Just a little over 20 years ago, a niche indie film made its debut. With no shortage of elves, quips, family and friendships, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring premiered on December 2001. Almost every year since, I have watched it at Christmas.
It is the ultimate, absolute best Christmas film and I will keep up this tradition until the day I die. And I'm here to declare that you should too.
Now, to be clear, I'm not some Christmas movie novice who would allow LOTR to win by default. I've seen them all: Miracle on 34th Street, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Holiday (which admittedly is second best), Love Actually, It's A Wonderful Life, Home Alone – and yes, even Die Hard. The list goes on and on… and on and on and on. There are a ridiculous amount of Christmas movies, actually.
I've also made my way through the Hallmark catalogue of assorted Christmas flicks where the high-strung business woman falls in love with a ragamuffin from her hometown who bakes cookies in a barn and teaches her the true meaning of Christmas. Unshockingly, these do not factor highly in my consideration, but I digress.
No matter how many times I see tinsel and hear sleigh bells in the opening credits of a Christmas film, nothing compares to Lord of the Rings.
Now, I have faced scrutiny over this take in the past, particularly over whether or not Lord of the Rings even COUNTS as a Christmas film. Here are my top three reasons it absolutely does.
It features Christmas Day
What, you thought that just because we're in Middle Earth and our earthly equivalent of Santa Claus romps around in grey robes, sending off fireworks and encouraging bad hobbit behavior, that Christmas Day wasn't technically in Lord of the Rings? Think again.
While not explicitly mentioned in the films, the source material confirms that it was Christmas Day, December 25th, when the Fellowship first departed from Rivendell on their journey to destroy the ring. Let me say this one more time: The Fellowship -- including grey firework Santa and eight dashing, prancing companions -- left a city of elves (who were hard at work building a fancy new toy sword for Aragorn) to traverse their world and bring peace to Middle Earth, ON CHRISTMAS DAY.
It's also worth noting that J.R.R Tolkien was also a devout Christian, so the choice of that particular date would not have gone unnoticed by him. It was a CHOICE. A CHRISTMAS choice.
You can (almost) apply Christmas carols to major events in the film
If you want to sit there and tell me that Baby It's Cold Outside doesn't work for the Fellowship shivering their souls out at the door to Moria, just try. JUST. TRY.
Silent Night? The moments juuuust before Pippin knocks a great honkin' skeleton down a hole. Follow that up with the Little Drummer Boy as whichever goblin started the drums of war, and that's practically a whole Christmas carol setlist.
At a stretch, We Three Kings could definitely vibe with the rings of power given to the elves and held by Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf: "Three were given to the Elves; immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings."
And look, I know this one's a huge leap but Little Donkey could potentially be applied to Samwise's loyal pony Bill, who kept trudging the whole way up a snow-covered mountain before he was forced to turn back at the mines. In this household, we love and respect Bill.
Christmas is a time for family and fellowship
Jokes aside, Christmas at its core is literally a time for fellowship. It's a time where we all come together, regardless of what's going on in our lives – even if that means associating with extended family you'd prefer to keep at arm's length, like the Sackville-Bagginses, to whom you'd wish to say "No, thank you! We don't want any more visitors, well-wishers or distant relations!".
Just as the nine members of the Fellowship come together to share in adventures, have each other's backs and embrace the spirit of loyalty and friendship, so too should you. And how better to convince the more raucous members of your family to sit down on the couch together than to make the Christmas movie something everyone can enjoy.
As Gandalf says, "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you."My advice? Give Die Hard a rest this year and spend that time watching the one true Christmas movie: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.