Well Hey Alma pals, you did it again — you blew us away with your creativity, humor and hypothetical casting choices for our Fifth Annual Hanukkah Movie Pitch Challenge! This year feels a little different — in light of the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza, we weren’t sure if we should host our contest at all. But ultimately, we decided that we need the Hanukkah movie pitch challenge this year more than ever. And your participation proved us right!
We received almost 100 original entries (!!!) of your dream Hanukkah movies and it was genuinely so hard to narrow them down to the top 12 finalists we present you today. From horror-comedy to mockumentary to romance to whodunnit to a family feel good film, our list of finalists really covers a lot of ground.
The competition was fierce this year. We had to turn away some truly inspired concepts, like “Rock of Ages” by Carly Noreen, wherein “Dwayne Johnson dives into Hanukkah pasta to learn about the holiday and the Jewish people,” and “The Ronukkah Ritual” by David Arbeiter, the plot of which begins like this: “A Ronukkah ritual is hosted by a non-initiated Ronald. He must bring five initiated Ronalds together. They light the eight Ronukkah candles (starting from the left-most candle), chant the Ronukkah incantations and drink a glass of Manischewitz.” Both of these ideas receive an honorable mention from the Hey Alma team for being really wacky, weird and wonderful.
But only you, the Hey Alma audience, can pick the winner of this year’s contest.
Now’s your chance to vote for your favorite idea — which, again, will absolutely not be made into an actual movie, but will be made into a fun digital poster at least. Once you’ve read through them all, you can vote here. Voting will close on the morning of Monday, December 11.
In alphabetical order:
8 Nights in the Multiverse
By Saffie & Bindi Kaplan
Girlfriends Judith (Willow Smith) and Anna (Beanie Feldstein) have the perfect relationship. There’s only one problem: Judith absolutely loves Hanukkah, and Anna absolutely hates it. The first night of Hanukkah, they have a huge fight and in the heat of the moment, both make a wish: Judith wishes that everyone loved Hanukkah as much as she does and Anna wishes that Hanukkah had never existed. The next morning, the two women awake to find that their wishes have come true… sending them into separate alternate realities.
In their new worlds, Judith rejoices in the giant Rockefeller Center Menorah and the abundance of Hanukkah carols on the radio, whilst Anna finds herself relaxing from the total lack of holiday plans and preparations. And those aren’t the only changes: Judith’s new version of Anna is busy organizing a Hanukkah door-decorating competition at her public elementary school, and Anna’s new Judith spends her free time with her girlfriend instead of hunting down the perfect ugly Hanukkah sweater.
But what if their wishes — and their new realities — are too good to be true? And what if they miss that one small disagreement with their girlfriend about the importance of Hanukkah? In “8 Nights in the Multiverse” Judith and Anna have to decide if they want to stay in their new realities or figure out how to get home before the last candle goes out on the eighth night.
A Chanukah Romance in Newport
By Michal Weiss
The year is 1763. Sarah Hays (Julia Lester) is 17 years old and living in a mansion on the water in Newport, RI. Her parents (Adam Brody and Jamie Lynn Sigler) and grandparents (Eugene Levy and Christine Baranski), conversos, had immigrated from Seville, Spain 18 years before and had returned to practicing Judaism, raising Sarah in the faith. Sarah’s grandmother worries that she will never find a husband. After all, there are only 20 families in the area and very few eligible bachelors.
Luckily, Newport synagogue has just been built and the entire community as well as those nearby, have been invited to the dedication, the first night of Chanukah — Dec. 2, 1763. Here, Sarah meets Moses De La Fiera (Milo Manheim), 18, a poor cousin of the Touro family, locking eyes with him over the lighting of the menorah. Sarah feels she has met the one but her grandmother deems him an inappropriate match due to his status in society.
Sarah has only eight days to convince her grandmother that Moses is her perfect match before he returns to New York City. What follows is a fight between old and new, rich and poor, set against the backdrop of the early colonies.
A note for the judges: Newport Synagogue really was dedicated on the first night of Chanukah.
And Then There Were Nun
By Sarah Richman
Rachel has just graduated from Brandeis University and moved to the big city. She’s surprised to run into an old friend from camp, Jessica, in the lobby of her new office building. When Jessica invites Rachel to her Hanukkah party, she gratefully accepts… not knowing that she’s just made one of the biggest mistakes of her life.
Everyone at the party seems familiar. Too familiar. By the time that Rachel figures out that she’s surrounded by people she forgot to invite to her bat mitzvah, it’s too late. She’s eaten a tainted latke and wakes up locked in Jessica’s coat closet, listening in horror as the whole party argues about the best way to get rid of her. Armed only with a handful of mothballs, someone’s umbrella, chutzpah and the will to survive, Rachel realizes that it’s time to make like a Maccabee and fight her way out of her impossible situation. The odds aren’t on her side, but then again… never underestimate a nice Jewish girl.
By Pelia Werth
It’s just a few days before Chanukah, but Liora Shamas, a 30-year-old English teacher and Jane Austen aficionado from North London, doesn’t feel like celebrating. She’s nursing a broken heart following a messy break-up from long-time partner Alex, while mourning the death of her beloved grandmother Hannah Goldfarb (née Nissim), who passed away on Chanukah the previous year. In dire need of a change from London’s wintry drizzle, she heads to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, where her grandmother grew up as part of the Baghdadi (Iraqi-Indian) Jewish community.
She is met by a dazzling spectacle of light and color as this year, Chanukah coincides with Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. In search of her family’s past, Liora tracks down her grandmother’s childhood home, where she stumbles upon a hidden trove of love letters addressed to Hannah and mysteriously signed “C.” She connects with Matan, a handsome local historian from Mumbai’s Bnei Israel community, and their relationship blossoms as they piece together the story of Hannah’s forbidden wartime romance with Charlie, a non-Jewish American soldier stationed in Bombay. As the eight days of Chanukah unfold, Liora comes to see her grandmother, her own identity as an Indian Jew, and her ability to find love in a new, more beautiful light. Featuring original music by A.R. Rahman and Idan Raichel.
By Dayna Steinfeld
Ann is 15 years old, already a terrible thing to be. But even worse, she’s a total weirdo at her super WASPy high school because she’s half-Jewish. It’s hard enough to know who you are when you’re 15, but it’s even worse when every kid in your grade keeps asking “so what are you anyway?” (followed closely by “do you still have Christmas?”). To top it all off, Ann was shocked when Freddie, an unbelievably cool drummer, asked her out — despite her frizzy hair and Jewishness. They were totally into each other but Rose, Ann’s older best friend from camp, convinced her to end it on account of Freddie being so, well, not a Jew.
And now, it’s Hanukkah, the worst time of all to be a half-Jew, when every teacher wants to turn you into a lesson on diversity and inclusion and every kid asks you every day if you get eight days of presents. But somehow, this year, with Ann and Freddie both in the Good Company players responsible for the school winter celebration musical extravaganza, the eight days of Hanukkah keep bringing them together in increasingly funny and heartwarming ways. After eight days, maybe that fire is still burning after all…
Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, this coming-of-age rom-com sets a second chance at love amidst the festival of lights.
Starring: Sadie Sandler as Ann, Jaren Lewinson as Freddie, Rachel Sennott as Rose and Ben Platt as the drama teacher/leader of The Good Company.
Guess Who’s Eating Together at the Carnegie Deli?: A Mythic Mockumentary
By Melissa Dawn Shaw
On the glittering last night of business for New York City’s beloved Carnegie Deli, Tom Cruise’s Agent sits attempting to savor a final corned beef on rye and a schmear of chopped liver — all while chewing on a major life decision. She is repeatedly interrupted as an ever-rotating crowd of Jews (both living and dead) grapple with mortality, menorahs and the end of an era.
As is to be expected, a manic madcap evening unfolds, as the deli’s ultimate patrons navigate everything from pastrami to Passover, Dear Abby to Dr. Brown’s — that is until things go awry when a very unexpected guest jangles through the door with a kishke-twisting dilemma.
Starring Natasha Lyonne as Tom Cruise’s Agent, Jackie Hoffman as Fran Lebowitz, Henry Winkler and William Shatner as themselves. Guest starring Jeff Goldblum as Henry Kissinger.
Soundtrack by David Lee Roth, Lenny Kravitz and Barbara Streisand.
All thanks to Adam Sandler for inspiring the idea!
Dedicated to Linda J. Banks, my mother.
Hanukkah Homicide: A Shoshannah Steinbaum Mystery
By Shophie Podwoar
1985. Private investigator Shoshannah Steinbaum (Rashida Jones) has been invited to her mysterious friend Freddy Schwartz’s (Jeff Goldblum) home for his Hanukkah-palooza, when he hosts parties of increasing extravagance each night. As the festivities begin, she realizes things aren’t quite what they seem. At latke square dance night, Shoshannah finds herself among a crowd of elite and eccentric Los Angeles Jews. There’s Mo “Mookie” Pearlman (Jerry Seinfeld), the slightly irritating, mostly good-natured entertainment exec with a passion for horse race betting, and Laura Dinkle (Sarah Sherman), the tortured-artist-by-night and kid’s-party-clown-by-day whose husband recently died of “natural causes” — leaving her with quite the inheritance (that’s right, she’s a clown by choice). Meanwhile, Freddy’s disappointing troublemaker son David Schwartz (Daniel Radcliffe) and lazy stoner daughter Raquel “Rocky” Schwartz (Molly Gordon) have returned for the holidays, much to their father’s concern.
And just when she thought the crowd couldn’t get any weirder, Shoshannah is shocked to see her former sordid flame, Evan Goldmacher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the CFO of Goldmacher Sacks. Late into the First Night, after much debauchery and fun, a scream is heard from down the hall. All the partygoers rush to the pool room to investigate, only to find Rocky standing over Mo “Mookie” Pearlman’s limp body. He has been stabbed in the chest, the candle from the first night sticking out of his mortal wound. The words “Night One” have been written on Mookie’s forehead in applesauce and sour cream.
Shoshannah is fighting against the clock as a new murder takes place on each night of Hanukkah. With the help of her assistant Morty Rosen (Andy Samberg), she is determined to bring the killer to justice. Will she crack the case before the oil runs out? Will she save the Hanukkah-palooza guests, or will she fall apart like an unfried latke? And, will she find love along the way? (Her mother would just LOVE that — but only if he’s a doctor or a lawyer).
By Delia Koolick
Shira (voiced by Jenny Slate) is a pure-bred German Shepard who has been spoiled by her owner Ari (Zoey Deutch) since she was a puppy. Benji (voiced by Seth Rogen) is an Australian Cattle Dog mix rescued recently by his owner Max (Logan Lerman). One fateful day, Benji and Shira meet at the Central Park dog park. They played together and their owners decide to exchange numbers for future puppy play dates. As the dogs spend time together and grow closer, so do Ari and Ben. Ben and Ari are excited to celebrate their first holiday together: Hanukkah! But when a big fight about missing Hanukkah candles threatens the newly kindled relationship, Benji and Shira take matters into their own paws.
The dogs team up for an adventure of a lifetime across New York City to find some more candles and save their owners’ love. But when Benji is captured by the evil pound worker (Paul Rudd), their mission is compromised. Shira, alone for the first time in her life, fights to find her buddy. With the help of some new animal friends and the miracle of Hanukkah, Shira saves Joey from the pound and finds the final pack of candles in all of New York. The two pups return home in time to light the menorah on the 8th night of Hanukkah! Ben and Ari are so happy to see their sweet pups and give them extra latke pieces and cuddles to end the festive holiday. They look forward to a bright future together — all four of them!
Krampus vs The Golem
By Gary Hofman
We’ve seen Freddy vs Jason, and Godzilla vs King Kong, and Batman vs Superman, and Alien vs Predator, and Freddy vs Jason 2… This holiday season, get ready for the greatest Chrismukkah film since “Mistletoe & Menorahs.”
Dina Cermak, nee’ Loew (Diana Agron) and her non-Jewish husband, Sam (Jonathan Groff) go and visit his family for Christmas in Prague. Dina doesn’t know much about the Cermak family. All she knows is that they are quite rich and that they will be staying in luxury for the duration of their stay. On Christmas Eve, the celebrations kick off and the family is having a wonderful time. The drinks are flowing and the food is plentiful, but when Sam’s dad, Jakub (Ivan Trojan) gets up to give his annual Christmas Eve toast, Krampus (Mads Mikkelsen) crashes the party and lets the Cermaks know that they are on the naughty list. Dina discovers the family’s dark secret; they are a tycoons in the fracking industry.
Dina, using the power of the last night of Hanukkah, performs a mystic ritual and summons the Golem of Prague (Jack Black) to counter Krampus. Two battles play out over the night: Krampus and the Golem engage in a spectacular battle across Prague. Meanwhile, Dina and Sam work to mend the family’s ways, realizing the consequences of their actions.
Drawing on themes of unity and understanding, environmental responsibility and the consequences of human actions and the power of miracles and the holiday spirit, “Krampus vs The Golem” balances humor, fantasy, and heartwarming moments.
Light My Menorah
By Nanette Lerner
Ruth (Odeya Rush) is a struggling songwriter, convinced that she can make it big — if only she can come up with the world’s best Chanukah song. In the meantime, she is helping out her bubbe (Carole King) working in the family’s Jewish bakery — which is also struggling.
In an effort to gain attention for the bakery, Ruth bakes a menorah out of challah and puts it in the window. When she arrives one morning, she’s shocked to find that her challah menorah is burning — despite not having any candles in it. This draws a crowd to the family bakery, meaning more sales, particularly for the magical challah.
Every night, this continues to happen — despite no one lighting the challah menorah, it burns. This attracts lots of press, who want to interview Ruth and her family about this Chanukah miracle. In the meantime, this inspires Ruth to write a Chanukah song (with a little help from her bubbe, who has a surprising talent for jazzy piano) and thanks to the bakery’s newfound publicity, is getting noticed.
Enter one particularly annoying (but hot) journalist. Eli (Nat Wolff) writes for a prestigious news magazine (okay, The New Yorker) and is immediately suspicious that Ruth has concocted this miraculous menorah as a way to get famous. His goal is to prove this, and then write an expose about it.
Eli and Ruth bicker, as she continues to try to prove that this is a true miracle and not a publicity stunt, and also tries not to notice he is a hottie. Eli is also trying not to notice that she is cute, feisty and can bake, a trifecta in his world.
Eventually, Ruth invites him to stay the night together in the bakery so he can see for himself that a great miracle is happening here. Will the menorah shed some light on its miraculous abilities? Or will Eli and Ruth light something up instead — and if they do, will they remember to turn off the bakery’s security camera?
One for Each Night
By Erin Wagner
It’s the first night of Hanukkah and the worst blizzard in decades is pummeling New York City. Dr. Sarah Levi (Rashida Jones) is trying to keep it together in an understaffed emergency room, wondering how her night turned out this way. She was supposed to be teaching her boyfriend Liam to make latkes in an upstate AirBnB, not contemplating why he picked today to tell her he was moving to Colorado to clean cow hooves after watching one TikTok video about it that he found “super soothing.”
Her attention is quickly diverted with the arrival of several men found cold and unconscious near a Catskills ski slope. She follows one patient into an exam room for a work up, checking the personal items the EMTs found on him: a California driver’s license for Josh Abrams, no wedding ring. After wrapping him in warming blankets, she dozes off while waiting for his temperature to rise and is visited by a vision of her great-grandmother (a resurrected Carrie Fisher) who tells her that this year’s Hanukkah miracle will be true love in eight nights.
Startled awake, she sees the piercing green eyes of her now-conscious patient (Paul Rudd) staring back at her. Her examination of this sure-to-recover handsome stranger quickly turns familiar as they chat about life, loneliness and the festival of lights. Thinking she may have finally met her beshert, she goes to check on the other skiers, but Josh seems to be in every bed. Is the pressure of a Hanukkah ER making her hallucinate? Nope. The other patients are Josh’s seven identical, charming and single brothers (all also played by Paul Rudd), in town on their annual Hanukkah Catskill’s ski trip and eager to romance the gorgeous doctor using whatever jello and tight-fitting hospital gowns they can find.
Great-grandma promised eight nights, not eight men. Oy… yay?
The Hanukkah Jamboree
By Robert Shapiro
When her first Broadway show abruptly closes in previews, composer-lyricist Abby Abrams (Micaela Diamond) sulks back home upstate to stay with her grandmother Sophie (Tovah Feldshuh). To get out of her creative funk, Abby accepts Sophie’s challenge to write and put on the village’s first ever Hanukkah show during the famous Holiday Festival in only seven weeks! With the help of her very gentile high school friend (Patti Murin), her old crush, the baker’s son (Milo Manheim), and a Maccabee-worthy bunch of performers (Julie Benko, Max Greenfield, Rachel Bloom and Richard Kind, naturally), Abby crafts her own Hanukkah musical miracle with songs like “What is Hanukkah and How Do You Spell It?” and “Chinese Food and a Movie.” But on Christmas Eve, a vacationing NYC producer (oh, let’s say Nathan Lane) makes Abby an offer that threatens her new-found community and rugelach-bearing love interest. Fortunately, Grandma Sophie reminds her that, like the Hanukkah oil, she has more time than she thinks to “let the light shine.”