If there’s one sure fire way to get myself in the festive spirit, it’s to watch a Christmas film. What better way to ease in to the season of goodwill than to snuggle up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate and a tin of your favourite chocolates.
Over the years I’ve amassed a festive DVD collection to rival any Netflix listing and at 35 I consider myself to be somewhat of a Christmas film aficionado. There’s something about revisiting each one every couple of years that feels like greeting an old friend.
For me, a truly great Christmas film evokes happy memories of time spent with loved ones. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry and it makes me grateful for all the wonderful people in my life. It also reminds me that it’s completely normal to want to kill most of those people after spending just a few days in confinement with them.
So this December take a break, sit back and relax with my list of the top 10 Christmas films.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Chevy Chase stars as Clark Griswold. Desperate to have the perfect family Christmas, Clark will stop at nothing to ensure it happens but things start to go awry when his hick cousin (played by Randy Quaid) arrives unexpectedly and parks his camper van on the front lawn. With an all star cast including Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, is a modern Christmas classic from 1989.
Jim Carey plays the reclusive green Grinch in this live-action retelling of Dr Suess’s classic tale. Deciding to ruin Christmas for the town of Whoville, the Grinch hatches a plot to steal any remnants of festive cheer from the Whos. When he encounters the delightfully endearing Cindy Lou Who (played by a pre Gossip Girl Taylor Momsen) the Grinch is forced to question everything he ever believed about Christmas and the people of Whoville.
Miracle On 34th Street
Both the 1947 original and the 1994 remake of this yuletide classic are excellent. A sceptical six year old Susan Walker and her mother, Dorey, become unlikely believers as they come to the defence of a curious man called Kris Kringle, hired to play Santa for Macy’s department store. Claiming to be the real Santa Claus, Kringle is threatened with institutionalisation if he can’t prove his identity. Edmund Gwenn (1947) and Richard Attenborough (1994) give equally charming performances in this magical tale.
Santa Claus: The Movie
In ancient times, a man named Claus (David Huddleston), who delivers toys in his small village, fulfils his destiny to become Santa Claus after meeting an expert toy-making elf, Patch (Dudley Moore), in the North Pole. In the present day, Santa Claus has become overwhelmed by his workload, and the disgruntled Patch flees the workshop to New York City. There, Patch unknowingly threatens the fate of Christmas by taking a job at a failing toy company run by a scheming businessman (John Lithgow). One of my all time favourite films, it isn’t Christmas until I’ve watched this one.
A Muppet’s Christmas Carol
Michael Cain and the cast of The Muppets retell Charles Dickens’ much loved ghost story in typical comedic fashion, with Kermit the Frog playing Bob Cratchit, the long suffering clerk of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine). Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and Sam the Eagle weave in and out of the story, while Scrooge receives visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. With each spirit showing him the error of his self-serving ways, it’s up to Scrooge to decide if he can really change.
A truly joyous Christmas film, Elf stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human who was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs (James Caan), a cynical businessman. After a DNA test proves this, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results.
Singers Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) join sister act Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen) to perform a Christmas show in rural Vermont. There, they run into General Waverly (Dean Jagger), the boys’ commander in World War II, who, they learn, is having financial difficulties; his quaint country inn is failing. So what’s the foursome to do but plan a yuletide miracle: a fun-filled musical extravaganza that’s sure to put Waverly and his business in the black! You can thank Irving Berlin for giving us the title track for this one.
An all star ensemble cast come together to tell nine intertwined stories examining the complexities of love in this 2003 masterpiece by Richard Curtis. Among the characters are David (Hugh Grant), the handsome newly elected British prime minister who falls for a young junior staffer (Martine McCutcheon), Sarah (Laura Linney), a graphic designer whose devotion to her mentally ill brother complicates her love life, and Harry (Alan Rickman), a married man tempted by his attractive new secretary. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll cheer. Keep the tissues handy for this one.
Home Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Okay so this is technically two entries but I’m counting the fact that I bought them as a double feature. Macaulay Culkin stars as Kevin McCallister in this classic Christmas franchise. In the first instalment, the McCallisters (played by John Heard and Catherine O’Hara) mistakenly leave for the airport without Kevin. When he awakens to an empty house, Kevin assumes his wish to have no family has come true. But his excitement is short lived when he realises that two con men (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) plan to rob the McCallister residence, and that he alone must protect the family home.
In the second instalment, Kevin finds himself alone in New City, while the rest of the McCallisters fly to Florida. Kevin cons his way into a room at the Plaza Hotel where he must allude the suspicions of the hotel staff. He soon discovers that the Sticky Bandits (Pesci and Stern) are on the loose, and pits his wits against the goofy pair to stop them from robbing an elderly man’s toy store.
There are certain elements in these two films that haven’t aged well, not least the cameo appearance from Trump, but all in all they make for perfect festive viewing.
It’s A Wonderful Life
George Bailey (James Stewart) has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all – and it’s Christmas! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence – who then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds over the years. Arguably the ultimate feel good Christmas film – if you only watch from my list make it this one.