One of the best things about the Christmas holidays is the chance to curl up in front of the TV and watch a good old Christmassy movie, and one of my favourite pre-Christmas rituals involves getting out the festive edition of the Radio Times and highlighting all the movies and TV programmes we plan to watch over the season of goodwill. Inevitably, a lot of these end up going onto our planner, only to remain there until February, when oddly, no one feels like watching a little kid fend off burglars while his parents fly to Paris for their Christmas vacation.
But while I’ve got the highlighter pens out, I thought I might as well share some of my favourite Christmassy movies with you here….
THE FAMILY MAN
If I was only able to watch one movie over the festive season, I think it would have to be The Family Man featuring Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni. In it, Cage stars as Jack, a wealthy Wall Street executive who gets a taste of what life might have been like if he’d stayed with the teenage sweetheart he’d deserted many years before. The film is a heart-warming and hilarious account of Jack adjusting to ready-made family life, with nods to the sentiments of classic tales like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. It’s a movie to make you laugh, cry and remember exactly what Christmas time is all about (inevitably the clue is in the title). I give it ten out of ten for Christmas movie magic every time.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Frank Capra’s inspirational tale of George Bailey – a despairing businessman pulled back from the brink of suicide by a guardian angel who shows him what life would have been like in his little town had he never existed – is without doubt one of the best loved Christmas movies of all time, and only the hardest heart could be unmoved watching George run through snowy streets shouting Merry Christmas as the film reaches its finale. It’s a feel-good movie that can be enjoyed with anyone from tots to Grannies, making it standard Christmas Day fare everywhere. Thankfully TV execs are well aware of its draw and it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to face Christmas without George running joyfully through the streets in the background (this year, you’ll find it on Sky Christmas on Christmas Eve).
Richard Curtis’ Love Actually was once voted the UK’s favourite Christmas film ever in a Radio Times survey, and it’s not difficult to see the appeal of a series of intertwined love stories unfolding over the festive season. There’s at least one storyline to appeal to everyone (my favourites are the bittersweet relationship between the Kiera Knightley and Andrew Lincoln characters and the linguistically challenged romance between Colin Firth’s Jamie and his maid). It’s perfect late night Christmas viewing to leave you feeling all warm and tingly about the world – and if you can’t get a bit warm and tingly during the festive season then when can you? So get the cosy slippers out, get the mince pies in the oven, and enjoy two hours sixteen minutes of fantastic Christmas fun.
MARLEY AND ME
While Marley and Me may not initially strike you as a Christmas movie, it’s 2008 American release did coincide with the festive season, and its advertising slogan merrily encouraged cinema goers to ‘heel the love this Christmas’. Coupled with the fact that I can’t have a favourite anything list without a dog making an appearance, and you might understand why I’ve included it on here. To me, John Grogan’s story of life with his misbehaving pup Marley sums up everything that’s important about the festive season – family, friendship, togetherness, and appreciating those close to you. It’s the one film that never fails to make me cry and look around the room at the end feeling grateful for everything I have around me. I don’t think it’s made the Christmas listings this year but not to worry – I always have my own well-watched copy not far away on DVD.
Edward Scissorhands was one of my favourite childhood movies, and it’s jostled for position here with others like Gremlins which bring back nostalgic memories of Christmases long gone. But Tim Burton’s fantasy about a young man with scissors for hands has always held a special place in my heart – mainly because of the messages it offers about love, acceptance and being unique. The sight of Winona Ryder’s character dancing under the ice sculpture crafted by Edward always remains one of the most memorable scenes in my movie-watching history reel – not least because of the enchanting music that accompanies it. And the final messages of isolation and prejudice, although perhaps not the biggest feel-good themes for the festive season, remain as pertinent for Christmas 2019 as they were way back in 1991.
*The original version of this post first appeared on the blog in 2017.