Move aside Christmas; right now, it’s Hanukkah’s time to shine! Here are eight Hanukkah movies and television episodes to get you into the spirit!
The holiday season is officially here! Today marks another night of Hanukkah, which means time for friends and family to gather together and light the Menorah. However, because this is 2020, some of us might not have the opportunity to see the people we love. Whether you are celebrating through zoom, in person, or over the phone, here are four movies and four television episodes, one for each of the eight nights, that perfectly capture Hanukkah.
Eight Crazy Nights
Adam Sandler is often known as the king of Hanukkah. Sandler grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, and is a descendant of Russian-Jewish immigrants. From his childhood, Sandler has always embraced his Jewish identity. As a teen, Sandler was in BBYO, a Jewish youth group. One of his most famous moments was in a 1994 episode of Saturday Night Live, where Sandler performed the “Hanukkah Song.” During the Weekend Update segment, Adam Sandler gave an acoustic guitar performance that earned rave reviews from fans and critics alike. This cemented Adam Sandler’s position as a Jewish icon.
This momentum was most likely the cause of the feature film Eight Crazy Nights, which came out in 2002. Sandler was inspired by Christmas specials like Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas but found himself frustrated with the lack of Jewish representation. Eight Crazy Nights was made in the same vein as those previous films. An animated musical adventure starring Adam Sandler in his first voice role, the film follows Davey, a Jewish alcoholic petty criminal. When Davey is arrested, a kind judge decides to give him one last chance for redemption. This involves Davey becoming an assistant referee for the youth basketball league. If you need a Hanukkah comedy to watch with the older tweens and teens in the house, then Eight Crazy Nights will be perfect. The movie can be found on Hulu!
If your family has a hankering for an all-star cast for their Hanukkah movie nights, then look no further than Little Fockers. The sequel to the wildly popular Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, this film is the final entry in this trilogy. Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Barbara Streisand, and Laura Dern are only some of the names that appear in this film. Also, a significant portion of the cast is Jewish, and this factors heavily into the film, especially the final Hanukkah dinner scene. Don’t worry about having to go on IMDB for your parents because it’s guaranteed that they’ll recognize at least one face. Little Fockers can be rented on Amazon, or if you have a Peacock TV subscription, it can be found there.
Fiddler on the Roof
A classic beloved by all households, Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of a Jewish family living in a Russian shtetl of Anatevka in 1905. Originally on Broadway, it was adapted to film in 1971. It was a huge box office success earning 83.3 million dollars off of a 9 million dollar budget, and continues to circulate through households today. Throughout the musical, the family learns lessons about love, duty, and faith. There are a whole host of characters for everyone at home to relate to. The patriarch Tevye, a poor milkman, finds his traditions and convictions tested by his strong-willed daughters. The songs are buoyant and energetic, which is sure to make even the dourest of Hanukkah celebrations lively. In fact, the film won the Academy Award for Best Sound, Best Score, and Best Cinematography for its music and striking visuals. Fiddler on the Roof is available on Netflix and Amazon.
For any sports, nostalgia, or Disney channel fans out there, Full-Court Miracle is exactly what you’re looking for. Diving into the world of Jewish basketball (or Maccabees), Full-Court Miracle follows Alex Schlotsky, a freshman at a Hebrew high school, who is desperately trying to improve his basketball team, The Lions. His friends become convinced that they can find their own Judas Maccabeus, who was a religious figure that led the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in 167 BCE. This brings them to Lamont Carr, a washed-up college basketball star whose knee injury prevented him from joining the NBA. Alex and Lamont are forced to build a friendship while attempting to maintain a winning streak for the Lions. These games (especially the last one) are meant to reflect Hanukkah traditions. This film is a fun love letter to Hanukkah that everyone in the family will enjoy. Full-Court Miracle can be found on Disney’s official streaming service, Disney+.
The O.C. – “The Best Chrismukkah Ever”
If you ever wondered where the term Chrismukkah came from, then look no further than The O.C. The early 2000s teen drama about a group of friends from Newport, California, took a unique approach to their Christmas episode. Comedic relief character Seth Cohen introduces his new friend Ryan to the concept of Chrismukkah. Attributing to his half-Jewish heritage, Seth splits Christmas and Hanukkah into two. It is not often that religion is a factor in teen dramas, especially Judaism. Fans were thrilled that Seth’s culture is not only a huge part of his character but is also celebrated. Episode writer, Josh Schwartz, used his experience of feeling like an outsider as one of the only Jewish students at USC to create Chrismukkah. He did this in order to spread awareness about Hanukkah to people of other religions. You can stream The O.C. on HBO Max.
Friends — “The One With the Holiday Armadillo”
Friends has always been a show that embraced its Jewish characters. Ross and Monica Geller, as well as Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green, were all raised in Jewish households. Just like The O.C., this also reflects in the behind-the-scenes team. Series creators David Crane and Marta Kaufmann factored their trials and tribulations with their Judaism into this episode, where Ross intends to teach his son Ben about Hanukkah. A series of mishaps leads to Ross donning the now iconic Holiday Armadillo suit. So, if you can’t wait for the reunion special to get your Friends fix, you can stream “The One With the Holiday Armadillo” on HBO Max.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — “My Mom, Greg’s Mom, and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves”
Rachel Bloom, the creator and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has always been a huge fan of Hanukkah. In 2013, at the start of her career, she released an album called Suck It, Christmas, which featured a comedic look at Hanukkah and included the song “Chanukah Honey.” In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Judaism plays a huge role, as Rebecca Bunch, like her real-life counterpart, is Jewish. She is from Scarsdale, New York, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, which also happens to be my hometown too. In the episode “My Mom, Greg’s Mom, and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves,” Rebecca is visited by her mother, Naomi. In order to win her mom’s favor, and precious family heirloom, Rebecca spins continuous lies about herself in order to improve her image. This episode also comes jam-packed with songs performed masterfully by the entire cast. You can stream Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix and Amazon.
Rugrats — “Chanukah”
The last entry on this list is something of a throwback, but one every Jewish kid recognizes. Rugrats previously portrayed the story of Moses and the ten commandments in “A Rugrats Passover.” The special, which aired in 1995, was one of the first animated television series to produce a special for a Jewish holiday. Nickelodeon executives loved the episode so much that they requested more from the show. In “Chanukah,” Grandma Minka reads a book about the holiday to Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, and Lil. The story inspires them so much that the babies start to imagine themselves as characters. This episode is a fantastic introduction to anyone unfamiliar with the story of Hanukkah. It was even written by a recent convert to the Jewish faith, David Weiss. You can watch Rugrats on Hulu.