For lots of folks, Christmas time means Christmas movies. Some of them are great family traditions. Others (think "Bad Santa") are guilty pleasures for after the kids are tucked away in bed.
Best of all is when you can catch a holiday favorite on the big screen, surrounded by an audience that loves the movie as much as you do.
Here are some of the Christmas favorites that will be showing in local cinemas between now and the big day.
"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) — America's favorite Christmas movie, directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.
You know the story: A fundamentally good man, the moral backbone of his small hometown, comes to believe that his life has no meaning. That is, until an angel-in-training and the other residents of the town help the man to understand the difference that one individual can make.
When and where: Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg, 6:30 p.m. Sunday; Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk, daily showtimes between Sunday and Thursday as part of a double feature with "A Christmas Story." For times, call 757-625-6276 or go online to narocinema.com.
"A Christmas Story" (1983) — Modern classic about a young boy, a Red Ryder B.B. gun, and the eye he may or may not put out with it.
How long have people loved this movie? Well, Peter Billingsley is 44 years old now. Let that sink in. But people will watch it as long as little boys get their tongues stuck to metal poles on cold winter days.
When and where: Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg, 2 p.m. Monday and Wednesday. Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk, daily showtimes between Sunday and Thursday as part of a double feature with "It's a Wonderful Life." For times, call 757-625-6276 or go online to narocinema.com.
"The Polar Express" (2004) — One of the most spectacular feats of animation in recent cinematic history, directed by Robert Zemeckis and featuring the voice talent of Tom Hanks.
It is a magical tale of a young boy's train trip to the North Pole, a journey that teaches him all about the value of friendship and bravery. A sweeping saga, well told.
When and where: Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg, noon Monday and Wednesday.
"Elf" (2003) — Quick, name the four major food groups. If you knew the answer (candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup), then you are a fan of "Elf."
Will Ferrell is Buddy, a full-sized human who was raised as an elf. After wreaking havoc at the North Pole for many years, he is sent to New York City where he can wreak havoc on regular people. Can he find his callous father and get him onto Santa's "nice" list in time for Christmas?
When and where: Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk, 5:10 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and an additional 1:30 matinee on Saturday.
"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989) — Feckless family man Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase, in all his post-SNL glory) is determined that he will spare no expense to put on the greatest Christmas ever. (Because, what the heck, his Christmas bonus will cover it, right?)
All the usual things go wrong, and people fall down and wreck things and get exasperated, and hey, isn't that Leonard from "The Big Bang Theory" playing Chevy Chase's son?
When and where: Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk, 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and an additional 3:20 matinee screening Saturday.
"Miracle on 34th Street" (1947) — What better way to celebrate the life and career of the radiant Maureen O'Hara, who died in October at age 95?
In this beloved classic, O'Hara plays a New York executive who discovers that the department store Santa at Macy's just might be the real deal. A pint-sized Natalie Wood, already adorable, has the key role at O'Hara's daughter, and Edmund Gwenn is unforgettable at Kris Kringle.
When and where: MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Chesapeake Square in Chesapeake, and at Lynnhaven 18 in Virginia Beach, at 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday.