Whether you want a romantic, chewing gum-for-the-brain type of film, a witty animation for all the family, or something a little more off piste, we’ve rounded up the best Christmas films to watch.
All you need to do is pour yourself some mulled wine, sit back, relax and settle into the Christmas spirit with these festive flicks. Don’t forget the Quality Street… and save us a purple while you’re at it.
1. The Holiday
Would you rather be stuck in a cute stone cottage in The Cotswolds with Jude Law, or basking in the sun in a luxury Californian pad with Jack Black? That’s essentially the conundrum that is faced by Kate Winslet, who plays stressed out journalist Iris, and Cameron Diaz, a successful but highly-strung producer Amanda, in the delightfully easy-to-watch chick flick. Both women take the opportunity to take a break from their lives by taking part in a house swap to heartwarming and life-affirming results.
2. The Grinch
Get your resting Grinch face at the ready. This animated family classic brings to life the grumpy Dr Seuss character and his loyal dog Max. Both live a solitary life inside a cave on the cutely named Mount Crumpet. Being a “Bah-Humbug” sort of guy, he gets tetchy when his neighbours decide to make Christmas bigger and brighter than ever. So disguised as Santa Claus, he gets ready to steal Christmas once and for all. But, as we’re sure you can guess, there are a few lessons to be learnt along the way.
3. Arthur Christmas
Father Christmas is an incredibly busy man. He has to deliver presents to thousands of honest, good children around the world, from our very own grey drizzly London to Timbuktu. However, one year, Santa’s high-tech system in the North Pole fails him and he has to call upon someone to save the day. That person is Arthur Christmas, Santa’s youngest son (yes, we didn’t know Santa had a child either, let alone multiple children). Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy), sets about his mission to deliver all the presents before Christmas morning dawns.
The Nativity! film was so successful that the producers made three more. The original is, of course, the best though. Settle into the sofa for the feel-good family flick and watch as primary school teacher Paul (Martin Freeman) attempts to direct his school’s Nativity play. The once failed actor doesn’t hold much hope as the school has never once managed to pull together a successful production. To make matters worse, a Hollywood producer is coming to film the entire thing. A rollicking ride of unfortunate events sets this up to be a festive family treat (just like it says on the tin).
5. Trading Places
This one might be outdated on its views but it’s still a classic in its own right.
Nudity, gambling and liars, Trading Places brings a whole new angle to the festive season. Two wise-crack stock market investors Randolph and Mortimer, bet each other one dollar to see whether destroying one man’s life and building another’s can change the people that they are. So Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) goes from the streets to champagne, butlers and trading gold, while Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) ends up falling in love with a prostitute and toting a gun as Father Christmas. Funny, festive and a little bit wild, this movie will have you giggling from start to finish.
Buddy, a human, is raised in Santa’s workshop as an elf in the North Pole. And he never quite fits in. When he discovers his real identity, he sets out on a mission to New York to search for his biological father. On the way he learns some life lessons around what it means to be an adult and bumps into the mesmerising Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) who helps him on his way.
7. Home Alone
If you haven’t seen Home Alone yet, where have you been!? One of the absolute Christmas classics, this film ended up turning into an epic franchise (apparently number six is in development… watch this space). The original sees Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) abandoned in his bedroom as his extended family go on holiday. While his relatives are away, he has to cook himself dinner, do the groceries and defend his house from two conniving (and somewhat stupid) burglars. Do a Culkin and when your Uber driver arrives with your delivery half way through the film, turn up the volume so all he can hear is: “Keep the change ya filthy animal”.
8. The Polar Express
This Academy-Award and Golden-Globe winning animation tells the tale of a young boy who takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole. Duo Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis (both from Forrest Gump and Cast Away) unite to deliver the story made famous in the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. The boy’s journey of self-discovery shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe in the magic of Christmas. May the same be said for you.
9. While You Were Sleeping
Rewind back to the 90s and remember the array of fantastic rom-coms that Sandra Bullock was in. This is one of those (sort of). She stars as a lonely transit worker Lucy Eleanor Moderatz (Sandra Bullock) who has a long-time, and totally oblivious, crush. One day she saves him from an oncoming train, but the force is enough to whack him into a coma. At the hospital, a misplaced comment from Lucy causes Peter’s family to assume that she is his fiancée. Naturally, Lucy doesn’t correct them and she is warmly embraced into their festive household. However, things get a little tricky when she start to fall for the coma man’s brother. You’ll never guess what happens (you definitely will).
10. Love Actually
A Richard Curtis classic, this film is full of his usual quips. The movie follows eight different couples as they try to navigate love over Christmas. Some are hilarious (Hugh Grant dancing down the stairs as the Prime Minister), and others are actually pretty devastating (don’t get us started on the Emma Thompson/Joni Mitchell scene). But all of them will make you laugh, cry, and inwardly cringe (still not sold on the green fleece Mark (Andrew Lincoln) wears, but, hey, we guess that was just naughties fashion).
11. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Think of the novella A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, chuck in Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy and you’ve got The Muppet Christmas Carol. Other Muppets weave in and out of the story – singing and telling jokes – while Scrooge receives visits from the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Some rattling chains later and Scrooge is shown the error of his miserly ways, but is the miserable old scrooge able to be saved? You’ll have to watch it to find out.
12. Miracle On 34th Street
In this black-and-white Christmas classic, an old man going by the name of Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) takes to the stage at Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade when the Santa there gets too drunk. He proves to be such a hit that he is soon appearing regularly at the chain’s main store in midtown Manhattan. In a big reveal, Kringle surprises everyone by claiming that he really is the Santa Claus. However, few people believe him and he ends up in a court case to determine the truth.
13. It’s A Wonderful Life
Another oldie but a goodie. George Bailey (James Stewart) is in a pickle. He’s got so many problems going on and that he’s thinking about ending it all – even at Christmas. But luckily for him, his guardian angel Clarence steps in to show him what a positive impact he’s had on his town, revisiting all his best bits. It really is a feel good classic.
14. The Christmas Chronicles
This flick came out in 2018 and stars Kurt Russell as Santa. Two children Kate and Teddy are determined to catch Santa on Christmas Eve. They see Santa in their home delivering presents and jump into his sleigh, only to find that it malfunctions and crashes. With time running out and the presents lost, the kids have to join forces with Santa to save the day.
15. Last Christmas
This film has around 40% from Rotten Tomatoes, so don’t expect anything life changing from this festive rom-com. Katarina (Emilia Clarke) is an aspiring singer, but works as an elf in Central London. Nothing seems to go right for young Kate, but things soon take a turn for the better when she meets Tom (Henry Golding) – a handsome charmer who seems too good to be true. With Tom providing a new perspective to her life and the city, their relationship transforms into something wonderful. The best bit? That the name is based on George Michael’s Christmas tune that we play on repeat every year.
16. The Holidate
This Netflix number is pretty terrible, not going to lie. The premise being that two twenty-somethings find being single during the holidays pretty terrible. Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) start chatting in the line of a returns queue in a mall and find they share the same problem. They decide to be each other’s platonic plus-ones all year long, so they can survive family occasions without being questioned about why they’re alone. You’ll never guess what – they start to fall in love and find real feelings for each other. What a shock, I bet you never saw that coming. But it’s a good film to wile away a few hours.
17. The Santa Clause
Divorced dad Scott (Tim Allen) has found out that his ex-wife hasn’t told their 6-year-old son that Santa isn’t real. So when he comes to stay on Christmas Eve, Scott plans to tell him. However, Santa lands on his roof and completely disappears when he is startled by Scott, leaving eight reindeers, his Santa suit and instructions to put it on if he’s involved in an accident. Scott does and is transported back to the North Pole to be told that he is now Santa. Scott is convinced it’s all a dream, but he just can’t shake this new reality. Is he actually Santa? Can he convince other scrooges to believe in the magic of Christmas? There’s only one way to find out.
18. The Nightmare Before Christmas
19. Die Hard
Yippee-ki-yay! It’s Christmas. For those of you who aren’t feeling the quaint, chocolate-covered films listed above, take things up a notch with an action-packed blockbuster. It’s Christmas Eve and New York City policeman (and overall hunk) John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and two daughters. He joins his wife at her office Christmas party in the headquarters of the Japanese-owned business she works for. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise building and hold everyone hostage. Now, there’s only one person who can save them all… you guessed it: Bruce.
Take a step back into the 80s and press play on this surreal comedy horror. Written by Chris Columbus (The Goonies, Home Alone, Harry Potter… you name all the good ones, he’s made them), the story follows a gadget salesman who is looking for a special Christmas gift for his son. In Chinatown, he finds a reluctant shopkeeper selling ‘mogwai’, who insists that he should not expose the creature to bright light, water, or to feed it after midnight. Obviously, the salesman is stupid, and let’s all these things happen. The result? A gang of gremlins who tear up the town on Christmas Eve.
Spirited is the latest in the long line of Christmas films, and is definitely one to watch. Starring Hollywood comedy greats Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, the movie is a clever twist on Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. Ferrell plays a redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge, who has since become the Ghost of Christmas Present. Together with the other ghosts, they’ve made it their mission to help Clint Briggs -Ryan Reynolds’ character- start his road to redemption. Expect a barrel full of laughs, witty banter, and heartwarming moments brimming with festive fun.
Christmas films calls for family fun and presents, but what happens when a family completely loses the Christmas spirit? 2015’s Krampus shows exactly what happens. A creative twist on festive classics, the movie centres on the Engel family, who either doesn’t believe or has lost their faith in Santa Claus entirely. As a result, the family begins to be stalked and hunted down by Krampus -Santa Claus’ darker alter ego- as punishment. Although you’re in for a couple of spooks, Krampus is a clever, enjoyable alternative to your traditional Christmas movie.
23. Falling For Christmas
Netflix’s festive romcom Falling For Christmas heralds Lindsay Lohan’s spirited return to the big screen. Lohan stars as spoiled rich girl Sierra Belmont, who experiences a bout of amnesia after falling and hitting her head. Jake Russell -played by Glee‘s Chord Overstreet- kindly houses her in his bed and breakfast as she recovers, and as you might expect, the pair began to bond and fall in love.
24. Violent Night
If you’re looking for something different to watch this Christmas, then Violent Night is one to add to your list. The wealthy Lightstone family’s festive celebrations takes a dangerous turn when a group of mercenaries invades their home. Santa -played by David Harbour- was in the middle of delivering gifts, only to come across the home invasion underway. Trading handwrapped gifts for AK-47s, Santa comes to the rescue to save Christmas for the Lightstone family one violent night.