Hey Alma pals, you never cease to amaze us. We received a record number of entries to our Fourth Annual Hanukkah Movie Pitch Challenge. And frankly, if Jews actually ran Hollywood, we think each and every one of these fantastic movie ideas would’ve been made by now.
After careful consideration, we picked 12 finalists from the group of submissions — which contained interesting similarities: Lots of getting snowed in — just Jews getting trapped together by the elements all over the place. Cast lists including Maude Apatow, Timothée Chalamet, Zoë Kravitz and/or Andrew Garfield. Finding love on Christmas Day with the proprietor of a Chinese restaurant. Magical menorahs transporting people to alternate realities. And plenty of movie pitches which Hanukkah-ify media that already exists — namely, “Glee,” “WandaVision,” The Beatles movie “Eight Days a Week” and “Elf.” (The last of which may or may not have made it to the finals…)
You should all give yourselves a hearty “mazel tov!” We’re seriously kvelling at your creativity.
Now’s your chance to vote for your favorite idea — which, again, will absolutely not be made into a movie, but will be made into a fun digital poster at least. Once you’ve read through them all, you can vote here.
In alphabetical order:
Andy Samberg Is My Father?
by Rachelle Zalter
16-year-old Rebecca Friedman (Maude Apatow) lives a quiet life with her mom (Emmy Rossum) and Australian shepherd Larry (named after Larry David). A self-proclaimed skeptic, she always secretly believed in magic, so when her best friend and forever crush, Zachary Bloomberg (Jaren Lewison), gives her magical Hanukkah candles on the first night of Hanukkah, she half-believes something might actually happen when they burn out… but nothing does. She pops on “Palm Springs,” her favorite movie to fall asleep to, and wonders what it would be like to have a dad.
When Rebecca wakes up, she’s not in her house. She looks out the window and realizes she’s not even in her hometown: She’s in LA, in a bed with silk sheets and lavender-scented pillows. Rebecca runs out of her king bed monstrosity and finds her mother in the kitchen with her arms wrapped around a man frying latkes. But it’s not just any man… it’s Andy freaking Samberg!
Rebecca is beginning to like this new world. She’s massively popular at school, acting with her dad in movies and having Hanukkah dinners with icons like Seth Rogen and Bette Midler. The only problem is that in this life, Zachary Bloomberg hates her.
As the days pass, a nagging thought enters her brain: What will happen on the last night of Hanukkah when all the magic candles burn out? And more importantly, what does she want to happen?
Dungeons & Dreidels
by Adam Rosenthal
14 year-old Micah Abarnel decides to spice up his family’s Hanukkah celebration with his own version of Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeons and Dreidels. He builds out a campaign that ties in Jewish folktales, the story of Hanukkah and at least five puns about mohels. He manages to convince his “culinarily Jewish” and typically strict family to play with him, so they gather around the table filled with his mother’s latkes and and his father’s cassolas. But when they spin Bubbe’s shtetl dreidel to see how they fare in a battle against a dybbuk, the six of them are transported into the world that Micah built!
Now they must complete Micah’s game — not as their characters, but as their very un-adventurous selves. They’ll have to fight hordes of soldiers and monsters like Estries and Roman mages, befriend golems and fellow rebels, and remind themselves about their connection to Judaism — and that, at the end of the day, it’s okay to take control of their destiny instead of letting the spin of a dreidel decide their fate. Think “Jumanji” (Jew-manji?) meets “The Rugrats Hanukkah Special.”
Eight Golden Nights
by Hannah Faye
Closeted Hasidic Ephraim (Timothée Chalamet) secretly obsesses over international music sensation David Gold (Troye Sivan). After his family’s quiet first night of Hanukkah, Ephraim sneaks out to the Barclays Center to see David in concert, and he is forever changed. The two meet the next evening in the kosher deli, where David shops in hope of anonymity. The two strike up deep, meaningful conversation and subsequently meet by happenstance around Williamsburg the next several nights. They become friends until chemistry takes over and Ephraim is forced to confront his truth. The final night of Hanukkah takes them on a wild adventure through Brooklyn, where emotions run high and they both find the meaning of love, tradition and miracles.
Eight Nights, Nine Lives
by J.R. Gudeon
Moishe, a 150-year-old tabby cat residing in Brooklyn’s alleyways, is living out his ninth and final life alone. Having moved through eight homes due to his struggles to trust, Moishe now believes that giving up his search for family is the only way to prevent more heartbreak. But everything changes this December when he meets Pomegranate, a young runaway cat convinced her owners are better off without her after she bit their Bubbe’s hand thinking it was a chunk of turkey. Adamant that the young cat is being too hard on herself, Moishe gears up for one last adventure: escorting Pomegranate back to the Upper West Side before Hanukkah ends and her family flies home.
As the cats — voiced by Paul Rudd and Maya Rudolph — travel north, they confront obstacles like bad Christmas lights and the 1 train, while celebrating each night of Hanukkah with city cats Moishe befriended when he was in between homes, such as the Russian Blue Rebbes and the Katz’s Deli calicos. In celebrating the holiday with new and old friends, Moishe gains new perspective on his nine lives and realizes they have been filled with more happy memories than painful ones. He reconsiders his choice to live alone and embraces love one more time, learning that giving yourself a second — or seventh or eighth — chance can open your eyes to blessings that have been there all along.
Hanukkah at Whitby Manor
by Erin Wagner
It’s December in London, 1595, and the prosperous Barrows are hiding something: they are secretly practicing Jews. Among young Emilia Barrow’s (Julia Garner) many suitors is the dull Earl of Whitby (Ralph Fiennes), desperate for money and an heir. Emilia’s parents (Sarah Silverman and Paul Rudd) would prefer she marry Jewish, but when the Queen’s stablehand, caught lighting his Shabbat candles, is tried for heresy, they realize Emilia must wed the powerful Earl to protect them from a similar fate.
At Whitby Manor, Emilia encounters the Earl’s ward — the dashing, shirtless James (Daniel Radcliffe) — cradling an injured pigeon. The pair bond as they nurse the damaged bird, but when the Earl kills and eats the creature for dinner, Emilia runs to James and they make passionate love on a bearskin rug. In the heat of this encounter Emilia detects… could it be? James is circumcised! The Earl scours the house and spies Emilia’s parents covertly lighting their hanukkiah. Discovering the young lovers, he utters the ultimate threat: Emilia must marry him tomorrow or he will expose her Jewish family.
After a tearful ceremony, Emilia escapes her wedding celebration to kiss James one last time. The plastered Earl finds them and fires his gun which backfires, killing him. Emilia soon realizes she is pregnant but claims she consummated her marriage and is carrying the Earl’s heir. A year later, she and James marry, make frequent use of the bearskin and, with their son, celebrate Hanukkah in the great halls of Whitby.
I Made It Out of Clay
by Beth Kander
Eve (Mila Kunis) is turning 40 this Hanukkah. Her mother (Marlee Matlin) keeps reminding her she’s not getting any younger. The upcoming wedding of her much-younger cousin Lily (Hannah Einbinder) means the family’s eyes will all be on poor, terminally single Eve. So, in spite of her best friend Sasha (Zoe Kravitz)’s warnings that it’s a terrible idea, Eve RSVPs to the December wedding with a “plus one,” vowing to find the perfect date. Her new neighbor, a recently-divorced dad with a cute accent (Brett Goldstein), seems like a great prospect. But he has his kids that weekend, so regretfully turns her down. As does everyone else she calls.
Desperate, out of time, and a little drunk, Eve recalls a strange story her Ukrainian Bubbe once told. Remembering, too, that the sub-basement of her apartment building has a clay foundation, with extra bags of the stuff in the corner, Eve ventures down below… and builds herself a golem.
The next morning, she’s hungover, bleary-eyed, half-remembering her weird dream… and it’s now the dreaded day. She’s 40, dateless, and Lily’s wedding is that evening. Total nightmare. Sighing, she rolls over, just wanting to go back to sleep… AND THERE HE IS: HER GOLEM (Paul Rudd). It wasn’t a dream!
At first, everything seems wonderful. He’s cute, attentive, and, of course, very protective. But when they head to Lily’s wedding, where old wounds lurk and new threats surround her, Eve’s lighthearted rom-com fantasy swiftly mudslides toward something much, much darker.
by Gilli Messer
When he breaks his beloved candelabra, JONAH (Timothée Chalamet) finds a secret note from his late parents, leading him to discover he’s not like the other elves in Santa’s Workshop; he’s a Jelf! A Jewish Elf! Suddenly, it all makes sense: why his candelabra holds nine candles (it’s a menorah?!). Why he can’t tolerate eggnog (#lactose). Why his yule log looks… different from the other elves.
SANTA (Will Ferrell) doesn’t see what the big deal is — Jesus was Jewish, too. Plus, he wants to retire soon, and as his adopted son, Jonah’s going to take over as the next Santa someday. But Jonah the Jelf is determined to uncover the truth about his past, so against Santa’s wishes, he “borrows” the sleigh to go on a journey of self-discovery with only the letterhead from the mysterious note from his parents as his guide: “UCLA Center for Climate Science.”
At UCLA, Jonah winds up at AEPi’s annual Hanukkah rager, where he befriends beautiful Nice Jewish Girl MOLLY (Hailee Steinfeld), who helps him learn about his Jewish heritage (and introduces him to TUMS) and what happened to his parents (scientists who tragically died of frostbite at the North Pole UCLA Climate Laboratory). But the clock’s ticking! Will Jonah the Jelf return the sleigh to the North Pole by Christmas? Will he make it out of the friend zone with Molly? Will he take over Santa’s job, or start his own Hanukkah toy making company in downtown LA? Find out in JELF!
by Constanze Toplansky
The leftover dredges of applesauce from all of New York City’s Hanukkah dinners combine to form a sentient wave threatening to take over Manhattan. The only thing in their way: Jewish mothers and their Tupperware (as well as a line of living pickles alternately depicted by muppets from the Sesame Street Workshop and a kick-line of Rockettes). Directed by Roland Emmerich (already working on the sequel depicting the dramatic and sudden effects of climate change on Florida’s Jewish snowbirds – “Lawn Flamin GO”), starring Lisa Kudrow, Maya Rudolph and Sarah Silverman as Tupperware Slinger Mom 1, 2 and 3, Jonah Hill and Andy Samberg as The Overwhelmed Dads, and Eric Andre as The Wave.
Let’s Gelt Together
by Gabby Taub
The holidays aren’t off to a great start for Natalie “Nat” Pinsky (Jenny Slate). Her boyfriend — supposedly an NJB — broke up with her just before Hanukkah, so how N of a JB could he be? Determined to get her mind off things, she finds herself at her neighborhood’s local Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve, (aka Hanukkah Night #8). She tells herself that she’s just there to grab her massive takeout order and go, but the host, Tao Wen (Harry Shum Jr.) is a familiar face and longtime friend. Wen’s grandfather (James Hong) has owned the restaurant for as long as Nat’s been alive, so to her, the Tao family business is practically a second home, especially around Christmas when everything else shuts down.
And, well, so what if Nat finds herself making excuses to hang out with Wen in the mostly-empty restaurant on Christmas Eve? So what if she finds herself laughing with him for the first time in what feels like forever? And so what if she can’t help but stare wistfully at him while he lights the menorah for her, the one sitting in the restaurant display window? That doesn’t mean anything special… does it?
Taking place over the course of one fateful night, “Let’s Gelt Together” is the much-anticipated cross-cultural rom-com of the holiday season. Also featuring Sarah Sherman, Bowen Yang, Timothée Chalamet, Lisa Edelstein and Stephanie Hsu.
One Night Sha-mash
by Larisa Klebe
Rachel was expecting a Hanukkah miracle: her girlfriend Shula finally proposing. But when Shula unexpectedly breaks things off the day before Hanukkah starts, Rachel decides to embark on an eight-night festival of one-night stands to soothe her broken heart. No feelings, no learning each other’s guttural-sounding last names, just sex. But Rachel’s plan for a string of latke-oil-hot hookups quickly derails when she meets Ilana, who may just be the jelly to her donut.
The Candle Schtick
by Brandon Gross and Alec Kaplan
When the local New Haven, Connecticut JCC youth theater director, the cheerful and optimistic Harold Myer-Cohen (Larry David, playing…the opposite of himself?) needs candles for his new original Hanukkah play, “Candle Schtick,” he must win over the town candle maker, the now bitter and resentful Liron Levy (played by Debra Messing), who has fallen out of love with her craft after her husband tragically left her. Liron was known for making almost “magical” seeming candles: the only candles used by the New Haven Jewish community during Hanukkah and the only candles that can shine as bright as the stars on Harold’s stage. But it gets worse. If this play isn’t well received by the hottest New Haven Jewish Magazine, “The New Haven Yenta,” the theater program will be shut down and the kids (played by non-Jewish actors from “Stranger Things,” Millie Bobby Brown and Gaten Matarazzo) will be sent to an orphanage. Oy vey!
As it turns out, the secret ingredient for the magical candles is not magic, but true love. Can Harold convince Liron to help save the eight-day production, keep the children from going to the orphanage and maybe… light up his life? Find out in “The Candle Schtick.”
Rated PG-13: Sexual Innuendo, brief nudity, language.
TikTok Boom: A Hanukkah Story
by Eliana Fleischer
Sam Barnes (Andrew Garfield) is 1/5th of Tone Cold Chillaz, a formerly famous boy band. He struggled to launch his solo career and has since abandoned his dream of stardom to work as a cantor. While he loves singing the liturgy, he often frequents a secluded bar to perform unrecognized by former fans or current congregants.
Meanwhile, burnt-out and lonely NYC attorney Noah Epstein (Ben Platt) returns home to the same town where Sam performs. Sam’s singing stirs something within Noah, but Sam disappears before Noah can discover the source of the beautiful voice. Noah kvetches to his friend Shira (Beanie Feldstein) who convinces him to attend Shabbat services, where he hears Cantor Sam sing. They meet and immediately hit it off — bashert. Sam invites Noah to his Hanukkah party on the eighth night.
In a surprising turn of events, Tone Cold Chillaz’s classic “It’s the Heat” has gone TikTok viral! Bandmate Jake (Ben Schwartz) proposes the band reunite for a world tour. Sam is conflicted; he’s only recently embraced his identity as a gay cantor and doesn’t know if he can truly be himself if he gets back with the band. It would also mean losing his chance at love with Noah. Sam seeks Talmudic advice from his Rabbi, Shlomo ben-David (Mandy Patinkin).
On the eighth night, the band is asked to perform a Christmas song on Jimmy Fallon. Sam realizes that his heart is with Noah and his congregation. Will he follow his heart or his dreams?