Let’s get to it. My Top 14 Christmas movies!
The Man Who Invented Christmas
If you have any love for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, then The Man Who Invented Christmas will thrill you. A charming, passionate imaginative retelling of how Dickens was inspired to create Scrooge, Marley, the ghosts and all the little Cratchetts.
Dan Stevens has never been better as the torn Dickens, conversing with his created characters. It’s interesting to see him make these characters, then argue with them about their motivations, and what they will do next. The supporting cast (Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Patterson, Miles Jupp, Miriam Margolyes, Donald Sumpter, Simon Callow, Morfydd Clark) make the screen sparkle, leaving us with an instant Christmas classic. It may have flown under your radar since it came out, but it’s well worth chasing down.
Unbelievably, this was only Eddie Murphy’s second movie (after 48 hours), but he’s a natural. Murphy plays Billy Ray Valentine, a fast-talking, street con-artist while Dan Akyroyd is Louis Winthorpe III, a commodities broker living the high life. Manipulated by the boss brothers of the company, the two leads end up trading places. Upon discovering the brother’s plans, Louis and Billy Ray hatch a plan for revenge along with Jamie Lee Curtis’ Ophelia.
The laughs come from Louis’ descent and despair and in Billy Ray bringing his earthy roughness to the upper classes’ lives. Definitely not a family movie, but full of laughs for Christmas.
I’ve seen a fair bit of criticism levelled at Noelle which is, frankly, unjustified. Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader play Santa’s kids taking over dad’s business when he decides to retire. Shirley Maclaine provides dry asides as voice of wisdom Elf Polly.
As Christmas family movies go, it’s going to give you a great rollercoaster adventure story and a good few laughs on the way. It has heart, stays on the right side of schmaltzy, and a good old dose of a Christmas glow. Damn those Christmas cynics and over-zealous film critics and enjoy yourself this fun movie.
We all know it. Kevin McCallister gets left behind and has to fend for himself against some seemingly indestructable burglars at Christmas. It’s in turns side-splitting, emotional and deeply worrying (the lack of concern from the local police about an abandoned children is disquieting). There’s an interesting article about what would have happened if the injuries Kevin inflicts on the burglars were real.
Slapstic is an age-old way of making people laugh, and it’s perfectly executed here. Director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, arry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) gets everything right. The shocking thing about this Christmas essential is that it only gets 7.4 on imdb.
New for 2021, Robin Robin tells the tale of a robin who is brought up by a family of mice. Despite her best efforts, it turns out that robins aren’t very good at being mice, and much comedy ensues.
It’s made by Aardman (Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Arthur Christmas) so you know you’re in for a Christmas quality treat. It’s a snappy 32 minutes long so you should use it to fill a hole in your Christmas schedule. On Netflix.
You’re spoiled for choice if you’re looking for a top quality take on the Dicken’s classic. Richard Donner’s Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Robert Mitchum and Jamie Farr, amongst others, provide the cast. Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a truly horrible TV executive spreading misery in the run up to Christmas. He’s the Scrooge character, visiting his past with the aid of some vicious ghosts (“the bitch hit me with a toaster!”).
If I say that this is one of Bill Murray’s funniest movies, then that’ll give you an idea of just how brilliant this is.
The newest film here but a worthy addition. It’s also one of two films where Jim Broadbent plays Santa (the other being Arthur Christmas). Rafe Spall is Steve, a recently released getaway driver who is desperate to reconnect with his son, Tom. Tom, meanwhile, finds an unexpected visitor in his garden shed – an out of sorts Santa Claus.
Santa gets jailed, so it’s up to Tom and a disbelieving Steve to rescue him and save Christmas.
Loaded with laughs for kids & adults and bucketloads of pathos, this is going to grow as a Christmas favourite over the years.
A Christmas Story
Not as well known in the UK as it is in the US, this comic brilliance follows Ralphie and his family as he tries his best to get his hands on a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun in 1940s America. Predating Woody Allen’s Radio Days by four years but with a similar feel, this has clearly had an influence on films like Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
It’s a film for adults as well as kids. It’s funny and will make you feel nostalgic about Christmases gone by. Watch it, and you’ll learn why the Americans hold it in such high regard.
While You Were Sleeping
This film stayed off my radar for years because my brain, for some reason, had it labelled as a chick flick. How wrong was I?!
Sandra Bullock is shy Lucy, a girl with romantic dreams. A series of mishaps, farce & borderline stalker activity results in her being mistaken for wealthy Peter’s fiancee. Why can’t he clear up the mistake? Because he’s in a coma. Yup.
This film is genuinely funny, tender and warm. Peter’s family are a collection of comedy scene-stealers while Bill Pulman charms without smarm. The most romantic Christmas film on the list and a nice one to cuddle up to your other half with.
Of all the movies on this list, none has a cast as astounding as Arthur Christmas. Honestly, look at it. It’s an incredible list of British acting talent.
The story is simple. It’s Christmas Eve, and a present has been missed out. One little girl in Cornwall hasn’t got her bike. This is where the eponymous Arthur steps in with the assistance of Grandsanta (Bill Highy) and Bryony, a wrapping elf (Ashley Jensen). The clock is ticking and Arthur is incompetent. He has a massive heart, however, and is determined.
It’s extremely funny and contains all the charm you’d expect of an Aardman movie. If you haven’t seen it then put aside a couple of hours to enjoy it this year.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Clark Griswold and his family try their best to enjoy Christmas but they’re the Grisworlds. Nothing is going to run smoothly. That’s good for us because the humour in this film comes with watching them try, and often fail, to deal with the misfortunes that come their way.
Chevy Chase has never been better. The Christmas lights, the polished sledge, the Christmas tree in the house, the showdown with the boss – it’s all solid gold Christmas comedy.
Some people suggest that Die Hard shouldn’t be classed as a Christmas movie. Those people are wrong. The Great Escape & the Wizard of Oz have less Christmas in them than Die Hard but they have long-held Christmas associations, probably due to historic TV scheduling.
Die Hard has Christmas songs, decorations (terrorist in the lift) and is a film of legend. It created the lone-good-guy-against-the-odds genre and has yet to be surpassed. Ignore the inferior sequels, grab some eggnog cocktail and snuggle down to watch Bruce Willis kick some butt.
The Polar Express
It’s a Christmas Eve tradition in our house to watch The Polar Express on Christmas Eve. It has everything you need – Christmas angst about Santa, a fantasy visit to the North Pole, Tom Hanks voicing half the characters and a jaw-dropping animated sequence about hot chocolate. Some find the style of animation hollow but it’s worth pushing past any such reservations to get to the good stuff.
The ghost(?) on the roof of the train; the lost ticket sequence; the drama at the front of the train with the reindeer. There is so much to love in this movie.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Zuzu’s petals. Get me every time.
It’s Christmas, and George Bailey is having the worst night of his life and is considering suicide. Standing on the edge of a bridge, an inept guardian angel, Clarence, is given the responsibility of saving him. To do so, he must learn all about George and then intervene.
The movie is the most heart-warming joyous celebration of life ever filmed. You’ll laugh while you’re crying. You’ll get angry at Old Man Potter and heart-broken when George learns what life without him is life.
THE film to watch this, and every, Christmas.
How does this compare to your favourites? Have I missed out any or can you recommend some to me?