This list is a continuation of the Best Movies for Christmas list, just to split things up so it doesn’t get too long. There are so many good movies made for the Christmas and holiday season, how can it be boiled down to just one list !?!
10. Gremlins (1984)
Gremlins roasting in an open microwave, gremlins nipping at your nose, Yuletide carols being sung by gremlins, and folks screaming and running for their lives. Er, something like that anyway. This most festive of monster movies has great fun ripping the trappings of Christmas to pieces and cackling gleefully all the way. It also has one of the great monologues about the tragedy of fathers who try to mimic Santa Claus, but let’s not dwell on any strange smells coming from the chimney, eh? Just be careful of any new pets you receive this year, and don’t feed the little blighters after midnight.
9. Die Hard (1988)
OK, so this may not be a Christmas movie in the traditional sense, but for many years it was a Christmas tradition to have a new Die Hard movie released. After all, they did all take place at Christmas when Maclean would inevitably get caught up in some kind of international plot just when he was trying to make it home for the holidays.
And the guys in the crowd who have had enough of the soft tear-jerker feel good movies, what better Christmas present is there than the gift of terrorists getting taken down as they try to take Nakatomi Plaza hostage during a Christmas party in order to carry out an elaborate theft? For you guys, nothing says deck the halls like jumping off a roof tied to a fire hose, and nothing says season of goodwill like a machine gun. Ho ho ho and yippy-o-kay-ay.
8. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Michael Caine singing to a bunch of puppets: it shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. The Muppets slot perfectly into Charles Dickens winter’s tale, but bring their own anarchic comedy stylings with them (“Light the lamp, not the rat!”). Gonzo, who clearly has no place in the 19th century, does a creditable job as narrator, using language lifted directly from the book for the most part, and Caine somehow keeps a straight face to give us one of the most faithful movie Scrooges, and one who always convinces as he undergoes his transformation from miser to mensch.
7. Bad Santa (2003)
This movie is so bad that it is good. Santa – we all know him as jolly, fat, and good-natured, basically decent even if he does break-and-enter every Christmas night. Except that here he’s a swearing, hard-drinking, bullying, self-loathing, chain-smoking, rogering, safe-cracking, store-robbing bastard. And, as it turns out, he’s more loveable than ever.
Billy Bob Thornton was born to play the role of a curmudgeon who’s slowly won over, not by a cute and perky child, but by the weirdest, fattest little boy in history. If he learns anything, it’s mostly by accident, and if he adopts the Christmas spirit it’s largely in self-defence, making this perfect viewing for those who consider themselves immune to the season.
6. A Christmas Story (1983)
This film is massively popular in the US, where the adventures of young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) are a fixture of what they like to call “the holiday season”.
The 1940s-set story basically chronicles Ralphie’s attempts to convince his parents, his family and/or Santa Claus that a BB gun is an appropriate Christmas present for a 9 year-old. Everyone, from his teacher to Santa himself, is convinced that Ralphie will “shoot his eye out”, but he remains determined that it’s the only possible present. A great reminder of what it was like to be a kid and obsessed with the presents you’d requested. Also a reminder of the famous Mom saying, “be careful or someone will lose an eye!”
5. Elf (2003)
A recent entrant onto the Christmas chart, but one that went straight to the top of everyone’s affections and deserves to be there. Buddy the Elf is, along with Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell’s finest comedy creation, and for many is essential viewing over the holiday.
4. Scrooged (1988)
There have been many spins on A Christmas Carol – but in movie terms at least this is the best. Ebeneezer Scrooge is transformed from cold-hearted businessman into yuppie TV exec, and made almost likeable despite his obnoxious behaviour by Bill Murray, on sardonic and sarcastic form. It’s so good that we don’t even mind the fact that it finishes up with a singalong song. MVP, apart from Murray, goes to Carol Kane’s Ghost of Christmas Present, who has the delightful habit of hitting her charge with a toaster when necessary. And even when not.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Absolutely nobody makes a movie like Tim Burton, and he certainly knows how to give a new face to the holiday spirit – literally. The wonderful thing about Henry Selick’s stop-motion classic, based on Tim Burton’s story, is that you can legitimately watch it any time from Halloween on, which enables you to cope with those early Christmas cravings (it can’t be just us, right?). What’s more, as Pumpkin King Jack Skellington learns about Christmas, Selick and Burton manage to both undermine all the cutesiness and underline the bits of Christmas that really matter – like the bit where your toys don’t bite you or turn into snakes.
2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
In one of the funniest and most heart-warming Christmas and family holiday movies ever made, family man Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) tries his hardest to provide the perfect family Christmas. And in true Griswold fashion he continually falls short of his own expectations. Randy Quaid’s role as Clark’s redneck cousin is just classic.
The plot is essentially a demonstration of Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The moral of the story, we believe, is that one should always kidnap the boss if your bonus isn’t up to scratch, and that squirrels and Christmas trees are a bad combination.
1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
This one is the seminal choice, the movie that everyone knows, and the classic definition of the Christmas movie. Gotta be number one on any list. Every time someone watches this movie, an angel get its wings.
Frank Capra’s perennial classic remains essential Christmas viewing. The story of George Bailey, a man trying to do the right thing and finding his options gradually reduced to nothing, is genuinely tough watching at times during the first hour or so, and it’s made even tougher when we see the nightmare of life without his well-intentioned efforts, thanks to angelic intervention. So that happy ending, when it comes, feels earned rather than fluffy, and Christmassy rather than schmaltzy.