This December sees the restoration releases of several yuletide classics, all beautifully restored in 4K and shining brighter than ever. 

There’s a holiday themed musical celebrating its 80th anniversary, a 2000s comedy about an oversized elf spreading Christmas cheer in New York City, an early '80s classic about a boy hoping for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, a late '80s comedy about a family's vacation plans gone awry, and a CGI-animated film about a boy's wintery adventure on a magical train headed for the North Pole on Christmas Eve. 

For film lovers, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.


National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

"I don't know what to say, except it’s Christmas, and we’re all in misery."

Beloved filmmaker John Hughes’ short story Vacation ’58, originally published by National Lampoon Magazine was the inspiration for this ongoing film series portraying the trials and tribulations of the Griswold family whose vacations and holidays are continually plagued with unexpected disasters and predicaments. With a screenplay penned by Hughes, and directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989 saw the release of the third installment, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, with Chevy Chase reprising his role as everyone’s favorite everyman, Clark Griswold.

Determined to deliver the perfect family Christmas, Griswold’s hopes for a festive holiday are thwarted by some obnoxious family guests, including Clark’s cousin in-law Eddie (Randy Quaid), his senile Aunt Bethany (Mae Questel) and even yuppie neighbors Todd and Margo played with relish by Todd Chester and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. With defective Christmas lights, combative in-laws, unwanted animal guests, dried-out turkey dinners and even a visit from the SWAT Team, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation has rooted itself in our culture as a modern comedic Christmas classic.

Christmas Vacation comes to the 4K UHD format courtesy of Warner Bros. Thanks to a dazzling new HDR color grade, the film’s festive palette truly pops – fine grain is also present, making for a very filmic looking transfer. Also giving a bump to this presentation is a newly remastered DTS-HD 5.1 audio track offering viewers more weight in the film’s audio experience. For purists, the film’s original stereo audio track is included as an option. This release also comes with Commentary with director Chechik, producer Matty Simmons and cast members Beverly D’Angelo, Quaid, Johnny Galecki, and Miriam Flynn, along with the film’s original theatrical trailer.

Available: Now available on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.


Holiday Inn

Not just a classic for the holidays but a cinema classic in its own right, director Mark Sandrich’s Holiday Inn (1942) is a fun and breezy musical based on a story by Irving Berlin featuring outstanding performances from its lead cast, toe-tapping dance numbers, and music by Berlin, whose iconic song "White Christmas" won the Oscar for Best Original song. The film was also nominated for Best Score and Best Original Story. Screen legends Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire star as crooner Jim Hardy, and suave hoofer Ted Hanover, previously part of a musical team but now competing for the affections of Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale). Jim’s supper club The Holiday Inn is the setting for this charming and highly entertaining piece of Hollywood history.

Celebrating its 80th Anniversary, this new restoration of Holiday Inn comes courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Much like last month’s Casablanca, this is a native 4K scan, and with the added High Dynamic Range, this presentation brings an added depth and nuance to the grayscale in this stunning black-and-white presentation. A 2.0 DTS HD Audio track accompanies the feature along with featurettes, All-Singing All-Dancing, and A Couple of Song and Dance Men. Lastly, along with the film’s original theatrical trailer, an audio Commentary by film historian Ken Barnes is included with archival audio comments from Astaire, Crosby and John Scott Trotter.

Available: Now available on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.



With its 20th anniversary coming up next year, Jon Favreau’s heartwarming comedy Elf is now considered to be one of the most beloved Christmas films ever made. Will Ferrell is Buddy, a human who was raised by Santa’s elves. Feeling like an outsider after learning of his true human origins, Buddy travels to New York City to meet his father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), a misanthropic businessman who was not only unaware of his son’s existence but could also use a good dose of real holiday cheer himself. Who better to provide that than his own son Buddy?

Farrell’s performance is widely regarded as one of the actor's career highlights and, along with Caan, he’s backed with an impressive supporting cast which includes Mary Steenburgen, Peter Dinklage, Edward Asner, Zooey Deschanel, and Bob Newhart. Stop-motion animation legend Ray Harryhausen even lends his voice as a Polar Bear Cub. Favreau’s film has charming visuals and is full of good cheer and a witty sense of humor making it one of those rare films for the entire family – young and old alike.

Warner Bros. new release of Elf features an HDR10 enhanced 4K UHD transfer elevating the clarity adding vivid color to the proceedings on screen. A 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track accompanies the feature along with a wide variety behind the scenes supplements including Tag Along with Will Ferrell, Film School for Kids, How They Made the North Pole, Kids on Christmas and much more. Rounding things off is a feature audio commentary with Farrell and Favreau.

Available: Now available on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.


The Polar Express

From the treasured Back to the Future trilogy, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects (Part II), to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which won three Oscars, including Best Visual Effects, to Death Becomes Her, which won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, to Forrest Gump, which won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Visual Effects, filmmaker Robert Zemeckis was no stranger to breaking new ground when it came to cinematic pyrotechnics when he set out to make 2004's The Polar Express. The film has the distinction of being the first fully digital performance-captured feature film ever made.

Based on Chris Van Allsburg’s book of the same name and starring Tom Hanks in not one but five separate roles, Zemeckis delivers a charming family adventure film where a young boy embarks on a magical journey to the North Pole aboard the Polar Express. The train ride takes him not only to Santa Claus’ hometown but to a place of self-discovery, true friendship and a wonder that never fades if you just believe.

Originally released theatrically in 3D, Warner Bros. has done the film’s unique aesthetic justice with a gorgeous 4K UHD transfer making the film’s scenic settings and characters more tangible than ever before. The added HDR creates several eye-popping sequences, and the film’s robust 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track rounds off this top-tier presentation. The large array of supplemental featurettes include You Look Familiar: The Man Polar Faces of Tom Hanks, A Genuine Ticket to Ride, True Inspirations: An Author’s Adventure and much more.

Available: Now available on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.


A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story, from director Bob Clark (Porky’s, Black Christmas), has stood the test of time with its nostalgic '40s setting, charming characters, and off-the-wall humor. Based on Jean Shepherd’s novel, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, the film tells the story of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who is determined to convince Santa, his parents, and his schoolteacher, that a Red Ryder BB Gun is the perfect Christmas gift for him. But a slew of calamities lay ahead ensuring that Ralphie and the Parker family’s Christmas is going to be anything but harmonious. A seminal film for many each holiday season, A Christmas Story was selected to be preserved in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 2012.

This new release from Warner Bros. features a stunning new 4K transfer treating viewers to a true film-like appearance with finer detail just in time for its 40th anniversary next year. The new HDR color grade is where the visuals will really shine for fans of the film. Supplements include an audio commentary with Clark and Billingsley, featurettes Christmas in Ohio: A Christmas Story House, Another Christmas Story, the film’s theatrical trailer and even a TV spot for the film’s infamous "Leg Lamp."

Available: Now available on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.

By Adam J. Yeend


What to Watch: Movies Releasing in December 2022

'Casablanca,' 'Reservoir Dogs,' 'Malcolm X' and More 4K Restorations Available in November