There's nothing more inviting at Christmas time than having the family and a few "ring ins" (aka "friends") huddling around the TV ready to enjoy and share a Christmas movie. Movies about Christmas always seem to carry with them a special message for the season- a message of kindness, humanity, emotion, thoughtfulness, family, generosity and giving- something to be reminded of whilst in the company of your loved ones.
There are so many great Christmas movies available, how do you decide which ones to watch? What makes a perfect Christmas movie? So let's settle this debate. In my opinion, for a Christmas movie to make the list of "one of the greatest of all time" it must have several components- great characters and storyline, you must be able to watch it over and over again, have a touch of sentimentality and nostalgia, it must be one for the whole family, it must have emotion and...lastly, there must be something special about it.
Here are some outstanding Christmas movies to share with your family and put you in the holiday spirit- some are recent, and some are your annual classics.
In no particular order...
Arthur Christmas (2013)
It's Christmas Eve, Santa is delivering his presents with army like precision. Teams of commando elves are entering house- through cat flaps, windows and chimneys- chomping on mince pies and cookies, drinking glasses of milk and delivering presents. This movie is funny, clever and unique and reveals the answer to one of the most asked questions by children..."How does Santa deliver all of those presents in just one night?" This movie has heart and you can't help but love, Arthur- Santa's youngest son. He's a little bit goofy and clumsy and is on a mission that has to be completed by dawn. A joyful Christmas movie with a gorgeous message to be enjoyed by the whole family.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1947)
Released 48 years ago and still pertinent today- it was the first prime-time animated movie featuring Charlie brown and the gang. Full of innocence, wit, and of course touches of Schultz's classic cynicism. As the holiday season approaches, Charlie Brown considers the commercialisation of Christmas and decides to put on a nativity play with the gang- who are rather reluctant- to bring back the true meaning of Christmas.
Featuring the towering actor Will Ferrell, Elf appeals to an audience of all ages. It's charming, eccentric, humorous, shows heart and humanity and has a grown man dressed as an elf. Will Ferrell plays the loveable elf, Buddy, who was taken in by Santa and raised as one of Santa's helpers living in the North Pole. When it's decided that Buddy has outgrown the North Pole, he is sent to New York to live with his own kind. A lovely, heart warming movie for the season.
The Muppets A Christmas Carol (1994)
Let's face it, this movie has been remade and remade- there are so many versions of this Charles Dickens classic, it's hard to decide which one to go with. As I am a fan of the late Jim Henson I couldn't overlook the Muppets version of "A Christmas Carol." It's Dickens "A Christmas Carol" as only the Muppets now how to do best. Featuring all our favourites from the cast as well as Micheal Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, you can't look past this version this yuletide season. Look out for the scene with the 2 grumpiest, and often funniest muppets- Statler and Waldorf- as Marley and Marley, the ghosts of Christmas past.
The Bishop's Wife (1948)
How can you go past Cary Grant in a classic black and white film- especially at Christmas time? This gorgeous movie is one of those classical Christmas films that can be brought out year after year. It's sweet, magical, heart warming and sentimental. Cary Grant plays Dudley, and angel sent to help the local cash-strapped bishop and his wife (Loretta Young) survive the building of a new cathedral and the finacial strain it is placing on their marriage. The story line is still relevant even today as they learn what really matters in life.
Speaking of great, classic movies, you'll love this next one...
Holiday Inn (1942)
Originally in black and white, but now remade into colour, it features 2 of the most quinessential old Hollywood actors combining forces to make this charming festive film. I have to say the plot is a little lacking and a bit disjointed- but how can you go past the crooning voice of Bing Crosby and the fancy footwork of Fred Astair? Full of Irving Berlin holiday songs, it's essential for anyone who loves Bing Crosby. Holiday Inn is the movie responsible for introducing us to "White Christmas" for the first time. Unfortunately, you can't include the videos anymore for licensing reasons, but if you would like to see the first time "White Christmas" was sung, you can do so here.
The Polar Express
At the time this movie was released it was a leader in its field for motion capture film. Some viewers may find the animation a little bit disconcerting, but if you can get past the vacant eyes and the overall look of the skin, you actually have a very beautiful story. Originally a stunningly illustrated picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, this movie brings captures the wonder and delight of Santa's village and brings to life his workshop at the North Pole. You probably need to watch this at least once in your lifetime.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It's Christmas Eve, 1946, and George Bailey (James Stewart)- a man with a generous and big heart- is facing financial ruin and is contemplating ending his life. A 200 yr old angel, Clarence- who is still yet to earn his wings- intervenes to show George what the world would've been like should he never have existed. As far as Christmas movies go, this one you must see. In fact, if you haven't seen it already, you must've been living under a rock- go and watch it this weekend. This movie makes everyone's Christmas movie list, and for very good reasons. A wonderful Christmas movie with a beautiful message- plus you also get to see if Clarence will finally earn his wings.
If you're looking for other great Christmas movies to watch with the family you could also try, "Meet me in St. Louis," "Miracle on 34th Street," "A Christmas Story," "Santa Clause is comin' to town" by Rankin/Bass, "Dr Suess' How the Grinch stole Christmas" and "Shrek the Halls."
Once the kids are in bed, one to make you laugh is Bad Santa- a dark comedy featuring Santa as a bitter and rude, alcoholic con man trying to pull off a scam at Christmas with his midget helper. It's definitely not the "greatest of all time" but it's one to watch just once. Very funny in parts and also touching in others.
It's just a real shame that they seem to make only a handful of movies about Christmas nowdays, and they appear to be getting less and less.
Does your family have a favourite Christmas movie that you keep returning to year after year?
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