It’s that time of year when the mandatory viewing of festive films happens in households and halls alike. Impact Film & TV have compiled a list of their favourite Christmas movies to get you in the mood and potentially offer an alternative to Love Actually this year.
The Holiday is a feel-good rom-com set partly in sunny America and in the ever-so-Christmassy snowy English countryside. The story is based on the idea of ‘home exchange’ websites that allow people to swap houses with others from around the world, rather than opt to pay for accommodation in their chosen holiday destination.
Iris and Amanda, the women who sign up for this adventure, are both running away from difficult romantic situations, and both find new love on this journey. Each responds differently to the new world they have stepped into, but soon settle in and appreciate this new experience. This film is about spontaneity, being open to trying new things, and finding what’s right for you in a relationship; although this doesn’t appear very Christmas-orientated, it actually works very well in the context.
The way each of the women’s viewpoints is portrayed, particularly Amanda, whose mind replicates her work as a producer of film trailers, is expertly portrayed. There’s lots of festive Christmas scenery, two unexpected romances to get you feeling optimistic about the coming year, and lots of references to the importance of friends, family, and positive relationships. Definitely a good one to watch this Christmas!
It’s A Wonderful Life
In order to be a great Christmas film, many would say the story has to include elves, reindeer or Santa on a mission to save Christmas; however, what It’s a Wonderful Life does so brilliantly is use subtle Christmas themes throughout, making it an instant classic.
Set during Christmas Eve, the story about George Bailey (James Stewart), who doesn’t realize how much he has positively impacted upon others’ lives, is beautifully told. If it was set at any other time of year, it really wouldn’t have the same effect; for example, the weather wouldn’t have matched the tone and the use of angels would have felt misplaced. As the film was shot in black and white, the falling snow on the old-fashioned streets looks stunning and shows off the true Hollywood glamour of the 1940’s, and on a personal note brings the song ‘White Christmas’ to mind every time it features.
It’s a Wonderful Life is the textbook definition of a family-friendly festive flick. For anyone who says this is not one of the best Christmas films out there, the final scenes featuring George running through the snowy streets and greeting his family have enough festive cheer to light up any house’s Christmas tree.
For me, Christmas means getting the family round and watching Elf. Everyone loves it and if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to! This 2003 (does that make you feel old yet?) film, directed by John Favreau, not only is one of Will Ferrell’s best roles; it has us quoting its timeless one liners all through the Christmas period. For that one person who hasn’t seen it, Elf is a fun and heart-warming comedy about a baby who was raised as an elf in the North Pole, and when he becomes an adult he finds out the truth and journeys to find his real father in New York City.
Elf has all the beauty and wonder of New York at Christmas and gives us the warm fuzzy feelings that come with this time of year. It includes everything in the checklist of what makes a Christmas film: Santa, the North Pole, carolling, gingerbread houses, ice skating and a super enthusiastic elf, who is impossible not to love from the start.
The juxtaposition of characters such as Buddy’s father Walt (James Caan) and a cynical Jovie (a blonde Zooey Deshanel), against the eccentric and super enthusiastic Buddy, shows us what Christmas has become to adults: a chore with busy high streets, and an expense. Buddy’s wonder and happiness makes us, as those adults who sometimes get a bit sick of the stress of Christmas, feel that child-like joy again that this time of the year should be all about! After watching Elf all we want to do is “make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can, and then… we’ll snuggle.’’
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Based on the 1975 story by Dr Seuss, the 2000 Christmas Oscar-winner, The Grinch combines a star-studded cast with childhood nostalgia. It follows the story of the sadistic and cruel Grinch (Jim Carrey) who lives in a cave on Mount Crumprit above Whoville, a magical place populated by the Christmas-loving and joyous race named, funnily enough, The Who’s, plotting ways to ruin their Christmas cheer. Through flashbacks we learn that The Grinch wasn’t always so spiteful; in fact he was initially adopted into a Who family but in elementary school he was bullied because of his emerald appearance. One Christmas, attempting to woo the object of his affections, Martha Whovian, he shaves to impress her but ends up cutting himself and being laughed out of Whoville to live the lonesome life we now see.
The heart-warming nature of the Grinch cannot be missed; all it takes is a kind little girl, Cindy Lou (Taylor Momsen) to see that the scary, green Grinch is just a bit lonely and deserves to be a part of the festivities too. What I love about the Grinch is that it’s a little a bit ridiculous. The Whos are sickeningly optimistic and their love of Christmas is comparable to that secretly despised person you know who started singing ‘Fairytale of New York’ in October. However, together these two silly extremes create a Christmas film that is not just feel-good but laugh out loud funny year on year – a lot of this is due to Jim Carrey just being perfect for the role. If that’s not enough to sell it to you, the makeup, costume and set are all magical, and if the glittering strings of fairy lights and baubles don’t make you far too thrilled at the prospect of Christmas being a matter of days away, nothing will!
Die Hard is the ultimate Christmas movie and I will fight anyone who tries to argue otherwise.
The hero, John McClane, flies cross-country to reconnect with his estranged wife and kids at Christmastime, and in doing so teaches us family values – the favourite lesson of Christmas movies everywhere. He renounces his selfish ways (choosing his job in New York over his wife’s career in L.A.) and learns to be thankful for what he has. He evades death so many times, in such unlikely situations, that we can only infer miraculous intervention – seriously, nobody would survive jumping off a building, through an explosion, attached to a fire hose unless they had the spirit of Christ on their side. And, finally, I’m not saying that McClane is the action-hero equivalent of Father Christmas but he does single-handedly save the day and bring joy to the world on Christmas Eve.
If the heart-warming moral lessons are not enough for you, the excellent characters make it impossible not to enjoy this Christmas-themed bloodbath. You’ve got the loveable Al, the cop who waits outside the terrorist-controlled building and talks McClane through his ordeal via CB radio. Then there’s the excitable young driver, Argyle, who insists that Run DMC is Christmas music (just as this film is a Christmas film). There’s a handful of terrifying, hunky German terrorists who die in a variety of gruesome ways, and let’s not forget Alan Rickman in possibly his bet role ever as the terrorist supreme, Hans Gruber.
Die Hard is a funny, exciting, and heart-warming film which provides an action-packed alternative to the endless corny, child-friendly films which dominate the Christmas genre.
Eloise at Christmastime
It is incredibly distressing that not many people have seen Eloise at Christmastime, especially as it has everything you could want in a Christmas film. Set in New York? Check. Julie Andrews plays a nanny? Yep. A combination of comedy, romance and family entertainment? Of course!
Based on the children’s books by Kay Thompson, the film follows the precocious Eloise (Sofia Vassilieva), a six-year old who – much to her nanny’s dismay – has a habit of causing chaos at the Plaza Hotel, where she lives. Her whimsical nature comes to the fore; however, when she notices that her friend (a waiter at the hotel’s restaurant) has taken a liking to the hotel owner’s daughter, who is engaged to be married, inevitably, hilarity ensues.
With a wonderful supporting cast, consisting of Christine Baranski and Jeffrey Tambor, this film brilliantly combines light-hearted fun with more emotional themes, such as the true meaning of family. During these cold winter nights, Eloise at Christmastime will undoubtedly warm your heart.
The Muppets Christmas Carol
You know a Christmas film is great when, as a child, you would watch it even if it wasn’t Christmas. This is exactly what I did with The Muppets Christmas Carol. What is there not to love about this adaptation of a Dickens classic? The story is beautifully altered for children; it mixes the traditional Dickensian language with easy to understand muppet mayhem. But, the best thing about it are the absolutely amazing songs.
Every year on the lead up to Christmas I will play ‘Marley and Marley’ about a thousand times – I just can’t get enough of it. Every time I see that it is being played on TV the child inside me comes alive and I am so excited to watch it for the one-millionth time. More importantly though, it teaches children a valuable lesson in the true meaning of Christmas: to be generous and give to those who would otherwise have nothing. It is the most fantastic Christmas film and I will definitely be watching it multiple times over the holiday period.
Featured Image: JD Hancock via Flickr