The Christmas Movie List

Film

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‘It’s A Wonderful Life’? Too schmaltzy.

‘Elf’? Even the stills make me feel physically ill.

‘The Grinch’? That isn’t a movie, it’s waterboarding.

Okay, maybe I’m not a Christmas person. Christmas is a gradual declension of spirit, from when you were six and unable to sleep for excitement, to when you’re fifty and eating nuggets in the KFC on Old Kent Road on Christmas Day because you spent the whole day driving to see your querulous mother in a care home and it was the only place still open where you could get anything at all to eat.

True unreconstructed Scrooges favour yuletide fables in a darker vein than the above movies. Me, I’d start with the Alistair Sim’s ‘A Christmas Carol’, in which Scrooge’s transformation feels like a tacked-on fake-happy dream sequence, and ‘A Christmas Story’, in which the department store Santa actually grinds a boot into poor Ralphie’s face.

How about ‘Saint Nicholas’, the Dutch Santa-as-avenging-demon movie, with its terrific sequence wherein St Nick gallops across the rooftops chased by police? Or ‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Story’, in which a boy and his father capture Santa and fend off elves so they can sell him back to the corporation that sponsored the dig? We could add the Nordic ‘Troll Hunter’ to make a nice double bill. Maybe chuck in the three excellently chilly ‘Cold Prey’ movies for an all-nighter.

But we need something sentimental. ‘White Christmas’ is so plastic that it appears to be set in the windows of Macy’s (no bad thing) and ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ just gets better with age. But if I had to pick one absolute favourite, it would be ‘Joyeux Noel’, about the Christmas Day armistice. How they manage to squeeze a beautiful opera singer performing ‘Silent Night’ at the Front Line and make it almost believable is a joy to behold. The film was a Europudding of a production (it seems to be German, Spanish, French and Scottish) and no-one seems to have ever seen it except me.

What about the current year’s best? They would include, in no particular order, ‘Three Billboards’, ‘Dunkirk’, ‘The Shape Of Water’, ‘Blade Runner 2049’, ‘Detroit’ and ‘Lady Bird’. I’d like to vote for ‘Get Out’ except that it falls apart at the end, and ‘Valerian and the Thousand Planets’ for sheer audacity of ambition, but the male lead is awful. Something for the kids? ‘Paddington 2’ seems a good alternative to the divisive ‘Star Wars’.

European films had a weak year, although I enjoyed ‘El Bar’, ‘BPM’ and ‘The Square’, and am looking forward to ‘Perfect Strangers’. Netflix caused controversy with its purchase of major films like ‘Okja’, which removed them from theatrical distribution. Fox and Disney’s plan to unite brings the majors down to five and starts a process of entrenchment as they square off against rising online stars. Amazon and Netflix dwarf the old studios, and this may hail the end of the current system, which has been in place for more than a century. The shake-up may prove good for everyone except smaller carriage companies, who’ll be pushed out.

Stories still have to be told, though. Which means that for now, I have a job. Add your favourite film for Christmas here; it doesn’t need to have a Christmas setting – let’s get a definitive alt.list going….

20 comments on “The Christmas Movie List”

  1. SimonB says:

    Alistair Sim as Scrooge has been MrsB’s go to film at any time of the year since before I met her, and I have come to love it too. But my fave film that happens to be set at Christmas has to be Die Hard.

  2. Martin Taylor says:

    The Alistair Sim “Christmas Carol” is easily the best. The worst are those godawful American versions updated to modern times and set in New York, hideous!

  3. DC says:

    Alistair Sim is on my go to list. For schmaltz with a bit of comedy, I’d add the other James Stewart festive film The Shop Around the Corner.

    I’ll also second the Xmas action film genre.

  4. Graham says:

    Many of Shane Black’s movies are set at Christmas, including Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and The Nice Guys (per Vince Keenan).

  5. Denise Treadwell says:

    I love Christmas films .My favourite are: The Man Who Came To Dinner, Bell, Book And Candle, The Polar Express ,Love Actually, ,Christmas in Connecticut, Indiscreet, and White Christmas.

  6. Denise Treadwell says:

    And I doubt eating nuggets is healthy!

  7. C Falconer says:

    Die Hard

  8. Peter Tromans says:

    Since Christmas and Yuletide are about (re)birth, hope for a better future and escape from darkness, I’d like to watch a film that reflects those ideas: Casablanca, Pimpernel Smith, or It’s a Wonderful Life.

  9. Debra Matheney says:

    Totally agree. Joyeux Noel was a wonderful film, no schmaltz but heartfelt and uplifting, reminding us of our humanity,even during that awful war. It is my favorite, too!

  10. Ian Luck says:

    I’m no fan of Christmas, and so, the movies I like to watch, aren’t particularly festive, but I do like the aforementioned ‘A Christmas Carol’ starring Alistair Sim. It’s beautifully acted and shot, and has an almost Gothic grimness to parts of it, which I love. I’m very fond of ‘Scrooged’, with Bill Murray. It is wonderfully mean-spirited throughout – Murray’s solution to affixing tiny antlers to mice is deliciously horrid. I can watch ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ at any time of the year, and it will still make me laugh. A fond memory of mine, is when my late mother was persuaded to watch it – she wasn’t keen on silly or coarse comedy, but she loved it, and laughed herself nearly sick at the cat/power cable moment (at the cat-shaped burn on the carpet, actually). ‘Die Hard’ is set on New Year’s eve, but ‘Die Hard 2’ is definitely a Christmas movie, and will be watched as such. The Amicus Portmanteau movie, ‘Tales From The Crypt’, starts off with the tale of a homicidal Santa, so I’ll add that to the list. Tim Burton’s delicious ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is always worth watching, but my favourite movies to watch at Christmas are any made by Ray Harryhausen, or George Pal (Nathan Juran’s ‘Jack The Giant Killer’, is close on their heels, and it’s also a great movie if you want to give small kids nightmares). This year, I’m not working over Christmas week, and will have to tolerate it. Which I shall do by binge watching, on my laptop, with headphones on, all 32 episodes of Gerry Anderson’s beautifully dark (at least one person dies horribly each episode, and in one, a whole airliner full), ‘Captain Scarlet’, from 1967. And yes, it’s a children’s show, made with more passion and ingenuity than anything made nowadays. It cost about £150,000 per episode to make. In 1967. That’s almost motion picture spending. It was cheaper than it’s predecessor, the utterly timeless (apart from the smoking) ‘Thunderbirds’ of 1965 – that was over £200,000 per episode. And it’s last episode was a non-cheesy Christmas one, too. Yeah, I’ll watch that, too.

  11. Roger says:

    Welcome back.

    They order these things differently in France: “L’Assassinat du père Noël” and “Le père Noël est une ordure”. Both well worth watching in their different ways.

  12. Martin Tolley says:

    I have to go with Alastair Sim’s Christmas Carol
    Marley’s ghost: ‘Why do you doubt your senses?’
    Scrooge: ‘Because, a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!’
    AS’s diction and the delicious rhythm of “an underdone potato” is just one of those magical moments…

  13. Wayne Mook says:

    Gremlins is a fun Christmas film, which means Snow White can also be watched.

    Of the Xmas horror I guess Black Christmas is good, Margot Kidder gives a good turn but it’s not perfect, don’t mention the plot holes.

    Of the later Christmas Carol versions, the CGI Jim Carey is fun and looks a bit odd.

    Wayne.

  14. admin says:

    The Polar Express gave me the creeps, with its weird conflation of Christ as Santa. Maybe I overread these confections!

  15. Brian Evans says:

    The “family strife” 1952 film “The Holly and the Ivy” starting Margaret Leighton, Celia Johnson and Ralph Richardson takes some beating. It very Christmassy as the family fall out.

  16. Denise Treadwell says:

    I loved the ghost! In the Polar Express. .Santa is Father Christmas for me still. I didn’t notice Christ there!

  17. C Falconer says:

    No, Die Hard is set on Christmas Eve – its a Christmas party that’s being invaded. The soundtrack includes Jingle Bells, Christmas in Hollis and Winter Wonderland.

  18. Trace Turner says:

    My guilty pleasure of a Christmas movie is Mixed Nuts with Steve Martin. It’s probably a terrible movie but I can’t help but watch it every time it comes on TV.

  19. John Griffin says:

    Join the mob for Sim’s CC, pithy and powerful as well as relatively period-correct in its gloom. Hate the rest.
    Polar Express IS creepy, but I find it is the animation of the characters that rings untrue – neither rotoscoped or cartoon, it is almost robot-life. Love Actually has Emma Thompson acting the rest of the cast off the screen, a true episode in a trite film.

  20. Helen Martin says:

    Alistair Sims is the universal go – to in our family and the underdone potato has always been my favourite speech.
    The Polar Express was a book before it was a film and marked the beginning of the author’s sell-out. Just look at Jumanji and then read the book.
    I skip most Christmas specials (except Charlie Brown which I’ve watched every year since it came out and love the music) but I have a guilty pleasure in enjoying The Santa Claus, although I don’t like the animated Santa Claus that takes over and the baby’s birth is just embarrassing.
    We’ve had to minimalise everything this year and it hasn’t spoiled a thing. We heard the Christmas Sing-in from Montreal, the Queen’s Message (it was mostly a pretty bad year), and a magnificent version of Messiah. I made it to church and that was enough. I didn’t go to the evening service of tableaux and carols so I’ll find out later which of the three babies played Jesus. We had three possibles, two of them boys. Not a bad year.

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