Ahhh, Christmas. That marvellous time of the year when the sprouts are overcooked, the Brazil Nuts get their annual outing, the relations pretend to get on, and there are never enough AA batteries for the myriad of toys (oh, the tantrums). But there is always time for a good film or two so here are the top seven festive films you need to watch to get you into a Christmas mood.
Article by Jamie C.
We resignedly accept yet another pair of ill-fitting socks from a hitherto unknown relative, endure the Queen’s speech out of a sense of traditional obligation, and accept that the perennial pongy slab of Christmas Stilton will be lurking at the back of the fridge until July.
The adverts for tinsel and mince pies might have started broadcasting in September, but the time has finally come to roll out the Christmas log and immerse yourself in its warm and fuzzy epicurean excesses.
But amidst the head-splitting hangovers, rampant bloatedness and forced jollity of it all, some aspects of the festive season remain a safe and comforting constant. To wit: Christmas movies that you simply can’t survive the holiday season without.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Image by National Telefilm Associates
A Christmas staple as reliable as the elephantine tin of Quality Street that sits atop the coffee table, Frank Capra’s five-time Oscar nominated movie was a flop when it was first released. Recounting the tale of George Bailey – who’s suicide attempt is prevented by a guardian angel who reminds him of the importance of his life and the difference he’s made to everyone around him– it’s as uplifting, sentimental and entertaining a filmic Christmas cracker you can get.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Image by Loren Javier
Tim Burton – the last bastion of stop-motion animation – and composer Danny Elfman joined their herculean forces to tell the tale of Halloween’s Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, and his well-intentioned but ultimately misguided attempts to kidnap Sandy Claus and take over the festive season. Typically Burtonesque, dark, gothic, ghoulish and a lot of fun, it was released under Disney’s Touchstone Pictures because of its Grand Guignol imagery and as festive films go, a popular one for the kids.
A delightfully dark and twisted take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, cynical, cold-hearted and generally unpleasant TV mogul Bill Murray sees the error of his wicked ways by the arrival of the ghosts of past, present and future. Until the last five minutes (when Murray breaks down in a display of blubbing, redemptive schmaltz), it’s a refreshingly dark take on the traditional, sparkly Crimbo fare.
Home Alone (1990)
A perennial festive film favourite that pits home alone Macauley Culkin against two incompetent burglars, Chris Columbus’ (who went on to make Mrs Doubtfire and the first two Harry Potter movies) whips up a fast-paced, funny family film with lashings of slapstick, anarchic, cartoon violence. It’s also got a very funny cameo by the late, great John Candy.
Miracle On 34th Street
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The remake is good, but this, the original, is the best. Recounting the magical tale of the real Santa Claus – Kris Kringle – working in a New York department store to the awestruck amazement of whippersnapper Natalie Wood, this holds a proud ninth place on the American Film Institute’s Most Inspiring Movies Of All Time.
Image by Mart
We all know the rules when Billy Peltzer’s dad brings home cute and fluffy Mogwai as a Christmas present: keep him away from bright light, don’t get him wet, and never feed him after midnight. We also know things go horribly wrong and a horde of malicious, impish gremlins are unleashed to wreak havoc on a wholesome, all-American town. Along with Ghostbusters which was released in the same year, Joe Dante helped spawn a unique comedy/horror genre and a darker, subversive take on the festive film.
Die Hard (1988)
Even when shown on terrestrial television complete with laughable censorship (‘Yippee Ki Yay, kimosabe’, anyone?!), director John McTiernan’s Bruce Willis-starring actioner is still in a class of its own. Rescuing a group of hostages – including his wife- from the villainous, Germanic clutches of evil Alan Rickman and his henchmen in a skyscraper, this has guns, explosions, terrorists and brutal, bone-snapping violence aplenty. It’s also set at Christmas time, which is nice.
So in between the imbibing and the indigestion, the festive frivolity and the three-year old Advocaat, you could do a lot worse to placate your celebratory agitations than by slipping one of these celluloid gems into your DVD player – if they haven’t been broadcast on television already.
What’s your favourite Christmas movie? Share in the comments.
Featured Image: Inti