Hanukkah may be a minor liturgical holiday, but it holds a great deal of importance for a lot of the Jewish community, arguably in North America in particular. There’s actually no prescient for celebrating the Festival of Lights in the Torah. In fact, the story of the Maccabees and their reclamation of the Temple is chronicled in the Apocrypha.
Often incorrectly billed as the Jewish Christmas, Hanukkah is so much more. Truthfully, there are a lot of complicated feelings about this holiday for many in the Jewish community. The themes of anti-assimilation get tricky when so much of this holiday, again particularly in North America, coincides with Christmas celebrations. However you celebrate Hanukkah, here are some movies you can add to the festivities.
The Night Before
The Night Before is about a group of friends who come together to support one of their own after a tragic accident. Starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie, this holiday tale quickly goes off the rails in a surprisingly loveable way. This stoner comedy captures the chaos of the holiday season.
One might wonder, how can a Christmas stoner comedy integrate Hanukkah? Rogen really carries the Hanukkah spirit throughout the story. He captures a quintessential part of the American-Jewish experience, waving his Hanukkah pride in the midst of loud Christmas cheer.
Eight Crazy Nights
Eight Crazy Nights is a classic comedy from Adam Sandler. Davey Stone is a man who, well, lives a life in disarray. There’s not much more you need to know about this story. It’s very vintage Adam Sandler.
Putting aside the making fun of alcoholism, a very real and debilitating illness, there are many reasons why this movie remains beloved. Sandler plays his typical pathetic man who manages to be incredibly loveable. Who better to carry the Hanukkah torch (or Hannukiyah) than the man who wrote one of the only modern Hanukkah anthems?
Full Court Miracle
The Disney channel still has precious-little Hanukkah content. Full-Court Miracle is a welcome exception. Starring Max Keeble himself, Alex Linz, the movie tells the sweet story of a Jewish basketball team looking for a coach.
If Hanukkah is the season of miracles, this story fits the bill. As this is a holiday geared mostly for children in the modern age, it’s nice to see a Hanukkah story that centres a younger generation. This movie makes this season a little bit brighter.
The Hebrew Hammer
The Hebrew Hammer follows the story of Mordechai Jefferson Carver, who becomes a Hanukkah hero for the modern time. He takes on a mission to protect his people after serving in the IDF. He mainly fights the evil son of Santa Claus to protect Hanukkah.
This is a satirical story that has a surprisingly earnest message for the holiday season. If a core message of Hanukkah is the perils of assimilations, there’s something cathartic about seeing a Jewish hero (or anti-hero) fight to preserve the Jewish people. This movie is all about pushing back against the gargantuan Christmas machine, so that all holidays can be celebrated.
Really any of the movies in this franchise would make a fun holiday watch. Little Fockers continues the chronicles of this dysfunctional family. Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro are back butting heads, but wanting what’s best for their family.
In addition to the typical Jewish-American shenanigans, this movie’s meditation on Jewish identity is an interesting one. While not everyone will agree of course, it’s fascinating what the ending reveal means for the family. This theme of Jewish identity makes it a great Hanukkah watch.
An American Tail
An American Tail has captivated generations of American children with its tale of Fievel Mousekewitz. It is an endearing story about hope, and overcoming adversity. Fievel is an adorable mouse just trying to get back to his family, and is journey is a harrowing one.
The story kicks off at Hanukkah, when the Mousekewitzes are forced to flea from their homes. This is an allegory for the Russian pogroms, which prompted many in the Russian Jewish community to flea their homes. The story captures the hope of the American dream, that sustained many Jewish immigrants as they navigated their new identities in new countries.
A Serious Man
A Serious Man introduces viewers to Larry Gopnik, a Minnesotan physics professor. His wife has fallen out of love with him, his teenage son is causing all kinds of trouble, and a student tries to bribe him. His journey is a mostly sympathetic one, even when he makes less than stellar choices.
This is another movie that spotlights Jewish identity, and the question of assimilation vs. isolationism in an American context. We follow Larry as he re-connects with Judaism after being distant. The story is also a commentary on the fact that however difficult life gets, the Jewish community will always be here to connect to.
Crossing Delancey is a romantic comedy about a bookstore seller and an author. There’s really nothing else that needs to be said to capture the sweetness. The romance itself is adorable, as the two leads need to get out of their own ways to come together.
This movie captures Jewish anxiety and resiliency so perfectly. It’s a story about not fighting Jewish culture, but allowing it into one’s life. Finally, at a time of year that’s about miracles, it’s worth considering that love itself is a miracle all around us.
What movies are on your Hanukkah watchlist? Leave a comment below!