Christmas films have carved out their own cinematic genre by being some of the most heart-warming, joyful, gooey-on-the-inside films ever produced, savings millions of festive families and friends from the exhaustion of the season.
To help you through the holidays for this year at least we’ve amassed 10 of the best Christmas films to enjoy this bleak midwinter.
10. The Snowman
Though you might have only heard of it as the birthplace of the classic Christmas song ‘Walking in the Air’, ‘The Snowman’ is a charming Christmas cartoon that is one of the purest concentrations of Christmas magic possible without injecting eggnog directly into your veins. Whilst the story is nothing to write home about, concerning a young boy and his relationship with a magic snowman, the art style it employs is almost aggressively delightful, both striking and welcoming at the same time and makes this picture one to watch.
9. The Polar Express
Tom Hanks plays 6 different characters. What more do you need? ‘The Polar Express’ is another film that offers a surface level of simplicity (a child attempts to get to the North Pole before Christmas) whilst hiding a huge amount of entertainment value in its depths. The Polar Express’s greatest strength comes in the genuinely surprising levels of tension that it is able to generate. Despite being a cuddly, friendly Christmas cartoon at its very core its action sequences will bring even the most stony-faced of viewers to the edge of their seat.
A rather simple and modest Christmas film, ‘Nativity!’ tells the story of St. Bernadette’s Primary School putting on their annual school nativity and the conflict that arises when a white lie spirals out of control. ‘Nativity!’ is by far the cheapest feeling film on this list, being filmed almost entirely in a primary school and missing the A-list names of other festive films, but it is precisely this simplicity that makes it such an endearing watch. It feels pretty flimsy at times, but this is what makes it so lovable and gives it universal opinion for every member of the family.
7. ElfThis film is quite simply Will Ferrell at his finest as he embodies the character of Buddy the elf with the perfect levels of childlike wonder and manic energy to make the film unforgettable. The story of a boy brought to the North Pole and raised as an elf trying to find his way in the real world, offers a whole host of fish-out-of-water moments which are utilised to produce humour through Ferrell’s misunderstandings and heart-warming moments as he brings his innocent and idealistic attitude to a jaded and cynical world. ‘Elf’ is the perfect family film for the holidays, being able to appeal to parents and children alike without a disappointed face in sight. So, if you’re entertaining family and friends this year, this is the film for you.
6. Love ActuallyTHE definitive romantic comedy with a list of A-list songs as long as Mr Tickle’s arms! Emma Thompson, Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Kiera Knightly to name but a few. Whilst including many of the romcom genres staples, (being utterly charming and completely heart-warming) ’Love Actually’ manages to be genuinely hilarious in a way that very few films in the genre can claim to, with several laugh out loud moments to bring cheer to your Christmas. ‘Love Actually’ has become somewhat iconic in recent years being referenced and parodied in all forms of media so if you’ve never seen it before make sure to take the time to experience this cultural cornerstone.
5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Jim Carrey’s manic comedic style is perfectly suited to this Dr. Seuss classic as he brings to life the eponymous Grinch as both a threatening villain and a sympathetic joker. The classic book is really brought to life in this festive gem with some of the greatest set and costume design of any film on this list, all of which almost surgically designed to immerse the audience in the town of Whoville. Whilst the Grinch has become so intrinsically linked with the Christmas scene that his film may seem almost cliché for those who haven’t had the viewing pleasure recently, it’s definitely worth going back and enjoying just how good this seasonal tale still is.
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
There have been numerous arguments over the status of Tim Burton’s gothic animation as a Christmas film with some believing it is best enjoyed in the run up to Halloween. However, something that is indisputable is its quality. Featuring the greatest collection of songs ever included in a festive film, each guaranteed to have you singing along, and a stop animation style brimming with its own kind of charm, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is undoubtedly the best film on this list but only manages to secure 4th place as it doesn’t quite manage to capture the cosy Christmas spirit as adeptly as the top three, bringing a certain edge that isn’t for everyone in the Yuletide season.
3. It’s A Wonderful Life
An absolute Christmas classic that has managed to survive almost 70 years to remain as one of the most popular Christmas films to this day. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ follows George Bailey, a caring man who is down on his luck and his guardian angel who tries to show him the value of his life, offering one of the most engaging narratives in any Christmas film, portrayed to perfection by the star-studded cast. Since it was initially released all the way back in 1946 some of its scenes do seem a bit dated but its compelling and endearing story keeps it relevant despite the grainy black and white presentation.
2. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol
There have been many attempts over the years to capture the magic of Charles Dickens’ seminal novel ‘A Christmas Carol’ but none have done it quite as well as The Muppets in their 1992 motion picture. Almost every muppet lines up perfectly with one of Dickens’ characters, so much so you’ll start to wonder if it was written specifically for them, be it Waldorf and Statler sharing the role of Jacob Marley, or Fozzy Bear as Mr Fezziwig and so much more. Add in the acting powerhouse of Michael Caine as Scrooge and a number of catchy songs and you have a Christmas film for the ages.
1. Miracle on 34th Street
To take first place on this list requires something truly special and that is very much what ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ is. The core of the story comes down to a very simple but intriguing question, how could Santa prove he was Santa? This concept is mixed with a hint of charming characters and a dollop of soothing dialogue, and you have a Christmas film for the ages. Though I believe the original 1947 black and white version is the best way to enjoy this magical story it can be slightly difficult to watch with its poor video quality so if you find this prospect off-putting, the good news is that the 1994 remake captures all of the original’s magic whilst offering a bold new technology, colour film. If you only have time to watch one Christmas film this year, make it this one. Subscribe to The Renaissaint’s Youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1AWq1FOK8cZ9adUfePE3Gw
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