2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Blu-rays, DVDs and Books to Make the Season Bright

Alonso Duralde recommends new releases of classic holiday movies, both on video and in book form

Last Updated: November 25, 2020 @ 2:53 PM

For many of us, the 2020 version of the holidays is going to be a more homebound one than usual. What better time to build your physical-media collection with DVDs, Blu-rays, and books to help keep the season bright?

Blu-ray debuts

This year saw the first release of several Christmas favorites on Blu-ray, from Paul Feig’s 2019 sleeper hit “Last Christmas” (Universal Home Entertainment) to the first North American hi-def releases of the moving and funny anime classic “Tokyo Godfathers” (GKIDS/Shout Factory), a contemporary adaptation of the Christmas-set Western tale “3 Godfathers,” and the all-star WWII drama “A Midnight Clear” (Shout Selects). The latter, a 1992 adaptation of the William Wharton novel from writer-director Keith Gordon, features a cast of up-and-coming actors who would eventually become filmmakers themselves, including Ethan Hawke, Peter Berg, Frank Whaley, and Gary Sinise.

Stone-cold classics

Bedford Falls never looked so good: Paramount Home Entertainment offers “It’s a Wonderful Life” in stunning 4K in a new Steelbook edition that includes special features and a mini replica of the film’s original one-sheet. Warner Archive Collection has three new Blu-rays that offer the hi-res debuts of some seasonal masterpieces: Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh flirt their way through a “Holiday Affair” (out December 15); if you want to see the legendary “Lubitsch touch” in action, look no further than director Ernst Lubitsch’s delightful “The Shop Around the Corner” (out December 22), starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan; and the once-nearly-forgotten cult favorite “It Happened on Fifth Avenue” (on December 22) gets a 4K restoration.

For the family

Having had their children underfoot for several months now, parents are no doubt looking for new ways to entertain them: “Charlie’s Christmas Wish” (Lionsgate) sees the titular stray dog improving the holidays for a veteran and his family, while “Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) drops the fabled cat and mouse duo in the middle of Tchaikovsky and E.T.A. Hoffman’s beloved ballet.

A little holiday romance

For the life of me, I don’t know why Hallmark/Cinedigm didn’t put out a DVD for my very favorite Hallmark Christmas movie of 2019, the moving “Two Turtle Doves,” but fans of the channel’s holiday output will be delighted at the selection available to them. Listed alphabetically, you can take your pick of “A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas,” “A Cheerful Christmas,” “Christmas at the Plaza,” “The Christmas Club,” “A Christmas Duet,” “Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy,” “Christmas in Montana,” “A Christmas Love Story,” “A Christmas Miracle,” “Christmas Scavenger Hunt,” “Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses,” “Double Holiday,” “Entertaining Christmas,” “A Family Christmas Gift,” “A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love,” “Holiday for Heroes,” “A Homecoming for the Holidays,” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “Merry & Bright,” “Our Christmas Love Song,” “Picture a Perfect Christmas,” “Sense, Sensbility and Snowmen,” “Time for You to Come Home for Christmas,” and “Write Before Christmas.” (You know you’re a hardcore Hallmark fan when you know which of these is which.) And if this sort of seasonal love story is your jam, you might also want to check out “Middleton Christmas” (Uncork’d Entertainment).

Between two covers

Christmas movies have become so ingrained into the culture that their presence is felt beyond home-video reissues and annual revivals on TV; now they’re books, too. “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Illustrated Holiday Classic,” adapted by Paul Ruditis, illustrated by Sarah Conradsen, and “Gremlins: Gizmo’s 12 Days of Christmas,” written by Andrea Robinson, illustrated by JJ Harrison (both Insight Kids) are both charming adaptations of two very different holiday favorites that mostly skirt around the fact that one movie is about a potential suicide and the other one contains no shortage of homicides.

gremlins christmas

Insight Editions

“The Nightmare Before Christmas Pop-Up Advent Calendar” (Insight) features its own mini-tree, 25 days’ worth of ghoulish ornaments, and a booklet about the film’s unique crossover between Halloween and Christmas. “The Official Downton Abbey Christmas Cookbook,” by Regula Ysewjin, food photography by John Kernick (Weldon Owen) combines tasty recipes, historical dishes that are better read about than tasted, and copious photos from the Christmas episodes of the popular TV (and now film) series. And finally, from the creators of the Cinephile game, comes “A Is for Auteur,” written by Cory Everett and illustrated by Steve Isaacs, a lovely little primer about legendary filmmakers (from Hitchcock to Varda and beyond) that will delight movie nerds of all ages.