Fun Jewish holiday films

With the Jewish High Holy Days upon us, I thought this a good opportunity to come up with a list of fun, but relevant!, holiday movie options for those long hours spent with family (as much as you love them and want to spend the entire time talking to them, of course).

By holiday, and in chronological order:

Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah

(aka, the High Holy Days; aka, the Day of Atonement and the New Year)

Mrs. Hall: How do you plan to spend the holidays, Mrs. Singer?

Mrs. Singer: We fast.

Mr. Hall: Fast?

Mr. Singer: No food. You know, to atone for our sins.

Mrs. Hall: What sins? I don’t understand.

Mr. Singer: To tell you the truth, neither do we.

From Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” (imdb.com quotes)

Although these are supposed to be the most important days of the year in the Jewish religion, they are not very popular in the film industry. “Day of Atonement” just doesn’t capture people’s imagination, I guess…

Keeping the Faith – A fun and light-hearted look at love, faith and family starring Ben Stiller as a rabbi and Edward Norton as a priest. Not strictly about the High Holy Days true, but there’s lots of great scenes in temple (see, services can be fun!), including one at Yom Kippur (the “Superbowl” of the Jewish calendar, as Ben Stiller’s character puts it).

Also check out this fun music video about Rosh Hashanah on YouTube.

Sukkot

(aka, Sukkos, Succoth, the one with the sukkah)

Ushpizin – Funny and tender, this critically acclaimed Israeli tale of an Orthodox couple down on their luck who receive a miracle and escaped convicts all on the same Sukkot is definitely worth at least one family viewing. Plus, it’s only an hour and a half long! Perfect for that hour or so that it takes all of your family members to actually leave the holiday celebrations (Wait, no, there’s just one more person I just have to say goodbye to…).

Hanukkah

(aka, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukah, etc. etc. aka, The Festival of Lights)

On Moische! On Herschel! On Shlomo!

It’s Hanukkah Harry 8 nights a year!

On Moische! On Herschel! On Shlomo!

Means that Hannukah Harry is here!

Delivering toys to Jewish girls and Jewish boys

We dance the horah around the menorah

‘Cuz Hanukkah Harry is here!

From the Saturday Night Live skit “The Night Hannukah Harry Saved Christmas” (For complete transcript, go here. For pictures and audio, go here.)

A Rugrats Chanukah – For children and, yes, for adults as well. Fun for the whole family! (cliché intended)

Eight Crazy Nights – Unfortunately, not nearly as much fun as the classic song on which Adam Sandler based the title of this animated holiday film. But it does exist, if you’d like to give it a try – it’s about a drunken criminal who gets sentenced to doing community service as a referee at the Youth Basketball League during the holiday season. That plot is probably a clue that just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s for kids. According to imdb.com, it’s rated PG-13 for “frequent crude and sexual humor, drinking and brief drug references.”

For complete lyrics to Sandler’s The Hanukkah Song, go here.

Purim

(Hamantaschen, noisemakers, costumes – and lots of overexcited children!)

For your Consideration – A Christopher Guest (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) film about Purim? Specifically, a Purim set in the American South? Yep, that’s right – Guest’s newest improv-heavy film, a satire of the film industry and the Academy Awards, is about the making of a film called Home for Purim. This film within a film is about a Southern family named the Pischers (you can’t make this stuff up) who gather for what is possibly their last Purim together. Bonus: Cameos from Office workers Ricky Gervais and John Krasinski! Check out the “promotional site” for Home for Purim.

Passover

(i.e., Moses getting out of Egypt)

A Rugrats Passover – I know, another Rugrats. But they’re just that good. (And how often do you get to see a female, albeit extremely young, pharaoh in one of these things?)

Ten Commandments – If you’ve somehow managed to miss one of the ten thousand plus airings of this Charlton Heston classic around Passover time, well, I don’t really know what to do for you.

Prince of Egypt – Dreamworks’ animated version of the Exodus tale. I can’t say I ever imagined Val Kilmer as the voice of Moses, or Michelle Pfeiffer as the voice of Zipporah, but Ralph Fiennes as the Pharaoh Ramses? Priceless. Winner of the Academy Award for the song “When You Believe.”

When Do We Eat? – To be honest, not my favorite film, but it’s an entire “Home for the Holidays”-style film about the Passover Seder, so I felt it had to be included. Unfortunately critically panned for the most part, it definitely does have its humorous and clever moments. Rated R, with Jack Klugman (TV’s The Odd Couple), Michael Lerner (Barton Fink) and Shiri Appleby (Roswell).

Miscellaneous

(for when you just can’t deal with anything else that’s holiday-related)

Everything is Illuminated – An alternately touching and hilarious look at an obsessive young Jewish man’s search for his past – a past mostly obliterated by the Nazis – in Eastern Europe. Based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, it was directed by Liev Schreiber (The Painted Veil) and stars Elijah Wood.

Crossing Delancey – The classic New York romantic comedy featuring Amy Irving and Peter Riegert as a bookstore manager and pickle store owner respectively who are set up by a Jewish matchmaker employed by Irving’s traditional grandmother. Funny (but tasteful) highjinks ensue.

Liberty Heights – A comedy about growing up Jewish in 1950s Baltimore. Dealing with anti-Semitism and race relations, this bittersweet film from Barry Levinson has some pretty hilarious moments balanced with what are clearly very serious issues. Starring Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth, and Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma).

The Frisco Kid – A goofy and sometimes dumb, but still often winning, Western-style comedy starring Gene Wilder as a Polish rabbi on a Torah mission and Harrison Ford (yes, that Harrison Ford) as a bank robber. From 1979.

Exodus – Worth it to watch Paul Newman as a Jewish rebel. An epic film that deals with the founding of Israel.

Staples

(not fun necessarily, but you just can’t have a list without ’em)

Schindler’s List and Fiddler on the Roof

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