It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: A Taste-based Analysis on Why We Love Holiday Movies

Kristy Strouse
December 18, 2023

When we reflect on the holiday season, our hearts are drawn to the allure of timeless classic films. These cinematic treasures have gracefully evolved, adapting to our ever-changing perspectives. But what is it about these movies that captivate us? The answer lies in our innate yearning for warmth and comfort, reminiscent of a reassuring embrace.

In the realm of data, there exist certain interwoven elements that come together harmoniously, bestowing upon us the gift of a holiday film that resonates with all. Ours reveals that this world is far from a cookie-cutter template. So, as you prepare yourself a cup of cocoa and don your ugliest sweater, allow yourself to be transported to a place of enchantment and charm.

In keeping with the spirit of variety, the Movies referenced are It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), Gremlins (1984), Die Hard (1988), Scrooged (1988), Home Alone (1990), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), The Holiday (2006), and Happiest Season (2020),

Embedded deep within the tapestry of holiday storytelling lies the unequivocal presence of a happy ending. It comes as no surprise, then, that every single one of these films, without fail, has found its place as a mainstream hit. Both arrive at 100% present in all films as they shower us with joy and uplift our spirits, capturing the very essence of the season itself.

A fascinating fact unveils itself as we delve further into the statistics: approximately 82% of these films are set in the heartland of America. From NYC (Miracle on 34th Street, Elf) to Chicago (Home Alone) and Pennsylvania (Happiest Season). While holiday celebrations span the globe, America has taken the silver screen and adorned it with the shimmering splendor of particular tinsel, making it a focal point of the magical holiday movie experience. With 27% embracing the more magical side of things (Grinch, Scrooged, Gremlins, The Nightmare Before Christmas) we have 18% of those within a Fantasy world. Furthermore, a staggering 91% of these tales unfold within the realm of the middle class, comfortably centered in social dynamics.

A prevalent theme emerges within these films, gracing 45% of their narratives—a narrative tie-in with greed. This serves as a poignant juxtaposition to the true meaning of the holiday season: giving. In movies such as Home Alone,  we witness Kevin McAllister valiantly defending his home against thieves driven by their desire for material wealth. Similarly, Die Hard revolves around a heist, while It's a Wonderful Life presents George Bailey's existential struggle, largely stemming from financial difficulties caused by others (including the infamous Potter). Even in seemingly unexpected films like A Charlie Brown Christmas the motivations of certain characters can be distinctly greedy.

The enchanting quality of these films is further amplified by the inclusion of a musical element that elevates the narrative to new heights. A notable 46% of these cinematic gems showcase a deliberate selection of music, ensuring a distinct and sophisticated experience for the audience. Additionally, an equal percentage of films boast a memorable soundtrack that leaves an indelible imprint on our hearts. Consider the timeless example of The Nightmare Before Christmas, with its original songs that have become iconic and irresistibly catchy. And who could forget the resonating score of Home Alone, etched in our memories forever? Even Elf has a recognizable musical theme that evokes a sense of childlike wonder and boundless optimism.

One also can’t forget the zany goodness of the Gremlins theme or the iconic, loveable Charlie Brown. Moreover, a majestic 64% of these cinematic wonders incorporate an orchestral score, infusing their storytelling with depth and grandeur—55% focus on sweet music, encouraging sentimentality (The Holiday).

Within the journeys of our sympathetic main characters (in 81% of films), whether it be wishing their family away (Home Alone) or being a mean or grumpy one (Grinch, Scrooged), a glimmer of redemption awaits. This is a significant aspect found in a remarkable 64% of these films, where personal growth and transformation become catalysts for a heartwarming resolution.

The significance of set design cannot be understated, accounting for a noteworthy 46% of the films' appeal. This underscores the importance of crafting a visually captivating and whimsical world on screen, mirroring how we adorn our homes during this festive season. Think of the enchanting set design in the beloved film Elf or It’s a Wonderful Life which effortlessly transports us into a realm brimming with wonder.

These films, with their compelling narratives, 73% tie up loose ends and bring closure to their stories, leaving viewers with a satisfying sense of fulfillment.

The magic they weave requires a suspension of disbelief, not solely due to the fantastical elements commonly found in holiday movies, but also because of the perpetual optimism that emanates from them (Miracle on 34th Street, Elf). Astonishingly, 46% of these films offer an alternate view of reality, inviting us to explore new dimensions of imagination while others reside more within reality (Happiest Season) and focus on Family (55%) or romance, 36% (The Holiday). Work is a commonality too, with 27% residing in the 9 to 5 (It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooged). 56% stick to a simplistic storytelling approach, and include memorable performances with 77% being iconic.

As you settle in to enjoy your most cherished holiday films, remember that they are meticulously crafted with care, seamlessly blending these elements to create a heartwarming and magical experience that captures the very essence of the season, and spirit, itself.

And so, the debate persists: Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?

The data resoundingly replies, "Yes."

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