Nothing is guaranteed to get you through the long winter evenings like Christmas films. Everyone has their own favourites, the ones it absolutely wouldn’t be Christmas without — but the ones on this list are the best. (Not that we’re opinionated about films.) Here at LockHouse we asked our resident watcher of Christmas films, Ben, for suggestions. Read on for an incredibly varied selection of twelve of our favourite Christmas films!
The Twelve Faves of Christmas
Yes, Christmastime, ‘tis upon us once more. Quick! Wrap the turkey, stuff all your presents, and string lights on all your distant relatives immediately. Then settle down on the sofa, cover yourself in Quality Street, and read this blog article about my twelve favourite Christmas films (or movies, if you must, but I wish that you wouldn’t). And I should point out that these are not in any particular order, as I love them all. I should also do some exercise and stop eating so much chocolate, but that’s got nothing to do with this.
Right, let’s get on with it. Sing along, everybody: On the first day of Christmas, I watch this on TV…
One: Lost Christmas
Number one is Lost Christmas. You may not have heard of this one, but I urge you to watch it. Go on. I’ll wait…
… Alright, maybe later. Lost Christmas was a TV film shown on the BBC back in 2011. It is the perfect mix of drama, magic, and ever-so-slightly sci-fi, with the rather brilliant premise of a mysterious man (played superbly by Eddie Izzard) who has no idea who he is, but when he touches someone, he can see into their past and find things they have lost. This makes for some very moving moments. An excellent cast all round, and cleverly and wittily written by John Hay and David Logan, I both cry my eyes out and smile from ear to ear every year when I watch it. I could not recommend it more, so I won’t.
As this is number two, let’s do two films, shall we? Don’t answer that. Number two is Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Whilst Gremlins (1984) is set at Christmas, Gremlins 2 (1990) doesn’t really have anything to do with Christmas, but I actually think it is the better film (and the director of both of them, Joe Dante, agrees with me, so there). The satire woven in to the second film is excellent, and the premise to get more out of the gremlin characters works perfectly. Written by Chris Columbus (who will be appearing in this list again later on), my main reason for loving these films is because Gizmo is the cutest creature in the known universe and I love him. I need say no more.
Three: Edward Scissorhands
Never mind Christmas, Edward Scissorhands is a superb film at any time of the year. Written and directed by Tim Burton in 1990, it tells the story of the completely innocent and untainted character of Edward, played by Johnny Depp, as he tries to fit in to American suburban life. So many reasons to love this film: the moving, gothic, funny, and highly original story; the sublime soundtrack by Danny Elfman (one of his absolute best); it is the final appearance of the legendary Vincent Price; it is a superb, understated performance from Depp, and a film-stealing performance from the ludicrously underrated Diane Wiest, who is absolutely stunning in this film. Visually beautiful with a beautiful soundtrack to match, this film is truly enchanting.
Four: Santa Claus: The Movie
Written by David and Leslie Newman in 1985, you really get two films for the price of one here. The first half is basically a traditional, humble, Santa Claus origin story, with a particularly brilliant fantastical North Pole, whilst the second half is a present day comedy/adventure story. Dudley Moore and John Lithgow are completely brilliant in it, obviously, and it has one of my favourite Christmas songs: ‘It’s Christmas All over the World’ by Sheena Easton. This film really is Christmas personified.
At five, we have Scrooged. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is the greatest Christmas story ever told (sorry, Jesus). There are about six hundred and twelve adaptations of it, several of which are very good, and many of which I would rather gouge my eyes out with a rusty soup spoon than ever watch again. Three of these adaptations appear in my list, and one of these is the splendid Scrooged, directed by Richard Donner in 1998. Firstly, it’s a Bill Murray film, and he is as genius and hilarious as ever, and secondly the spirits are very cleverly done, especially the Ghost of Christmas Present, hysterically (and violently) played by Carol Kane. The cast all round are excellent, and having Bill Murray’s character be the head of a TV network works perfectly. It also features the cutest Tiny Tim ever, and another of my favourite Christmas songs: ‘Put a little love in your heart’ by Annie Lenox and Al Green.
Six: Home Alone 2
Number six is our second entry from Chris Columbus, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Written by the legendary John Hughes, I have chosen this 1992 film over the first one for several reasons. One, it’s set in New York at Christmas, which is just magical and wonderful and I want to go there immediately; two, Tim Curry is in it; three, Brenda Flicker is mesmerising as the Pigeon Lady; and four, to me, it is the better story and the most Christmassy, and is rather moving in places, and I do like a Christmas film to be moving.
Good grief, this is a long list. Is anyone still reading this? Bravo if you are. Have a biscuit. With number seven, let’s have another A Christmas Carol adaptation, shall we? Yes we shall. This time, it’s Scrooge (1951), starring the unique and irreplaceable Alastair Sim as our favourite measly miser.
Scrooge has been played by many marvellous people over the years, Albert Finney, George C Scott, Patrick Stewart, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, and Bill Murray all being amongst my favourites, but if you were to hold a piece of sharpened holly to my head and make me choose, I would have to say that the granddaddy of all the tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinners has to be Alastair Sim. His performance is simply sublime. It’s not easy to be convincing as both the bitter, twisted, horrid old miser, and the “giddy as a school boy”, happiness-personified, Father Christmas reborn man at the end of the story, and Sim plays both to perfection. I also love this particular production as it is the darkest, and I do like a bit of darkness at Christmas. Mainly because I can never find the one blithering bulb that doesn’t work in the Pan’s labyrinth of tangled hell that is my Christmas lights.
Eight: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Talking of darkness, number eight is the delectable Nightmare Before Christmas. Our second entry from Tim Burton (although he didn’t direct it, as many people think: Henry Selick did, Burton wrote and produced it. Gosh, aren’t I interesting? Can’t think why I’m not invited to more Christmas parties), this 1993 animation soon became an absolute classic. And before anyone starts the whole “Is it a Halloween film or a Christmas film?” conversation, it’s both, so shut up.
The animation is brilliant, and the music is more genius from Danny Elfman and I think my favourite of all his work. (He also does all the singing of the main character Jack. Another thrilling titbit for you there. I think my invitation for your Christmas Eve drinks must have got lost in the post.) The film tells the story of Jack Skellington from Halloween Town, who is bored of doing the same old thing for Halloween every year, and decides to take over Christmas when he discovers it for the first time. I adore this film. Why it hasn’t been turned into a stage musical is beyond me (as is jogging, and muesli, but never mind). This film is dark, it’s funny, it’s perfect. Watch it. Or else.
Nine: Love Actually
Here’s a polarising one: at number nine, it’s Love Actually. Let’s get this out of the way right at the start: if you don’t like this film, your soul is dead. Or you simply have a different opinion to me, which is frankly not allowed. I love Richard Curtis films. There, I said it. Love Actually (2003) couldn’t be more Christmassy if it tried. And it REALLY tried. Yes it’s cheesy, but it’s also funny and moving and poignant. My one criticism of it is that, in a film about relationships, there is no LGBTQ representation. I personally think that Andrew Lincoln’s character should have been in unrequited love with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s groom, rather than Keira Knightley’s bride, but I didn’t write it; If I had, it would have had more biscuits in it.
This film has Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson (Thompson being totally sublime in one of the most moving scenes ever), it has Bill Nighy being his true hilarious self, it has our Prime Minister standing up to the American President (something that has never happened but jolly well should, especially at the moment), and it has a pure message of the importance and prevalence of love in all its forms. What more could you want at Christmas? Don’t answer that, or I won’t let you have any more biscuits.
Ten: Rare Exports
If you’re anything like me, you’ll love a bit of Christmas horror. This is not a genre which is done well. Black Christmas (1974) is good, and there are some great M. R. James adaptations that have been on the BBC at Christmas, but most other Christmas horror is just dreadful. However, number ten on our list is an exception. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) is a Christmas horror gem from Finland. It’s funny and scary, and puts a whole new twist on the idea of Santa Claus coming to town. I won’t say any more as I don’t want to spoil it, but if you’re after something different, watch this, and you’ll never leave a stocking out for Santa again…
Eleven: Batman Returns
Nearly there now. Anyone still awake? We’ll stick with another dark tale now, for at number eleven it’s our third entry from Tim Burton, Batman Returns (1992). Reasons for loving this: Gotham at Christmas is dark, gothic, and marvellous; Michael Keaton is the best Batman by a million miles (and he can talk properly rather than sounding like a broken washing machine that’s been possessed by Satan); Danny Devito’s Penguin is genius; Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is genius; and there’s an army of penguins. I mean, come on. It’s brilliant. Snowy, dark, best Batman, best Penguin, best Catwoman, penguins. I rest my case.
Twelve: The Muppet Christmas Carol
Well done for getting this far. If anyone’s still with us, have at least six packets of biscuits as a reward. Although I think I may have eaten most of them, sorry. Number twelve on the list is the one that I always save for Christmas Day itself, and it is the third entry from the classic Dickens novel. Yes, it’s The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992).
I doubt I’ll be able to put into words how much I adore this film, so I’ll keep it short: Michael Caine is an excellent Scrooge; the songs are superb, timeless, and extremely sing-a-longable; the ghosts are brilliant, the Ghost of Christmas Past being particularly ethereal and beautifully animated; Kermit is the perfect Bob Cratchit; there are so many cute creatures in it that it’s almost unbearable; it’s very funny, and very moving; and there are singing vegetables. I adore this film, almost as much as I adore Christmas itself.
Right, before we all rush off to glaze our grandmothers, I just want to very quickly recommend some films that are great to watch at Christmastime, even though they aren’t Christmas-themed, and they are: both the Paddington films, WALL.E, Up, and Christopher Robin. Now, it only remains for me to apologise for this blog article being longer than the Bible (and only half as entertaining), and to wish every single one of you a very merry Christmas. God bless us, every one.
If you’d like to find out more about any of these films before watching, we recommend doesthedogdie.com, where you can check content warnings before you watch (not spoiler-free). Sick of Christmas already? Check out our recommended adventure and spy movies!
Need to get out of the house after having watched twelve Christmas films in a row? Come and celebrate the holidays in the most Christmassy of locations: a tomb! (Or, if you prefer, a space station or a supervillain’s lair.) Our escape rooms are the perfect addition to any Christmas outing in Cambridge!