By Lizann Lightfoot
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…when you can curl up in your PJs with a cup of hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies. But for military families stationed all over the world, far from their families back home, some holiday movies offer empty comfort. Or maybe your military spouse doesn’t want to watch Love, Actually for the tenth time. Whether you are looking for a comedy, drama, historical film, or even an action movie, there is something on this movie list for every military family.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Even if you have seen it 100 times, this classic is worth watching again. The hero, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), has a Christmas Eve encounter with his guardian angel, Clarence. The angel shows George how his town and all the people in it would have horrible lives if George Bailey never existed. The military connection: George’s brother, Harry. As a Navy pilot in World War II, Harry shot down a Japanese kamikaze plane, saving the lives of everyone on the American transport ship. He receives the Medal of Honor, and the whole town welcomes him as a hero on Christmas Eve. None of that would have been possible if George hadn’t saved him from a childhood drowning accident.
This classic 1954 movie begins with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as World War II soldiers, performing a Christmas Eve show for the 151st Division. After the war, these two soldiers make it big on Broadway. They help out some war buddies by teaming up with a sister act and visiting another veteran pal at his hotel in Vermont, where they all hope for a white Christmas. Comedy ensues.
While technically not a holiday movie, Pearl Harbor commemorates the events of December 7, 1941. Anytime in the month of December is an appropriate time to watch Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck in their roles as pilots and Kate Beckinsale as a wartime nurse. It’s a story of friendship, love, and war, even if it’s not entirely historically accurate.
This 2002 movie is set Christmas Eve, 1944. It is a fact-based film about a German mother (Linda Hamilton) and her child sheltering in a cabin near the front lines in the Ardennes forest. On Christmas Eve, three American soldiers take refuge in the cabin. Soon after, three German soldiers arrive. The mother works hard to convince everyone not to shoot each other. Instead, they end up sharing their rations and having a memorable Christmas dinner.
If you like foreign films, this multilingual film from 2005 is an amazing celebration of the Christmas spirit among entrenched soldiers in World War I. The story is told from Scottish, French, and German perspectives. It recounts the historical incident of a German opera singer performing for the front line troops during the Christmas truce in 1914. She sang so well that the French troops in nearby trenches stood up and applauded.
Full Metal Jacket
The classic movie about Marine Corps Boot Camp has a famous scene with recruits singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. The drill instructor (R. Lee Ermey) reminds the Marines that “you can give your heart to Jesus, but your ass belongs to the Corps!” It always has a special place in my heart, since my husband was in boot camp during Christmas.
Who can forget the Santa hat dance? Jake Gyllenhaal plays a Marine sniper deployed to Iraq who is bored and disgruntled. A surprising amount of alcohol gives the Marines a Christmas party to remember.