In partnership with Creative Screenwriting and ScreenCraft, “First Draft” is a series on everything to do with screenwriting.

What makes great holiday movies stand apart from the rest?

We’ve covered the Seven Essential Ingredients to Writing a Successful Holiday Movie: Nostalgia, Magic, Family, Atmosphere, Tropes/Cliches, Hope, and Redemption. That’s not to say holiday movies have to have all of these elements. You can mix, match, or cherry pick. But each element is essential because it has been proven effective. They pull on the heart strings of holiday season audiences, coming to theaters in a time centered on being thankful, celebrating family and friendships, and looking inward—whether you are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.

The holiday movie genre is an interesting one. While dominated by Christmas, holiday movies often transcend the religious connotation of the Christian holiday, instead representing a season of joy, hope, and love for all. Because of this, the holiday movie is in high demand. Hollywood and audiences are always looking for the next classic. The most recent being the now coveted 2003 contemporary classic Elf.

But what is it about these holiday movies that capture an audience—not just in the year that they are released, but in every holiday season thereafter?

Here we feature five holiday season classics and offer you a chance not to just be reminded to watch them again as the holiday season comes about, but to also allow you, the screenwriter, the opportunity to read the actual scripts.

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