Celebrate Hanukkah With These Movies
12/3/2020 • 3 min read
As far as the holidays go, Christmas usually commands all the attention and serves as the basis for most holiday movies. It helps that it takes place on the same days every year, and is relatively contained. But let's not overlook Hanukkah, which takes place around the same time as Christmas and, as Adam Sandler reminds us, rages for eight crazy nights. There are quite a few cinematic favorites appropriate for the Festival of Lights. So grab your family and take a look at one of these movies perfect for your Hanukkah viewing party.
Eight Crazy Nights (2002)
Based loosely on Adam Sandler’s "Hanukkah Song" from "Saturday Night Live," EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS is Sandler’s first animated feature and the rare animated movie not aimed squarely at children. (It has a PG-13 rating and has some pretty risqué humor.) Sandler plays a screw-up sentenced to community service coaching a local youth basketball league. Hilarity ensues. The animation, handled by a small army of disparate studios, has a nifty, early-Don Bluth flavor. While some elements of the movie haven’t aged particularly well (such as Rob Schneider’s performance as a Chinese restaurant owner), it's still fun to have an explicitly Hannukah-themed animated feature to watch year after year.
A Serious Man (2009)
Joel and Ethan Coen’s A SERIOUS MAN is so Jewish that publicists handed out a glossary of terms to critics attending early screenings. (Yes, seriously). The movie begins with a 19th-century Eastern European prologue that recounts a Yiddish folktale before segueing into the main story about a college professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) in 1960s Minnesota, whose life is derailed by a series of Job-like trials — and/or personal failures. This movie is a total masterpiece and gets into the minutia of the Jewish experience better than most films released before or since. It’s also one of the brothers’ very best films.
The Night Before (2015)
You might assume that THE NIGHT BEFORE, a very good and very silly comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie, is a Christmas movie, especially given the title. But there is some strong Hanukkah representation thanks to Rogen, who wears an ugly Christmas sweater adorned with a Star of David throughout the movie. The entire story is largely a celebration of the holiday spirit in general, and everything that might mean. While the movie is very funny there are also some surprisingly emotional interludes as well.
Little Fockers (2010)
The third film in the MEET THE PARENTS franchise (after sequel MEET THE FOCKERS), LITTLE FOCKERS was panned by critics but is just the thing if you’re in the need of some WTF-worthy Hanukkah laughs. The plot for the film involves, amongst other things (including a weird Andy Garcia joke), a mixed holiday gathering that was perfect for its original December 22 release date. Does this reinvent the wheel? No. It doesn’t even reinvent the franchise. But it could be just what the doctor ordered, especially after a few adult egg nogs.
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
This is it – a true Jewish epic. The 179-minute feature is a fairly faithful adaptation of the hit Broadway play from 1964, and concerns a man struggling to maintain his Jewish faith in a constantly evolving world. Directed by Norman Jewison, it was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, and it won 3. The songs are great, the score (by STAR WARS composer John Williams) is terrific, and the performances are rich and nuanced. Plus the fact that FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has an intermission (just like the Broadway show!) means you can break for dinner or a refreshment replenishment.
An American Tail (1986)
If you haven’t seen AN AMERICAN TAIL since you were a kid, you probably just remember that it starred an adorable immigrant mouse and featured a heart-tugging original song. Both of those things are 100% true, but you might forget just deeply felt the tale of an immigrant mouse in America really is, and how explicit the parallels are to the modern Jewish immigration story. (The story also weirdly paralleled the development of the feature, which, halfway through production saw the animators move to Ireland.) And if you’ve only ever seen it as a kid, a revisit is in order. And, yes, “Somewhere Out There” (sung by Linda Ronstadt) is still totally amazing.
See FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at Cinemark on December 13 and 14!
All images courtesy of MGM, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Focus Features.