleanor

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
It really bothers me that people get all “OH HO HO, HIPSTER” when you (I) admit to liking this movie. It’s about growing up and childhood and wonderment and all these wonderful, pure things, and then you (I) remember that the post-childhood world is actually a place where you’re (I’m) not allowed to be all childlike about/in awe of things because people are ready to call you (me) pretentious, a hipster, whatever. (The dumbest thing about this is that most people are over hipster jokes by now, but some people still think they’re ORIGINAL for telling jokes about people who think they’re ORIGINAL!) What was I saying? Oh yes, this movie is just really beautiful and sad in all the right ways. It’s one of the only movies made of a children’s book that isn’t all 4D EXTREME PIRATES ALIENS BLAHHHH. It’s even kind of dark! Not in a Tim Burton way, just in the way that it’s sad. About growing up and humanity and stuff. I can’t explain it without giving a full-fledged ANALYSIS, so just watch it, OK? And then we can cry about it together. —Tavi

ABC (2011–)

If you love Clueless as much as most of the Rookie staff does, the first thing you need to know about Suburgatory is that it will weird you out to see Elton being a teen girl’s dad. He’s no longer “rollin’ with the homies”—now his name is George and he’s an architect who has just moved from New York to the suburbs with his 15-year-old daughter, Tessa, a sassy smartass who hates the ’burbs and wants nothing more than to move back to the city. It sounds like a tired premise, but the killer cast and witty writing really bring it to the next level. And because both dad and daughter are adjusting to their new environment it’s almost two TV shows in one. We got to see Tessa interact at school with all the popular girls (including the KKK, a trio of girls whose names all start with a K, my favorite being “Kimantha”) and make friends with the total nerds and we get to see George interact with all the crazy adults in the neighborhood. The further along the show gets the more enjoyable it is to watch, especially as we see Tessa start to secretly embrace the people around her without totally selling out. It’s weird to see a character that’s supposed to be edgy and yet still loves her dad, her nerdy friends, and every once in a while the popular girl who’s her total frenemy. That being said though, I mostly watch the show for the adults, they are all crazy! Also, I still totally love Elton, even if he’s plucking gray hairs from his chest instead of singing along to the Cranberries in his car. —Laia

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
No matter how many times you’ve seen this movie, I dare you not to sing along, even if your voice is so quiet that no actual sound comes out. The movie’s allure is irresistible: Witches! Ruby slippers! Munchkins! The flying monkeys get scarier the older I get, and Judy Garland’s face is sadder now that I know what is to come. I will always, always brake for The Wizard of Oz, even on a channel with commercials. —Emma S.

Love Actually (2003)
Ah, the movie to start all movies-with-a-bunch-of-random-celebrities-in-it-based-around-a-holiday-and-somehow-their-lives-are-all-connected movies. This observation comes from no film expert, just someone who happily forked over $8.50 to see Valentine’s Day and will happily do so again to see New Year’s Eve! So there, you basically know the plot now. It’s full of clichés (and a line or two being like “Oh ho ho, I feel so clichéd, wahhhh!” to show WIT and SELF-AWARENESS and ENDEARING BRITISH AWKWARDNESS) but whatever, it’s so cute and Christmasy. Maybe I like it because I’m such a Jew and Christmas was such a void in my childhood? OMG, self-analysis through Colin Firth romantic comedies!! While watching it, I said that Hugh Grant was the only character in the movie I cared about (such charm! such charisma!) to which my friend’s sister replied, “Tavi…what are you TALKING about…you don’t care about ANYONE in the WORLD…” So, if it could get me to care about even one person, it did something right! —Tavi

Night on Earth (1991)
Composed of five different vignettes which take place all over the world (LA, NYC, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki), this movie focuses on taxi drivers and their late-night customers. Almost every segment is funny, some are goofy, some dirty, some even a bit romantic. The whole thing is, essentially, about people just trying to get home. It’s a beautiful movie, with a few loud and hilarious moments, and I love how writer/director Jim Jarmusch made something as simple as a taxi ride into an international human equalizer. —Hazel

Fox (2002-2003)

When the place where you grew up has been destroyed and you find yourself living with eight other people—some of whom you HATE—on a tiny rocket ship in outer space, making the place feel like home becomes super important. I love that the person who made this series (OK it was Joss Whedon) figured that out and crammed the spacecraft Serenity with tons of homemade stuff. The kitchen has mismatched chairs and painted flowers on the walls and ceiling; ship mechanic Kaylee has strung her room with Christmas lights and painted her name, teenage-girl style, on her door; and there are houseplants and pretty lamps everywhere. (The show is also perfect in a million non-HOME-related ways, like hilarity, real romance, adventure, crime, high-class prostitutes, and space travel. The fact that it got canceled in its first season is STILL one of the worst things that has ever happened, and that is not hyperbole.) —Anaheed

Babe (1995)
My sister and I have spent many Christmases in front of the TV watching Babe, and have an embarrassing index of quotes and in-jokes based on it. I feel like I shouldn’t like a film where real animals are made to look like they talk, but Babe can definitely get away with it; it is the crème de la crème of ’90s animal films, because the fact that it’s about a misfit that is also a pig is just too cute to resist. —Eleanor


  • brynntheredonethat December 8th, 2011 11:10 PM

    Where the Wild Things Are = one of my favorite movies EVER. Just. Everything about it. Like Tavi said, I can’t even start describing it without going all critical analysis here.

  • Ruby B. December 8th, 2011 11:12 PM

    I can’t wait to see Where the Wild Things Are! It was always my favorite picture book and I can’t believe I haven’t watched it yet!

  • FashionHauties December 8th, 2011 11:16 PM

    I’ve seen a good number of these movies and love them all- I’m actually having a party for some of them:
    great job for the billionth time, rookie :)

  • lizerrzz December 8th, 2011 11:21 PM

    Such a great list — Grey Gardens is an all time favorite of mine. It’s a really great example of documentary film. I think that the Maysles brothers handle the story so gently. A different filmmaker could have made the Edies pathetic and laughable and sort of exploited them, but they don’t and they stay pretty objective. Also, the Hollywood remake with Drew Barrymore? Um, no. It just makes me sad when I compare it to the original.

  • Zara December 8th, 2011 11:28 PM

    It’s so weird that Thw Wizard of Oz is on this list I literally just finished watching The Dark Side of the Rainbow

  • Tyknos93 December 8th, 2011 11:54 PM

    My best friend (and nearl everyone on tumblr) keeps telling me how fireflies is one of the best things ever. We’re building a fort and watching some of these over the break. at least before we head back to college. No spirited away? I can quote it by heart practically.

    • Mollie December 9th, 2011 1:08 AM

      Spirited Away? Yes please.

      • ruby December 10th, 2011 3:38 AM

        I can quote it by heart too, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  • missblack December 9th, 2011 12:49 AM

    Charlie Brown Christmas – My fave Charlie Brown, EVER. I love everything about it – the music, the tiny Christmas tree, Snoopy, who’s determined not to sell out, Schroder, pounding away on his piano, Charlie Brown, so sad and yet hopeful, and of course Linus, my favorite character, because he’s just doing his own thing and he’s AWESOME.
    Also WTATW is probably the best movie ever and the soundtrack is amazing, too.
    And I’m psyched to see Suburgatory on here because it is totally my favorite TV show right now and Tessa’s so cool and ohmigod Elton…..there’s just too much awesomeness.


  • Mollie December 9th, 2011 1:03 AM

    Colin Firth romantic comedy self-analysis is the only self-analysis for me.

    I too will gladly pay to see any cheesy celebrity-jammed holiday flick!

    Also, I just watched Antichrist.

    It’s not a home movie.

  • Jem December 9th, 2011 3:08 AM

    I get so irritated when my friends write off Where the Wild Things Are as “style over substance”. Substance isn’t always a plot or words, it can be a feeling, the fact that my 11 year old brother came out crying from it and wouldn’t talk to me for days about it until one night after a cup of tea with me we talked about how childhood and friendship can be lonely, and that childlike sense of wonder can be overwhelming and painful.

    This movie has such a special place in my heart, something that not only moves me emotionally but connected me to my brothers years of bullying.

  • lissy December 9th, 2011 5:47 AM

    Oh noo, Firefly ist the best series ever and ever. I started watching it last christmas and was crying when it was over…

  • Marguerite December 9th, 2011 6:09 AM

    “bye Buddy, hope you find your dad!”
    “thanks Mr. Narwhale”


    oh i’m sorry by Where the Wild Things are scares me, it like a bunch of moody creepy monsters that talk to weird creepy owls and then beat each other up…

  • roseinthewild December 9th, 2011 7:41 AM

    Where The Wild Things Are is on my Christmas list this year, even though I don’t really need to buy DVDs anymore, just because I want to have it for always.
    I have watched it only once because it makes me so sad. I spent a lot time crying to my then-boyfriend about how much the wild things love the little boy and how painfully sad I was that they couldn’t be together. I am choked just thinking about it. I think it is my favourite film of all time, even though I am not sure I will be able to watch it ever again.

  • Hunter December 9th, 2011 9:31 AM

    You forgot the ULTIMATE Christmas movie (er…well….Christmas “scene”)!

    “Not on Christmas, Dawn!….Not on Christmas!”

  • Jodie December 9th, 2011 11:52 AM

    YES!! Love Actually = All time favourite christmas film, it fills my heart with joy and makes me smile! (which never actually happens.)

    I dislike being called British though… I don’t know why. I know you can’t really call me an England-er or whatever but when I read British I imagine over the top poncy accents when, infact, I sound nothing like that.


  • MechaMech December 9th, 2011 12:13 PM

    Oooh, Manhattan. It makes me feel life’s suckiness would feel better if I were in New York. I mean, at least it would *look* better, right?

  • Renda December 9th, 2011 12:51 PM

    You guys forgot Flight of the Navigator

  • marrmaid December 9th, 2011 1:26 PM

    I suggest Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind-

  • rhymeswithorange December 9th, 2011 3:57 PM

    marrmaid, that’s my FAVORITE movie! Everything about it is great. I always feel whole after watching it.
    I also recommend two pixar movies, Monster’s Inc. and Ratatouille. They are both super funny but will also make you cry! and ratatouille has awesome food- THE BREAD SCENE.
    Love these movie lists I am going to watch all of them :)

  • Maddy December 9th, 2011 4:06 PM

    This is a good list! I really wanted to see Where the Wild Things Are in theater, especially after a long NYT article about it, but I heard bad reviews. There’s this awesome novel based on the movie and book by Dave Eggers

  • jeanniex December 9th, 2011 8:36 PM

    MANHATTAN – Best. Opening Scene. Of a movie. EVER. Rhapsody in Blue is the perfect song to play over black and white shots of Manhattan and fireworks. I didn’t quite get the “home” feeling from it, but it’s a FANTASTIC movie.

    This list is lacking only one thing: TOKYO GODFATHERS! It fits in super well because it’s about Christmas and Homeless People… and it’s incredibly poignant. I always watch it in December when I’m feeling grumpy because we don’t get a two week break from school for Chanukah.

    Also HOME ALONE.

  • jessejames December 9th, 2011 8:39 PM

    ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ is my FAVORITE movie!!! I bought the screenplay, which includes pictures and a forward and awesomeness. It also introduced me to Elliott Smith, and I think I will be grateful for the rest of my life for that fact, no exaggeration.

  • kirsten December 10th, 2011 2:37 AM

    An excellent documentary is “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” It’s about street artists, specifically Mr. Brainwash. Supposedly the movie is directed by Banksy, but who knows?

    I’ll definitely have to look these movies up.

  • ruby December 10th, 2011 3:36 AM

    i love elf so much, it actually made me want to try pasta and syrup and candy corn together (:

  • Filia-Zissy December 10th, 2011 11:05 AM

    I love “Love…actually”. I didn’t like “Valentine’s Day”. Somehow “Love…actually” was nicer. I’ve become a Martin Freeman addict somehow this year and I bought that DVD and it was just because of him. I knew the film before, though. Hugh Grant as the Primeminister is one of my favorite characters too. I also like Alan Rickman (which is because I’m a greeeeeaaat Harry Potter fan…) and Laura Linney is also very cute…

  • annagracie December 10th, 2011 11:07 AM

    @Mollie I love Spirited Away!

  • LittleMoon December 10th, 2011 4:02 PM

    I will totes be watching these over break with my girl gang. Mostly The Royal Tenenbaums.

  • EmmaAmerica December 10th, 2011 6:31 PM

    Ahh such a great list. Love Actually, what a film. Seriously, I love that film. With the first scene in at heathrow? Valentine’s Day was good/funny, and New Year’s Eve looks fine, but I don’t think they compare. Maybe just because Love Actually was the first one though.

  • uptown and down December 10th, 2011 7:59 PM

    After Hours is the best movie about trying to get home. in this case it’s a man named paul. It is also a hilarious NY movie from the 80′s featuring many eccentric characters, and a beautiful scene set to a Peggy Lee song (i’d tell you which but i don’t want to ruin it).. it was my favorite movie growing up i used to go around saying “paul can’t go home!” to anyone who would listen. go watch it now.

  • koolkat December 10th, 2011 8:07 PM

    It’s a Wonderful Life = my FAVOURITE FILM EVER!!! I was watching it on telly today, actually, and it is just sooo gooood!!!!!!! (huge amount of exclamation marks necessary)

  • missannie December 11th, 2011 2:15 PM

    I do so agree with you and am actually going to watch “Love actually”… it´s kind of a traditional thing and well , “The Wizard of Oz” is on my movie-list , too , even if the main cause is my little sister but also because I´m really missing it to sing along the rainbow-song :)

  • fung-eyed December 11th, 2011 3:16 PM

    another superb winter flick: the original ‘Let the Right One In’ , yall check it yet? lots of snow, and sadness, and love. xo.

  • Apollo December 11th, 2011 8:23 PM

    Christmas Vacation.

  • Valerie December 12th, 2011 4:34 PM

    Edward Scissorhands (1990) and The Shop Around the Corner (1940) are also brilliant Christmassy films!

  • Arwen December 12th, 2011 11:34 PM

    Oh I love this. Where the Wild Things are is probably one of the only movies I have gotten emotional about in the movie theater, in front of other people. It made me so sad and happy at the same time, I love that movie.

  • airplanes.books December 13th, 2011 6:33 PM

    YOU GUYS, forgot the best ‘home’ centric film, and my personal favorite holiday, “THE HOLIDAY”.

  • MissKnowItAll December 15th, 2011 7:18 PM

    The BBC version of pride and prejudice is a must to watch over break. None of that Keira Knightley crap. The BBC version has Colin Firth as Mr.Darcy and I nearly died of happiness when I found out. Spirited Away is also an excellent movie!

  • Johann7 December 16th, 2011 12:53 PM

    Hey, Tavi’s a TV Tropes fan! (With good reason: TV Tropes is one of the very best things on the internet.)

  • littlediamonds November 4th, 2013 9:12 AM

    This list is so good! Where the wild things are is one of my favorite movies EVER and i get so confused when people don’t understand why i think it’s so good.