by Tony-Scheinman | created - 26 Dec 2012 | updated - 03 Jan 2013 | Public

THE NUTCRACKER ballet is just as much a Christmas video tradition as A CHRISTMAS CAROL, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET or IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and some versions are better than others. I'd like to share my preferences with you in time for the next Christmas.

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1. Nutcracker (1986)

G | 89 min | Family, Fantasy, Music

The colorful holiday classic is finally brought to the big screen, designed by famed children's story author and artist Maurice Sendak, and written for the first time to be as close as ... See full summary »

Director: Carroll Ballard | Stars: Hugh Duncan Bigney Mitchell, Vanessa Sharp, Patricia Barker, Wade Walthall

Votes: 762 | Gross: $0.78M

My favorite version. This is a much darker Nutcracker, with a more violent Mice/Toys battle and hints of sexual tension in several places. The late Maurice "Where the Wild Things Are" Sendak did a wonderful job of design, the dancing is superb, and while the second half of the story may be presented slightly differently than in the E.T.A Hoffman story, it keeps the viewer spell-bound. The highlight of Act II is the Arabian Dance, performed in peacock costume by Maia Rosal, who also plays Clara's mother.

2. The Nutcracker (1993)

G | 92 min | Family, Fantasy, Music

On Christmas Eve, a little girl named Marie (Cohen) falls asleep after a party at her home and dreams herself (or does she?) into a fantastic world where toys become larger than life. Her ... See full summary »

Director: Emile Ardolino | Stars: Darci Kistler, Damian Woetzel, Kyra Nichols, Wendy Whelan

Votes: 1,569 | Gross: $2.12M

The most joyous and family-friendly version ofThe Nutcracker to date; the only one I know of in which the children are actually played by children. The mice in this version are pretty laughable, and Macauley Culkin does a fairly good job, even though in my opinion he was signed to give the film a "name". This is the New York City Ballet at its finest; Darci Kirstler is a joy as the Sugar-Plum Fairy, Kyra Nichols is wonderful as Dewdrop and Wendy Whalen as Coffee is incredible (my only complaint about her is her costume). NOTE: Both Nichols and Whela have since graduated to the role of Sugar-Plum Fairy in recent NYCB productions.

3. The Nutcracker (I) (1977 TV Movie)

78 min | Fantasy, Music, Romance

The television adaptation of the Baryshnikov production.

Director: Tony Charmoli | Stars: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland, Alexander Minz, Gayle Young

Votes: 300

For many years, this version was my favorite. Mikhail Baryshnikov is at his finest, and this shows the magic he created with Gelsey Kirkland before they parted company. This version has in my opinion the most poignant Pas de Deux (made a Pas de Trois by the inclusion of Drosselmeyer, played/danced wonderfully by Alexander Minz) of any version, and the emphasis, as it should be, is on the dancing rather than on the sets.

4. The Nutcracker: A Christmas Story (2007 Video)

59 min | Music

The storm is really getting bad out there. Come on in and sit by the fire, enjoy the tree, make yourself a hot cup of Cocoa and enjoy the classic tale of The Nutcracker. Let us be your ... See full summary »

Stars: Paul Boyd, Joyce Cuoco, Tero Julku, Anna Vita

Votes: 13

A curiosity to be added to any Nutcracker collection, as this is a combination of the Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. In this version, Clara is Bob Cratchit's daughter and it is Scrooge who smashes the toy Nutcracker. Somehow, the combination actually works!

5. The Nutcracker (1964 TV Movie)

55 min | Drama

A one-hour version of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet, with a somewhat revised storyline reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz".

Director: Heinz Liesendahl | Stars: Edward Villella, Melissa Hayden, Patricia McBride, Eddie Albert

Votes: 23

The very first televised version of The Nutcracker I ever saw and very suitable for children, since the battle with the Mouse King is not included in this version of the story. Eddie Albert does a good job as Narrator.

6. The Nutcracker (1985 TV Movie)

Drama, Music

Although the set design and most of the costumes are remarkably like the later Royal Ballet Peter Wright productions, (2001 and 2009) many tiny details are different. While the production ... See full synopsis »

Director: John Vernon | Stars: Lesley Collier, Anthony Dowell, Michael Coleman, Julie Rose

Votes: 31

The first generation of The Royal Ballet's production. Excellently done, but with a surprise twist at the end where you find that it's not only Clara's Christmas dream that comes to life.

7. Great Performances (1971– )
Episode: The Nutcracker (2001)

115 min | Music

A re-staging of the Royal Ballet's 1985 production, with Anthony Dowell - this time as Drosselmeyer - and a new supporting cast.

Directors: Ross MacGibbon, Roger Sherman | Stars: Julie Andrews, Anthony Dowell, Alina Cojocaru, Ivan Putrov

Votes: 58

The second generation of The Royal Ballet's production. Anthony Dowell, who played "Cavalier" in the 1985 production, now plays Drosselmeyer.

8. The Nutcracker (2009)

120 min | Fantasy, Music, Romance

A revival of Peter Wright's production of "The Nutcracker".

Director: Ross MacGibbon | Stars: Miyako Yoshida, Steven McRae, Gary Avis, Iohna Loots

Votes: 57

The third generation of The Royal Ballet's production.

A very unusual version in which the story is set in the 1970's and the battle is between mice soldiers and G.I. Joe soldiers among other things. A very good production, nonetheless, and worth having in your collection.

This is another curiosity to be added to any Nutcracker collection.

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