A Christmas Movie Guide

xmas

There are SO many Christmas themed movies that it can be difficult to decide what to watch and when. I’ve curated a bunch of my favourites and divided them into my personal preference of watching them on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. There are also some special mentions that can be watched any time in the lead up to Christmas. So, take a look, and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

elf Elf
Released: 2003
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen
When to watch: Christmas Eve
Synopsis: A boy grows up in the North Pole under the care of Santa’s elves. On finding out he is actually a human, not an elf, he goes on an adventure in the big wide world (aka New York City) to find his real family and where he fits in.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? Will Ferrell can be a lot to take in many of his movies, with his humour often being, to put it lightly, over the top, but he can get away with it in this kids’ movie as it calls for some childlike comedy with a sweet family tone. It will also fuel your Christmas cheer and indulge your belief in Santa, if that’s how you roll. Plus, it’s usually popular with older generations, and it’s always nice to see them smiling and laughing!

 

grinvhThe Grinch (Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
Released:
2000
Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Tambor, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon
When to watch: Christmas Eve
Synopsis: Traumatised by his own memories of Christmas in Whoville, the Grinch resolves to ruin it for all the Whos in Whoville, but perhaps his heart can be melted by one little girl who believes in the goodness of Christmas.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? Mostly because it’s perfect for both those who love Christmas and those who are more of a Grinch. Jim Carrey’s skills in physical comedy reach true potential as the hilarious yet relatable Grinch, and though it can be vomit-inducing for those with a weak constitution for sickly sweet songs and sentiments, it’s bursting with Christmas warmth and fantasy.

 

hogfatherTerry Pratchett’s Hogfather (2-part mini-series)
Released: 2006
Starring: David Jason, Marc Warren, Michelle Dockery, David Warner, Tony Robinson
When to watch: Christmas Day
Synopsis: In an alternate Pratchett universe, Christmas is known as Hogswatch and Father Christmas is the Hogfather. When the Hogfather goes missing, he is replaced in the interim by Death, and Death’s granddaughter Susan goes on a quest to find out what happened to the Hogfather.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? It’s really one for the Terry Pratchett fans, but if you enjoy some different fantasy around Christmas, you may just enjoy this one. It features a slew of popular British actors and it’s just fun to turn our traditional Christmas on its head.

 

holidayThe Holiday
Released: 2006
Starring: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black, Rufus Sewell, Eli Wallach
When to watch: Christmas Eve
Synopsis: Iris is sad and single in London. Amanda is angry and single in LA. They find each other online and decide to swap homes, and countries, for the holiday period. Iris meets Miles, Amanda meets Graham. Romance ensues and hard decisions are made.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? 1. Romance by the bucket load. 2. Iris’ quaint British cottage in the snow. 3. Comedy. Honestly, it’s not a ground-breaking movie, but it is in many ways relatable and is particularly good for those that need a good cuddle at Christmas, a holiday renowned for making singletons feel “less than”. 

home aloneHome Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Released: 1990/1992
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Tim Curry (HA2)
When to watch: Christmas Day
Synopsis: In Home Alone, Kevin McAllister is left behind as his family take a trip to France. As his mum tries to make her way home to Kevin, he has to face off against two intruders who call themselves the “Wet Bandits” and protect his home in all sorts of imaginative ways. In Lost in New York, Kevin finds himself separated from his family in the Big Apple. This time, not only does he once again come face-to-face with the Wet Bandits but he also has to keep a nosy concierge from discovering that he is staying in a hotel alone on his father’s credit card.
Why are they good Christmas movies? Frankly, Christmas is not Christmas without Home Alone (even I have Home Alone PJs that I have worn every Christmas Eve for the past five years). The movies have a lot of fun antics for kids but also some cheeky adult humour. These movies would be great at any time of the year if they weren’t set at Christmas time, but the fact that they are give it an added bonus of being comfort movies for this time of year.

 

wonderfulIt’s A Wonderful Life
Released: 1946
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers
When to watch: Christmas Day
Synopsis: When George Bailey, a popular man of upstanding morals, is hit with financial woes, his thoughts turn to ending his life. Up on high, an angel by the name of Clarence is determined to gain his wings. In a bid to do a good deed to earn them, Clarence helps George to see what life in George’s small town would be like for his friends and family were he to unalive himself. 
Why is it a good Christmas movie? Really this is just an excellent movie in general and I would recommend it year-round. However, with our thoughts often turning to our friends, family and/or inwardly to look at ourselves, this film can really lift spirits in the darkest of times. I didn’t watch it until I was around 30, and I kick myself yearly for catching on to this beautiful film so late. James Stewart puts in a wonderful performance that will keep you fully immersed and intrinsically connected to George and everything he goes through, good and bad. You will laugh, you will cry, and hopefully any dwindling faith in life and people you may have might be slightly restored by this gem of a classic.

 

jingleJingle All the Way
Released: 1996
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd, Rita Wilson, Phil Hartman
When to watch: Christmas Day
Synopsis: Howard promises to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas, but it proves to be the most popular toy for Christmas. Howard goes to great lengths to get the toy for his son, resulting in crazy capers and unexpected cosplay for Howard.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? Because it’s Arnie, that’s why! But no, really, it’s just a super fun Christmas movie, and seeing action-man Arnie playing a dad figure is often great entertainment (also thinking of Kindergarten Cop and The Last Action Hero). I literally have nothing else to add other than it’s also a great background movie to have on during Christmas dinner or opening gifts.

 

klausKlaus
Released: 2019
Starring (voice cast): Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack
When to watch: Christmas Day
Synopsis: Rich boy Jesper is the son of the Royal Postmaster General. In a bid to teach him some discipline and humility, Jesper’s father enrols him into the postman training academy. After purposely performing poorly, Jesper is sent to the isolated town of Smeerensburg, where he is tasked with posting 6000 letters, lest he be cut off from his family’s fortune. It’s here that he meets Klaus, a toymaker with a sad story. Together they work on Jesper’s task while also giving the townspeople a delightful Christmas. 
Why is it a good Christmas movie? It’s a delightful little animation and made quite a stir upon its release. It’s very much got an Emperor’s New Groove vibe about it, including similar humour, and it’s another tale that turns the traditional Santa Claus trope into something a little different and, in many ways, more traditional and real. There’s also a Romeo and Juliet-esque sub-story that adds another dynamic to the story as a whole. It’s got lovely themes and takes your emotions on a bit of a spin.

 

loveactuallyLove Actually
Released:
2003
Starring: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Kris Marshall, Andrew Lincoln, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rowan Atkinson, Heike Makatsch, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page
When to watch: Christmas Eve
Synopsis: Multiple stories intertwine in this movie that is set in the run-up to Christmas Day. People are in love, discovering love, falling out of love, getting hurt, getting laid, finding friendship and finding themselves.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? Because Love Actually sums up everything good, bad and in between about Christmas. Many of the UK’s favourite actors star in this movie, making it feel very homely for many of us Brits, especially those of us unable to be with actual family at Christmas. Richard Curtis is the king of romcoms in Britain, and he created a solid Christmas movie that is beloved and watched annually by millions of people worldwide.

 

muppetThe Muppet Christmas Carol
Released: 1992
Starring: Michael Caine and the Muppets
When to watch: Christmas Day
Synopsis: Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas and people but loves money. It takes the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to convince him to change his ways lest he die alone and hated by all.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? If you were to tell me I could only watch one Christmas movie every Christmas for the rest of my life, and it had to be the same movie each year, it would be this one. You have all the greatness of the classic Charles Dickens story, but with the humour and wit of the Muppets and the legendary straight acting of Sir Michael bloody Caine. The songs are epic, the dialogue is hilarious, and the themes are strong and resonant. It is the first movie I like to watch on Christmas morning, with a glass of Baileys and some snacks. Perfection.

 

nightmareThe Nightmare Before Christmas
Released: 1993
Starring (voice cast): Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Ken Page
When to watch: Christmas Eve
Synopsis: Jack Skellington is bored of Halloween Town. One day, he stumbles upon Christmas Town. Entranced by the lights and sounds, Jack attempts to recreate Christmas in Halloween Town, but it doesn’t all go exactly to plan.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? The thing about TNBC is that it bridges the gap nicely between Halloween and Christmas, so really you can watch it on those days or any time in between to get you in to the Christmas spirit. I think it makes a good Christmas Eve movie because, well, just look at the title. It’s also a great stop-motion movie with excellent and popular songs and is just a fun movie for the eve of Christmas.

 

polar expressThe Polar Express
Released: 2004
Starring: Tom Hanks, Chris Coppola, Eddie Deezen, Nona Gaye, Peter Scolari
When to watch: Christmas Eve
Synopsis: On Christmas Eve, a young boy has begun to lose his belief in Santa and the magic of Christmas. During the night, he jumps aboard the Polar Express and heads to the North Pole. Along the way he makes some friends and learns about the meaning of friendship and bravery, and eventually he may even have his belief in Christmas magic restored.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? One reason: Tom Hanks. Not many names in Hollywood resonate with warmth and magic, but Hanks is one that does, and those are things we need at Christmas time. This is another movie that’s great for both Christmas believers and Christmas Scrooges, as it pushes audiences to keep the faith even when all seems lost. Despite some fairly weak tunes, the characters are good and it’s a fun trip to the North Pole.

 

scroogeScrooge
Released: 1970
Starring: Albert Finney, Alec Guinness, Edith Evans, Kenneth More, David Collings
When to watch: Christmas Eve
Synopsis: Another adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with musical numbers but no muppets.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? This one might not be for everyone, especially younger generations, but it’s been rather popular with older generations. It’s got a classic Victorian Christmas feel to it, which can feel super cosy and nostalgic (for watching these kinds of movies when I was a kid, not because I was born 150 years ago). This movie also reminds me of my mum. She particularly enjoys the song Thank You Very Much, and so it’s one I now enjoy, too. Additionally, I’ve always been a fan of the late, great Albert Finney, and so personally this movie will always have a special little place in my life at Christmas.

 

snowmanThe Snowman
Released: 1982
No cast (this movie is dialogueless, although a re-release featured David Bowie.)
When to watch: Christmas Day
Synopsis: A boy builds a snowman that comes to life on the night of Christmas Eve. Together they fly to the North Pole where they meet Father Christmas.
Why is it a good Christmas movie? I don’t know about other countries, but if you grew up in the UK, this 30-minute gem was on every Christmas, and it would always get highlighted in the TV guide to make sure you wouldn’t miss it. It has an incredibly famous song,Walking in the Air, which you are likely to hear somewhere every Christmas, and most kids had a book version, too (I had a mini pocket-sized version as a kid). The animation is beautiful and because of its lack of dialogue, it can be enjoyed by anyone of any language. It’s a heart-warming classic, even if the ending is a bit devastating, especially for children. 

 

Special Mentions:

A Christmas Carol (2009)
Another Jim Carrey Christmas movie, again portraying a hater of Christmas. This movie was quite pioneering for motion-capture, and it certainly lends it a particular realism that feels quite unsettling. The film tries to stay as true as possible to Dickens’ story, so if you’re looking for an adaptation without muppets or songs, this is a good one to opt for.

A Christmas Story (1983)
I know nothing about this movie. I have never seen it and don’t know that plot. I only know there’s a little boy named Ralphie who is supposedly a very cute character, and that it’s popular in the States. But it does tend to come with high recommendations at this time of year, so check it out if it sounds like it could be something up your street.

Die Hard (1988)
Is it a Christmas movie? Is it not? It’s a debate I refuse to get pulled into, not because I don’t want to take sides, but because I’m not a fan of this movie. I find it boring. It’s on this list because many people recommend it, especially those who consider it a Christmas movie, which I do not. Sorrynotsorry.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Though not directly a Christmas movie, some of its scenes are set around Christmas and it has a lot of snow, so it is often enjoyed as a gothicly fun Christmas movie. Because Tim Burton isn’t just for Halloween, y’know.

Frozen (2013)
Strangely, Disney isn’t exactly known for Christmas movies, despite being mostly family orientated. However, Frozen is a great one to enjoy in the colder weather! The snowy backdrop to the movie along with some award-winning songs makes it enjoyable to cosy up to for kids and adults.

Gremlins (1984)
Insane little creatures causing mayhem and chaos on Christmas Eve? No, they’re not little devil children, they’re Gremlins. Say no more, a Christmas movie it is. I personally haven’t seen this movie (or if I have it was many years ago and I remember nothing of it), but it often features on Christmas movie lists, so it certainly seems worthy of this list.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
There’s something very Christmassy about the first two or three Harry Potter movies – perhaps because the Christmas scenes feel cosy and classic, so the series is often a popular choice at Christmas. Of course, by the penultimate movie, they’ve forgotten it’s even Christmas while on the hunt for horcruxes, so I would recommend perhaps sticking with just the first movie as a “Christmas” movie (though, if you’re anything like most of us Potter fans, you can’t just watch the one – you gotta watch the whole series).

Last Christmas (2019)
Who was it that listened to a classic Wham! Christmas song about figuratively giving someone a heart, took it literally, and made a movie out of it? If you’re particularly susceptible to romcoms with emotional themes, this one will be for you. It’s a relatively easy watch and does have some fun scenes and definitely bottles that Christmas in London vibe.

Little Women (2019)
This is another one of those cosy classics that harkens back to a time when Christmas was simply about family (and some good food and the odd understated gift). It’s not specifically set at Christmas, but like some other movies, it has a lovely family feel to it and does include some Christmassy and snowy scenes. It doesn’t have to be Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation that you put your feet up to, it could be the 1994 version, or any of the myriad versions from over the years, but I do personally enjoy Gerwig’s take on the classic Louisa May Alcott story.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
This is one I’m almost ashamed to say that I haven’t seen but that always comes highly recommended at Christmas. Whether it’s Richard Attenborough’s charming Father Christmas that draws you in, or the ever-adorable Mara Wilson in another of her famous young roles, it’s popular for being a magical holiday movie for everyone. There’s also the 1947 version, with a very young Natalie Wood, that is also a Christmas favourite.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
I watched this once many years ago, and though I was technically an adult at the time, it still felt like a nice little Christmas short movie. Ever-popular, more so in the US, it’s a cute little classic for the family. I would consider this movie to be to the Americans what The Snowman is to the British and is a staple in many households on Christmas Day.

The Santa Claus (1994)
Another one I haven’t personally seen but always seems to pop up on people’s social media and in top Christmas movie lists. It certainly seems like a fun one for the kids, but I’m willing to bet that if you didn’t grow up with this movie, it may be hard for it to break into your top ten. Nevertheless, if you have kids, it certainly seems like one they will enjoy.

Scrooged (1988)
A Bill Murray classic, often favoured by adults of a certain age at this time of year, it is yet another rendition of the Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. If you enjoy the kind of humour Murray often portrays in his movies, you’ll likely enjoy this one too, as he takes on a more modern (for the ’80s) Scrooge.

The Sound of Music (1965)
Not a Christmas movie per se, but always seemed/seems to be on TV at Christmas, so it has often been a staple of Christmas family time. Filled with legendary songs and performances from Julie Andrews and the late Christopher Plummer, TSOF has always been, and hopefully always will be, a family favourite, and will always bring memories of Christmas for many people.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Much like The Sound of MusicThe Wizard of Oz is always on TV at Christmas. Another one stuffed with dazzling songs and the timeless performance of Judy Garland, it calls for sitting the family around the TV, eating leftovers and drinking mulled wine and singing along. It’s not an easy thing to achieve in the era of smartphones, but if there’s any activity to fight for, and maybe instil in future generations, it’s this.
 

One thought on “A Christmas Movie Guide

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s