Disclaimer: This is my own personal list, but feel free to agree, disagree or add more in the comments section below.
In alphabetical order:
Batman Returns (1992)
I’m sure I’ve called this the most criminally under-rated Batman film recently. I’ll stick by that! Tim Burton mixes Gothic and Christmas together to brilliant effect. Gotham has never looked better than this offering amidst the snow. Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it!
Black Christmas (1974)
This cult film is for those who have overloaded on Christmas sentimentality. The perfect anti-Christmas film in many ways, directed by Bob Clark who would later go on to make another genuine Christmas classic “A Christmas Story” (although I’ve not seen it). This film was the inspiration behind John Carpenter’s Halloween. Rich on atmosphere and character without relying on shock jumps or gore (but *is* disturbing and gets under your skin – even 40 years on!). Avoid the horrible remake. Billy!!!
Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)
Personally I wasn’t a huge fan of the other Christmas offering from “Richard Curtis” – Love Actually, but I know I’m probably in a minority. This is the one which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy (in that Vicar of Dibley kind of way) – right down to the naff woolly jumpers, and scenes of snow falling majestically. Just don’t mention the terrible follow-up!
Die Hard (1988)
“This *IS* a Christmas movie!” (said in the voice of Argyle the limo driver). And you already know this film is the best in the series thanks to Alan Rickman. Honorary mention to Die Hard 2, which “tries harder”, brings the Christmas snow, but just isn’t in the same ball-park (despite still being reasonably solid).
Remember kids, pets aren’t just for Christmas. This has a largely uneven tone – but is essentially a Christmas monster movie for kids (just not really for young kids). Currently enjoying a revival in cinemas (Christmas Eve) for its 30th Anniversary. Who can forget that heartwarming story Phoebe Cates’ character recalls of her dad playing Santa and coming down the chimney. Aww – bless!
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Frank Capra’s classic is set around the heart-warming tale of a suicidal man played by James Stewart. Sounds a bit dark? Well strangely – probably the most uplifting film on this list! Sure it’s got its fair share of cheesy moments and over-sentimentality. It does however remind us money is not what makes us rich (and what better time to remember this than the over-commercialisation of Christmas). No man is a failure who has friends.
Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
So is Kris Kringle the real Santa? That would be giving the film away surely! This covers some darker themes also, but essentially at its heart is another feel good Christmas movie. Richard Attenborough’s remake makes for a more colourful and accessible Kringle, but Edmund Gwen is the real deal. I now want to go and shop at Macys.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
There are only so many interpretations of the classic Dickens novel I can include! But this one has the Muppets in and Michael Caine as Scrooge (sorry 1951 version), so enough said!! This one also put Muppet movies back on the map after a bit of a break.
Nightmare before Christmas (1993)
Once again Tim Burton mixes macabre gothic with Christmas to great effect. Okay so this one is perhaps more Halloween based, but watching Jack’s awe at discovering Christmas Town singing “What’s this?” never fails to puts me in the Christmas spirit. Kidnap the Sandy Claws!
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Had to get Bond in there somewhere. This is one of the rare exceptions where a Bond film takes place during a named season (most are nondescript). The fact that the main part is set in Swiss alps helps tremendously (even if the ending isn’t full of the usual festive Bond cheer). Do you know how Christmas Trees are grown?
The Polar Express (2004)
This isn’t Robert Zemeckis’ only performance capture Christmas film, but this one (his first) is the best. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched parts of this one on TV over the past few weeks. It is pretty much one set-piece and cliché after another. Even so, it has everything you need to put you in a feel good mood for the festive spirit.
Once again another Christmas Carol remake, but much like the earlier inclusion – this one has Bill Murray at his cynical best. Enough said! Honorable mention (and perhaps double-bill) to Blackadder’s A Christmas Carol – which covers similar ground (just in reverse). Bah Humbug!
The Snowman (1982)
A bitter sweet work of art (long before the days of CGI which now make this sort of thing easier). Sometimes shown as part of a double-bill with Raymond Briggs’ other Christmas classic “Father Christmas” – voiced by Mel Smith. It transcends the language barrier even when “we’re walking in the air”. Who can forget that ending?
Trading Places (1983)
As we know – Christmas is a time for giving and remembering those less fortunate than yourself. This is a deliciously twisted role-reversal comedy which I remember watching for the first time with my parents a few years ago (sorry Mum, I know now that in the 80’s Eddie Murphy swears a lot). How can you not enjoy watching Dan Ackroyd as the original Bad Santa?