What makes Christmas Christmas? For a lot of people it’s the turkey, the trimmings and the cranberry sauce. It’s the uncle you hate and the relative whose defining characteristic is the amount of money’s you find in whatever tacky card they decide to send out this year. Yet even though we seem to be decided on what constitutes a Christmas song (Fairytale of New York, anybody?), Christmas films are far more controversial. Home Alone, sure. And nobody’s going to dispute Love Actually, but Die Hard?
So we’ve all pitched in and curated a list of our favourite Christmas films – even if they’re not really Christmas films – because I’d argue shit TV and re-runs of Elf make Christmas Christmas just as much as cranberry sauce.
When I told my girlfriend about this article she was excited to hear about my choice … until I answered with Toy Story. She immediately denounced my suggestion, branding it “not a Christmas film”. I disagree. Ok, it is not explicitly a Christmas film; it is not about Christmas, it is not set at Christmas but it does make me laugh, cheery and feel good, and that is what a Christmas film should be about. When we were younger we would get toys for Christmas and we all wondered what happened when our backs were turned. Toy Story follows the exploits and antics of a loveable group of toys who do in fact come to life when unobserved. Oh and just to finish, all three Toy Story films premiered on TV on Christmas Day (Toy Story 3 will air this year), that must surely make it a Christmas film?
Not only does Home Alone epitomise Christmas, it epitomises the childhood dream. Don’t try and tell me you didn’t imagine yourself building traps from the top to the bottom of your house in the hope that you’d catch some bad guys, or that being left on your own for more than 3 hours didn’t seem like the most exciting thing ever. No, this movie is what every child wanted and more, because it just so happens that little Kevin McAllister found himself Home Alone over the holidays. Sure, his parents were maxin’ and relaxin’ in Paris, but did Kevin care? Never. He had the house to himself and no one could tell him what to do.
I hate films with a message; they reek of Oscar-bait, a self-congratulatory smirk on behalf of the director. It’s why I love the action genre, chief of which is Die Hard, one of the only Christmas films to use international terrorism as a major plot point (but think of how fantastic Home Alone IV could be). The antagonist is a German Alan Rickman, the protagonist a New York cop (Bruce Willis) who, for budgetary reasons, must resolve a hostage crisis in LA, wearing two vests and no shoes. People are thrown from rooftops, bodies are rigged with explosives, and Deeno sings Let it Snow over the credits. If, in this hour and a half of BRILLIANCE, there is a message, it seems to be Merry Christmas, motherfucker.
A Christmas Carol: the Musical
This amazing musical is composed by Alan Menken, the genius behind Disney films like Hercules, the Little Mermaid, and Beauty & the Beast. Though the three ghosts are really tacky, the child actors were all clearly casted for their singing rather than their acting, and the spectacle of the chorus dance numbers are diminished by having it captured in film, it’s the classic story and the trademark Menken-melodic, catchy songs that make this such a satisfying film to watch. If you’re a lover of deeply cerebral films, then perhaps this movie will only be a weird fringe cultural phenomenon; but otherwise, this is an innocently feel-good film for anyone to enjoy.
Sum Sze Tam
Miracle on 34th Street
A clichéd choice perhaps, sometimes derided for its saccharine and sentiment, whilst in other areas criticised for not living up to the 1947 original. But, between the ebullient, eternal optimism of hound Marie Wilson and the twinkling, effervescence of Richard Attenborough’s Santa Clause, this film to me does epitomise the true spirit of Christmas. The triumph of an admittedly photogenic and loveable popular figure over cynicism and greed with the aid of a little girl is a transcendental tale that will always ring true to the young child in all of us. In contrast to the all-out action of the Great Escape or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s version of Christmas cheer, Miracle on 34th Street, to me, is a wonderful, easy modern retelling that encapsulates Christmas and reminds us, in between colossal dinners and the inevitable bickering amongst siblings, what the true values of Christmas really are.
I think I like The Grinch because he is the personification of myself in winter. I don’t want to go outside, I don’t want to be battered by Christmas shoppers and I don’t enjoy watching all the mushy couples buying each other gifts. It’s too cold for any of that. But even if you do enjoy the Christmas spirit Dr Seuss’ tale is a brilliant way to spend an evening with the family and have a laugh. Like all good Dr Seuss stories it’s got some meaty messages about acceptance and consumerism but don’t worry, you can enjoy it without having to concentrate on the symbolism. All in all Jim Carey does a fantastic job in his golden era of comedy and it’s a film everyone can enjoy.
Muppets Christmas Carol
The Muppets. The Muppets Christmas Carol for those who don’t know or who haven’t guessed, is the story of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, told by The Muppets. The Muppets have a unique way of retelling well known stories, incorporating traits of both characters into one role. Expect all the favourites like Kermit, Gonzo and Rizzo for some thrill a minute Christmas fun. If it isn’t a film you’re familiar with, make sure that it’s now top of your list. The Muppets Christmas Carol is as heart-warming as it is hilarious. Light the lamp not the rat.
What is your favourite Christmas film? What do you think to the selection above? Is Toy Story a controversial pick? Let us know in the comments below