Christmas films are seldom critically acclaimed or Oscar winners – but with cartoon reindeers and real-life elves, they are always blooming good fun for all of the family.
From the childhood classics you loved that make a welcome reappearance every year right up to the newer, more slick productions with bags of wit, there’s something for everyone who wants their heart warming come Yuletide.
Whether your idea of a yo-ho-ho hit is a black and white classic or a wise-cracking animation, there is something for everyone.
So here’s our hit list of 20 festive films to suit your taste – whether you’re looking for titters or tears.
The 2003 smash hit has become a modern classic as viewers can’t get enough of funnyman Will Ferrell’s antics as a human raised as an obstreperous elf who finally meets his real-life dad – played by a truculent James Caan.
Best for: Getting you in the Christmas mood
It’s a Wonderful Life
A box office bomb when it was released in 1946, this James Stewart movie is now a classic, featuring festive themes such as bankruptcy, sibling death and suicidal thoughts.
Best for: Being knowingly sentimental but wonderful all the same
The Santa Clause
Back in the 1990s, Tim Allen was a TV legend, and in this hilarious 1994 take on a festive fantasy, he’s playing up to the camera as the dad who accidentally becomes Santa.
Best for: Family giggles – because everyone knows he’s not the real Santa
You’re either for Richard Curtis’ schmaltzy 2003 take on the Brit Christmas or you ain’t – but the star power of this hit includes Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Andrew Lincoln, Martine McCutcheon, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson… the list is long and distinguished.
Best for: Swooning at Andrew Lincoln pre-Walking Dead
Talking of star power, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Jude Law and Cameron Diaz definitely bring more style than substance to this 2006 romcom that’s one for the lovers.
Best for: Winslet’s improbable quaint cottage buried in white, clean snow in the British countryside
Hailed at the time for its animation, the 2004 film featuring Tom Hanks’ voice hasn’t worn brilliantly, but the spirit of a child’s belief in Christmas is still strong.
Best for: Building up the Christmas Eve giddiness among little ones
In the 1980s, Bruce Willis was lord of the screen, even when it came to Christmas. So in 1988, people were more interested in his beefy cop John McClane saving the Nakatomi Plaza from the late Alan Rickman than a man in a white beard coming down the chimney.
Best for: “Yippee ki-yay…” you know the rest
Classic Hollywood was seldom more glamorous than when it brought together Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in 1942 and paired them with a gorgeous Irving Berlin soundtrack.
Best for: The original home of White Christmas, the daddy of all Christmas songs
The Muppet Christmas Carol
This puppet rendering from 1992 is one of many taking Dickens’ story as its source, but it’s one of the funniest, with Michael Caine the crochety Ebeneezer who manages to play it straight.
Best for: Rizzo’s ‘light the lamp not the rat’ is an unlikely Christmas catchphrase
Miracle on 34th Street
Various versions of this have surfaced – in 1947, 1955 and 1994 – but the central theme is the same. Tough consumer business mum has her belief in Father Christmas reinvigorated, everyone smiles.
Best for: Using God’s ‘existence’ to prove that Santa Claus is also real in a court of law
It’s another Christmas Carol-themed flick, but strictly for the grown ups, as Bill Murray’s selfish, cynical TV exec was haunted by three spirits and even learned something in 1988.
Best for: The gross visitation of the skeleton ghost of a former mentor
Aled Jones’ voice famously doesn’t appear in the film, but the British classic is perfect anyway thanks to Raymond Brigg’s moving pictures.
Best for: Learning that beautiful things don’t have to last forever to change your life
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Jim Carrey took on Dr Seuss’ most grim of characters for a really sweet 2000 film with some nightmarish scenes and a lot of rhyming.
Best for: The Grinch’s poor put-upon dog, Max, being dragged into all of his negative schemes
Catapulting Macauley Culkin to fame, this John Hughes 1990 family favourite shows the power of a kid who feels threatened by burglars – and there are no adults to help.
Best for: Realising how young the star looks when he slaps his cheeks with his dad’s aftershave in that famous stance
Those creepy, gross little creatures might not make you feel festive, but you’ll never forget how Phoebe Cates’ dad died thanks to her gruesome tale in 1984.
Best for: It’s all about poor little Gizmo and his overwhelming guilt
Another grown-up Christmas hit, with Billy Bob Thornton the disgusting Father Christmas who picks up groupies and sponges off naive children.
Best for: Gilmore Girls fans seeing Lorelai in a whole new light
At the other end of the scale, Elsa’s adventures with her sister Ana and an array of festive friends was a smash for Disney and is still kid-friendly in the extreme.
Best for: If you must play Let It Go, turn it up to 11 and belt it out Mariah-style.
Netflix is well prepared for Christmas and adding a whole host of different movies and TV shows to watch over the festive period.
Classics such as Jingle All the Way and Deck the Halls are included in their selection. But for the full list, check this link to Netflix Christmas movies and find out when everything will be added.
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