Let’s face it, most Christmas films are rubbish but we all have to watch something while we are waiting for the turkey to cook so it might as well be a movie with a seasonal theme. But what? This list gives ten films that are probably worth renting out on DVD for the holiday season to fill in the time and put off the inevitable family row for a couple of hours.
There are many other Christmas movies, of course, and everybody will have their own favourites. Please feel free to use the comments box at the end to express any disagreements with this list and to suggest alternative Christmas films. The films are listed in alphabetical order.
Bad Santa (2003)
This comedy film centres on a conman who works during the Christmas period as a department store Father Christmas to stake out the shops and later rob them. It stars Billy Bob Thornton as the conman Willie and Tony Cox as Marcus, a dwarf who is his partner in crime and works as his elf in the stores.
A Christmas Carol (1938)
There have been a number of film version of the Charles Dickens novelette but this was the first one, and it starred Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge, Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit and Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim. The most recent retelling of the story for the big screen was the 2009 animated version with Jim Carey playing multiple roles. Other notable versions include Disney’s 1983 Mickey’s Christmas Carol and Jim Henson’s 1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol.
This made for TV movie was shown in two parts and tells the story of the Terry Pratchett novel of the same name. Hogswatch is Discworld’s equivalent to Christmas and the Hogfather its answer to Father Christmas. The Hogfather has gone missing and Death takes his place. Ian Richardson is the voice of Death and Michelle Dockery plays his granddaughter Susan. The comedy also stars David Jason as Death’s manservant Albert.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Based on the 1957 Dr Seuss book, this starred Jim Carey as the Grinch and Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who, who feels sorry for the Grinch and invites him to the Christmas party, which does not go well. But the Grinch still has hopes for redemption.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Based on Philip van Doren Smith’s short story The Greatest Gift, this film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a depressed man about to commit suicide on Christmas Eve before the intervention of a guardian angel to show him all the good things he has done in his life.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
The National Lampoon team decided to set their third film about the Griswold family as a Christmas special. Slapstick and tasteless humour combine but it is the references to all the other Christmas movies that make this shine. Chevy Chase stars as Clark Griswold. A sequel was made in 2003.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
This is one of the worst films ever made and so warrants a place in the top ten Christmas films. The plot is about Martians who kidnap Santa Claus so that he can give their children presents as well. But Voldar believes Santa Claus is a bad influence and tries to kill him. John Call stars as Santa Claus and Vincent Beck as Voldar. There have been many rumours of a remake.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
There is nothing like a good slasher film to get the family into the Christmas mood, and this is one of the better ones. Billy, a young boy, sees his parents murdered by someone wearing a Father Christmas outfit and grows up to become a serial killer. Lilyan Chauvin plays the Mother Superior at Billy’s orphanage and Billy is played by Danny Wagner as a boy and Robert Brian Wilson as an adult. It created controversy when it was released and there were four sequels. This is here because it didn’t quite make the ten best horror movies of all time list.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
This animated film sees Jack Skellington face the difficult task of explaining to the monsters of Hallowe’en Town the meaning of Christmas but is a disaster in his role as Santa Claus. The real Santa, meanwhile, has been kidnapped from Christmas Town and is in the hands of Oogie Boogie. This was written by Tim Burton and stars Danny Effman and Chris Sarandon as the voices of Jack,
White Christmas (1954)
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye star in one of the all-time classic Christmas films. This also features the music of Irving Berlin, including the famous title song, one of the best Christmas singles of all time. The plot is about a plan to put on a special Christmas show for a retired general at his struggling ski lodge. That’s it really, but the plot doesn’t matter as it is all about the fun and the songs. Just sit back and enjoy it while munching on a mince pie or two.
Best Christmas Film of All Time
Picking the best out of this lot is really no contest as it has to be the classic White Christmas. No holiday should be without this. It might be corny, it might be soppy, but it is all Christmas.