It’s the festive season, and that means the age old argument of which Christmas film is the best heats up again. It’s a topic which sparks huge debate, not least of all over what actually qualifies as a Christmas movie. For the sake of this post we are defining a Christmas movie as any film whose plot is set around the holiday season. So whilst Wizard Of Oz is on TV every Christmas Day, it doesn’t qualify as a Christmas film. Same goes for Harry Potter, which even though it does contain scenes set at Christmas, the bulk of the film isn’t. Films that do qualify don’t have to have a Christmassy feel, they just have to be set during Christmas. So it’s that simple, get all the films that are set at Christmas and decide which one’s the best. Will the old classics win out? Or will something more recent cement itself as an insta-classic.
10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Arguably the best National Lampoon film, Christmas Vacation sees Chevy Chase’s dreams of a perfect family Christmas go up in smoke when Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie pitches up his trailer outside the Griswald family house. Cue a festive period comedy which has laughs to spare. It comes with the classic Christmas message too, that Christmas is all about family, but be careful because your family might just ruin it.
9. Home Alone
Home Alome may be looked down upon now, but if you were a kid who grew up in 90’s then it was a Christmas staple. With a career defining performance from Macaulay Culkin, and great comedic turns from Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as hapless burglars Harry and Marv. What kid didn’t dream of being left home alone, ordering pizza, and messing up their house. Home Alone is a Christmas film which has laughs and heart in equal measure.
8. The Santa Clause
Is it saccharine? Yes. Is it a little cheesy? Definitely. Do we still love it? Of course. This is the perfect family film for Christmas. Filled with laughs for the adults, and validation for know it all kids. The premise of a man who kills Santa, so has to become Santa is strangely dark and twisted, but the film never lets up on the laughs, and has a heart as pure as snow. Featuring all the Christmas tropes we love, such as Santa’s sleigh, reindeer, elves and the North Pole, this is a crowd pleaser that will entertain everyone. Just don’t watch the sequels.
7. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Before Robert Downey Jr hit the big time with Iron Man, and before writer Shane Black found commercial success as a director with Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guy’s, came Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Set at Christmas, like all Shane Black films, this darkly comic film is an underated gem. With RDJ as a criminal, who ends up getting a break in Hollywood, only to become embroiled in a conspiracy. The film is uttterley hilarious, with a humour streak as a dark as black ice. Unlike the films that have come before it on this list, this film is just a great film which just happens to be set at Christmas.
Another great film that just happens to be set during Christmas. This is a slice of pure 80’s fried gold. Produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Christopher Columbus, and directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins showcases some of Hollywoods top players at the height of their Blockbuster making, crowd pleasing powers. Gremlins is pure fun. Just remember the three rules: One, kept them out of the light… oh I’m sure you know the rest.
A film which uses the warm colours of Christmas as a gorgeous back drop to a slow burning love story, which sears with sensuality. Not your traditional Christmas film, but watching this under a blanket during a cold December will never fail to warm you up. Combining a sensitively told love story with the sexual politics of the 1950’s, and career best performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. This really is the best Christmas Carol. Dammit, I promised myself not to make that pun.
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
This is Halloween! This is Halloween! No, it’s Christmas, and this is the perfect film to get you into the Christmas spirit. With a left of field sensibility, Henry Selick and Tim Burton created a counter-culture icon in Jack Skellington. Filled with the images that would become Tim Burton’s stock in trade, it also has some of the best songs. You’ll be singing along throughout December, and well into January.
3. Die Hard
Some may argue that Die Hard isn’t a Christmas film. They’re wrong. Set at an offfice Christmas party, and with the end credits playing out to “Let It Snow”, this is definitely a Christmas movie, just not a Christmas I’d like to be invited to. This is a genre defining action movie, which turned Bruce Willis into a Hollywood star. Filled with ingenious set pieces, and Alan Rickman on terrific form, this isn’t just one of the best Christmas movies ever made, it’s one of the best action movies ever committed to film. Yippee-ki-yay…
Modern day classic is a term that fits Elf perfectly. I was lucky enough to see it at the cinema on it’s initial release, and it’s a movie I’ve seen every Christmas since. It’s joyous seasonal fun, with Will Ferrell as the man who grew up on the North Pole. It’s a fish out of water comedy with endlessly quotable dialogue, it’s heart firmly in the right place, and maple syrup in its coffee. If you haven’t yet seen Elf (where have you been) then watch it this Christmas. If you have seen it, just watch it again. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
1. It’s A Wonderful Life
If you’ve read to this point and didn’t realise It’s A Wonderful Life was going to be number one, then you obviously have never seen it. A bonafide classic, this is a film which not only stands up to the test of time, but seems to grow more charming with it. Frank Capra shows himself as a masterful storyteller in this feel good movie, with James Stewart using all his movie star charm as George Bailey. The family man who, after a financial mix up, considers taking his own life. What’s most surprising is that the film doesn’t skirt around the darker subject matter, which pays off in dividends when the emotional climax hits.
So there it is. Our Top 10 Christmas movies of all time. Agree? Disagree? Any notable omissions? Let us know,in the comments section below.