It’s coming up to Christmas, and we’re already being inundated with adverts, television programmes and blog posts like this one telling us, “Christmas will soon be here!” Now, whenever we think of Christmas films, we always think of warm, fuzzy feel-good movies. Of course, this needn’t be the case, as the following films prove (with a few warm fuzzies in there for good measure) …
1. Nativity! (2009)
Undoubtedly one of the best Christmas films to come out in recent times. Thoroughly British, very funny, charming and joyful. Oh, and it’s pretty much the quintessential nativity play – it is a film about a nativity play, after all,and has the whole gamut of characters. Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, donkeys and more, all with an unusual array of talents.
Unfortunately, Nativity!’s success spawned some terrible sequels, but just keep to watching the first one and you won’t be disappointed.
2. Trading Places (1983)
A classic riff of the tale of The prince and the Pauper, and considered by many to be one of the best Christmas comedies around thanks to the acting chops of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. Yes, Trading Places has familiar, stock characters, but director John Landis handles the quick-witted script perfectly.
3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Frank Capra’s film is not only considered by many to be the best Christmas film around, but one of the greatest films in general. Hugely influential, a great premise and, of course, the film was released just after the Second World War, which sort of explains It’s a Wonderful Life’s sombre yet hopeful mood.
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
A favourite amongst the weird and wonderful everywhere, and why not? This Halloween-Xmas mashup could be Tim Burton’s finest hour-and-a-half to date. Plus, it has the silky smooth voice and elegant appearance of Jack Skellington, the ultimate goth girl crush.
5. Gremlins (1984)
The greatest Christmas horror-comedy of all time, and replete with suspension of belief. Isn’t it always after midnight? Isn’t snow just frozen water? Does Mr. Wing really need to give a proselytise Billy at the end of the film (even if the rest of his family did kind of deserve it)? Regardless of these unusual rules (which kind of make the film more fun, anyway), Gremlins is a great Christmas movie.
6. Die Hard (1988)
Another Christmas great from the 80s, when Christmas movies from Hollywood were at their best. No, it’s not very “Nativity” per se, but Gene from Bob’s Burgers does an amazing version of Die Hard named Die Hard: the Musical. Who says action films can’t be replicated on stage?
7. A Christmas Carol (1951)
No list of nativity films would be complete without a film version of a Dickens novel. A Christmas Carol pretty much invented or popularised half of the things we associate with Christmas today when it was written in 1843 (e.g. Christmas trees, Christmas cards, carol singing). The novella has been adapted to the stage plenty of times, too, but with regards to films, none have come close to imitating Brian Desmond Hurst’s production. Alastair Sim’s performance in this film is legendary, and set the tone for future Scrooges to come.
8. Life of Brian (1979)
Granted, it’s not strictly a Christmas film, but there’s probably not a better time of year to watch this comedy classic from Monty Python. There is a nativity scene, though, where the Three Wise Men mistake Brian for Jesus.
9. Brazil (1985)
What’s this? Two classic Christmas films from those Monty Python boys? Well, I’ll be! Somewhat darker than most of the other films on the list, but if you want to see what Christmas would look like in a bureaucratic, totalitarian world, look no further. For an ultimate triple bill, Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) are great companions. For a truly weird Gilliam Christmas (and if you’re a complete film addict), add Twelve Monkeys (1995) to your triple bill.
10. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
After the success of It’s a Wonderful Life, people wanted more Christmas feel-goodness from their films. Perhaps not quite as brilliant as Capra’s classic, but great nonetheless. 1994’s remake is decent enough, but in no way captures the magic of the original.
Of course, there is no order to the greatness of the above list – we’re sure you have your personal favourite(s). Just spend a little time out over the holidays and treat yourself by watching them all!