The 10 Greatest Christmas Films Of All Time
Jingle All The Way
There comes a point in every man’s life where he identifies less with the wide-eyed, sleighbell-loving children of every Christmas film – the candy-chomping little ingrates – and more with the horrible adults who just want to please get through it all with no tantrums. For that man, it’s time to watch Ahh-nold’s eight-best film (do the maths) and congratulate yourself that, hey, at least we’ve got Amazon Prime these days. Wait, you’ve already got the orders in, right? Right?
Miracle On 34th Street
Wait, the 1947 one with Natalie Wood, or the John Hughes-scripted 1994 remake starring Richard Attenborough and Mara ‘Matilda’ Wilson? Honestly, it depends on how film-buff you’re feeling – they’re both dripping with festive cheer, even if Attenborough comprehensively edges out Edmund Gwenn for sheer lovable beardliness.
If you’re only going to watch one riff on old Chuck Dickens’ heartwarming holiday novella, it might as well be this one – a vintage Bill Murray number in which he plays a heartless TV exec commercialising Christmas and supergluing antlers to mice. Is it as good as Groundhog Day? Not even close, but a rare co-starring turn from Karen ‘Hey I haven’t seen her since Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ Allen nudges it from whimsical to must-watch.
Not Christmassy enough? Listen, pal: if one dishevelled man in a Santa suit, secreting a fish in his beard, isn’t enough to convince you to re-watch one of the all-time great 80s films, featuring Eddie Murphy and Daniel E. Aykroyd at the height of their powers, then something’s very amiss. Remember: a karate man bleeds on the inside.
Culkin’s finest two hours is certainly a film that takes on new hues as you age – how did a father irresponsible enough to misplace his child ever afford that house? – but the one-liners and pre-Saw ultraviolence don’t really date, making this an obvious choice to whack on the iPad while you’re sauteeing the Brussels sprouts. The old hey-it’s-a-great-idea-to-talk-to-the- neighbourhood-weirdos subplot? It’s probably fine. Probably fine.
A Christmas Story
Though this one’s never quite reached the same level of veneration globally that it enjoys in the States – where they play it round the clock and quote lines of it over dinner, probably – it’s well worth a go, sticking a fork in the usual saccharine sweetness of Christmas films via child-fights, terrifying store Santas and shootouts (yes, really). Plus, you’ll never be able to see the word ‘Fragile’ written on a box the same way again.
Will the Gremlins theme song – you’re humming it now, the na-na-na-na one – ever be adopted as an official Christmas carol? It will not. What about the plaintive warble of Gizmo the Mogwai, surely one of the most beautiful noises ever committed to celluloid? Also no. But the fact remains: Gremlins is brilliant, it’s set at Christmas, and there’s a bit where Gizmo wears a Santa hat and oh let’s just dig that bit out on YouTube again.
Will Ferrell, of course, is a man who knows no level of commitment except ‘Full’, and so what’s sort of a good idea – one of Santa’s elves is a full-grown man! – instantly becomes a seasonal must-watch in his dainty little hands, stuffed to bursting with quotable moments and bits that still leave you snickering on the tenth viewing. Is it possible to watch without being happy? That’s the sort of question only a cotton-headed ninny-muggins would ask, but don’t worry – it’s Christmas!
Is it? Isn’t it? Put it this way: if John McClane’s one-man mission to reunite with his wife and family – broken glass, bare feet, coiffured terrorists, exploding rooftops and trigger-happy FBI agents be damned – doesn’t meet your definition of feel-good holiday cheer, then you sir, have a heart made of coal. Plus! There’s that one bit where big Bruce preempts the current Xmas jumper craze by two decades with his impromptu decoration of poor old Tony’s sweater. Ho ho ho!
It’s A Wonderful Life
The alpha and omega. The tearjerker. The life-affirmer. The consensus best Christmas film of all time starts with the darkest premise of the lot – Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey is contemplating suicide before an angel’s dispatched to save him – and then actually makes things more distressing, by examining the life of a man who puts his own dreams on hold for his community…but then spins it into an ode to the value of human connection that’ll make you want to hug your fellow man even while you’re sobbing through mouthfuls of turkey. Bless us, every one.