Each year at Christmas, the same patterns tend to emerge. Shopping, cooking, hanging out with family and friends. One of my favourite Christmas traditions is watching the same festive movies. For me, watching these particular films makes it feel like Christmas. This list is by no means an extensive list of Christmas movies, they are just the ones I enjoy watching each year.
Home Alone (1990)
Director: Chris Columbus. Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara
“I hope I never see any of you jerks again. I wish they would all just disappear.” And thus begins probably the most well-loved Christmas movie of recent times. Young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is unintentionally left behind (sometimes I wonder how unintentional it was because Kevin really is a little brat at the beginning of the movie) when his family leave for Paris for Christmas. At the same time, thieves Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci), calling themselves The Wet Bandits, are scoping out houses in Kevin’s affluent neighbourhood for targets while residents are away for Christmas. After initially being happy about being left alone, Kevin must soon defend his house against Harry and Marv through creative and violent means, and actually get to the know the local crazy old man and learn about Christmas spirit. This comedy is an absolute must on any Christmas movie list.
Die Hard (1988)
Director: John McTiernan. Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson
Who doesn’t love a good office Christmas party? Well, maybe not after watching one of the best Christmas movies ever made (in my opinion, anyway). John McClane (Bruce Willis), an NYC cop, attends a large office building in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve during the staff Christmas party to reunite with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). Soon the office building and party are hijacked by terrorists. It’s up to John to run around the building undetected to fend off the terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). With the support of a local cop on the ground, Sgt Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), John also fends off the FBI in his efforts to knock off the terrorists during the office Christmas party from Hell. Die Hard is the quintessential action movie, with guns, explosions, fabulous one-liners (“Yippee-ki-yay…” etc) and some great performances (particularly, Alan Rickman and Reginald VelJohnson). And with the Christmas setting, it’s an easy pick for annual festive viewing.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Director: George Seaton. Cast: Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne
During New York’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) encounters a drunk man dressed as Santa on a float. He can’t have that, so he replaces him in the parade. He meets Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) as she is running the parade and Kris soon becomes Santa at Macy’s. Doris’ daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood), watches the parade from an apartment window with neighbour Fred (John Payne). We soon discover that Susan, raised by cynical Doris, doesn’t know any fairy tales or believe in Santa. Young Natalie Wood is great as the sceptical Susan, who meets Kris at Macy’s and starts to wonder if there really is a Santa Claus. The Macy’s component of the film highlights the blatant commercialism of Christmas (in 1947!). Kris spreads Christmas cheer by recommending other department stores to customers and soon the powers that be at Macy’s think it’s a great marketing idea. Eventually, however, some people start to turn on Kris and he is admitted to an institution. Fred takes on his case and they go to court to prove he is actually Santa Claus. This charming, classic Christmas movie, complete with happy ending, is essential Christmas viewing.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Director: Chris Columbus. Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, Tim Curry
This time the family Christmas will be in Florida and Kevin laments the lack of Christmas trees there. At the school Christmas pageant, Kevin is humiliated by his older brother and is once again on the outer with his family before they are due to leave for their holiday. After several references by Kevin’s mother (Catherine O’Hara) to the events of last year, we learn The Wet Bandits have escaped from jail. Following a series of familiar stuff ups, Kevin ends up alone in New York instead of Florida with his family. Excited, he explores the city, beautifully decorated for Christmas. The World Trade Centre observation deck scene is incredible. Kevin ends up at the Plaza Hotel, back when it was still a hotel, and asks Donald Trump for directions. Tim Curry and the other hotel staff are suspicious of Kevin and he befriends a homeless bird lady in Central Park. Kevin crosses paths with Marv and Harry at a city toy shop, Duncan’s Toy Chest, leading to a showdown at Kevin’s uncle’s vacant house. While I don’t think this sequel is quite as good as the original film, I always enjoy it and just love the New York locations at Christmas. One of my dreams is to spend one Christmas in New York City, but hopefully not alone like Kevin.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Director: Sharon Maguire. Cast: Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth
This is not strictly a Christmas movie, but parts of this awesome movie take place at Christmas. I can watch this movie at any time of year, but Christmas is always a good excuse. Perpetually single Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) works in publishing and is infatuated with her handsome but jerky boss Daniel (Hugh Grant). Her life starts to change when she meets the handsome but reserved Darcy (Colin Firth) at a New Year party while he is wearing a hilarious reindeer Christmas jumper. Bridget lives, loves and learns about life and love. From Bridget’s hilarious drunk karaoke at a work Christmas party to Darcy’s snowman tie, there is plenty of Christmas cheer to go around in this brilliant movie.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Director: Jon Turteltaub. Cast: Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher, Jack Warden, Glynis Johns, Peter Boyle
Lucy (Sandra Bullock) admires tall, dark and handsome Peter Gallagher from afar at work every day at a Chicago train ticket booth. Early in the film, we learn Lucy will be working at Christmas because she’s the only one without a family. This is sad for poor Lucy, but while at work on Christmas Day, the tall, dark, handsome stranger (Peter) wishes her a Merry Christmas. He is then promptly pushed onto the train tracks and she rescues him from an oncoming train. Thus begins the Sandra Bullock-style “Christmas miracle”. The hospital staff mistakenly believe she is engaged to Peter and tell his family, who embrace Lucy. She becomes more involved with the family and attends their Christmas celebration. When Peter’s brother, Jack (Bill Pullman), arrives he is suspicious of the engagement story. Family friend, Saul (Jack Warden), is also onto Lucy. She, of course, falls in love with Jack and after a series of events they end up together and live happily ever after. This cute, inoffensive, completely unrealistic, Sandra Bullock Christmas movie is well worth adding to your Christmas viewing list.
Mean Girls (2004)
Director: Mark Waters. Cast: Lindsey Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried, Jonathan Bennett
Cady (Lindsey Lohan) has only been home schooled when she starts high school and has to navigate her way around the cliques. She befriends quirky Damien and Janis and then finds herself a hit with The Plastics, the cool group of beautiful girls led by the glamourous Regina George (Rachel McAdams). She joins their group, Santa’s Helpers, and performs ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ for the Winter talent show. Dressed as Santa and delivering candy canes as part of the plan to bring down The Plastics, Damien utters one of my favourite lines in the film, “And none for Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert)”. It makes me laugh every time. Cady loses her way and becomes more deeply involved with The Plastics, even though she is really just a maths nerd. She ends up in the direct line of fire during the bitchy ‘Burn Book’ fall out with Ms Norbury (Tina Fey) and joins the Mathletes after all. Mistakes are made, lessons are learned and fragile truces are formed as they all just try to finish high school in one piece.
The Holiday (2006)
Director: Nancy Meyers. Cast: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Jude Law, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, Rufus Sewell
Both in a mess in their personal lives, LA-based Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and Iris (Kate Winslet), from Surrey, England, decide to swap houses for Christmas. So much happens to this pair in a 2 week period and changes their lives forever. Iris meets Miles (Jack Black), a film composer, and they befriend an old Hollywood writer and talk him into going to an event in his honour. Iris stays with Miles on Christmas Eve and they commiserate with each other about the people who have treated them so badly. Meanwhile, in England, Amanda meets Iris’ suave brother Graham (Jude Law) and manages to fit into his complicated family situation. In 2 weeks. This movie really is a romantic fairy tale, but what’s wrong with that in a Christmas movie?
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Director: Tim Burton. Cast: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Alan Arkin, Vincent Price
After a crazy old inventor (Vincent Price, in inspired casting) created a man, Edward (Johnny Depp), out of other inventions, he died before he finished him, leaving Edward with scissors for hands. In suburbia, where all the houses look the same, Avon lady Peg (Dianne Wiest) is doing the rounds of the neighbourhood when she happens upon the old mansion on the hill and discovers Edward. Leaving the dark, scary mansion and entering pastel suburbia full of gossips and a religious nut, Edward is innocence personified. He moves in with Peg’s family and falls in love with her daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder). While initially an object of wonder and novelty with the neighbours, Edward soon finds himself the target of gossip, set ups and eventually vigilantes, culminating in a showdown at Christmas after the neighbours boycotted Peg’s annual Christmas party. The scene where Edward carves an angel ice sculpture with his scissors while Kim dances in the “snow” is just beautiful and leads to the fairy tale style ending explaining why it snows every year.
What are some of your favourite Christmas movies?