How many Christmas movies exist? Hundreds… maybe even thousands. We know all the lines of some by heart and will never stop watching, while others seem a little corny and predictable. They range from Disney classics to more recent movies. Since we were kids, we have been accustomed to watching these movies during the holidays. They are played over and over again on t.v. every year on December 25 and 26. Our parents would use these movies to distract us while they washed the dishes or prepared the Christmas meal. So, maybe it’s time for a change this year and watch some movies that we wouldn’t typically associate with Christmas time. Here are some of my suggestions. Christmas desserts in hand, let’s get comfy on the couch!

Encanto, a 2021 animated film directed by Byron Howard, Jared Bush, and Charise Castro Smith.

Winner of the 2022 Oscar for Best Animated Film, Encanto is a striking, fascinating story, rich in meaning and universal values like those of family and parental love.

The Madrigal family, living in a small village in Colombia, is blessed with superpowers, and they are all ready to help those in need, often solving townspeople’s various problems. The only member of the family who doesn’t have any powers is little Mirabel, making her feel she’s different from her family. In any case, she gets along well with her loved ones and accepts the fact that she lacks superpowers. One day, however, the Madrigals find themselves in great danger, and it’s up to Mirabel, the only one without powers, to save her family…

Familyandmedia recommends watching this movie the evening of December 25, when the relatives have all gone home, the house is quiet, and all that remains of the day is the magic of the lit-up Christmas tree.

Luca, an animated film from 2021, directed by Enrico Casarosa.

Luca and Alberto are two fish who turn into boys when they’re out of water. It’s a tale that emphasizes the importance of respecting those who seem different from us.

Luca is a “sea monster.” His parents had a strict rule for him all his life: to never go beyond the surface of the sea, which was too dangerous for Luca. But when Alberto invites Luca to see what’s above water, he takes on human form and realizes that the world “above” isn’t so bad after all. The two boys, having become friends, have a singular dream: to travel the world on a Vespa. So, they enter a local competition in the town of Portorosso, with the help of Giulia, a girl they met at the port. The two boys know that all it would take is simply coming into contact with water for others to discover that they are actually fish, but they decide to take the risk anyway…

Familyandmedia recommends watching this movie with children, to teach them respect for diversity from an early age.

Toy Story 3, an animated film from 2010, directed by Lee Unkrich.

Andy, owner of the toys that come alive, featured in Toy Story and Toy Story 2, is now 17 years old and about to go to college. The toys have resigned themselves to their fate of ending up in the attic or being given away to a daycare center. But soon they come to discover that their fate is even worse than that…

Some people think that animated films are “a lesser art”—that the expressive power of a human face cannot be reproduced. Yet, this particular movie has scenes that are deeply touching. When all seems lost and the toys are about to be swallowed up by the furnace of a garbage incinerator, they don’t say a word to each other… a simple look says it all. They hold hands, forming “a human chain,” as they await their end. Another example: Andy’s mother, helping her son pack until the last minute, finds herself in his now-empty room and suddenly realizes that, as of tomorrow, her “little boy” will no longer sleep in that room, and she gets a knot in her throat…

The saga doesn’t end with Toy Story 3. For fans of this movie, we also recommend Toy story 4, made in 2019.

Familyandmedia recommends this movie for teens who want to watch a classic movie. Toy Story is about friendship and explores profound themes such as abandonment, loneliness, and growing up. This movie is ideal for thought-provoking conversation around the Christmas tree.

Letters to God, a film from 2010, directed by David Nixon and Patrick Doughtie.

At just eight years old, Tyler is battling a brain tumor and undergoing tough chemotherapy treatments. His dad died years ago, but he has an adoring mom, Maddy, who gives everything she has to raising her sons, both Tyler and his 16-year-old brother. Her mom visits them all the time and brings delicious desserts. Every time she comes to the house, she calms them with her steadfast faith.

The sick little boy writes letters to God—not looking to understand why he is sick or to ask for healing—but to ask him to take care of his mother, brother, classmates, and neighbors. The movie is based on a true story and is valuable for two reasons: it shows the power of prayer and helps us to find a greater meaning in suffering. In addition, it shows—in a very discreet, wise way—the role grandparents play in a family and the role work friends play when work itself is the key to picking up the threads of one’s life and starting fresh. This very thing happens to Brady, who regains relationships with his family because of Tyler, whom he met through his job as a mailman….

Familyandmedia recommends watching this movie with grandparents and those who can explain the value of hope to their family members. We admit it’s not exactly a relaxing after-dinner movie.

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