Top Twenty Classic Holiday Season Christmas Films
Little has caused more contention in the contactmusic office than our recent discussion about the Christmas films list! Obviously, everyone has their own favourite, and to them that will always be the top of the list. One thing that became all too clear to us was that - with the exception of Elf & Bad Santa - there really hasn't been too many full blown Christmas films so we'd like to make a plea to Bill Murray and the other Hollywood greats - PLEASE make a new (top quality) Christmas film to join these festive favourites!
I can't say we particularly advocate parents encouraging their offspring to watch films above their age certificate, but it appears we all grew up in houses that didn't really mind what we watched - and let's face it, some of the best Christmas films might have a few boobs or rowdy drunken behaviour... As children of the 80's and 90's, we're fully aware that there's original to some of these remakes, but as is always the way, these are the films we grew up with and as such, they are our favourites.
Enough explanation, in no particular order here are the films we recommend you watch over the holidays!
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
Here's an example of a movie that will always make you cry. only out of hysterical giggling however. It doesn't matter how many times you watch it, it will always be a side-splitting masterpiece. After Clark decides that this Christmas must be perfect especially in the run up to his substantial seasonal bonus at work, things start to go, predictably, very wrong indeed. With uninvited relatives, a disastrous turkey dinner, broken Christmas lights, a destructive tree, several near death experiences and an electrocuted cat, Clark is left wondering if anything will be straight forward. However, following a methane induced explosion, he begins to realise that in fact, with his loving family around him, it turns out this Christmas has been the best ever. Another brilliant movie written by John Hughes. Christmas Vacation also gets extra points for using the song 'Spirit of Christmas' by Ray Charles, which is one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever written.
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and Randy Quaid.
Out of all the recent Christmas films, Elf is the one that stands out as a classic. A genuine childish love for Christmas is seen in Buddy the elf and he's just such a loveable, syrup guzzling character, you can't help but warm to him. As a baby, Buddy hid away in Santa's sack, and soon found himself a resident of the North Pole; always accepting that he is a normal elf, it comes as a shock to Buddy when he learns he's actually of human decent. Determined to find out more about his other (human) family, Buddy sets out for Manhattan and his father. Buddy lacks understanding of cars, escalators, revolving doors and the fact that most adults don't believe in Santa, Buddy knows his mission is clear, find his father, and spread Christmas cheer to the folks of Manhattan.
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel and James Caan.
Set in the fast-moving television industry in the 80's, Frank Cross might be one of the youngest ever TV exec's but he's also one of the most cutthroat - he is as much lacking in Christmas spirit as he is integrity. However, his attitude is about to be tested when he is visited by three ghosts. Yep, we all know the story, but Bill Murray makes Scrooged one of the best Christmas films, it's a cantankerous role not many other actors could pull off with such character. Let's not forget the seminal Dickens' quote, 'God bless us, everyone!'
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen and Bobcat Goldthwait.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
This 1946 Frank Capra box office hit is probably the most recognisable of all his back catalogue. If you can persuade the kids to put away the Blu-ray player and enjoy this black and white classic in all its grainy glory, it will be a rewarding experience for everyone. When George Bailey is to be wrongly accused of bank fraud after a life of constantly putting other people before himself, he drunkenly attempts suicide. However, after seeing his good heart, he is rescued by an angel who shows him what life would've been like had he never been born. Despite being 66 years old, it remains one of the most gripping and tear-jerking Christmas releases of all time and a great one to re-watch when all the stress and pressures of the holiday starts to bear down.
Starring: James Stewart & Donna Reed.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton's alternative Christmas story is one of the most unique Christmas movies to date. The stop motion fantasy flick was directed by Henry Selick and is set in the paradoxically named Halloween Town; it tells the story of the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington who becomes bored with Halloween antics and discovers Christmas Town which he finds much more interesting. So intrigued is he that he has Santa Claus kidnapped so he can take on the job himself, only he seems to spread more fear than cheer. It's a great, fairly non-cheesy sing-a-long movie that definitely boosts festivities every year for people young and old and for that reason, it's definitely one of our favourites.
Starring: Chris Sarandon and Catherine O'Hara
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
For all you adults who wish they still believed in Santa and all you parents whose children's beliefs are beginning to wane, this 1994 remake of the 1947 classic is a wonderful story of a man who manages to convince a court of law that he is genuinely Santa Claus, despite not living in the North Pole, not owning flying reindeer or, indeed, a sleigh. None of that matters, however, as he does manage to make children's wishes come true and spread Christmas cheer throughout New York at the same time. It's another tear-jerker that always has us weeping into our mince pies and genuinely wishing that we had a Richard Attenborough shaped Santa in the neighbourhood.
Starring: Richard Attenborough, Mara Wilson and Elizabeth Perkins
The Santa Clause (1994)
When Santa Claus disappears after falling off Scott Calvin's roof, his son Charlie convinces his dad to take up the role by putting on his magic suit. Mission accomplished (for the moment). Over the next year, Scott grows a white beard and puts on weight, truly morphing into what we have come to see as Santa. This really is a 90s classic and will always remain so ever since it smashed the box office on its release. It became so popular that it spawned two sequels though neither have reached the success of their predecessor. It's a one-off storyline but it's still a favourite for repeated viewing. The Santa Claus reminds us just why the hilarious Tim Allen had such a prolific acting career following its release.
Starring: Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd and Judge Reinhold
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The Muppets have been alive since 1954 and are truly loved by everyone. As much as they are sure to be around for a long time in the future, their back catalogue classics will never be forgotten, namely this lively festive flick. It's a story that's been adapted numerous times, but never with puppets before The Muppets came along. 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' is a never failing giggle-a-thon taking us back to our childhood. After all, who can enjoy Christmas without the likes of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Rizzo and others appearing on the TV Guide?
Starring: Michael Caine, Kermit and Miss Piggy
Home Alone (1990)
Apart from that time of year it is set in, the fact that it's Christmas really doesn't feature in this movie as a main plotline. There's no deep Christmas message, it's just good, clean slapstick humour and that's what has made it the most popular kid-friendly live action comedy ever released. On the other hand, it meant that Macaulay Culkin was so associated with his character that his adult acting career has floundered. His role as Kevin McCallister, the 8-year-old boy who is accidentally left at home by his Christmas vacation bound family and ends up defending his house from a couple of burglars with a series of imaginative booby traps, is truly unforgettable and has remained a Christmas family movie staple for more than two decades.
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
CGI is all well and good, but sometimes there's nothing better than seeing actors on rickety old sets, and Santa's grotto in Santa Clause: The Movie, is exactly how you'd picture Santa's workshop. Santa Claus has been delivering presents to children since the 14th century so it's only expected that by the 20th, he's a little tired. He hires two of his elves to assist him but when one of them, Patch, discovers that the toys he has made are broken, he is so ashamed that he travels to New York where he meets a toy manufacturer who turns out to be Santa's evil nemesis. There's no one better to play an elf that Dudley Moore and John Lithgow is a perfect evil counterbalance to Moore's light-heartedness.
Starring: Dudley Moore and John Lithgow
Trading Places (1983)
With comedy geniuses Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd fronting this Christmas favourite, it's no wonder it became so successful at the box office on its release. It's the story of successful managing director Louis Winthorpe and poverty-struck homeless man Billy Ray Valentine and their lives becoming swapped in a dramatic experiment conducted by the dubious owners of Louis's company. After Louis becomes increasingly suicidal, he and Billy conduct an experiment of their own, working together to bring them down. It's OTT humour and the unusual group of heroes made up of a businessman, a tramp, a prostitute and a butler might not be usually associated with Christmas, but once they're all on the same side, they'll soon have you cheering them on. Seeing Aykroyd wearing a grotty old Santa Claus outfit sat on a bus eating a full smoked salmon is one of the most iconic comedy moments in cinema.
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis
Never expose to bright light, never get it wet and NEVER feed it after midnight. Those are the rules firmly lodged into the minds of eighties kids who desperately wished they could have a cuddly Mogwai in their Christmas stockings. Combining comedy and horror, the movie centers around an exotic creature with an aversion to sunlight who multiplies when in contact with water and turns into an evil Gremlin if it eats after midnight. It's probably one of the most loved, though slightly psychologically scarring, Christmas movies of all time and we're not ashamed to say we can't wait for it to hit our TV screens again this season.
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Corey Feldman
Bad Santa (2003)
We're aware that a lot of our Christmas faves came out in the eighties and nineties, but the naughties had some crackers too (see what I did there?). 'Bad Santa' is probably the best comedy take on Santa ever, portraying him as a hedonistic, alcoholic criminal. He may be just a toy store Santa, but he becomes one kid's real Father Christmas when he shows him that there's more to life than sex, alcohol and robbing the mall every Christmas. It may not be family viewing, but it's a great dark comedy and has everything you could want in a festive flick: strong violence, strong language, some scenes of nudity and an extremely aggressive dwarf dressed as an elf.
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
As time goes by, we're having to wait longer and longer for a half-decent Christmas movie to come out but this 2010 Finnish film is the most recent festive picture we have truly enjoyed. When a group of reindeer herders in Finland discover their animals have been viciously attacked, they set a trap to capture the creature responsible. What the herders don't know is that unauthorised diggings have been taking place on a close by mountain and they unearth a sleeping monster. What they uncover turns out to be the real Santa Clause, but not the one we'd usually associate with Christmas; this one is violent, abusive and kill for fun. The herders are faced with a problem, now their reindeer are dead, they need to find a way to survive the year, perhaps their new discovery could be the key to their future? Perhaps keep the kids away from this one until they're old enough.
Starring: Onni Tommila and Jorma Tommila
Die Hard (1988)
Understandably, this isn't the first movie you think of when someone says 'Christmas'. However, given that it is set at a Christmas Eve party, we've decided it counts. When NYPD detective John McClane goes to visit his wife and son in LA on Christmas Eve, things take a deadly turn when their party is gatecrashed by a group of terrorists attempting to steal $640 million. In a series of death-defying feats, brutal killings and near misses, McClane manages to rescue his wife and bring down the bad guys. Given the amount of high-energy action, impressive stunt work and memorable one liners, it's widely lauded as one of the greatest action movies of all time and proves that you don't need Santa, reindeer or indeed elves to make a seminal Christmas film.
Starring: Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)
We know we've already listed the first movie as one of the best Christmas movies of all time, but the sequel wasn't half bad either. The plot is relatively the same; Kevin accidentally gets on a plane to New York instead of Florida with his parents and ends up bumping into the nasty burglars he thought had been arrested last time. As sequels go, the booby-traps are just as ingenious as they were the first time around, and the new setting of New York makes everyone wish they could visit the city at Christmas time.
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
When Harry Lockhart accidentally walks in on an acting audition after fleeing from the cops following a botched robbery, he is paired up with private investigator known as 'Gay Perry' in order to prepare for his upcoming role. However, he finds himself getting caught up in a murder investigation after witnessing a body being dumped in a lake and struggles to evade police capture while posing as an actor. Though there may be little in the way of festive spirit, it has to be said that it makes for an brilliant viewing every holiday. One of Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer's best roles, and Michelle Monaghan's Christmas outfit is really all most people need over Christmas.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer
The Holiday (2006)
Romance and Christmas truly go well together in a good movie. When you add to that a strong cast, you get a sure fire 'chick flick'. Perhaps not one for most of the guys, but it is Christmas and sometimes all you want is a happy ending. When two broken hearted women (who live in different parts of the world) decide to swap houses for Christmas in order to get away from their painful lives, they both find themselves in surroundings very different to what they're used to. What they weren't expecting to happen was to fall madly in love with each other's friends. An overload of romance and a totally unrealistic happy ending, it pulls at our heartstrings every time and always makes for an enjoyable watch.
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black
Love Actually (2003)
Some love it, some can't stand it but one thing's for sure, it's an international favourite for the holiday season. Reigning in both British and American actors can, on occasion, prove disastrous but certainly not on this seminal rom com. It follows the lives of several people and their complicated love lives with almost everything becoming resolved come Christmas Day. We know it's a bit of a cheese-fest and rather predictable, but we're sure it still has a place in most people's hearts - after all, how many films are there with such a diverse range of such amazing and much-loved big screen stars?
Starring: Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
What better way for us to round up our list that revisiting another Tim Burton classic. When Edward's inventor dies before he's able to exchange his scissor hands for normal hands, he lives in isolation from the rest of the neighbourhood. When Avon lady Peg Boggs decides to visit his house, she discovers him, takes pity on him and invites him to stay with her. The neighbours soon find out and after a little warming, most of them like him instantly. Edward soon finds himself falling for Peg's daughter Kim, but the pair are forced to part forever after the neighbours turn on him following a series of misunderstandings and jealous lies. Starring Johnny Depp as the strangely attractive eponymous character who goes from being the suburb's friend to number one on their hitlist, it's a marvellous story of romance, innocence and what it means to be human.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder and Dianne Wiest
Happy Holidays to all from Contactmusic.