The Best Films to Watch at Christmas

It’s the time of year again, and whenever Christmas rolls around in these days people are reaching for their copy of the Radio Times. Films have become as important to the Christmas tradition as a tree and a turkey, and the schedules are filling with more and more. There are the old Hollywood favourites, the quirky animations, the seasonal romantic comedies, the action movies, and even the historical dramas. One thing they all are? Classics.

White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, Meet Me In St. Louis, the original Miracle on 34th Street—old Hollywood certainly had a talent for capitalising on Christmas. Sometimes saccharine, sometimes harrowing, sometimes (though no one will admit it) a little terrible, they’ve lasted through the Christmas schedule for more than fifty years, and they’ll undoubtedly be sticking around for fifty more.

The Santa Clause,  The Muppet Christmas Carol, the 1994 remake of Miracle On 34th Street, Home AloneThe Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and every Disney movie you can think of will make an appearance on your television over the Christmas period. The 1990s proved especially successful at producing big Christmas movies aimed at kids, and the 21st century has seen the focus turn to fantasy franchises that can be watched as a family affair.

The Snowman has aired every Christmas Eve since 1982. With no dialogue and the forever famous song “Walking in the Air“, plus the 1990s-addition of David Bowie as the narrator, it has been defining Christmas for almost thirty years. The Nightmare Before Christmas has the strange honour of being both a Hallowe’en and a Christmas film, putting a Tim Burton spin on it that includes a boogeyman who almost kills Santa Claus, or rather, Sandy Claws.

Christmas is the perfect time to set your romantic comedy, and the film industry is well aware of it. When Harry Met Sally rounded off the 1980s with a film that made Meg Ryan’s sex face world famous, but it also took us through enough Christmases to cement its place on the televisions schedule. Serendipity, though less well-known, perfectly captures the traditional niceties of the season, with a little modern fairytale thrown in, and even if it’s at 11pm on Boxing Day it’s always there. Love Actually is the most modern of classics and, being the brainchild of Richard Curtis and featuring a song called “Christmas Is All Around“, it was a little inevitable.

Will Ferrell’s slightly oddball Christmas comedy Elf has become a classic Christmas film almost at the speed of light, with its quirky plot and undeniable laughs. On the other end of the scale, Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) takes on the armistice in the trenches of World War One on Christmas Day, 1914. Told in three languages, English, French, and German, it’s all the more breathbreaking for being a true story. If there’s one film you watch this Christmas, make it this one.