‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and 9 of the Best Christmas Films Based on Books and Short Stories
Some of the best Christmas films didn’t start from an original script but were instead based on books: starting as a children’s book, short story, or novel; many authors have paved the way for great storytelling during the Christmas season.
While film crews brought the words on a page to life, these authors have also played a huge role in giving Christmas classics for generations to come. These movies are something that cinephiles and readers can thoroughly enjoy!
‘Christmas with the Kranks’ (2004)
The film follows a couple who plan to skip Christmas since their daughter is away, instead wanting to spend their time and money on a cruise for themselves. While their neighbors and friends are appalled at their lack of Christmas spirit, they are forced to scramble as she returns for the holiday.
The film was originally based on the popular book, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Gaining popularity, it was eventually adapted into an exact remake of the book.
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946)
In A Christmas Story, George Bailey (James Stewart) is regretful of his compromises and sacrifices, leaving him frustrated over what could have been. While contemplating suicide, he proclaims, “I wish I’d never been born.” His guardian angel Clarence then gives him a glimpse at the world as if he had never existed.
The film is loosely based on a short story called “The Greatest Gift” written by Philip Van Doren Stern. There are some minor differences in the storyline, but the film is a more than faithful adaptation of the book.
‘The Christmas Shoes’ (2002)
The film follows different character arcs from a workaholic lawyer who frets over his breaking marriage and a young boy, Nathan, who wants to purchase a pair of Christmas shoes for his dying mother.
While the film is based on the novel of the same title by Donna VanLiere, the book was a novelization of the Christmas-themed song written by NewSong. The song recounts the events of the young boy’s attempts at the store to buy the shoes, which reminds the narrator of the true meaning of Christmas.
‘The Christmas Blessing’ (2005)
As a sequel to The Christmas Shoes, the film picks up with the young boy who is now grown. The adult Nathan (Neil Patrick Harris) questions his career path and returns to his hometown, where he encounters romance and deals with a tragedy.
Similarly, the film was based on a book of the same title written as a sequel to The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere. The band NewSong also featured a song in the film called “The Christmas Blessing.”
‘The Christmas Hope’ (2009)
Continuing the intertwined storyline, The Christmas Hope is the third part of this trilogy. While Patty grieves the loss of her son, she finds solace in finding homes for foster children. Meanwhile, Nathan searches for the parents of a boy who died in the ER in the second film.
Mirroring the book trilogy, Nathan connects the entire trilogy. While Donna VanLiere wrote the book on which the films were based, she wrote 11 books in this series.
‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’
The Grinch hates the festivities of Christmas. Growing frustrated by the joyous spirit during the holiday, he decides to ruin it for the citizens of Whoville by dressing up as Santa and stealing their gifts and decorations. Confused at their continued celebration, he realizes that the Christmas spirit isn’t wrapped up in a box after all.
The film was originally based on Dr. Seuss’ children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As a classic for kids, the book was adapted multiple times. It was first turned into an animated TV film in 1966, followed by a live-action movie in 2000 and an animated version in 2018.
‘The Polar Express’ (2004)
When a young boy who has grown skeptical towards Santa Claus boards a train headed towards the North Pole on Christmas Eve, he embarks on a one-in-a-lifetime journey whose memories give him the gift of everlasting Christmas spirit.
The film was based on a book of the same title by Chris Van Allsburg. The book itself was inspired by the Allsburg’s childhood memories at department stores during the holiday season.
‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1947)
When a department store on 34th street hires Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) to work as Santa Claus, he attracts attention by claiming to be the real deal. He is taken to court so that it can be decided, once and for all, whether “Santa is real?”
The film and book’s storyline were inspired by Valentine Davies‘ experiences while standing in line at a store during the holiday season. He took his story to the big screen while simultaneously writing a book by the same title, which was released along with the film.
‘A Christmas Story’ (1983)
The film follows an adult Ralphie reminiscing about a particular Christmas when he was a child. Wanting nothing more than an air rifle, he is stifled by everyone around him, who dismiss it by saying, “you’ll shoot your eye out.” When he finally gets the rifle, he reflects on how it was the best Christmas present he ever had.
The film was inspired by the novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash written by Jean Shepherd. He described them as simplistic stories about childhood that are entirely fictional but leave you with little lessons that last a lifetime.
‘A Christmas Carol’
Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean-spirited, bitter, and uncharitable man who loathes Christmas. After being visited by the ghosts of his old business partner, who warns him of his cruel ways. He is also visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future who force him to re-evaluate his life and consequently embodies kindness and goodwill.
The original book A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens in 1843. The story has been retold in different mediums, from theatre to television, live-action, and animated films.
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