Holiday Heroines: 9 Movie Women Who Saved Christmas

Santa Claus, Frosty -- men get a lot of credit in Hollywood for bringing us Christmas cheer. But let's not forget the role women play in holiday films. Here are our favorites who help to make the season bright!
 
 
Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas
 
One of Dr. Seuss' most famous characters the Grinch is eagerly ruining Christmas in Whoville when he's interrupted by Cindy Lou Who, "no bigger than two," a sleepy sprite who mistakes the cranky hermit for the Man in Red, and asks why he's taking away the tree. Despite his grinchiness, he says he's taking it to fix a broken bulb, and even tucks her back into bed. The Grinch's heart eventually triples in size when he hears the Whos singing Christmas songs, but it clearly began expanding the moment Cindy Lou sweetly called him "Santa."
 
Donna Reed as Mary Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life
 
In Frank Capra's iconic 1946 classic, an angel gives George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) a glimpse of how awful the world would've been without him, but it's his hardworking wife, Mary (Donna Reed), who shows George how wonderful the world is with him. In the tear-jerking final scene, we learn that Mary has knocked on every door in Bedford Falls asking friends to help her husband with his debt -- and the Christmas windfall that follows proves George really is "the richest man in town."
 
 
Zooey Deschanel as Jovie in Elf
 
Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a human raised among actual North Pole elves, while Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) reluctantly plays an elf in Gimbel's department store. She's jaded about men and terrified of singing in front of people, but Buddy's Christmas spirit melts her heart, and in the 2003 film's final scenes, it's her very public performance of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" that makes Santa's sleigh fly.
 
Maureen O'Hara as Doris Walker in Miracle on 34th Street
 
In a cynical world, sometimes it's hard to let your kids believe in magic. That's the dilemma faced by Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade director Doris (Maureen O'Hara) in this 1947 holiday favorite, when her daughter Susan (nine-year-old Natalie Wood) asks if the department store's Santa is real. Doris doesn't believe her employee is actually Santa, but when she realizes how much it means to her little girl, she tells Susan that "Kris Kringle" is the real deal -- and that's when the miracles start to happen.
 
 
Lauren Graham as Sue in Bad Santa
 
As this 2003 pitch-black comedy begins, Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is a mall Santa who's also a thief, a sloppy alcoholic, and the rudest person on the planet. None of it keeps Sue (Lauren Graham) -- a sweet bartender with "a thing for Santa" -- from seeing something redeemable in him. With Sue's encouragement, Willie takes a misfit child under his grungy wing, and the three of them learn how to celebrate Christmas as a family (even if Willie has to get shot eight times to do it).
 
Marjorie Reynolds as Linda in Holiday Inn
 
Linda (Marjorie Reynolds) spends the 1942 film Holiday Inn torn between two men: kind-hearted songwriter Jim (Bing Crosby) and slick dance man Ted (Fred Astaire). Right before the holidays, she leaves to pursue a Hollywood career with Ted, and Jim's Christmas is ruined -- until he overhears Linda singing the song he wrote (which happens to be the Irving Berlin classic "White Christmas") and realizes she still loves him. In 1954's White Christmas, Rosemary Clooney sings the same song with Crosby, prompting snow to fall from the sky.
 
 
Loretta Swit as Grace Bradley in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
 
In this 1983 TV movie, based on the popular young-adult book, a church's annual Christmas pageant is approaching -- and the Herdman kids, known as troublemaking delinquents, want to participate. The show's director, Grace (Loretta Swit), passes over her own daughter (played by Fairuza Balk) to give the best roles to the Herdmans, and her leap of faith pays off when the cast's unbridled enthusiasm makes it a Christmas pageant to remember.
 
Ma Otter in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
 
Otters can be hardworking single moms, too! In Jim Henson's 1977 puppet musical, Ma gambles her livelihood to compete in a local talent show in hopes of winning a cash prize to buy her son a guitar for Christmas. Unbeknownst to her, Emmet also enters the contest, hoping to buy his mother a Christmas piano. While neither Ma and Emmet take the prize, the contest leads them to form an adorable (and profitable!) family band, singing the songs Ma taught them. Merry Christmas, indeed.
 
Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary in The Nativity Story
 
Everyone knows that the biblical Nativity story is about the unusual birth of a special child. But the baby Jesus isn't the only hero in Catherine Hardwicke's 2006 film: Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a pregnant teenager who risks everything to fulfill the angel's prophecy, is also the reason for the season.
 
 

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