Top 5: Festive films that it’s impossible to do Christmas without

Festive films to watch this Christmas
Original image courtesy of zaimoku_woodpile


Everyone has their own way of celebrating Christmas. Some carefully time turkey, presents and domestic rows around the Queen’s Speech, whereas some set their watch by the annual Doctor Who special episode.

Regardless, it’s likely that everyone will spend some time watching films over the Christmas period. On that note, here are five festive favourite films that it’s impossible to get through Christmas without.


Honourable Mentions

There were a few films that could easily have made it on to this list. I’m bored of Christmas film lists calling Die Hard a Christmas classic, so that was out.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t quite enough room to acknowledge the genius of Muppet Christmas Carol and Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. I have quite a soft spot for the otherwise panned Tim Allen comedy The Santa Clause as well.

But here are the films that did make the cut, starting with something green and downright bizarre.


5. The Grinch (2000)

Jim Carrey as the title character in Ron Howard's 2000 adaptation of The Grinch

I’m starting off with a divisive choice – The Grinch. Ron Howard’s adaptation of the Dr Seuss has tonnes of devoted fans – myself included – but also rubs a lot of people up the wrong way with its Jim Carrey-induced wackiness.

At the time of its release, Time Out fell in love with Carrey’s “comic tornado”, but Variety called the film “entirely without charm”.

The Grinch tells the story of the titular grouch’s plan to steal Christmas from the Whos he lives next to, who adore celebrating. With the help of one little girl, even the blackest heart can be softened. Ain’t that a Christmas miracle?

Personally, I find Carrey’s gurning and bluster to be the perfect fit for the character and Seuss’s trademark surrealism. Combined with some excellent writing, a solid pair of directorial hands and cracking visuals, this is just an enormous slice of holiday fun.

I just hope the CGI animated remake never comes to fruition.

When can I see it? Christmas Eve, 3:50pm, Channel 4


4. Love Actually (2003)

Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon fall in love in Richard Curtis romcom Love Actually

It’s just lovely, isn’t it?

The claws are out this year though for Richard Curtis’ sprawling romcom, with a huge amount of column inches already devoted to vitriolic attacks and impassioned defences of this bit of festive fluff. BuzzFeed even dedicated an entire article to the film’s abundant supply of turtlenecks.

Following a series of interlinking people, from the UK Prime Minister to a pair of porn stand-ins and a lovesick schoolboy, Love Actually covers every aspect of its titular emotion and features a who’s who of British acting talent.

Love Actually has its problems, but it’s already a festive classic with hilarious moments and heartbreak in equal measure.

If you disagree, then watch the video below without welling up. Go on.

When can I see it? Christmas Day, 10:45pm, ITV1


3. Home Alone (1990)

Macaulay Culkin stars in Christmas classic Home Alone

If there’s one thing guaranteed to appeal to audiences of all ages, it’s a resourceful kid getting one over on a couple of stupid adults. And that’s why pretty much everyone really loves Home Alone.

Macaulay Culkin plays little Kevin McAllister who is inadvertently left behind when his parents go on holiday for Christmas. At first, he has a great time, but soon he is forced to defend his home against incompetent burglars Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci.

Home Alone is a great holiday movie and, at times, it’s essentially a live action Tom & Jerry, which is far from a bad thing.

Oddly, have you seen what Macaulay Culkin does now? You’ll never guess.

When can I see it? 27th December, 8pm, E4


2. Elf (2003)

Will Ferrell as Buddy in 2003 Christmas comedy Elf

Whilst there’s an argument that Ron Burgundy in Anchorman will always be Will Ferrell’s most famous character, Buddy the Elf must be right up there with his biggest triumphs.

Elf follows Buddy as he discovers he isn’t a real elf and travels from the North Pole to new York City to track down his birth father, meeting the lovely Zooey Deschanel along the way.

Buddy is one of Ferrell’s best likeable idiot characters and the dialogue is consistently quotable, to the extent that few are unable to name the four elf food groups and are happy to inform bad Santa impersonators that they “sit on a throne of lies”.

Such is the cult love for Elf that, when Guardian columnist Stuart Heritage noted its absence from the Channel 4 schedule this year, a campaign was born. A few weeks later, Heritage guided Twitter into #Elfalong, ushering in Christmas with a mass DVD viewing of the film.

Channel 4 must be South Pole elves.

When can I see it? Throughout the festive period, on Sky Movies Christmas.


1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart leads Capra's festive masterpiece It's a Wonderful Life

More than any other film on this list, It’s a Wonderful Life is considered to be a real masterpiece. Frank Capra’s tale of a man coming to realise his importance in the world through the influence of a guardian angel is truly touching and life-affirming.

Whilst it starts with a grim, suicidal man on the edge of ending it all, it develops into an exploration of the butterfly effect and the true power of the individual to touch many lives.

Receiving mixed reviews on release, It’s a Wonderful Life was a financial disappointment and led to a lack of faith in Capra’s populist credentials. With time though, it has grown to be one of the most revered movies in the history of Hollywood.

When can I see it? Christmas Eve, 1:10pm, Channel 4


So there we have it: five festive films that it would be a crime to not watch over this Christmas. If I’ve missed your favourite out, let me know in the comment section and recommend me more Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night at the movies!

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