The snow is falling (and falling and falling), children are playing and having fun, and coffee shops are selling gingerbread lattes. Yes, it can only mean one thing: Christmas is well and truly on its way. So whether you can’t get to work due to the snow, you’re suffering from winter blues or just wanting to get into the Christmas spirit, then there is no better way to do so than sitting down with one of these festive films.
Whilst creating this list, all films of the Christmas nature, films released in December and just generally films with the hint of something Christmassy were all considered. As a result there were a few casualties who didn’t make the list, so honorable mentions must go to: Die Hard, The Santa Clause, Santa Claus the Movie, White Christmas and (ahem) Jingle All The Way.
So without further ado, here is the top ten Christmas films guaranteed to give you that warm, fuzzy festive feeling.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- Released- 1989
- Director- Jeremiah. S Chechik
- Starring- Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis.
This Christmas flick, written and produced by John Hughes, has simple message at its heart, in between all the mayhem that goes on. It’s a simple film which basically says no matter how dysfunctional a family is, no matter how much they bitch and snipe at each other, at Christmas it’s time to put these feelings aside and come together.
This was the third National Lampoon film in the series and, like the other films, follows the life of Clark Grisworld (Chase) and his family. Clarks bad luck continues in this film as his obnoxious and selfish family turn up unexpected to join him for Christmas and ruin the festivities he had originally planned. Things are so bad that the only reason Clark gets through the festive period is by thinking about his Christmas bonus that he is due.
This film is a classic and is guaranteed to make the whole family laugh. Even if you’re not a fan of the National Lampoon series, this film is a must see solely for the electrocuted cat scene. This scene, incidentally, was almost cut from the final film due to fears it would offend viewers. However, test screenings showed that the scene was the most popular in the film and it was decided to keep it. Thus a piece of comedy gold was kept and has gone on to become one of the funniest scenes in a Christmas movie.
- Watch this… If you’re having the in-laws over for dinner this year.
- Director- Robert Zemeckis
- Starring- Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye
This computer-animated film was based on a children’s book of the same name and was a surprise Christmas hit. The film was very successful, was nominated for three Academy Awards and has been turned into an amusement park ride. Every year, during the Christmas season, Sea World Orlando opens a motion simulator ride in which everyone can experience a trip on the Polar Express to the North Pole.
The story revolves around the story of a boy (Sabara) who is having doubts about the existence of Santa Claus. During the night the Polar Express stops outside his house and the boy boards the magical train. During the extraordinary train ride the boy not only embarks on a journey to the North Pole but also on a journey of self discovery. When the trains’ passengers reach their destination they meet Santa’s elves and catch a quick glance of Santa himself. The boy then receives a gift which only those who believe in Santa can experience.
This is a fantastic film for all the family and reminds one and all that the wonder of life will never fade for those who believe in the magic of Christmas.
- Watch this… With the full family and an open mind.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
- Director-Henry Selick
- Starring- Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara
This, without a doubt, is the strangest, eeriest and downright weirdest Christmas film, not only on the list but ever made. Although, this is to be expected as the film started off as a poem written by Tim Burton and the eccentric film maker decided it would make a good film.
The story revolves around Jack Skellington, the Halloween pumpkin king, who has become tired and bored of the same charade every 31st of October. Jack (Sarandon/Elfman) takes a walk into the woods and stumbles upon Christmas town. Jack becomes so enchanted with Christmas town that he tries to persuade the resident bats, ghouls and various other monsters of Halloween town to help him out with Christmas instead of Halloween.
Despite Jack’s good intentions he doesn’t quite fully grasp the concept of Christmas and the real world isn’t used to Jack’s bizarre lifestyle and unfortunately for him things don’t go to plan for Jack at all.
This movie is unique and quite simply brilliant from the fantastic animation to Danny Elfman’s quirky songs and has the audience hooked from the title sequence right up until the credits have rolled. This film spawned a huge merchandise franchise but despite this Burton still refuses to cash in by making a sequel, stating that the film is a one off and no sequel could live up to the original.
- Watch this…If you fancy something different from the norm.
- Director- Terry Zwigoff
- Starring- Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham
This is not a Christmas film for kids!
This is a film which takes a satirical look at Christmas through an unkempt, alcoholic, sex mad, conman in the midst of America at Christmas time. ‘Bad Santa’ is set at the peak of the festive season when joyous shoppers have commenced their yearly Christmas shopping. Amongst the crowds are Willie (Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox), a drunk and a midget, who are con men who are on a self-indulgent road trip.
Each year Willie and Marcus get jobs in a department store posing as Santa and his elf. Instead of spreading good cheer, their motive is to rob each department store. This plan becomes rather complicated when Willie meets a lonely, fat 8-year-old boy and Sue the bartender who both teach Willie the true meaning of Christmas, even if he does get into a little trouble along the way.
This film will have you laughing uncontrollably, especially at some of the one liners delivered by Billy Bob Thornton. Some scenes will have your cringing and others will just downright disgust you but the best thing about ‘Bad Santa’ is that it never takes itself too seriously. Think if South Park made a full length Christmas film, it would probably be something similar to this.
- Watch This...If you’re feeling a bit naughty.
- Released- 1988
- Director- Richard Donner
- Starring- Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Bob’ Bobcat’ Goldwaith
No top-ten movie list would be complete without a Bill Murray film and no top-ten Christmas list would be complete without an adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol. Scrooged kills two birds with one stone here and whilst it is no Ghostbusters it does include ghosts, laughs and the genius of Bill Murray.
Frank Cross (Murray) is a high flying, power hungry, dollar driven TV executive and his station are planning on running a live adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Due to Frank’s less-than-happy childhood, he doesn’t particularly like Christmas. In keeping with Dickens story Frank is visited by four ghosts, one of whom is his former mentor, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), who warns Frank if he doesn’t change his ways then he will be doomed to pain in the afterlife. In order to bring about a change in Frank, he is visited by the ghost of Christmas past, present and future.
Whilst this film may not be for everyone, especially traditionalists, who may not enjoy a modernization of a classic, there is no doubt that it brings festive cheer to the audience. The story may be slightly different but the moral of the story is still the same, it’s never too late to change your ways. If you need further convincing to watch this film then these two words should be enough to change your mind: Bill. Murray.
- Watch This…If you can’t get into the Christmas spirit.