A Christmas Story, the holiday film classic that plays at some point in every American household this time of year, turns 40 today. The plot is as straightforward as it gets. In the 1940s, young Ralphie Parker sets out on a mission to convince his parents, teacher, and even Santa Claus that nothing but a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun will do as the ultimate Christmas gift.
A Christmas Story, directed by Bob Clark, is based on Jean Shepherd’s semi-fictional anecdotes in his 1966 book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and draws elements from his 1971 book Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters. It features Melinda Dillon as Mrs. Parker, Darren McGavin as “The Old Man”, and Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker. Of course, Jean Shepherd himself narrates the story with sardonic flair.
Upon its premiere in 1983, A Christmas Story broke new ground. Rather than dwelling on the customary Christmas themes of generosity, kindness, hope, and Santa Claus, it centered around a middle-class family in the 1940s, narrated through the perspective of a 9-year-old boy.
‘A Christmas Story’ Broke New Ground
Prior to A Christmas Story, themes of family dysfunction were largely unaddressed in Holiday movies. Rather than presenting an idealized and picturesque image, the film took a satirical approach to the holiday season. The holiday season is a time of beauty and joy, where the best of humanity shines through. However, it can also bring lofty expectations, letdowns, excessive spending, and overwhelming stress.
The film gained popularity after being acquired by Ted Turner in the late 80s. Turner aired it on all his cable stations, including a 24-hour marathon in 1997. This exposure introduced the film to a vast audience who instantly fell in love with the heartwarming story of little Ralphie and his dream of owning a Red Ryder BB gun.
The enduring charm of A Christmas Story is its realistic portrayal, inspiring other enjoyable and comically absurd family-centered Christmas films like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Ways to Watch ‘A Christmas Story’ This Holiday Season
You can enjoy the holiday classic A Christmas Story by streaming or renting it on various platforms. These include Max, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and YouTube. Additionally, keep an eye on TNT and TBS. They may feature the film multiple times over the next few weeks. While it’s uncertain if they will continue their annual 24-hour marathons, you can still catch the movie at least a few times on these networks.
Meanwhile, A Christmas Story is also heading back to the big screen for its 40th anniversary. Fathom Events will screen the film in select theaters on December 10th and 13th.
Ironically, A Christmas Story director Bob Clark also helmed another decidedly different holiday classic, 1974’s hallmark horror film, Black Christmas. Clark’s slasher film is often cited as an influence on John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween.
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