December is here! My favourite month, it is a time of mulled wine, good cheer and lots of gift-giving. However, it could not be the most wonderful time of the year without a good Christmas movie to get one in the festive mood. Despite being blessed with new ones every year (not to mention all the Christmas specials most TV shows run), you just cannot beat the classics. Below is a compilation of all my favourite classic Christmas movies, to make it easier to get in the mood for the holidays!
- The Nightmare before Christmas
A blend of spooky and heartwarming, The Nightmare Before Christmas is the perfect transition movie between Halloween and Christmas.
Being described as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” in reverse”, watching Jack Skellington, famous for his scary feats at Halloween, marvelling at the discovery of Christmas and trying to create his own version of the holiday will inevitably rub off on you. Every song in this musical masterpiece will get you singing along, and you will not be able to look away from the wonderfully strange characters that inhabit Halloweentown.
Tim Burton’s animated movie is the perfect choice to kick off December with.
2. The Holiday
With the holidays being on everyone’s mind, The Holiday is a great pick to help make the days until then better.
The two female protagonists, played by Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, are bound to end up being relatable, especially since they are dual in nature: from their rocky relationships and subsequent desire to get as far away as possible, to the struggles of Diaz’s character of adjusting to the weather and customs (especially driving on the opposite side of the road) of England, while Winslet’s character revels in the luxury of Los Angeles. The clichéic “you will find love where you least expect it” trope works well within the setting of the Christmas holidays, adding to the feel-good nature of the movie.
3. Deck the Halls!
A movie all about preparing for Christmas (and being able to have your house seen from space), Deck the Halls is great for all those who are considered to be a bit extra in their preparations for the holidays.
The unfolding rivalry between Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito’s characters, Steve and Buddy, begun due to Steven losing his status as “the Christmas guy” around town because Buddy’s Christmas lights have made him well-known among his neighbours (how relatable though? I would be angry, too, if someone stole my status as the most festive person in town), makes a strong point of how traditions should not get in the way of the true meaning of Christmas, of coming together and embracing each other’s differences. It also provides an abundance of comedic opportunities.
It might have negative reviews online, but this festive comedy is one I greatly enjoy. Worst case scenario, it works well as a background movie while wrapping presents or decorating the house.
4. Jack Frost
A heartwarming movie about the importance of second chances and family, Jack Frost is yet another classic that centers around the meaning of Christmas.
First of all, how cool is it to be called Jack Frost? I was pretty young when I saw this movie for the first time, and this was my first impression – Jack Frost is a pretty sweet name to have. I also loved the idea of having a snowman as a best friend, but here it’s even better – having your father come back as a snowman. As a child, I liked the idea that you could get more time with your parents for Christmas – I could not imagine the holiday season without them.
Having grown up, my impressions have not changed much from my initial ones. However, I now realise that it was not only Charlie, the protagonist of the movie, that is given a second chance to spend time with his father and come to terms with his death, but it is his father that benefits from this – he gets a second chance to be there for his son, when he wasn’t before he died. He gets to teach him all the valuable life lessons he was too busy to teach him while alive, due to his efforts of bringing his band to success.
More than a family movie about second chances, it is also about friendship. As the movie progresses, we see Charlie constantly clashing with Rory Buck, the neighbourhood bully. Towards the end of the movie, however, when Charlie and Jack are in trouble and in need of help, who should lend a hand but Rory himself? By the end, the two become very good friends.
5. Arthur Christmas
Talking about cool names and the importance of family, Arthur Christmas has got all this and more.
The animated movie starts off by showing us the Christmas family hard at work on Christmas Eve, in their modern, technologically advanced sleigh-ship, the S-1: Malcom, the current Santa Claus on his 70th mission, is more of a symbolic leading figure now, while his eldest son, Steve, is the one who runs the show with military precision. Arthur, his younger, clumsy, brother, is in charge of responding to Christmas letters, which he does with a lot of passion.
Despite completing the mission of delivering presents, there is one girl who has been missed – an elf named Bryony finds the undelivered present. Arthur is the only one interested in trying to deliver the present before Christmas day, and with the help of his grandfather and his old sleigh, and a stowaway Bryony, they set off on their mission, which proves to be highly amusing and entertaining.
The culmination of the movie sees the members of the Christmas family coming together to help Arthur out, leaving aside their egos and pride and embracing Arthur’s untainted Christmas spirit.
It’s a movie I don’t think I will ever get tired of – and it brings my family together, just like it happens in the movie, only mine gathers around the TV rather than in an attempt to get a missing present to its rightful owner.
6. the Home Alone series
Here are some movies that do the opposite – separate a family. However, the Home Alone series proves that distance does make the heart grow fonder, and this separation is what puts the idea of family into perspective, especially with the holidays as its backdrop.
I think it’s impossible not to know these classics (especially the first two), since they are always shown on TV during the month of December. Everyone is familiar with the youngest of the McCallister family, Kevin, and his eventful days just before Christmas, either defending his home from burglars (in Home Alone) or trying to survive in the Big Apple (in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York). It’s no wonder it is the highest grossing Christmas movie of all time in the States.
However, I feel like the third and fourth movies that I feel do not get as much love as they deserve. (There is also a fifth movie that was released in 2012, but I have never seen it so I cannot state my opinion on it). I blame it on the focus changing from Kevin to Alex Pruitt in HOME ALONe 3. It also has more of a spy theme, but that’s what makes it so amazing. The danger that Alex is in feels more real, and much bigger, than it did in the previous two movies. There are four hitmen working for a North Korean organisation that want to steal Alex’s remote-controlled car because it hides a very important chip. A little kid who is left alone because he has chickenpox has to handle these very serious and extremely dangerous people!
As for the fourth movie, we are once again following the adventures of Kevin – yet the main cast is different, which is not a very pleasant surprise, I must admit. There are many other changes that have happened in the characters’ lives, such as Kevin’s parents divorcing and his father moving in with his rich girlfriend. Kevin is invited to spend Christmas with them. There he meets once again with his old nemesis, one of the burglars from the first two movies. The movie follows Kevin’s adventures trying to defend Natalie’s house from him. The references to late 90’s, early 2000 culture is what really gets to me, and makes me appreciate this movie.
7. The Polar Express
This is my personal favourite Christmas movie EVER. It’s already a tradition in my family to watch it each year on Christmas day. We know all the songs off by heart and always sing along – we might even be able to recite the script. Despite the countless times we have re-watched it, The Polar Express has not lost its charm.
It is a heartwarming movie about the spirit of Christmas and our belief in it (not to mention, the belief in Santa Claus, who is, after all, the embodiment of the Christmas spirit). The protagonist, whose name is never revealed, boards the Polar Express with an air of scepticism. On his journey to the North Pole, he gets to befriend a girl with an unwaveringly strong belief in Christmas, a know-it-all (who honestly always gets on my nerves) and Billy, the boy who never gets a visit from Santa, and seems to have less faith in Christmas than the protagonist. Billy is the only character whose name we know, showing the importance of his character arch – his confidence slowly increases as he builds friendships with the other children on the train, and the result of his adventures is a newfound belief in Christmas. This is also reflected in the development of the protagonist (who is ambiguously listed as “hero boy” on the Internet, but I have always wondered if he is worth that title).
But beside the heartwarming story, the soundtrack of this movie is what truly makes it so amazing – the best songs being “Hot Chocolate” and “When Christmas Comes to Town”, which you will find me humming throughout the year.
8. Miracle on 34th Street
When thinking about a newfound faith in Christmas and Santa Claus, I feel like people naturally come to think of Miracle on 34th Street.
The movie can be a seen as a commentary on the way Christmas has become a commercial holiday, and its subsequent effects – Kris Kringe brings in substantial sales for Cole’s, and the rivalry between the store and Shopper’s Express is what gets Kringe jailed and leads to the trial where the existence of Santa is to be judged.
However, it cannot be denied that the charm of the movie is seeing Susan, who was raised to believe that Santa is a made up concept, slowly grow to believe in him, after the movie’s climax, when her Christmas wishes come true – getting a father, a new house, and (so it is implied) a brother.
When I was in primary school, the nativity play was among the biggest events of the academic calendar. The memories of the rehearsals, the costumes, and the performances (where something inevitably ended up going wrong) are all stirred up by Nativity!, one of the most British Christmas films I have seen.
The movie follows the attempts of Paul (played by none other than BBC’s Sherlock faithful companion, Dr. Watson) to win against one of his former friends, Gordon Shakespeare (who runs a private school) in putting on the best nativity play. In an attempt to put him off, Paul tells Shakespeare that his school’s play will be turned into a Hollywood movie, since his ex-girlfriend works in the industry. This lie ends up getting out of hand when it gets out to the press, and Paul has to try and make it a reality while simultaneously trying to put on a play with his pupils, which sadly aren’t as talented as Shakespeare’s. His assistant, the childish Mr Poppy, ends up being a great help, creating a nativity play that showcases the pupils’ various talents and quirks. The media attention means the play is acted out in the town’s cathedral – not only does the play end up being a success, but Paul, his ex-girlfriend, and Shakespeare are all reunited, also.
All’s well that ends well, but this time, it’s with a sprinkle of Britishness and a touch of Christmas.
10. Love Actually
If we are to judge nativity plays, I think the consensus would be that the one in Love Actually wins, with its lobsters and octopus.
With the numerous plots, this movie has something for everyone: There’s Hugh Grant dancing through 10 Downing Street, Alan Rickman almost being caught buying a gift for his mistress because Rowan Atkinson is taking his sweet time over-wrapping the present, Martin Freeman being a professional body extra for sex scenes, Thomas Brodie-Sangster learning to play the drums to impress his first love, Keira Knightely being stuck between two guys, Colin Firth declaring his love for his housekeeper in Portuguese, Kris Marshall going to America to get laid thanks to his British accent, and Bill Nightly releasing a Christmas hit which sucks and then declaring his love for his manager.
Despite all these entangled narratives with various interlinked individuals, they all examine the complexity of love, and reveal the various appearances it can take.
11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
From love we move swiftly on to hate.
In the town of Whosville, all its enjoy celebrating Christmas, with the exception of the Grinch, who lives isolated from them, on a mountain overlooking the town. The Whos do not much care for him, a sentiment which is returned by the Grinch. However, Cindy Lou feels that the Whos are wrong in being concerned only about presents and festivities, feeling they are missing the point of Christmas. The generously spirited child takes a strange liking to the Grinch, attempting to include him in the community of Whoseville. He takes advantage of this in an attempt to sabotage Christmas for the Whos and crush their festive spirit. When all else fails, he steals their presents, yet this turns out to teach the Whos the real meaning of Christmas – time spent with family and friends. This ends up teaching the Grinch the same lesson, who eventually reconciles with the Whos and joins them in Whoseville.
And so the movie goes from hate to love, while commenting on how people have lost sight of the real meaning of Christmas thanks to our consumer mindset. What a classic!
Leaving the best till last, there cannot be a list of Christmas movies that does not include Elf.
The movie is just brilliant – who wouldn’t want to be adopted by Santa Claus and live in the North Pole with elves? However, that isn’t the only dysfunctional family Buddy is part of, because after he finds out that he is in fact from New York and goes to meet his real father, he wakes up in another family where he doesn’t quite fit in.
As the movie progresses, Buddy slowly wins over his family, who help restore the Christmas spirit of people so that Santa’s sleigh (which has crashed in Central Park) can fly again. Buddy also ends up finding love and starting his own family, who are shown to visit Santa at the North Pole. Buddy has finally found somewhere he truly belongs.