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10 Of Our Favorite “Innovator” Moments in Holiday Movies

Chances are you’re thinking what I’m thinking – How is it ALREADY the Holiday season? Whether you’re as festive as Buddy the Elf or a bit of a Scrooge, chances are you love at least one holiday movie.

It’s often a tradition! I can’t remember a December where sitting with my family and watching a holiday movie while overeating sugar cookies didn’t happen. While these movies are really created for entertainment, they’re also often incredibly inspirational. Looking at these movies through a different lens, I’ve reflected on a few moments in these holiday specials that make me think about what it means to be an innovator.

What Is An Innovator?

An innovator doesn’t fit a single archetype, personality, or industry. Innovators aren’t just famous trail-blazers, they’re any creator who generally exhibits the following characteristics – Courage, Curiosity, Grit, Inclusivity, Authenticity, and Creativity. Working with Monica H. Kang, the founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox, has provided me with a constant reminder that innovation is not just for entrepreneurs and artists; everyone has those traits within them, and everyone utilizes these traits differently. And nothing quite showcases the diversity in innovation like all the wacky characters and storylines of holiday movies!

So for a bit of fun, and a bit of reflection, here are some of my Top 10 Favorite “Innovator” Moments in Holiday Movies:

Now a Quick Note – I am an English-speaking millennial, born and raised in the U.S., who often celebrates Christmas in the holiday season. So the movies I have picked out for this list are very much a product of my perspective. But I’m curious — What moments come up for you that I didn’t mention? Is there a nostalgic movie or series you watch during the holidays that I’ve missed out on? Comment or share on socials and let us know what innovator moments come to mind for you!

Oh yea, and if you haven’t seen one of these movies then a SPOILER ALERT is in order!

1. Elf (2003) – Buddy Overcomes The Feeling of Being an Outsider, Inspires Others to Save Christmas

Elf, starring the always-hilarious Will Ferrell is a comedy about a real Christmas Elf named Buddy who travels to New York City to find his long-lost Dad. Hilarity ensues, but so does emotion. Many of us know the feeling of being in a situation where we feel like a complete outsider – whether that be moving to a different location, moving jobs, or moving job roles.

One of the best characteristics of Buddy is his ability to stay positive and spread joy in the face of discrimination and otherness (okay, a lot of that was due to ignorance but still!). His authenticity became contagious, and contributed to the saving of Santa and Christmas. I think we can all do with being a little bit more like Buddy (minus the syrup diet).

2. Home Alone (1990) – Literally Every One of Kevin’s Defensive Strategies

When most people think of innovation, they think of invention, and that can certainly be part of it. Kevin, the 9-year-old main character of the movie Home Alone, certainly presents himself as an inventive innovator when he finds himself in an empty house that he suddenly must defend. 

Kevin utilizes everything from Christmas decorations to kitchen supplies to his own toys to create some of the most well-engineered contraptions in his own home. It’s an incredible reminder how with certain reframing – we can look at the tools in front of us in a completely different way to accomplish a goal!

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – Charlie Brown Sees The Beauty Outside of Mainstream

Despite what the mainstream media and commercial environments want us to think, all of us have quite a unique perspective on what is beautiful, effective, etc. When Charlie Brown is assigned the task to pick out a Christmas tree, he picks out the one he relates to, which happens to be a bit droopy and outside of what is commercially “festive.” Despite a little push-back, he gets it anyway. 

In the end, his friends decorate it and transform it into a traditional Christmas Tree, but I think there’s a lot to be said about their reaction to reject his decision. It’s a reminder to not immediately counter or reject a different opinion, change, or perspective. After all, we’re all just products of our own experiences and oftentimes, the “majority” choice isn’t always the best.

4. The Polar Express (2004) – Little “Hero” Girl Trusts Her Gut When It Counts

The Little Girl in The Polar Express isn’t the main character, but she is one of the most inspirational for her incredible moral and bravery. A scene that really sticks out to me is when she is driving the train which is suddenly about to crash and she must QUICKLY remember which lever is the break. 

The main character asks her which one it is, and she points, and he questions her, knocking her confidence. But luckily, the main character trusts her in the end and pulls the correct lever against his own instinct to pull the wrong one.

This scene presents innovation in two contexts – being confident in yourself, and being confident in others when it comes to solving a problem. It’s no shocker that in the end, when their train tickets are stamped with one word to describe them, her’s reads “Leader.” It could also say “Innovator,” no problem!

5. The Ref (1994) – Gus Speaks The Blunt Truth To A Wrecked Family

First things first, if you haven’t seen this movie I definitely don’t recommend watching it with younger kids. It’s an untraditional dark comedy about a divorcing couple with a dreadfully chaotic family that finds themselves being robbed at Christmas by Gus, the hilariously blunt criminal played by insult comic Denis Leary. Gus is certainly no angel. He’s crude and rude and oh yea – a criminal. But I can’t help but feel a sense of happiness when he ironically breaks and tells the brutal honest truth about everyone’s wrongdoings and bad behavior. For example in the rant he says,

“What is the matter with you? I thought mothers were sweet and nice a-a-and patient. I know loan sharks who are more forgiving than you.”

Innovation is about courage and authenticity – sometimes it’s hard to say what needs to be said, but oftentimes honesty is the best way to remedy things (as Gus’ honesty did with the divorcing couple). Now to be clear – I don’t recommend we don’t go out saying the first blunt thing that comes to mind – especially if you think like Denis Leary.

6. Rudolph (1964) – Clarice Accepts Rudolph Before Santa Does

I don’t mean to diss Father Christmas himself, but in the classic Christmas tale Rudolph, he only appreciates Rudolph when he is useful, and completely ignores the fact that he is belittled for being just a little different before then. Clarice, on the other hand, exhibits the traits of an innovator, by having the courage and open-mindedness to accept Rudolph for he is. How many of us have physical traits we were told were “ugly” or “undesirable?” Sometimes we even have inner traits that aren’t accepted either, despite them having absolutely no negative effects.

The moment where Clarice tells Rudolph he doesn’t have to wear the nose cover, is reminiscent of any time we feel we can be our authentic selves with others. And when we can do that, we’re a lot more effective. 

7. Christmas with the Kranks (2004) – The Power of Community & Collaboration 

Starring Jaimie-Lee Curtis and Tim Allen, Christmas with the Kranks tells a pretty relatable truth – the holidays are expensive and stressful. The couple, embracing this fact, decides to “skip Christmas” and use the money they would have spent on the holidays on a lavish Cruise and when doing so, excludes everyone in their community – to HILARIOUS heights. But when their daughter calls with a surprise that she is returning home with her new, foreign fiance who wants to experience “American Christmas,” they must ditch their whole plan and re-do Christmas in the span of a few hours.

The task is impossible, but when the community generously disregards the Krank’s past behavior and helps them do it, it becomes one of the best holidays yet. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy but also a really wonderful reminder that we can’t all do it ourselves! Sometimes like the Kranks we pile so much on and divert help. But putting pride aside can do wonders for our productivity.

8. A Christmas Story (1983) – Mom Preserves Her Relationships With Strategic Communications 

A Christmas Story is my favorite Christmas movie. The writing, the characters, the music, the oddities – it’s the perfect recipe for timelessness and is full of too many iconic quotes and scenes to count. But perhaps one of the most underrated moments is when the mom, who catches her son, Ralphie fighting with the community bully and blithering cuss word-filled nonsense, does something very creative to preserve the relationships of the household. 

Ralphie is in tears thinking about what his Father is going to do to him when he comes home, but at dinner his mom surprises him by creatively downplaying the facts of Ralphie being in a fight followed by a swift distraction of the dad’s favorite news story. In Ralphie’s words, “I slowly started to realize I was not about to be destroyed … things were different between me and mom after that.” Lying is never the right way to get what you want, but changing the way you frame certain topics can give you a good outcome. 

9. Edward Scissorhands (1990) – Reframing His ‘Affliction” To Do Good

The character Edward Scissorhands is exactly that – a man named Edward with scissors for hands. This Tim Burton classic isn’t always considered a “holiday” movie but it’s set in winter and gives me the fuzzy feelings, so it counts! Most people see him as a weapon, but at second glance he’s a wonderful creative. He can cut hair, cut lawns, and more than that – is a genuinely kind soul. It always gives me such a good feeling in the part of the movie where he starts seeing his hands as an actual tool.

10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) – The “Stupid” Character Courageously Dismisses a Toxic Boss

Perhaps one of the funniest moments of this Chevy Chase classic is when the main character, Clark finally loses his marbles after jumping through hoops to create the perfect family Christmas, to no avail. His usually optimistic demeanor completely shifts when he finds out his toxic boss unfairly cut his Christmas bonus, something the employees count on every year. After a cuss-filled mental break, the “stupid” family member who has so far been framed as completely clueless is the one to stand up to Clark’s boss and gets it all fixed.

Perhaps this scene can hit a little too close to home for a lot of professionals who have seen leadership show unfortunate morals during times when it counts. But this wacky yet heartfelt scene is a great reminder that innovation and bravery can be characteristics of ANYONE. And of course, it’s also a reminder to know your worth, especially now.

About the Author

Picture of Sarah Bloodworth

Sarah Bloodworth

Sarah Bloodworth is a writer and sustainability & culture specialist located in Austin, Texas. She studied Journalism and Environmental Science At The University of Texas at Austin and partly at the University of Sheffield in the UK. She worked as a freelance writer for several years, eventually founding my own LLC where she helped mission-driven organisations understand and connect with their audiences through clear, impactful communications. She now works at Flex International, a global manufacturing partner dedicated to creating products that improve people’s lives and make the world a better place. Her specialties include writing/editing, research, customer relations, community-building, and data. The views Sarah expresses are her’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flex.

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