Monday, November 25, 2013

Riske Business: The 10 Best Chanukah Movies of All time

Why hasn’t Hollywood (and independent cinema for that matter) ever made much in the way of Chanukah movies? The only seasonal movies I and my fellow Jewish moviegoers have are grief porn like An American Tail or Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights, which is too mean-spirited to also be silly. So to help stoke the fire, I am proposing 10 Chanukah movies for Hollywood to produce. They will all be better than An American Tail or Eight Crazy Nights and thus are the 10 best Chanukah movies ever made.

10. Goy Interrupted

Director: Milos Forman

Cast: Drake, Sara Paxton and Liev Schreiber as Rabbi Hart

Tagline: This December, Rebecca Horowitz wants more than lox and bagels.

Plot Summary: A non-Jewish man vows to give his Jewish American Princess fiancée the Chanukah gift she always wanted – his conversion to Judaism.
9. Spin the Dreidel

Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, James Franco, Rashida Jones, Alison Brie

Tagline: This Chanukah, Mr. Katz will need more than 9 lives.
Plot Summary: Benjamin Katz has always been the King of Chanukah in peaceful Buffalo Grove, IL. But this year someone else is vying for the crown.

8. Sex, Latkes and Blu-Rays
Director: David Mamet

Cast: Adam Riske, Scarlett Johansen

Tagline: We’re gonna celebrate all through the night.
Plot Summary: On the last night of Chanukah, a recently married couple rent a remote cabin and talk about life, sex, movies and religion.
7. Festival of Lights

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Ben Foster, Melanie Laurent, Jon Bernthal and Harrison Ford as Coach Silverstein

Tagline: Put on your yarmulke. Plug in the menorah. Say your prayers.

Plot Summary: An escaped lunatic, locked away since his Bar-Mitzvah, is loose and on his way to the Jewish community center championship basketball game.

6. Big Night

Director: Kar Wai Wong
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Jackie Chan, Ziyi Zhang, Li Gong, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Caan

Tagline: A night about food and tradition.

Plot Summary: A re-imagining of the 1996 film, two Chinese brothers prepare for the opening of their Chinese food restaurant on Christmas night in a heavily Jewish-populated area. (Note: This is not a stereotype. Jews have gone to the movies and out for Chinese food on Christmas for 5,000 years.)
5. The Spectacular Christmas Disaster

Director: J.J. Abrams

Cast: The kids from Super 8, Cole Hauser, Sarah Michelle Gellar

Tagline: Breakdown, takedown. You’re Busted.

Plot Summary: Little Moses is the only kid in town that does not celebrate Christmas. He needs it more than ever this year. And he’s going to throw his own Christmas come hell or high water….or before mom and dad find out! Based on a failed novel attempted by Adam Riske at a Starbucks in 2005.

4. This is Chanukah

Director: Seth Rogen and Evan Golberg

Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Jason Segal, Martin Starr, Harold Ramis, Richard Dreyfuss, Ricky Jay, Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin, Kirk Douglas

Tagline: A sorta-better sequel to Knocked Up
Plot Summary: The buddies from Knocked Up get back together and decide to spend Chanukah together (with their dads!) at a dude ranch a la City Slickers.
3. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Liam Neeson, Martin Landau and Sean Penn as King of the Goblins

Tagline: Hershel has a very specific set of skills.

Plot Summary: Based on an actual book Adam Riske used to read when he was a kid written by (Eric Kimmel), Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins concerns a group of hobgoblins that are determined to ruin Hanukkah for a town of poor villagers. Every year the goblins blow out menorah candles, destroy dreidels and throw the potato latkes on the floor. That’s all going to change because Hershel of Ostropol is about to put in work.

2. Hanukkah

Director: Garry Marshall

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniel Radcliffe, Mila Kunis, Paul Rudd, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Banks, Shia LeBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Logan Lerman, Lena Dunham, Lizzy Kaplan, Kat Dennings, Eli Roth, Emmy Rossum, Steven Seagal, Eva Green, Rachel Bilson, Alicia Silverstone, Michelle Trachtenberg with Hector Elizondo and Ashton Kutcher

Tagline: Have a Matzo Ball!

Plot Summary: Holiday kvetching in New York City.
1. Fast Hanukkah

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Elsa Pataky, Dwayne Johnson, Matt Schulze, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, Devon Aoki, Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Ja Rule, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Gina Carano, Luke Evans, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Djimon Honsou, Tony Jaa, Oded Fehr, Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes

Tagline: The new models with original parts are in, so live life ¼ mile at a time and feel the speed, feel the rush because in Israel, speed needs no translation – all roads have led to this.

Plot Summary: The President of the State of Israel enlists Dom, Brian and their team to help stop a rogue ex-Mossad agent hell-bent on making sure Hanukkah floats permanently in the Dead Sea. And also get revenge for Gal Gadot.

Why do you think there are no Chanukah movies? Do you have pitches? Please share. I would love to read them.


  1. How about Light Bright.
    Staring America's sweetheart Sandy B. as a Christian widower who takes in a foster kid who happens to be the town's only Jewish resident. Sandy teaches us and the town about tolerance, love, and latkes all in time to organize an old fashioned synagogue raising so the child can have the Chanukah he needs not the Chanukah he deserves.

    1. Old fashioned Synagogue raising made me laugh out loud. Can the foster kid play football?

    2. Maybe, I picture him as some kind of dreidel phenom who hit an unlucky streak and is into the mob for big money and football is his way out.

    3. It's like you know all our stories...

  2. The Royal Mientkiewiczes - directed by Wes Anderson
    Starring - Ben Stiller, the Wilsons, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Andy Samberg, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Kirsten Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Robert DeNiro, Blythe Danner.

    Ari and Uzi marry into a family whose father may be more than he appears.

  3. I think I was the only kid, let alone the only Gentile kid in my elementary school who read "Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins". Ah, Schoolastic book orders.

    1. You and I would have been friends back in the day for sure.

    2. I have no idea how I ended up reading it as a kid, growing up Catholic and going to a Catholic elementary school, but I remember loving that book as a kid.

    3. It definitely leaves an impression

  4. Great column! I would watch any of these. All of these. Please make a movie about MY favorite Jewish-themed childhood book, "About the B'nai Bagels." Also, Scarlett called -- you left your hoodie at her place, but she says "she's keeping it." Playful minx.

    1. I'm going to have to read 'About the B'nai Bagels.' Scarlett is a real pro - she and I crushed it in our latke making scene set to the song Unchained Melody.

  5. I love the cast for #2, Hanukkah! Very good.

    There will also be a horror version with Jamie Lee Curtis, Danielle Harris, and Paul Rudd, where Hanukkah happens to fall on October 31st.

  6. "Hanukkahlypse Now", in which Charlie Sheen must search for Rabbi Kurtz, played by Elliott Gould, who has gone rogue and is celebrating unorthodox Hannukah practices. The film has Gould utter the words, "The Menorah... The Menorah..."

  7. Is Hannukah the movie where Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal finally play a romantic couple? Because isn't that what everyone is really waiting to see?!?

  8. Eight Nights to Die Hard

    Director: John Mctiernan (straight outta prison)

    Starring: Bruce Willis as Rabbi McClaine. Ben Kingsley as evil Rabbi Herschel Hellowitz, and Timothy Dalton as the Temple Negotiator Harry Weinberger.

    Plot: After a lifetime of near death experiences for Detective John McClaine along with raising two loser kids and having his wife divorce him (even though he saved her life TWICE), John decides to give up the shield and take on a yamakah as a converted Jewish rabbi. All seems to be going well until former Rabbi Herschel Hellowitz returns to the temple on the last night of Chanukah and takes it hostage in order to steal 100 million dollars that's supposed to go to the needy gentile and Jewish families of the land.
    Chanukah is doomed unless former Det. John Mcclaine can find a way to take out Hellowitz only using the Torah. They'll sing Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel I made you out of Clay after they clean up the blood! "Hey Hellowitz this oughta light up the Menorah!" gunshot then explosion.
    Eight Days to Die Hard- See the morning show and save a few bucks why don't you?

    1. It couldn't be worse than A Good Day to Die Hard. Consider this greenlit!