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Today in Movie History: December 25

Surprisingly enough, Christmas Day has become a big day to go to the movies… and this year marks a notable anniversary for many of them. The date itself has served as a convenient launching pad for potential Oscar contenders, and there were some good ones among the pretenders: To Kill a Mockingbird was released 45 years ago today in 1962 and My Fair Lady two years in 1964. More recently, the musical version of Les Miserables opened five years ago today in 2012, earning Anne Hathaway a much-deserved statue (I dare you to watch the clip and disagree), and scoring Hugh Jackman his first nomination. And Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can opened 15 years ago today in 2002: underrated, but ranking among his very best.

As far as Oscar misfires go, there was The Godfather Part III, which opened in 1990: the all-time leader in prompting the phrase “let’s just finish it.”

For these more interested in lighter fare, P.J. Hogan released his terrific version of Peter Pan in 2003, while Alfonso Cuaron opened perhaps the best science fiction film of the past decade — Children of Men — in 2006. If your tastes run to the weird, there’s Ken Russell’s Altered States from 1980, and the classic adventure The Thief of Baghdad arrived today in 1940.

If counter-programming is your thing, check out Jacques Tourneur’s elegant, haunting Cat People, still one of the best horror films ever made and celebrating the 75th anniversary of its release in 1942.

Finally, we’ll leave the last word to Mr. Mel Brooks, whose Hitchcock pastiche High Anxiety was released 40 years ago today in 1977.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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