I have a tradition every year where I watch my choice of Christmas flicks in the 12 day run up to Christmas Day. Now I don’t only watch these 12, I sit through other films in the festive build up, but it is these 12 in particular I always watch on these specific days. It’s not as obvious a list as others as some of my choices have nothing to do with the annual celebrations that are Noël. Now I do have some undisputed Christmas classics here, yet some just are completely unrelated.
Okay, so before I get into this one, I just need to clarify something, why a few of these films have nothing to do with Christmas. Not set at Christmas, no Yuletide characters, not even a slight whiff of a mention of the festive period or any kind of Christmasy message at all. But there is a reason for this, I covered it in my Die Hard/Christmas article last year, but I’ll just quickly recap here to explain…
So back in the 80s here in the UK, we only had 4 TV channels and 2 of them (BBC 2 and Channel 4) tended to concentrate on alternative, indie, ‘outside of the box’ type shows and films. This left the other 2 (BBC 1 and ITV) which were more mainstream and would, over the Christmas period, always fight for viewers by securing big, popular films for the holidays, often TV premieres. Meaning that I got to see a lot of flicks over Christmas as a kid. So even though some had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, they still take me back to my childhood and remind me of those family gatherings over the festive period and (to me) are very much Christmas movies despite having zilch to do with Xmas at all. So with that out of the way, on with my list.
So you know my explanation of how some of the films in my list are not connected to Christmas? Well the first is very much one of those.
Yeah Rocky III is a Christmas film for me. See, this one takes me back to Christmas of 85 or 86. It was one of those big TV movie premieres I mentioned. We had Nan and Granddad staying with us for Christmas and after dinner, after playing with my new toys but before bedtime. 9 or 10 year old me sat on the sofa with my Nan and we watched Rocky III for the first time. I like to watch this one as my festive movie marathon begins just to spark off that Christmas childhood memory once more and remember by much missed Nan.
Well at least this one is set at Christmas. Okay it involves parents abandoning their deformed child, a dead woman brought back to life by cats, a corrupt business man and other man who dresses up as a bat… but it’s set at Christmas.
Batman Returns is the sequel to the awesome 1989 Batman flick. It’s dark, brooding, moody and very Gothic. Not as good as the first film, but it’s Christmas setting is mainly why it makes this list. I love the juxtaposition of director Tim Burton’s dark vision against the film’s happy setting. Seeing those wonderful sets and buildings that offer a very
foreboding atmosphere decorated with bright and colourful Christmas decorations is beautiful and always gets me in the festive mood.
Follow the yellow brick road.
I have to confess, I really do not like The Wizard of Oz. I don’t like the music, I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the story. So why is it on this list? Because this is another one of those films from my childhood that always seem to be on TV over Christmas when I was growing up. This one takes me back to memories of those family gatherings as we all sat there watching The Wizard of Oz, it just became tradition year after year. I don’t like the film, but I love the memories it brings back.
It’s another one of those nothing to do with Christmas films from my childhood. It’s time to go back in time…
This film was actually released here in the UK in December, 1985, so at least I can say that Back to the Future is Christmasy-ish. But I first saw it on TV years later (and after I watched the sequel in the cinema in 1989) over the Christmas period. There’s not much I can say about this time travelling classic that has not already been said before. A glorious melding of comedy, sci-fi, and awesome music too. One of my all time favourite films that I still love to revisit every year for Christmas.
Okay, so nothing but actual Christmas films from this point onward. My all time favourite Christmas story is the Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol. I even like to read the original story over the festive period if I get the chance. But when it comes to film adaptions, there are dozens and dozens to choose from.
Scrooge (A Christmas Carol in the US) starring Alastair Sim from 1951 is my pick here. A great and very British re-telling of the tale with a lot of charm and personality. This version also adds a lot more meat to the bones over the source material and none of it feels out of place either. It’s just brilliantly told version of the classic story. The first, but not only version of A Christmas Carol on my list…
What’s Christmas without a little fun and merriment? Quite possibly the funniest Christmas film ever about the worst family Christmas ever.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is third film in the Vacation franchise starring Chevy Chase as Clark, the head of the long suffering Griswold family. A nice family Christmas soon turns into chaos as guest and family members turn the festive gathering into a disaster. This is crude with toilet humour and slapstick… and I love it. A stupid film for a stupid season that packs a lot of heart warming Christmasy felling into it. Just don’t watch the sequel…
Cuteness, monsters and quite possibly the most disturbing story of how a little girl learned there was not Santa.
Monster movies and Christmas is a cocktail that just should not work. But Gremlins gets the mix just right and serves up a tasty concoction. A scary “family film” that is at times a little to intense for kids but great fun for adults. I remember the first time I saw Gremlins, I was about 12 years old and a neighbour rented it out on VHS and asked me over to watch. It was all I could talk about at school for the following few weeks, I loved it as a kid and even more so as an adult. That story Kate tells of how she found out Santa wasn’t real… that’s dark man.
So I may be cheating a bit here as this isn’t really a film. It’s a TV show, but a feature length episode of a TV show… but it is Christmas.
Black Mirror is an anthology show where technology takes centre stage and shows the (mostly) dark and disturbing way it can be abused. Black Mirror: White Christmas is the festive special and it’s just as bleak as it’s standard episodes. This one is actually an anthology within an anthology as this episode features four interconnecting stories about 2 men stuck in a small house over Christmas and just how they are connected is slowly revealed. This is very, very downbeat and depressing and I think it’s brilliant.
It’s back, that darned Dickens descriptive. Told you I love this yarn and here’s another adaption I always watch over Christmas.
Directed by Richard Donner and starring Bill Murray. Scrooged is a much more comedic and contemporary take on the classic tale. Bill’s take on the Scrooge character (Frank Cross in this version) is sarcastic, bitter and still not without charm. Behind the scenes stories tell that Richard Donner and Bill Murray never got on and how the plot kept changing. Apparently Bill hated working on this film… and yet it and he are still brilliant to watch.
Who’d have thought that a film about a man wanting to commit suicide would make for an all time Christmas classic film?
I love Jimmy Stewart, he’s one of my all time favourite actors ever. His good looks, charm and that voice all add up to one of the most charming and charismatic people ever seen on film. It’s a Wonderful Life is a wonderful flick. Despite the fact this film has very, very little to do with Christmas, it’s still an undisputed Christmas classic and one I watch year after year after year.
There is really only one film you can watch on Christmas Eve. The greatest Christmas Eve film ever made.
Watching Die Hard the night before Christmas has become a decades long tradition for me now going back to Christmas of 1989 when my older brother first came home with a copy of Die Hard on VHS to watch. I must have been around 13 years old at the time and loved the film. This year will mark the 30th year running I’ve watched Die Hard on the night before Christmas and I hope to continue it for at least another 30.
So it’s the main event and I’ve already included some surefire (and no so) Christmas classics. But for the grand finale, I’ve got to pull out the big guns and those lovable marionette/puppets.
I grew up watching The Muppet Show on TV and even now as a 43 year old… I have a major soft spot for them. So when they made their version my all time favourite Christmas story, it was lighting in a bottle. I have already said how much I adore A Christmas Carol as a piece of storytelling and no matter how many times it is told and re-told year after year in it’s many different versions, I can just not get bored of it. The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best of the lot. That melding of music, humour, heart and of course, Muppets is genius. Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge is the most perfect casting and the way he plays off his fuzzy co-stars and they off him is flawless. The greatest Christmas film ever made.
I’m a little bit late with this list as it’s now the 15th as I publish this and not the 14th when my Christmas movie watching begins. The delay is due to the fact I was in hospital on the 14th as my son was born. Yup, I became a Daddy… best Christmas present ever!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m a little behind with my list and have to go watch Rocky III and Batman Returns tonight. Have a good Christmas and New Year folks, see you in 2020… unless something big happens I feel I need to express an opinion on.