Christmas is a time for giving, spending time with family, and thinking of those less fortunate than yourself. It’s also a time of festivity and occasion, and movies are a massive part of the Christmas culture we know and love today. There’s still a thrill in looking at the Christmas TV schedule and seeing that big blockbuster or première that you’ve been waiting for. Maybe your favourite movie of the season is playing again, or your enjoyment isn’t complete without viewing one particular film throughout the holidays. Whatever the reason, movies have become part and parcel of Christmas, and it’s become traditional to associate cinema with the Yuletide season.
In the spirit of Christmas — two days to go, and counting — here is a list of five Christmas movies to get you in the mood for the most festive of seasons. After all, it’s time to sit back and relax for a few days. Merry Christmas!
Home Alone (1990)
In modern cinema, there isn’t a Christmas movie that rings true to the season like Home Alone. Making its debut back in 1990, and becoming the highest grossing comedy of all time, the story of 8-year-old Kevin McAllister being accidentally left at home by his family is a true Christmas fairytale. Forced to face time without family, the little rapscallion is initially happy to have free reign. However, it soon becomes clear that Christmas is a time for sharing, for being with family, and it’s not long before the boy is having moments of clarity; Christmas isn’t about presents, it’s about being with the ones you love.
Despite it being unusually violent for a PG-13 movie, Home Alone has its fair share of emotion on display too. In between burglar-bashing, Kevin can be seen missing his family, and wishing for them to come home. He even asks a mall Santa to bring them back instead of presents, much to the Santa’s dismay. Kevin also undergoes a right of passage so to speak; forced to grow up on his own for a few days, he goes about discovering shopping, shaving and unusual male behaviour, not to mention maturity and the wonder of being with his loved ones. He also faces a few “demons” along the way, culminating in one of the most heart-wrenching moments in comedy cinema.
Best Festive Moment: When Kevin’s mother finally returns to him on Christmas morning. Tears will flow.
Before Home Alone screamed its way into cinemas, there was another Christmas comedy on the block. Gremlins appeared in the mid-eighties, and would go on to become the 4th highest grossing movie of 1984 — only losing to Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. A dark, comedic tale that explores the misgivings of a mysterious Christmas present — they were all the rage in the ’80s — Gremlins depicts a small town being terrorized by a swarm of malicious little beasts, the eponymous creatures of the title. A subtle horror story with a mean comedy streak down its back, the film made people scream and laugh in equal measure.
Christmas is more of a hindrance than a celebration in this movie. Watch as the snow stifles fleeing victims, or how the local Santa is mutilated by several beasts at once. We also discover that Christmas trees provide wonderful camouflage for attacking critters, and decorative lights are the perfect restrictive shackles for a helpless dog. And who can forget Phoebe Cates’ monologue about her father climbing down the chimney, only to fall and break his neck, one of the most harrowing scenes in the movie. Yes, Gremlins is played part horror and part comedy, with its tongue firmly in cheek, but overwhelming festive cheer, one that embodies rising above everything at this time of year, is ever-present.
Best Festive Moment: In a scene that nails the crossover between horror and comedy, all in one glorious shot, the moment when the gremlins become Christmas carollers is a truly stand-out moment.
Die Hard (1988)
As CNET confirms, many a debate has raged about Die Hard, and whether the action film actually qualifies as a Christmas movie. Let’s sum up the evidence; the film takes place on Christmas Eve, when Nakatomi Plaza is stormed by Hans Gruber and his band of merry men. McClane brings gifts for his family, and also takes the time to scribe, “Now I have a machine gun, Ho-Ho-Ho!” on a victim’s chest. Lets not forget the wonderful warblings of “Let it Snow” by Bing Crosby, a song that befittingly closes the movie.
There’s also a pregnant woman amongst the party goers, the spirit of friendship, a true value of the holiday season, has rarely been more obvious in an action flick — just look at the banter between McClane and Al –, and have you ever seen Christmas wrapping tape used to such lethal effect? Die Hard is a Christmas movie through and through, and it should be first on your list when you dig through the DVDs. Yippee ki yay!
Best Festive Moment: The “Now I have a machine gun, Ho-Ho-Ho” is a great moment, mainly because Hans Gruber reads it aloud and then realises what they are up against. Merry Christmas!
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Possibly one of the most acclaimed movies of all time, and certainly the one most voted #1 on many Christmas movie lists, It’s A Wonderful Life is a dark fable of redemption, alternate universes, fate, and emotion. The tale of George Bailey, a generous but suicidal man who tries to end his life on Christmas Eve, only to be saved by a guardian angel who shows him the touching impact of his generosity, is the perfect fare for the Christmas season.
The tale is an ode to Christmas, and the foreshadowing similarities to A Christmas Carol are obvious here, but it sets into motion a movie that never fails to tug at the heartstrings. James Stewart portrays a character that is flawed and human, but also generous and gentle; a true every man who could be any one of us watching. Christmas is a time for giving and thanking those close to us, which is why It’s A Wonderful Life resonates so vividly. We should never forget or neglect the ones we love at Christmas, and its never been more relevant than in this movie.
Best Festive Moment: George Bailey returns home on Christmas Eve, and is reunited with friends and family.
The Snowman (1982)
From a personal standpoint, this is the very first Christmas movie I ever saw as a child. Standing just shy of thirty minutes long, and entirely dialogue free — if you exclude the live-action introduction by David Bowie, which sometimes makes it onto the screening — the film is a beautiful tale of a snowman coming to life and bonding with his creator; a small boy, who is eventually flown to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas. The ending is perfect for such a short movie, but devastating in equal measure.
All the Christmas nods are there; friendship, mystery, wonderment. Who can forget the boys utter innocence as he accepts a scarf from Father Christmas, his joy at bounding down the stairs on Christmas morning to see his new-found friend. The heartbreak as he realises, as do we, what the sun can actually do to snow. The fact the story is told silently, aside from the introduction of Aled Jones’ Christmas classic “Walking In The Air”, is a true feat of film making, one that makes The Snowman essential viewing for people of all ages.
Best Festive Moment: The initial walk through the snow-coated woods, before emerging at Father Christmas’ home deep in The North Pole. Dancing snowmen? That’s just the beginning…
[Image via Getty Images/UIG]