‘Tis the Season: A Year-Round Viewing Guide for the Holidays

It’s always time for Holiday Movies, but some holidays require more searching than others. This being Book Riot, you probably like bookish movies. I have some for you. YOU’RE WELCOME!

Many of these holidays have dates that are dependent on factors outside the Gregorian calendar; for convenience of the majority of our readers, I have marked both the Gregorian date (for 2019) and the traditional date when possible.

Please note that purchase and streaming options are accurate as of this writing, but are subject to change.

Itching for a good bookish movie for every holiday of the year? We can help you out! bookish movies | holiday movies | movie lists | movie guides | holiday movie guides | bookish holiday movies

 

January 21: Martin Luther King Day

Selma

The events portrayed in Selma took place on March 7, 1965, and are also known as “Bloody Sunday” (not to be confused with the 1972 Bloody Sunday in Ireland). While the film was made from an original screenplay, you can read about the events in the March trilogy by John Lewis.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

February 2: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

I probably won’t include every movie that’s named after the holiday it takes place on, but no promises. This one is not particularly bookish, but you’ll live.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

1st Day of the Traditional Calendar: Lunar New Year (February 5)

The Joy Luck Club

I was unable to find a movie that specifically takes place on the Lunar New Year, but this movie about Chinese American mothers and daughters was groundbreaking as one of the first wide release movies to portray Chinese American culture. Based on Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

47 Days before Easter: Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday (March 5)

Hard Target

John Woo’s first American movie does not take place during Mardi Gras, but it does take place in New Orleans and that is just going to have to suffice. It is based on the Richard Connell short story “The Most Dangerous Game” and I have an irrational love for it.

Available rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray. (Hard Target 2 is streaming on Netflix.)

The Princess and the Frog

Based on “The Frog Prince,” this animated movie features Disney’s first Black princess.

Available to rent or buy from Amazon Prime, stream for free with Starz, and on DVD.

 

February 14: Valentine’s Day

Sleepless in Seattle

If you are at all romantic, even deep down, a Nora Ephron movie is the right choice.

Available to rent or buy from Amazon Prime, stream with CBS All Access, and on DVD.

 

February 18: President’s Day

1776

Would this movie be more appropriate for July 4? Maybe. But I am putting it here. Covers the founding of the United States and features more than one future POTUS. Also songs.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

March 8: International Women’s Day

Captain Marvel

The 21st entry in the MCU is the first female-led movie, and it’s coming out on International Women’s Day. If we overlook the fact that it was supposed to come out on July 6 of last year, which would have made it the 20th MCU movie (which I concede is not much better than 21), we can celebrate women with a nice dose of ’90s nostalgia.

In theaters March 8.

 

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day

The Quiet Man

St. Patrick’s Day is a questionable holiday, but I do enjoy this extremely problematic movie on a mid-March evening.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

14th day of Adar: Purim (March 20–21)

Esther and the King

There is nothing more appropriate for Purim than Esther’s story. There are several movies by this title. I am specifically recommending the 1960 Joan Collins version, but pick your fancy!

Available to stream on Amazon Prime and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

April 1: April Fool’s Day

April Fool’s Day

HOW COULD I NOT. This 1986 horror comedy is somehow both dated and fresh.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and on DVD.

The Court Jester

Is this a stretch? Yes. Do I stand by it? Also yes. Listen, Glynnis Johns and Angela Lansbury are both in this movie.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and on DVD.

 

15th Day of Nisan: Passover (April 19–27)

Prince of Egypt

The story of Moses as an animated movie directed by Brenda Chapman. What more need I say?

Available stream on Netflix, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

Easter (April 21)

Jesus Christ Superstar

There are so many filmed versions of this musical. My favorite is last year’s Live! version, which is available on DVD.

The Life of Brian

I’m not saying this Monty Python movie influenced J.K. Rowling, but it is basically about Neville Longbottom.

Available to stream on Netflix and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

April 22: Earth Day

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Snort, snicker, snort.

This book has been adapted twice. The 1981 version is available to stream on Amazon Prime. The 2005 version is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime. Both are available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

27th Day of Nisan: Holocaust Remembrance Day (May 1)

Schindler’s List

This movie about Oskar Schindler is based on the book Schindler’s Ark.

Available to stream on Netflix, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

Life is Beautiful

Inspired by the book In the End, I Beat Hitler and directed by and starring Roberto Benigni.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

May 1: May Day

The Wicker Man

This 1973 classic was remade in 2006 starring Nicolas Cage and a lot of bees. Watch either version.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

9th Month: Ramadan & Eid (May 5–June 4 & June 5)

Koran by Heart

Described as a modern coming-of-age story about Muslim kids in Cairo, Egypt, during Ramadan.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime and on DVD.

 

2nd Sunday in May: Mother’s Day (May 12)

Mommie Dearest

via GIPHY

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, to stream on Starz, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

Mildred Pierce

via GIPHY

Available on DVD and Blu-ray; the 2011 miniseries is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Dumplin’

Okay, okay, this extremely charming story is my real rec. It is the MOST charming, the MOST heartbreaking, and the MOST hopeful, lovely story. Based on the novel Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy.

Available to stream on Netflix.

 

Last Monday in May: Memorial Day (May 27)

Platoon

I dunno, it was this or Apocalypse Now.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

June 14: Flag Day

Rocky IV

Just go with it, okay?

(I’m not saying I have a poster of Rocky and the American flag hanging over my bed, but I think we both know I do.)

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

June 16: Bloomsday

Bloom

Based on the novel Ulysses by James Joyce.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and on DVD.

 

3rd Sunday in June: Father’s Day (June 16)

A Wrinkle in Time

Based on the book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, this movie celebrates the love between father and daughter.

Available to stream on Netflix, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

June 19: Juneteenth

Black Panther

For information on Juneteenth, aka Freedom Day, you might read Juneteenth by Charles A. Taylor or the novel Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison. But for a celebration of what African people could be without the interference of white slavers, Black Panther is the movie to see, a stunning celebration of black excellence that also acknowledges the tremendous hurt done to African Americans.

Available to stream on Netflix, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

July 1: Canada Day

Strange Brew

This is the best Canadian movie. FIGHT ME.

Available on DVD.

 

July 4: Independence Day

National Treasure

Did I choose this movie because it is about the Declaration of Independence (sort of) or because Nicolas Cage is our greatest national treasure? You tell me.

Available to stream on Netflix, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

Yankee Doodle Dandy

This classic is a biopic of George M. Cohen, “the Man who Owned Broadway,” who was born on the Fourth of July. James Cagney is a delight, and how many musical biopics are there? Not enough, that’s how many.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

July 14: Bastille Day

Marie Antoinette

I mean. What else would you watch for Bastille Day? I guess you could watch a movie set around a different French revolution, such as any adaptation of Les Miserables, but why would you do that when you can see Kirsten Dunst in amazing dresses?

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

1st Monday in September: Labor Day (September 2)

Norma Rae

For more information on the real-life inspiration for this labor movement movie, read Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance by New York Times reporter Henry P. Leifermann.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

1st Day of Tishrei: Rosh Hashanah (September 29–October 1)

Wide Awake

Recommended by Rioter Jaime Herndon, who says: “It’s about a boy whose grandfather dies and he decides he’s going to find out if there really is a G-d, because he can’t understand why his grandfather would die if there was a G-d.” While not specifically about Rosh Hashanah, this movie feels thematically appropriate.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime; out of print on DVD.

 

10th Day of Tishrei: Yom Kippur (October 8–October 9)

A Stranger Among Us

Melanie Griffith stars as an undercover New York police officer working a murder case in a Hassidic community.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

2nd Monday in October: Columbus Day (October 14)

Fuck that warmongering genocidal asshole. Book Riot celebrates Indigenous People Day.

Skinwalkers

This 2002 PBS American Mystery! movie, directed by Chris Eyre and based on the novel Skinwalkers by Tony Hillerman, features an all-native cast and was shot on Navajo land.

Available on DVD.

Mohawk Girls

This 2005 documentary by Tracey Deer is about the experiences of adolescent girls growing up on the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake.

I have been unable to find streaming or purchase options for this title.

 

October 25: St. Crispin’s Day

Henry V

Available on DVD and Blu-ray. Other versions available to stream on Amazon Prime.

 

Darkest Night of Kartika: Diwali (October 27)

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

This appears to be a Bollywood version of The Prince and The Pauper, maybe? It looks delightful.

Available to stream, rent, or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

October 31: Halloween

Halloween

I mean. Come on.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, to stream on Shudder, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

Arsenic & Old Lace

This delightful comedy takes place on Halloween night and involves a couple of murderous spinster aunts and a brother who looks like “looks like Boris Karloff,” who had of course originated the role on Broadway.

Available on DVD; the Tony Randall/Boris Karloff version is streaming on Amazon Prime.

 

November 1: Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

Coco

This three-hanky animated movie is basically perfect.

Available to stream on Netflix, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

November 5: Guy Fawkes Day

V for Vendetta

Based on the Alan Moore comic.

Available to stream on Netflix, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

November 11: Veteran’s Day/Remembrance Day

Captain America: the First Avenger

Do. Not. @. Me.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

War Horse

WWI from a horse’s POV? Sold.

Available to rent or buy from Amazon Prime and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

Fourth Thursday in November: Thanksgiving (November 28)

The turkey* is stuffed. Santa has arrived at Macy’s. The wire fox terrier has won best in show**.

*me
**probably

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

No, this one is not bookish. Shut up! It would make a great road trip book! Ideally a romance. Mmm, somebody make me a list of road trip romances.

Available to rent or buy from Amazon Prime and on DVD and Blu-ray.

Home for the Holidays

Also not very bookish, probably. Holly Hunter stars in Jodie Foster’s directorial debut, along with Robert Downey Jr. and Anne Bancroft and a whole lot of other fantastic actors.

Available to rent from Amazon Prime, stream with Starz, and on DVD.

Best In Show

Speaking of the dog show…

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

25th Day of Kislev: Hanukkah (December 22–December 30)

Full Court Miracle

A Disney channel sports (basketball) movie about Hanukkah? Sounds delightful.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime.

Fiddler on the Roof

While this story is not specifically about Hanukkah, it is about the resilience of the Jewish people and is also so much fun.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime and on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

December 25: Christmas

There are more Christmas movies than I can reasonably choose from, so here is a random selection. Stay tuned for a longer list in December.

White Christmas

This is as bookish as it gets, if by bookish you mean it covers the Irving Berlin songbook.

Available on Netflix, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and on DVD.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Based on The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, this TV movie from the early ’80s stars a very young Fairuza Balk.

Available on DVD.

 

December 26-January 1: Kwanzaa

The Black Candle

This documentary, narrated by Maya Angelou and directed by M.K. Assante, both authors, tells the story of Kwanzaa’s origins in the Black Power movement, and of its significance for many African Americans.

Out of print on DVD.

 

December 31–January 1: New Year’s

High School Musical

Is this a stretch? Obviously no. The main characters meet singing karaoke at a New Year’s Eve party, ergo it is a New Year’s movie.

Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime and on DVD. (High School Musical 3: Senior Year is streaming on Netflix.)


For all holidays, especially those less well known in the U.S., I welcome additional suggestions in the comments.

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