Christmas is fast approaching, and with it comes the uplift it brings to many in terms of their collective mood. There’s no denying that the festive season lifts people’s spirits, and it’s a time to really take your foot off the gas, set up your out-of-office emails, and truly switch off.
All of which, rather cleverly, brings us to one of the key activities for this time of year, watching the Christmas movie, or indeed movies, if you have enough spare time between making the Christmas meal and wrapping and unwrapping presents.
So, with that in mind, here are the undisputed seven best Christmas movies ever made (though we fully expect you to point out among yourselves the lack of a favorite of your own).
Home Alone (1990)
As you get older, the themes of Home Alone get more and more sinister, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an outright Christmas classic. Firstly, what family goes on holiday overseas and forgets one of their own children? Secondly, the concept of an eight-year-old being left at home and then having to deal with two violent offenders trying to break into his home is pretty dark when you think about it.
Clearly, the movie is a riotous cracker and isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, and everyone in the movie is pitch-perfect in their roles, from Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister to Bruine Stern and Joe Pesci as the hapless burglars, and not forgetting Catherine O’Hara’s hilarious performance as Kevin’s mother Kate, as she slowly unravels.
Directed by Chris Colombus and written by John Hughes, two geniuses at work, Home Alone was a massive hit when it was released in 1990 and continues to be avid viewing more than 30 years later.
Love Actually (2003)
This ensemble piece is essential Christmas viewing and a film that gets a new audience every decade or so. It’s stuffed full of top acting talents and is perfect for the whole family, albeit with a couple of risque scenes.
Though the movie is a comedy with plenty of laughs, there are also some very poignant scenes, such as just about any time that Oscar-winner Emma Thompson is on screen.
Every viewing brings up new favorite scenes, with Rowan Atkinson’s cameo as a retail assistant being a real joy; taking far too much time to intricately wrap a present for cheating husband Alan Rickman, he could have saved himself some anguish by simply buying a stylish name plate necklace online for the office manager, and therefore avoided the near heart failure he endures during this scene.
Die Hard (1988)
So let’s settle this once and for all. Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas film and one you can help but watch at least once a year. The film is, of course, outrageous and ridiculous in equal measure, but it’s fun and doesn’t require you to use too much brain power.
Alan Rickman, once again, does a dastardly turn as Hans Gruber, a part he plays with just the right amount of menace and villainy. It was, of course, the first outing for Bruce Willis as John McClane and arguably the best of the bunch.
Again, though there is some violence, it is still pretty tame by today’s standards, so it is suitable for slightly older kids.
There is something genuinely magical about Will Ferrell’s portrayal of Buddy, a grown man who thinks he is an elf, and as each year passes, this film becomes even more, an intrinsic part of the family Christmas viewing.
Ferrell is great in the lead role, but he gets plenty of help from the likes of James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Peter Dinklage, and Faizon Love. Additionally, Bob Newhart adds a classic touch as Papa Elf.
Again the movie is hell-bent on being kind and genuine in its messaging without being too preachy, and it’s a superb bit of filmmaking and helped to cement Ferrell’s place on the A-List.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Frank Capra’s masterpiece has stood the test of time and continues to enchant audiences in 2022. It was actually something of a failure at the box office when first released but has gone on to become the archetypal Christmas movie.
Jimmy Stewart is at his best as George Bailey, a suicidal character who is saved by an angel and shown just what the world would look like without him in it. It’s loosely based on Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol, and it is truly timeless in terms of its appeal to audiences.
This 80s classic is an annual Christmas treat for many families and has that retro appeal that is garnering a new audience in recent years. It’s very dark in terms of subject matter and, indeed, the way some grizzly incidents take place, but because it’s so clearly a fantasy, it doesn’t really register as anything that children of even young ages should have an issue with.
Joe Dante, who was championed by Steven Spielberg early in his career, brings the film home by juxtaposing Mogwai’s cuteness when measured against his siblings’ mischief.
It’s a cautionary Christmas tale and one that is great fun.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Another dark comedy, part of an ongoing series, and once again penned by John Hughes, sees Chevy Chase take the lead role of Clark Griswald, a hapless husband, and father who is trying his darndest to make Christmas special, only for everything to fall apart in glorious fashion.
In many ways, it mocks the family entanglements we may all suffer during the Christmas holidays but plays it off with a tongue firmly pressed to the cheek. As a film, it has grown into a cult classic since its release over 30 years ago.