It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which of course means the time has come to push pause on all your regular programming and wholly commit to watching nothing but Christmas movies for an entire month.
In years gone by, Christmas films were held to a higher standard. Only the merriest of movies would be considered classic Christmas viewing, to be dusted off each December and rewatched time and time again.
But ever since streaming platforms muscled their way into the conversation, Christmas movies have lost their aura; quantity has replaced quality.
A quick scroll through Netflix’s festive offerings reveals a gluttony of low-rent Christmas flicks with vaguely merry sounding titles. A Christmas Prince, The Knight Before Christmas, Santa Girl, The Holiday Calendar.
In the interest of maintaining the sanctity of the Christmas movie culture, we’ve come up with the Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time; a foolproof list that Santa himself would approve of.
Don’t bother arguing it’s already been decided.
Why: As a general rule, Christmas movies tend to overindulge in sentimentality, but Love Actually manages to be wonderfully sincere without ever overdoing it. The ensemble cast is perfectly balanced – Hugh Grant nails the role of David, the charming Prime Minister, so too Emma Thompson as Karen, the heartbroken wife.
By shining its spotlight on relationships and then interlinking all the characters together, Love Actually reminds us how critical matters of the heart are, especially at Christmas time. The film is a celebration of love in its kaleidoscopic beauty and brutality. Love lost, love risked, love found, love bruised. Love, actually.
Merriest moment: When Mark (Andrew Lincoln) rolls the dice on unrequited love, turning up at Juliet’s (Keira Knightly) door with his large palm cards to declare that he loves her. Cue tears.
Love Actually (2003)
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Why: Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) taught a whole generation that being left alone at Christmas and defeating bad guys with a series of hilarious pranks is probably the best way to spend the holidays.
No matter how many times you’ve watched Home Alone, the emotional rollercoaster o never becomes boring. The heartbreak of Kevin realising he’s been left behind by his family. The unbridled joy of being home alone, eating ice cream in bed and rifling through your brother’s stuff. And then celebrating the underdog as Kevin proceeds to break down Marv and Harry systemically.
Merriest moment: “KEEP THE CHANGE YA FILTHY ANIMALS!” Kevin ordering pizza from Little Nero’s while using the audio from the film, Angels with Filthy Souls, to terrify the delivery boy.
Why: A controversial addition to the list debate continues to rage as to whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. Sure, it’s set on Christmas eve, but with so much bloodshed it doesn’t exactly scream festive fun for the whole family. Even Bruce Willis has denied it a Christmas movie, but we’re choosing to ignore Bruce and include Die Hard.
As rough-around-the-edges detective John McClane, Bruce Willis is at his brooding best and hidden amongst the carnage Die Hard does its best to teach us a few Christmas lessons. John McClane reminds us that it’s possible to overcome the odds even when no one else believes in you, which is a great lesson to remember as you consider going back for thirds during Christmas lunch.
Merriest moment: Santa comes down the chimney, John McClane comes down an air vent.
Why: It’s meant to be Santa’s job to find out who has been naughty or nice, but in Bad Santa, well, it’s nothing but naughty. Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie Stokes, a department store Santa who is more interested in stealing and boozing then spreading Christmas cheer. Every Christmas he teams up with his sidekick/evil elf, Marcus (Tony Cox), to rob a department store. It’s the perfect con, no one ever suspects Santa, right?
Christmas films can be guilty of airbrushing life to make everything seem fine and dandy, but Bad Santa does the opposite, providing warts and all look at the holiday season. The film of choice for those who find Christmas and all it’s associated merriment hard to stomach Bad Santa is always a good choice.
Merriest moment: Willie meets his match in barmaid Sue (Lauren Graham), who seems to fall for his unique brand of deadpan charm. They then have sex in the back seat of his car, Sue yelling, “Fuck me Santa!” at Willie while demanding he keeps his hat on.
Miracle on 34th Street
Why: At a time when no one believes in anything anymore (it might sound grim, but it’s true), never has a movie like Miracle on 34th Street been worth a revisit. Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough) claims to be the real Santa, but after landing a job at New York’s top department store, he finds himself on trial. The only way to prove his innocence is to prove he is Santa Claus.
Merriest moment: When a young deaf girl sits on Santa’s lap, Santa reveals he can speak sign language, and the girl lights up. This act of kindness helps convince Susan (Mara Wilson), that Kris Kringle is the real deal.
It’s A Wonderful Life
Why: No Christmas is complete without rewatching It’s A Wonderful Life. Initially released in 1946 and starring Hollywood golden boy James Stewart, the film’s constant thread of hope feels tailor-made to the trials and tribulations of 2030. James Stewart plays George Bailey, a down on his luck banker who is on the brink of ending it all when a guardian angle steps on and reminds George just how much life is worth living.
Merriest moment: George delivering the most touching Christmas-gift speech of all time to his one true love, Mary. “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon?” asks George. “Just say the word, and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.”
Why: The silly season is supposed to be exactly that, and they don’t come much sillier than Elf. Released in 2003, we were long overdue for a Will Ferrell-led Christmas movie and like all Will Ferrell films Elf is endlessly quotable – “So, good news…I saw a dog today.“
Merriest moment: Buddy and Jovie’s (Zooey Deschanel) accidental shower duet of Baby It’s Cold Outside.