Every now and again, a new Christmas movie comes along and immediately finds a place in your rotation of must-watch holiday classics. It doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should, but it did recently happen with me when I watched 8-Bit Christmas, the 2021 HBO Max movie starring Neil Patrick Harris as a father telling his daughter about one of his most treasured memories and how he secured his very own Nintendo Entertainment System.
After watching 8-Bit Christmas, which was directed by Michael Dowse (Goon, Stuber) and written by Kevin Jakubowski, who adapted his own book of the same name, I almost immediately started looking for movies that were similar either in tone, setting, or featured similar experiences. What I found was a mashup of popular Christmas movies, ‘80s classics, and films focused on Nintendo. It might seem random, but this all makes sense…
A Christmas Story (1983)
There is one thing and one thing only Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas, and that is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. A simple request, right? In A Christmas Story, the young hero quickly finds out that his parents, his teacher, and even Santa himself don’t think a young boy should have a BB gun, because he’ll shoot his eye out.
Why it’s worth checking out: There are a lot of things A Christmas Story and 8-Bit Christmas have in common, from the undeniable charm of Jake Doyle (Winslow Fegley) and Ralphie Parker, to their respective journeys to do anything in their power to get their hands on a highly-coveted present.
The Goonies (1985)
With their community on the eve of being torn down and turned into a country club, Mikey (Sean Astin), Brand (Josh Brolin), and the rest of a group of misfits called The Goonies set off on one final adventure together: a quest to find the long lost treasure of One-Eyed Willy in hopes of saving their parents’ homes.
Why it’s worth checking out: The Goonies, much like 8-Bit Christmas more than 35 years later, perfectly captures the sense of childhood adventure and the little moments of rebellion that make the pre-teen years so much fun. In the event you haven’t seen Richard Donner’s beloved classic, now is the perfect time to see what all the fuss is about.
The Wizard (1989)
When his kid brother, Jimmy (Luke Edwards), is put in a mental hospital, Corey Woods (Fred Savage) does what any older sibling would do: he breaks him out and the two run away to California. On their cross-country journey, the brothers meet Haley Brooks (Jenny Lewis), who informs them of the Video Armageddon tournament with a cash prize of $50,000. And, as it turns out, Jimmy has a tremendous knack for video games.
Why it’s worth checking out: The Wizard is essentially a 100-minute commercial for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and even introduced Super Mario Bros. 3 to North American audiences upon its release. If you want to see another movie that features the Power Glove as a plot point like 8-Bit Christmas, this is for you.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) just wants what any suburban father of two wants: a joyful Christmas with his family, 25,000 incandescent lights on his house, and his end-of-the-year bonus to cover the deposit he put down on his new in-ground swimming pool. But, as he finds out in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you can’t have a holiday to remember without chaos, a little eggnog, and a visit from Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid).
Why it’s worth checking out: One of the biggest similarities between National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and 8-Bit Christmas is the way in which they portray stressed-out fathers who are trying like hell to get the most out of the season, even if they look like crazy people in the process. Behind layers of humor, fits of rage, and over-the-top plans, both movies have a beating heart of gold.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Elliott Taylor (Henry Thomas), his brother, sister, and friends find themselves on quite an adventure when they are visited by E.T., an alien who was stranded in the California forest when his spacecraft is chased away by government agents. What follows is a quest to get E.T. home before those agents catch him.
Why it’s worth checking out: Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is perhaps one of the best examples of the childhood adventure story with the way in which it captures the sense of wonder, the emotion, and thrill of it all. The movie, like 8-Bit Christmas, also does a lovely job of showing kids being kids and getting into all kids of trouble while attempting to avoid their parents’ watchful eye.
The Monster Squad (1987)
A group of childhood friends called The Monster Squad live up to their name when a handful of the most iconic movie monsters descend upon their town looking for a mysterious amulet to make the planet a dark and deadly place. The fearless gang team up to take on Dracula, the Mummy, the Gill Man, and Frankenstein’s Monster before it’s too late.
Why it’s worth checking out: The Monster Squad is a hell of a good time, and has great moments around every corner. Although the stakes are much higher here than in 8-Bit Christmas, both movies capture the excitement, fear, and adventure of the childhood experience.
Adventures In Babysitting (1987)
After being stood up by her boyfriend (played by go-to Hollywood jerk Bradley Whitford), Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) is asked to babysit the Anderson kids in what should be a boring and uneventful evening. But, when one of her friends calls in a time of need, Chris and the kids she is supposed to be babysitting drive into Chicago for a night none of them will soon forget.
Why it’s worth checking out: Adventures in Babysitting and 8-Bit Christmas both feature a group of young heroes leaving the safe and quiet streets of the Chicago suburbs to venture into the big city without their parents knowing, which opens the door for all kinds of shenanigans.
Home Alone (1991)
When Kevin McAllister’s (Macaulay Culkin) family forgets him in a mad dash to make a flight to Paris for Christmas, the young boy finds himself alone over the holidays. What starts out as a fun escape from his parents, siblings, and the ill-tempered Uncle Frank, quickly turns into a race to protect his home from the Wet Bandits by any means necessary.
Why it’s worth checking out: You could make a case for Home Alone being one of the best Christmas movies of all time. I mean, it has a little bit of everything: heart, adventure, thrills, and one charismatic main character.
Unaccompanied Minors (2006)
A group of five young kids treat an airport as their own personal playground when a blizzard prevents them from getting home on Christmas Eve. With the massive terminal sparsely populated and full of excitement, the group does anything and everything they can to make the most of the situation, even if the grownups in the airport don’t get as much enjoyment out of it.
Why it’s worth checking out: Unaccompanied Minors is a lot like 8-Bit Christmas in the sense that it focuses on young kids finding unique ways to solve problems. Both movies also have a tremendous amount of heart, and themes about the meaning of Christmas.
Jingle All The Way (1996)
Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) isn’t the world’s greatest dad, but he tries to make up for his shortcomings by getting his son the most popular toy on the market: a Turbo-Man action figure. On Christmas Eve, Howard sets off to achieve the impossible before he finds himself in a whole mess of trouble.
Why it’s worth checking out: Like 8-Bit Christmas, Jingle All the Way centers on a main character who is willing to risk limb, life, and dignity to bring home one of the hottest toys around during the holiday season. And sure, Jingle all the Way is a silly movie with some absurd moments, but it does capture the insanity of the holiday shopping season.
Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story (2021)
As its name suggests, Playing with Power: The Nintendo Story tells the complete history of the popular video game company from its early days in 19th-Century Japan all the way to the modern era of the tech behemoth. Over the course of five episodes, the documentary series dives into the history and impact of the legendary brand as told by those it has influenced the most.
Why it’s worth checking out: Playing with Power: The Nintendo Story is perfect for anyone who either missed out on the Nintendo craze of the 1980s or wants to refresh their memory after watching 8-Bit Christmas.
BONUS: About Time (2013)
Not long after Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21, his father, James Lake (Bill Nighy) lets him in on the family secret: the men have the ability to travel back in time to relive any of their memories. With this knowledge, Tim gets second chances at some of life’s biggest decisions, but soon learns there are some things you can never change without facing severe consequences.
Why it’s worth checking out: Like 8-Bit Christmas, About Time is one movie for most of its runtime but then has a major tonal shift in the third act, a change that adds even more more heart and meaning to the overall product, making it a perfect movie to revisit with this new knowledge.
Each of these movies share at least one thing in common with 8-Bit Christmas and will hopefully bring more enjoyment to your lives when looking for something to watch this holiday season and beyond. And, speaking of the future, now’s the perfect time to take a look at all the 2022 movies you will certainly be hearing about quite a lot in the coming months.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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