Here comes Hanukkah: 6 Movies to Kick off ‘Eight Crazy Nights’
This year, Hanukkah starts early, beginning tonight, Dec. 7 and ending on Dec. 15 at sundown. Unlike Christmas, there are not a ton of Hanukkah-related movies (although Hallmark and Lifetime have been coming out with more of them to diversify their holiday programming, like last year’s Hanukkah on Rye). So, here’s a list of some of the best Jewish-themed films and shows to help celebrate this holiday.
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
To commemorate the first weekend of Hanukkah, TCM will celebrate “Tradition!” with not one but two versions of Fiddler on the Roof on Dec. 9. First up is one of the most recognizable films in Jewish entertainment, the 1971 screen adaptation of the Broadway musical, which tells the story of a Jewish peasant (Topol, who just died in 2023) with traditional values who wrestles with marrying off his choosy daughters in pre-revolutionary Russia, and won three Oscars, including Best Original Song Score. This is followed by Tevya (1939), which was the original, non-musical adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. Both films were based on the book by Joseph Stein.
Eight Crazy Nights (2002)
What is Hanukkah without Adam Sandler? From his hit SNL Hanukkah song to this animated comedy about an alcoholic sentenced to community service with an elderly basketball referee, Sandler constantly reminds everyone of the other winter holiday that sometimes gets overlooked.
Keeping the Faith (2000)
With a premise that sounds like the setup to a joke, Edward Norton‘s 2000 directorial debut featured a love triangle between a rabbi (Ben Stiller) and a Catholic priest (Norton), who are both in love with their childhood pal, Anna (played by Jenna Elfman).
A Serious Man (2007)
Perhaps the only Coen brothers film I personally enjoy, this drama follows a 1960s Jewish physics professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) in Minnesota whose life begins falling apart after his wife asks him for a divorce to marry a widower she’s fallen in love with. As he seeks out advice from three different rabbis, he questions his faith.
A Rugrats Chanukah Special (1996)
“A Macca-baby’s gotta do what a Macca-baby’s gotta do!” This educational episode of Nickelodeon’s Rugrats aired in 1996.
A Small Light (2023)
My personal all-time favorite Jewish-themed story to come out of Hollywood is the recent National Geographic & Disney+ collaboration costarring the great Liev Schreiber, A Small Light, a limited series about a Dutch woman named Miep Gies (Bel Powley) who risked it all to shelter Anne Frank’s family in war-torn Amsterdam. Somehow managing to show Nazi-occupied Europe from a new perspective without oversentimentalizing or repeating similar hard-worn tropes from previous Holocaust-era productions, this eight-episode historical drama is one you’ll definitely want to watch. (More on this show here.)