We all have our traditions this time of year, and for many of us that means sitting down and watching certain movies. Zelda and I like classics like White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street, as well as the always appropriate A Muppet Christmas Carol. But as children of interfaith households, we’ve found this season to have a serious dearth of Chanukah movies. There are movies about the Jewish experience, yes, as I found when researching this post, but the world is lacking in movies that grapple with the holiday itself. There’s Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights and The Hebrew Hammer, which are both fun, and the classic Rugrats Chanukah Special, which is a must-watch. But given the overabundance of Christmas movies — of all genres and qualities — why can’t Chanukah gift us with even half as many great and terrible movies as its Christian counterpart?
I suppose the fact that, as far as religious significance goes, Hanukkah is a smaller holiday in the Jewish tradition doesn’t help, and neither does the fact that the story is one of death and religious oppression (a theme of Jewish holidays: They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!). But it’s also a story of revolutions and the little guy rising up to win. Plus there’s a miracle — these are all cinematic selling points! And it’s not like there’s a shortage of Jewish talent in Hollywood. Don’t we deserve the Muppets’ classic take on our holiday, too? Doesn’t Chanukah deserve terrible romantic comedies? For Judah Maccabee’s sake, the holiday revolves around soft candlelight!
Ultimately, I don’t want to stop at Chanukah: Let’s bring our great human fascination with Christmas movies to all holidays. ALL OF THEM. However, my personal expertise is with Chanukah, and so these are just some of the movies I’d like to see on Freeform and The Hallmark Channel next year. Even Netflix is making Christmas movies now. (Zelda’s note: And they’re AMAZING! Go watch A Christmas Prince right now and thank me later, once you’ve managed to stop cry-laughing.) Get on this untapped market, Netflix! Be a media innovator.
Note: I will be alternating spellings of Chanukah and Hanukkah, because both are correct.
Latke, Actually: “The thing about Chanukah is, it’s not actually all around us.” The Brits practically invented the modern definition of Christmas. But even though Dickens didn’t write A Chanukah Carol, it doesn’t mean the shiksas should get to completely hog the fairylights. Ideally, My Dad Wrote a Porno’s Alice Levine narrates this tale of the eight days of Chanukah, as a jaded radio presenter who needs to learn the spirit of the season from her boss/surrogate father figure, Stephen Fry, while her sister (Romola Garai) worries that their mother (Jane Seymour) will disown her for bringing home home a goyim for the holidays. Said goyim is actually the best friend of Andrew Garfield, who is stuck in a very small, very low amenities cottage in Scotland with Lauren Cohan, whose cell phone battery, despite the lack of outlets or charging devices, lasts all eight days. Also starring: Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as a divorced couple coming together for the holidays for the first time in a while (Bonham-Carter is Jane Seymour’s sister), Sophie Okonedo as the prime minister hosting the first ever Chanukah at Number 10, Daniel Radcliffe as a young teacher determined to make a Jewish student feel included in the school Christmas pageant, and Matt Lucas in a Rowan Atkinson-level cameo.
I’ll Be Home for Hanukkah: Mila Kunis is having a terrible December. She’s been cheated on, she’s been dumped after being cheated on, and she told her family that she was bringing her boyfriend home with her for Chanukah — you know, the boyfriend, the one she thought she was going to marry. Her grandmother is ecstatic, and she doesn’t have the heart to break the news. She gets a break when she runs into childhood frenemy, Justin Bartha (he ruined her bat mitzvah, they stopped speaking, it’s a whole thing). She manages to convince him to pretend to be her boyfriend for the holiday. It’ll totally work; after all, their parents have been planning their wedding since they were five. What could go wrong! Featuring Mandy Patinkin and Katey Sagal as Mila’s parents, and Piper Laurie as her grandmother.
Rock of Ages: Now all grown up, eight former Youth Group friends — played by Ben Schwartz, Jenny Slate, Jane Levy, Skylar Astin, Kat Dennings, Dave Franco, Adam Brody, and Dianna Agron — find out that their synagogue and community center are relocating to a new, larger home and the original building is set to be demolished during Chanukah. The force of nostalgia pulls them back for one last Manischewitz-fueled party, letting them recall the things they loved and hated about their Jewish community and the spirit of the holiday. They all get drunk on crappy wine, feelings happen, there are ruminations on the meaning of life and getting older. It’s an indie darling.
Chanukah/Hanukkah: In the style of Gary Marshall’s Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and Mother’s Day. Now you may be saying, “Scout, didn’t you do this already just a few paragraphs ago?” But no, no my friends. We are going to take everything we did with the Jewish Love, Actually and make it worse, and more American, and it’s all going to take place over the course of 24 hours, the final day of Chanukah. See, it’s different. Natalie Portman, Zoe Kravitz, Andy Samberg, Kate Hudson, Zach Braff, Henry Winkler, Barbra Streisand, and like eighteen more people star (probably including Drake).
Half & Half: When her divorced parents’ Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations fall on the same night, Michelle Trachtenberg’s Lisa must balance it all. Can she do it? Will her party-hopping be the end of her? Will she get the nice Lyft driver’s (Ben Feldman) number when it’s over?
8 Dates of Chanukah: In a total rip off of the classic ABC Family Christmas romcom, 2011’s The 12 Dates of Christmas, The 8 Dates of Chanukah follows Max Greenfield’s Aaron and Kat Graham’s Ellen. Aaron’s mother’s idea of a good Chanukah gift is setting her son up on a blind date. But Aaron gets more than he bargained for when he ends up getting stuck in a time loop and reliving the date until he can get it right and learn the true meaning of Chanukah.
Neighbors 3: Chanukah’s Reckoning: When we last left Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne’s Mac and Kelly, they were happily renting out their home to the overflow pledges of Chloe Grace Moretz’s new sorority. Now, four years later, they have two young daughters and a house in a good school district. Everything is perfect…except their neighbors across the street who take Christmas decorations way too seriously. There are lights that flash, jingle bells that ring, a giant blow-up Santa, and a Rudolph that sings Christmas carols when it senses people on the lawn. They set out to stop the monstrosity, but unfortunately the Homeowners Association insists that every house be “festive” during the month of December. Well, if the Homeowners Associations wants decorations, Mac and Kelly will give them decorations. They enlist Zac Efron and Chloe Moretz to help make their home the most garish, most festive, most Jewish house on the block.
The Muppets Present: The Story of Chanukah: As A Muppet Christmas Carol is probably my favorite Christmas movie, I have to have the Muppets’ take on Chanukah. Obviously, Gonzo narrates as Rizzo learns the true meaning of Chanukah and eats a lot of gelt and latkes. Kermit, Fozzy, and Rowlf play the Maccabee brothers, Miss Piggy is Judith and gets to cut off a dude’s head. Daveed Diggs stars as Judah Maccabee.