Refinery 29 UK
Welcome to “What’s Good,” where we break down what’s soothing, distracting, or just plain good in the streaming world. We started this column over at R29 Canada. Now, we’re bringing our recommendations—and “rooting for everybody Black” energy—to our R29Unbothered readers. Enjoy!
What’s Good? Jingle Jangle is extremely good—an instant classic, if you will. But its recent success has exposed two things about the world of holiday films: one, it’s way too white, and two, the classic Black Christmas movies that do exist (and are also very good) continue to get overlooked every damn holiday season.
Who It’s Good For: If you love Christmas movies, you have probably seen the ones that show up on every annual “Best Movies of The Season” list: A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, It’s A Wonderful Life, and Home Alone to name a few. Listen, those are all solid movies. They’re also all movies with nary a Black person in sight. And then there are the rom-coms: The Family Stone, Love, Actually, The Holiday. Again, great movies. Again, the melanin is severely lacking or straight up missing. So, who are Jingle Jangle and other Black holiday movies good for?
First and foremost, they’re good for Black people. We’re done being cast aside like that one Auntie whose side dish offering always inexplicably has raisins in it (fine, it’s Drake— Aubrey is the Auntie). But these movies are also for anyone who wants some tidings of comfort and joy, and who is sick of seeing the same story play out with the same people. Hollywood needs to stop treating holiday movies starring Black people like they are a niche within a niche. The genre is already narrow enough.
How Good Is It? I’m going to tell you all the ways Black people have bodied this genre, but let’s start with Jingle Jangle, which has no business being as good as it is. The movie reveals itself as a fun, sweet, magical fairytale early on, basically from the first words Phylicia Rashad says in the opening scene. It becomes a classic, oh-shit-this-is-brilliant, movie-musical masterpiece around the halfway mark when a snowball fight breaks out. The scene is unlike anything I have ever seen in a children’s movie about Christmas, and not just because it’s soundtracked by a Ghanaian artist Bisa Kdei, but because of the way it radiates Black joy. Journey Jangle (Madelen Mills) is pelting her grandpa Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker) with snowballs as they, and their friends, break out in dance to afrobeats. When those little girls hit the shaku shaku while Forest Thee Whitaker tried to keep up? My soul left my body. It was a spiritual viewing experience.
Jingle Jangle is getting stellar reviews and universal praise, as it should, but it’s also being treated like an outlier of Black representation in the Christmas movie space. There absolutely needs to be more Jingle Jangles, but let’s not forget the notable Black holiday films that already exist that are woefully underrepresented in the mainstream conversation surrounding the best of the genre. Queen Latifah’s delightful Last Holiday is number 52 on Esquire’s best Christmas movies list. NUMBER FIFTY-TWO. Imagine thinking there are 51 better Christmas movies than one in which LL Cool J and Queen Latifah fall in love? Couldn’t be me. And that was one of the better rankings. Decider’s list doesn’t feature a single film whose main character is Black. Imagine ignoring The Best Man Holiday like that? Imagine including Holidate, a disastrously bad offering that’s barely even a Christmas movie, on any list, let alone one that excludes The Preacher’s Wife? Not on my watch! If you want a full list of the best in Black Christmas movies, we’ve got you covered, but here are my definitive shout outs of the best of the best.
The aforementioned Last Holiday and The Best Man Holiday are canon. Please put some respect on their names. And again, absolutely no conversation about the best Christmas movies of all time should leave out the 1996 classic The Preacher’s Wife, some of Whitney Houston’s best onscreen work, which also finds Denzel Washington at his most charming. Truly, given that the man gets you to root for infidelity. We desperately want Whitney’s character Julia to cheat on her husband (played by Courtney B. Vance) with an angel named Dudley. That’s skill. The music of The Preacher’s Wife is also undeniably one of the best movie soundtracks of all time, and it’s a staple in my house every season. If there’s one thing a good Black Christmas movie is gonna do, it’s give you a good soundtrack.
There’s also 2007’s unfairly panned The Perfect Holiday with its two perfect leads: Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut. If you’re looking for a tearjerker, look no further than 1990’s The Kid Who Loved Christmas, starring Michael Warren and Vanessa Williams (with a cameo by Sammy Davis. Jr) that has such a heart wrenching premise, I can’t even type it out without tearing up. I’ll just say it’s about an orphan, cry and move on. I see your A Charlie Brown Christmas and raise you a Fat Albert’s Christmas Special in the animated space, and for the contrarians who love to shout out movies that aren’t typical holiday films but are, in fact, set at Christmas (like Iron Man 3, Batman Returns and Die Hard), I give you Friday After Next.
Then there are newer hits like 2015’s The Night Before (which counts because Anthony Mackie is the best part), 2016’s Almost Christmas, featuring a star-studded cast lead by Danny Glover and Mo’nique, about a dad trying to keep his family together, and 2018’s The Holiday Calendar (Kat Graham is slowly becoming the underrated queen of the Christmas B-movie). Christina Millian’s Snowglobe (2007) is probably her best Christmas movie but the more recent Memories of Christmas rivals every single one of the Hallmark movies that have become synonymous with the season. Tamara Mowry is also showing up in that space which is so, so white with this year’s Christmas Comes Twice. Bottom line: whether you like your holiday movies corny or sweet, magical or authentic, heartfelt or funny, ‘tis the season for Black excellence.
Things that are also good:• I couldn’t dare end this column without bowing down to our Black Christmas queen, Mariah Carey. Long may she reign• The feeling of putting up your Christmas tree for the first time of the year, standing back, smiling like God looking upon all they had made and saying “It Is Very Good.”• Re-watching all the holiday episodes of your favorite TV shows • The way the holiday season let’s you tap out of real life mentally, emotionally, and physically while you binge so hard you become one with your couch, no regrets • Although it’s been said, many times, many ways, defunding the police
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?The Best Black Christmas Movies38 Romantic Holiday Movies Streaming Right Now’Jingle Jangle’ Comes With 9 New Holiday Classics