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For half the planet, Christmas falls during the winter months. For those of you living in the southern hemisphere, go out, enjoy your summer. This article is written for those of us for whom the days are short, nights are long and the cold prevails during the festive season. During this cold period, what is nicer than sitting with those you care about and watching Christmas movies? So while those chestnuts roast on an open fire, use this list to pre-plan your festival film watching.
It’s a Wonderful Life
In this film, George Bailey is contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve when his guardian angel Clarence is sent to earth to show him what other people’s lives would have been like without him, and how much of a difference he has made. Heartwarming family fun from the Forties.
Universally recognised as a Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life almost didn’t achieve its current status. Flopping at the box office and denounced by the FBI for being too sympathetic to Communists (1946 was a different time), the film only achieved its current level of popularity via TV broadcasts in the 1970s. With echoes of Charles Dickens throughout and the Christmas setting, this film is a staple Christmas time film.
Miracle on 34th Street
When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.
This film has the court room gravitas of 12 Angry Men, the fantasticalness of It’s a Wonderful Life. One thing Miracle on 34th Street also down well is that it manages to turn Santa into a human character. The existence of Santa Claus/Father Christmas is at the heart of most Christmas films and what this one does particularly well it is it puts Christmas on trial and lets the holiday spirit prevails. The 1994 remake is a decent film as well but nothing beats an original.
Upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) are the subjects of a bet by successful brokers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy). An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes
Essentially a modern retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, some people may disagree with the inclusion of Trading Places on the list. Removing the fact that it is set around Christmas time, the film does have Christmas themes throughout. It’s story lets people now that anyone can thrive regardless of their circumstances when given the right chance. If you have not seen this film, you really should add it to your list this Christmas.
Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs (James Caan), a cynical businessman. After a DNA test proves this, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results.
Easily a Christmas ‘modern classic’, Elf deserves a place on the list. The film has the perfect mix of traditional holiday hijinks & farce and is tied together neatly by Will Ferrell’s slightly over the top (and most heartwarming) character.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppets perform the classic Dickens holiday tale, with Kermit the Frog playing Bob Cratchit, the put-upon clerk of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine). Other Muppets — Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and Sam the Eagle — weave in and out of the story, while Scrooge receives visits from spirits of three Christmases — past, present and future. They show him the error of his self-serving ways, but the miserable old man seems to be past any hope of redemption and happiness.
Easily one of the best onscreen versions of Charles Dickens’ classic tale. The first Muppet film since Jim Henson’s (the creator of the Muppets) death, this film meshes the subject matter of the tale with the traditional anarchic Muppet action.
Nine intertwined stories examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love. Among the characters explored are David (Hugh Grant), the handsome newly elected British prime minister who falls for a young junior staffer (Martine McCutcheon), Sarah (Laura Linney), a graphic designer whose devotion to her mentally ill brother complicates her love life, and Harry (Alan Rickman), a married man tempted by his attractive new secretary.
Whether you find it to be a sappy love film or a festive heart warmer, you can’t deny that if it is on TV this year, you won’t turn it off. Out of this list of Christmas movies, it is one of the easier to watch films and will fill the time spent in-between meals.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
In this live-action adaptation of the beloved children’s tale by Dr. Seuss, the reclusive green Grinch (Jim Carrey) decides to ruin Christmas for the cheery citizens of Whoville. Reluctantly joined by his hapless dog, Max, the Grinch comes down from his mountaintop home and sneaks into town to swipe everything holiday-related from the Whos. However, the bitter grump finds a hitch in his plans when he encounters the endearing Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen).
Ron Howard directs Jim Carey in a role he was perfect for. The whimsical nature of the film (Like most of Seuss’ work) is captured by Howard and Carey’s personality shines through the furry, green suit.
Home Alone 1 + 2
When bratty 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) acts out the night before a family trip to Paris, his mother (Catherine O’Hara) makes him sleep in the attic. After the McCallisters mistakenly leave for the airport without Kevin, he awakens to an empty house and assumes his wish to have no family has come true. But his excitement sours when he realizes that two con men (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) plan to rob the McCallister residence, and that he alone must protect the family home.
After snarky youth Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) loses track of his father at the airport, he mistakenly gets on a plane headed for New York City — while the rest of the McCallisters fly to Florida. Now alone in the Big Apple, Kevin cons his way into a room at the Plaza Hotel and begins his usual antics. But when Kevin discovers that the Sticky Bandits (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) are on the loose, he struggles to stop them from robbing an elderly man’s toy store just before Christmas.
Consistently played every Christmas time, Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York allow people to relive years past with familiarity while also giving them an entertaining time. The second one is a rare case of a sequel being slightly better than the original. Setting a Home Alone sequel anywhere but home sounds like an bad idea. But a bustling Christmas metropolis, like New York, plays directly into everything that worked in the first movie. Both of these Christmas movies should be on your ‘to watch’ list this year.
New York City policeman John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and two daughters on Christmas Eve. He joins her at a holiday party in the headquarters of the Japanese-owned business she works for. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise, and everyone in it. Very soon McClane realizes that there’s no one to save the hostages — but him.
Plagued by lacklustre sequels, the original rampage through Nakatomi Plaza still holds strong after almost 30 years. Who could have through Christmas music and terrorists could have worked so well together? With great performances from Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, its little wonder this film has aged so well.