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