There are thirty festive films Mrs. C and our How to Christmas team believe you should prioritise over the holiday season. You can see the full list on our Top 30 Movies & Reviews page. But there are a great many more Christmas films out there in this extended collection, some with a festive fizz and others of a rather dubious vintage.

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Christmas Movies: The Extended Collection 

So many movies, so little time. Will it be Scrooge or Santa and their full on festive themes, will it be intriguing stories played out against a Christmas backdrop or maybe films that are simply perfect for the season in spite of a distinct lack of baubles and tinsel? Here, we give you more detail on films outside our top 30 that might be to your Yuletide taste, if not ours. Yes, we have to be honest and admit we don’t heartily embrace them all, but it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t give you options. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and all that. Discovering new favourites is the delight of an open-minded film follower. So please, open yours to at least some of these.

“Holiday Inn” (1942): starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. What’s not to like? Music by Irving Berlin, songs by Crosby and dances by Astaire: a magical combination. “White Christmas” was one of 12 original songs written for this movie, which is available in black & white and colourised versions. Bing Crosby plays Jim Hardy, who quits showbiz to open a Connecticut inn. Curiously, it only opens on holidays. Fred Astaire is Bing’s selfish showbiz buddy and his rival in love, not once but twice. The king of crooners isn’t about to give up so readily second time around. (Movie Magic: The singing of “White Christmas” at the piano, next to the tinsel-draped tree.) 

“The Flight Before Christmas” (2008): with the voice talents of Andrew McMahon and Emma Roberts. An animation created in Europe with input from Finland, Denmark, Germany and Ireland as young reindeer Niko heads off to find his father – one of Santa’s Flying Forces – and thus prove he can fly. Without Dad, he simply won’t make believers of everyone, including his trusty pal the flying squirrel. Niko’s selfishness jeopardises the herd. A big bad wolf might just cash in. (Movie Magic: The Flying Forces song – or is it more of a reindeer jingle? Either way, its testosterone-fuelled humour to enjoy.)

“Office Christmas Party” (2016): starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, TJ Miller, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon and Courtney B. Vance. Comedy queen Aniston stars as company CEO Carol Vanstone, who tries to close the branch of her brother Clay – something of a party animal played by the outrageous Miller. Only if Clay and his Chief Technical Officer can rally their co-workers to stage an office Christmas party to end all office Christmas parties, impress a crucial client, seal the deal and save their jobs might we all have a happy Christmas. This is Christmas comedy with an 18 rating. (Movie Magic: Aniston and Bateman reunited in a film comedy is bliss.)

“Prancer” (1989): starring Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman. An American family film in which eight-year-old Jessica, who loves everything about Christmas, is convinced she has found one of Santa’s reindeer in woods near her house and concludes, after the third reindeer in line on a street decoration in town has fallen off, that it has to be Prancer. But can she protect him and reunite him with his reindeer friends before Christmas? (Movie Magic: Hoof prints in the snow and that final Christmas-affirming scene at Antler’s Ridge.)

“The Family Stone” (2005): starring Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker and Rachel McAdams among a stellar ensemble cast. This American comedy-drama is overflowing with family angst, recriminations, love, loss and healing. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, the uptight Meredith, is dropped into the Stone family’s Christmas gathering like an opinionated grenade. The fallout is considerable. Expect tragedy, tears and resolution where you least anticipate it. (Movie Magic: Meredith’s gift to the family – at once thoughtful, beautiful and heartbreaking.)

“Frozen” (2013): with the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff and Santino Fontana. This is not a Christmas movie per se, but was released in time for the holiday season in 2013 and its wintry magic makes it perfect festive fayre. Disney’s 53rd animated film was a box office sensation, becoming the highest grossing animation of all-time and among the top five grossing films of any genre. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Snow Queen”, the movie features a fearless princess named Anna on a journey to find her estranged sister Elsa, helped by iceman Kristoff, his pet reindeer Sven and the naïve – and occasionally headless – snowman Olaf. Elsa’s powers plunge the kingdom into eternal winter and later freeze Anna’s heart. Only true love will thaw her from her frozen state. “Frozen” won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. Broadway star Menzel said Frozen is “a bit of a feminist movie for Disney. I’m really proud of that.” (Movie Magic: “Let it Go” is the Academy Award winning song and the tune that helped children all over the world fall head over heels in love with this animated film.)

“Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage” (2008): starring Peter O’Toole, Marcia Gay Harden and Jared Padalecki: This heart-warming movie tells the story of the inspiration behind Thomas Kinkade’s famous painting ‘The Christmas Cottage’ – and reveals how he took up painting at a time when his mother was in danger of losing their family home. The film, also known as “Thomas Kinkade’s Home for Christmas”, was originally due for cinemas release in December 2007 but reported editing and music rights issues delayed that until November the following year.

“Why Him?” (2016): starring James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally and Zoey Deutch.
Dad’s worst nightmare is coming true. Ned Fleming’s daughter Stephanie is involved in a relationship with Laird Mayhew, a foul-mouthed app entrepreneur who appears to have no idea how to act appropriately. Boundaries? What boundaries? This 15-rated comedy has its hilarious moments, with James Franco and Bryan Cranston delivering typically high class performances. Megan Mullally displays her comedic genius with a beautifully nuanced performance as wife to the over-protective Ned. Ned and the family head to California for Christmas and unexpectedly end up spending it at the house of the tech-millionaire. Can father and boyfriend ever get along or will one of them lose Stephanie forever? (Movie Magic: Laird believes Ned may have been the first man to utter such phrases as “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “that’s life”. James Franco’s look of innocent belief and Bryan Cranston’s look of irritated disbelief are spot on. When rock group Kiss turn up that, too, is comedy gold.)

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 “Christmas Eve” (1947): starring George Raft, Randolph Scott and George Brent. This black and white film was released in 1947 and later re-released under the title “Sinner’s Holiday”. The story is about a greedy nephew of eccentric Matilda Reid, who tries to have her declared incompetent so he can administer her fortune. Three long-lost adopted sons must reunite on Christmas Eve to save her. George Raft, who was born in 1895 in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, was an American actor identified with gangster roles. Therefore, it is somewhat surprising to see him in a festive comedy. (Movie Magic: Menacing Raft does it for laughs.)

“Almost Christmas” (2013): starring Paul Rudd, Paul Giamatti and Sally Hawkins. Giamatti’s character Dennis is released from prison to find his estranged wife is now with his former partner in crime (Rudd) and that his daughter has been told he’s dead. A Christmas tree business could turn his life around – but he finds in a cruel twist that going straight doesn’t always pay. So how will he deliver the grand present he has ‘promised’ his little girl? With the brilliant trio of Rudd, Giamatti and Hawkins the calibre of performance is never in question. In the US this film was released as “All is Bright”. This is not to be confused with 2016 American comedy “Almost Christmas” that featured Danny Glover and Kimberly Elise and was written and directed by David E. Talbert. (Movie Magic: Once a thief, always a thief – that’s Dennis. But the final act of robbery leads to the most touching of film endings.)

“Deck the Halls” (2006): starring Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito. “There Glows the Neighbourhood,” read the poster for a movie about neighbours who turn decorating with Christmas lights into an all out street battle. Their families are caught in the crossfire. How far will they go, how much will they spend until a light bulb goes off in their heads that they are ruining Christmas? (Movie Magic: Mobile phones deliver torchlight as “O Holy Night” is sung.)

“Big Business” (1929): The legendary Laurel and Hardy in a funny festive frolic. The comedy duo are Christmas tree salesmen in this silent movie caper, who become involved in a ridiculous tit-for-tat contest with James Finlayson’s grumpy, mustachioed character that eventually destroys his house and their car. The opening template reads: “The story of a man who turned the other cheek – And got punched in the nose”. “Big Business” was added to the USA’s Library of Congress as a national treasure in 1992. “The Fixer Uppers” is another Laurel and Hardy film set at Christmas and is available on a four-film compilation DVD with “Big Business”, “Laughing Gravy” and “Below Zero”. The latter two, like “The Fixer Uppers”, are ‘talkies’ and have snow-covered winter settings so feel somewhat festive – especially with a bit of Santa-like chimney climbing in “Laughing Graving”(Movie Magic: Tears flow in “Big Business” and it’s catching. Anything to get out of another fine mess.) 

“A Merry Christmas Miracle” (2014): starring Joel McHale, Lauren Graham, Candice Bergen, Oliver Platt and Robin Williams. This black comedy was released in the USA in November 2014 as “Merry Friggin’ Christmas” – just three months after the tragic death of Robin Williams. This is not recommended for younger members of the family, especially as it hones in rather too pointedly on the question of Santa’s authenticity. Boyd Mitcheler has to spend Christmas with the father he can barely tolerate, having been invited to be Godfather at a Christmas Eve christening. But Boyd and his wife Luann have left their son’s presents at home and there’s an eight hour round trip between the youngster receiving his gifts or deciding Santa doesn’t exist. The journey offers Boyd and his Dad a chance to reconcile – but only after a series of mishaps. The miracle in the UK DVD title “A Merry Christmas Miracle” could refer to how Boyd bizarrely escapes burns of any kind, even though his trousers are aflame in one early scene. But it is actually meant to refer to something far deeper and meaningful. We’re just not sure exactly what: father and son’s reconciliation, young Douglas meeting “Santa” or getting forgotten gifts to him on time? Seeing Williams as the grump is unusual, but it just about works. (Movie Magic: Oliver Platt’s bourbon-loving Santa makes a little boy’s Christmas…and he believes for another year.)

“Scrooged” (1988): starring Bill Murray and Karen Allen. A modern twist on the classic Charles Dickens’ tale “A Christmas Carol”, with Bill Murray cast in the role of Scrooge – or in this case the ruthless TV network executive Frank Cross. His career drive cost him his true love Claire, played by Allen, and now he is cynical, cold and heartless. But visiting spirits believe he is not beyond redemption and, unlike Ebenezer, he still has a chance with his lost love. Frank unravels to the backdrop of his network’s live Christmas Eve broadcast of “A Christmas Carol”. Robert Mitchum, John Forsyth and Carol Kane are among a winning supporting cast. Four years earlier, Murray had starred in the blockbuster hit “Ghostbusters”. This led to “Scrooged” being marketed with the tagline: “Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time it’s three against one.” (Movie Magic: Carol Kane’s Ghost of Christmas Present packs one heck of a punch and takes great glee in proving it time and again to curmudgeonly bully Frank Cross.)

“The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” (2007): starring Tom Berenger, Joely Richardson, Saoirse Ronan and Luke Ward-Wilkinson. Tom Berenger plays a miserable woodcarver, who reluctantly agrees to make a Nativity set for a widowed mother and her bereaved son. Friendships are formed during the crafting process as shared loss is discovered. Heart-warming companionship is the beautiful result. The movie, based on the children’s picture book created by Susan Wojciechowski, won Best Film 2007 at the Gloria Film Festival in Salt Lake City. (Movie Magic: Discovering the woodcarver’s back story and realising why the man presented to us acts the way he does.)

“A Bad Moms Christmas”(2017): starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn. As if the pressures of providing a perfect Christmas for their families wasn’t already stressful and demanding enough for three American mums, this festive season they will have to face their own particular challenges delivered by the visits of their respective mothers. Kunis, Bell and Hahn play the three “moms” and their mothers are portrayed superbly by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon. The most wonderful time of the year? Not exactly for this bunch, but it comes with adult laughs aplenty for the audience. This sequel follows the huge success of the 2016 “Bad Moms” movie that made around 180 million dollars worldwide. (Movie Magic: The male waxing scene. The dialogue and situation make for hilarity.”)

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WHERE & HOW TO WATCH

Great lovers of Christmas may already have many of these movies in their collections, but we hope you will add the ones that are missing and build up the definitive festive set through the years: be it DVD copies or downloads.

If collecting is not your thing, you can catch some of our suggestions on the various Christmas movie channels, like Sky Christmas, Sony Movies and even YouTube. You might try justwatch.com. Here’s how the site introduces itself: “On JustWatch you can easily find out where to watch your favourite movies & TV series in the UK. JustWatch is easy and effective: Choose your favourite streaming providers and see what’s new on Netflix and other providers. Filter by genre and release year to find the perfect movie to stream tonight. Search for a specific movie or TV series to find out where to watch it legally online.”

And on we go with our feast of festive films…

“Black Christmas” (1974): starring Olivia Hussey, John Saxon and Margot Kidder. Considered to be one of the first ‘slasher flicks’, this independent Canadian film follows a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and killed over Christmas vacation by someone in their house. It was remade in 2006 – but the original is better, creepier, less gratuitously bloody and an inspiration for horror movies to follow in this decade, such as “Halloween” and “When a Stranger Calls”. (Movie Magic: Margot Kidder, later of “Superman” fame, gets stabbed to death by a Christmas bauble. How festive.)

“The Holly and the Ivy” (1952): starring Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson and Margaret Leighton. Clipped enunciation speaks of the age, but the tackling of the subject matter in this George More O’Ferrall film reveals a nation on the verge of great social and cultural change. Ralph Richardson is a British clergyman whose passion to serve his parishioners has come at a price. At a snowy Christmas gathering his adult children are about to reveal the cost. Adapted from a play by Wynyard Browne, this is not your typical feel-good black & white Christmas movie. (Movie Magic: Ralph Richardson’s remarkable stage presence is somehow brought to be on the movie screen.)

“The Nativity Story” (2006): starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac and Shoreh Aghdashloo. This biblical epic on the Nativity of Jesus Christ made film history when it became the first movie to have its world premiere in Vatican City. Much of the film was shot in Italy, as well as Morocco. It received mixed critical response and made a modest profit at the box office. But surely the bigger picture here is that finally there was a new and decent re-telling of the greatest story ever told. (Movie Magic: The beautifully lit, rather moving and simply stunning Nativity scene near film’s end.)

“Holiday Affair” (1949): starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. This romantic comedy might not have the renown of “It’s a Wonderful Life” but releases equal measures of feel-good endorphins in all its black & white glory. A young boy’s wish for a train set, snow and above all love are at the heart of this American hidden gem, based on John D. Weaver’s “Christmas Gift”(Movie Magic: An uneasy Christmas dinner with a heartfelt declaration, plus Timmy’s tearful plea to New York shop owner Mr. Crowley.)

“The Santa Clause 2” (2002): starring Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Eric Lloyd and Elizabeth Mitchell. The second installment in The Santa Clause Trilogy see Scott Calvin, played by Tim Allen, eight years along from his Santa debut and enjoying life at the North Pole. His happiness is disturbed by news his son Charlie is on the naughty list and, worse still, the revelation of another clause in the Santa contract – the Mrs. Clause. Santa must marry before Christmas Eve or the season will die away. A replica Santa takes control while the main man is away in search of a bride and Christmas is almost ruined forever…almost! (Movie Magic: Gifts from a secret Santa make adults’ childhood dreams come true at last.)

“Die Hard” (1988): starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman and Bonnie Bedelia. If it’s action, thrills and kills you want in your festive films then you will do well to dip into the Die Hard franchise. It’s Christmas Eve and New York City cop John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, arrives in California to visit his estranged wife and two daughters. But when terrorists take over the high-rise building in which McClane’s wife is celebrating with colleagues, a cosy catch-up is out of the equation and a mass shoot-out on the Christmas cards. “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” was released in 1990 and is again set on Christmas Eve with a snowy airport backdrop and more murder and mayhem, leading McClane to say: “How can the same s**t happen to the same guy twice.” Well, exactly! The fact a plane goes down in the sequel, killing around 230 people, makes this a Christmas miss for us. Bad idea that one…really a ridiculously bad idea! (Movie Magic: The desk cop who thinks he can no longer raise his gun becomes a shooting star in the nick of time.)

“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” (1997): with the voice talents of Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury and Tim Curry. Before the happy ending of the feature length animated movie “Beauty and the Beast”, there were testing times along the way for those in the enchanted castle – including negotiating their first Christmas together. The Beast bans Christmas. Belle simply refuses to accept such a notion. Forte, the huge and menacing pipe organ, is on his master’s side and tries to rid the castle of Belle for good. The key song to the piece is the poignant “As Long as There’s Christmas”.  This became one of the most successful direct-to-DVD/video animated films of all time.

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“Krampus” (2015): Krampus is an ancient horned creature from Alpine folklore that punishes naughty children at Christmas, even stealing them away in a sack. He’s basically St. Nick’s evil sidekick – and he might be coming to a TV set near you this festive season. The 15-rated movie is a black comedy-horror and stars Adam Scott and Toni Collette as parents of a young boy who rejects Santa Claus as a dysfunctional family implodes during the holiday season. That means a visit from Krampus and the terror, sometimes with no small amount of tongue in cheek, ensues. Beware the terrifying toothy teddy and vicious Gremlin-like gingerbread men. The Krampus was discouraged from use around the middle of the last century but has more recently returned to popular culture in some areas of Europe, in particular Austria. Krampusnacht – Krampus Night – has traditionally seen folk dress up as the wicked one and visit homes to steal away naughty children. Just in jest, of course. (Movie Magic: Funny lines soften the fear factor, like: “It looks like Martha Stewart threw up in here” – a reference to the house decorations. And “Honey, I just got my ass kicked by a bunch of Christmas cookies so trust me when I say I can take it” – a husband reassures his wife he can tackle the dangers to come.)

“Jingle All the Way” (1996): starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad and Rita Wilson. The must-have toy this Christmas is Turbo-man. Workaholic Dad Howard Langston, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, intends to buy one for his son but forgets and ends up on a desperate Christmas Eve shopping mission. He has a rival in the toy stakes, however – another inadequate father, Myron Larabee. Failure follows failure, until Arnie becomes the very man his son Jake so dearly desires. “Jingle All the Way 2” was released in 2014, starring American comedian Larry the Cable Guy. This direct-to-DVD film used a similar plot: this time with a father and step-father trying to out-do each other and deliver a much-sought-after talking bear to daughter Noel. (Movie Magic: Neighbour Ted’s reindeer goes on the attack in Arnie’s neighbourhood.)

“Beyond Tomorrow” (1940): starring Charles Winniger, Richard Carlson, Maria Duspenskaya, Harry Carey, Jean Parker and C. Aubrey Smith. “Beyond Tomorrow” – which was released in a colourised version as “Beyond Christmas” in 2004 – starts on a snowy Christmas Eve when three elderly rich gentlemen have a wager. When guests cancel on them at the last minute, Michael O’Brien (Charles Winniger) comes up with a novel way of bringing new guests to the mansion. The trio throw their wallets out on to the street, with ten dollars and a return address in each. O’Brien thinks well of humankind and says the wallets will be returned. The others are not so optimistic but promise they will pay for dinner if he is proved right. A female schoolteacher and a cowboy from Houston live up to the spirit of the Christmas season by returning two of the wallets and are invited to share that night’s celebrations. As the couple find love, tragedy looms and so begins a ghostly phase that brings about questions of heaven and hell. It’s a curious turn of events in an altogether strange screenplay that has Christian heart at the centre of the piece, but falls way short of its intended target: some kind of “A Christmas Carol”. The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther wrote: “For its first half it is a latter-day Christmas carol, told with…tenderness and warming as a hot toddy. But when its three elderly good Samaritans return…as celluloid chimeras, its mystical peregrinations are more preposterous than moving.” (Movie Magic: Special effects that make three ghosts take their ethereal close ups.)

“The Christmas Candle” (2013): starring Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks, Lesley Manville, Sylvester McCoy and Susan Boyle. Legend has it that every 25 years in the village of Gladbury, an angel visits the candle-maker and bestows a miracle on the villager blessed enough to possess and light the Christmas candle. When a new pastor arrives towards the end of the 19th century, he quickly dismisses the legend and determines to have his parishioners do things his ways. But there are more miraculous powers at play than he or any of the locals could ever comprehend. The talented Hans Matheson plays pastor David Richmond in a film based on Max Lucado’s novel of the same name. Singer Susan Boyle makes her film debut in a small supporting role. (Movie Magic: Miraculous candles are one thing, the collective faith of a village quite another.)

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005): starring William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, George Henley, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy and Liam Neeson. Based on the C.S. Lewis novel, this film was released in December 2005 to great acclaim and huge box office success. The Pevensie children are evacuated to the country during World War II and, while playing hide and seek, Lucy discovers a wardrobe and beyond it a magical wintry world called Narnia. And so the splendid fantasy adventure begins. Father Christmas makes a most crucial appearance. Indeed without his intervention the children and Narnia may well have been lost to the White Witch. (Movie Magic: Lucy’s first steps into the snowy world of Narnia and her meeting with Mr. Tumnus – setting the tone for the fantastical characters and adventure to come and creating a mood most suitable for the festive season.)

“Christmas Holiday” (1944): starring Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly. Based on W. Somerset Maugham’s novel of the same name, this black & white movie is far from a joy-fest. Indeed, it is regarded as one of the most bleak film noirs of the forties. Producers had a cheek putting Christmas in the title. Short of a few festive trees and a scene at Midnight Mass, this movie could not be less Christmassy. Deanna Durbin considered it her only “really good film”, although she was criticised by some at the time of the film’s release for tarnishing her saccharine sweet image by playing a hostess in a seedy New Orleans nightclub. Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz was proud of his achievement but neither Durbin nor Gene Kelly, both cast against type, are terribly convincing in a tale of sordid passion and murder. (Movie Magic: Durbin singing Irving Berlin’s “Always” – and a take of more than two million dollars at the US box office, in spite of mixed reviews. The New York Times critic Bradley Crowther had written it was “really grotesque and outlandish what they’ve done to Miss Durbin in this film.”)

“Noel” (2004): starring Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, Robin Williams and Paul Walker. Modern Hollywood likes a film of separate stories that somehow intertwine in a web of emotion and drama. It’s the Oscar-winning “Traffic” effect. In this instance, the pivotal protagonists are strangers who meet at different times on Christmas Eve but become linked by a series of events. Wonderful Susan Sarandon plays Rose, who is struggling to deal with her mother’s degenerative illness. She is the touching epitome of Christmas spirit – giving of your self without expecting a reward in return. (Movie Magic: The mysterious Charlie Boyd brings Rose to her senses – brings her back to life.)

“Daddy’s Home 2” (2017): starring Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Mel Gibson and John Lithgow. Brad and Dusty are back – and this time they have their own fathers to contend with over the Christmas holidays. In “Daddy’s Home” – a big box office hit in 2015 – Will Ferrell’s character Brad had to overcome his inferiority complex and the macho posturing of his wife’s ex-husband Dusty, as splendidly portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, to win over his step-children. Having reached some level of harmony, “Daddy’s Home 2” sees Dusty’s old-school father (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s gentle, loving dad (John Lithgow) arrive to deliver contrasting ingredients to the festivities. (Movie Magic: Will Ferrell rarely fails to shine and plays Brad with an innocence verging, at times, on his star turn in “Elf”. As Mel Gibson’s character tells his son what he thinks of Brad, holding back no punches, the camera pulls out so that we see Brad is sitting there, hearing every painful word – at which point Brad rises, meekly suggesting the father and son clearly need some one-to-one time. Ferrell shines again.)

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“Christmas in Connecticut” (1945): starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan. This Peter Godfrey-directed black & white American comedy see Barbara Stanwyck play a Manhattan-based, unmarried magazine food writer who masquerades as a Connecticut family woman. Her editor suggests she hosts a Christmas dinner for him and a returning WWII hero at her ‘farmhouse’. Elizabeth Lane has a plan to maintain the charade, but it doesn’t involve romance. (Movie Magic: Chemistry at boiling point between Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan against the warmth of Christmas and the cold of snowy Connecticut.)

“Christmas with the Coopers” (2015): When four generations of the Cooper family gather for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unpredictable events and the arrival of unexpected visitors leads the audience to an unusual conclusion in a hospital waiting room as the clan rediscover family ties and the true spirit of Christmas. A feel for Christmas is evident throughout, from the title sequence onwards. But this jars with the over-egging of certain relationship problems – cliched sibling jealousy included – and an inescapable feeling this is one big gloom-fest until the near death. The ensemble cast includes Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried and Marisa Tomei for a film entitled “Love the Coopers” in the US. (Movie Magic: How this film manages to feel Christmassy almost in spite of itself.) 

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989): starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. This comedy is the third in the National Lampoon’s ‘Vacation’ series. Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold, who is determined to have a “fun good old-fashioned family Christmas” – but does not imagine that could include uninvited in-laws, citywide power cuts, unpaid bonuses, kidnap, SWAT teams and a sewage-fuelled explosion. Happy Christmas everyone! (Movie Magic: Aunt Bethany says: “What’s that sound? You hear it? It’s a funny squeaky sound.” There’s a squirrel loose around this hoose!)

“I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944): starring Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotton and Shirley Temple. A love story in which the social outcast characters portrayed by Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotton meet on a train as they head to their Christmas holiday destinations. Both harbour secrets they would rather not share. Rogers plays Mary, convicted of accidental manslaughter. Cotton plays Zachary Morgan, a shell-shocked soldier on leave from military hospital. The truth will out, however. Now their love will be put to the sternest test. (Movie Magic: When Zach steps from the shadows near the gates of the state prison.)

“Black Nativity” (2013): starring Academy Award winners Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson in a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ play – a story of family, faith and above all forgiveness. This American musical drama tells the story of a teenager who, having been raised by a single mother, suddenly finds himself spending the Christmas holidays with his estranged grandparents in New York. The boy is drawn to the wrong path in the big city until a stranger reveals his true identity. Angela Bassett also stars. (Movie Magic: The incredible voice of Jennifer Hudson, one possessed of true star quality.)

“Surviving Christmas” (2004): starring Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara and Christina Applegate. An obnoxious millionaire is lonely at Christmas. But money buys you anything, right…even a family and all the festive trimmings? A pleasing enough premise, but delivered in a way that failed to win over critical acclaim or the public. It made short of 15 million dollars at the box office. It was released on DVD in December 21, 2004 – just two months after its cinema premiere. (Movie Magic: Always brilliant William H. Macy cameos as grandfather Doo-dah.)

“Batman Returns” (1992): There’s a snowy, Christmassy backdrop to this gripping superhero movie directed by Tim Burton. Michael Keaton reprises his role as Batman in the second of the initial Warner Bros. series. The story introduces us to the origins of the monstrous Penguin, played superbly by Danny DeVito, and Catwoman, deliciously delivered by Michelle Pfeiffer. Oswald Cobblepot was abandoned as a child and raised by penguins, while Selina Kyle is pushed from an office window, finds herself surrounded by cats and develops an identity disorder. Beneath the layer of Gotham City snow, the baubles and the lights, there’s a menacing darkness and a story of greed and evil. The good of the Christmas season sits as a perfect contrast to the bad Batman must fight. (Movie Magic: The brilliance of Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer, turning villains on a comic book page into very real big screen creations.)

“A Christmas Snow” (2010): starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Muse Watson and Anthony Tyler Quinn. Kathleen will not entertain the idea of Christmas celebrations and decorations, haunted as she is by the memory of her father abandoning her and her mother on Christmas Eve thirty years earlier. When a blizzard hits in the build up to Christmas, Kathleen finds herself stuck at home with two strangers. Can they lead her down a path of forgiveness to a path more merry? This independently made, direct to DVD film was filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma and released on October 1, 2010.

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“101 Dalmations” (1996): starring Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright and Hugh Laurie. The live-action version of Dodie Smith’s 1956 classic book and Disney’s 1961 animated feature sees Glenn Close bring Cruella de Vil to life in magnificent fashion. The role might have gone to Sigourney Weaver, but Close proved the perfect villain in this comedy full of puppies, scoundrels and animal heroes. The UK premiere was held at the Royal Albert Hall on December 4, 1996. There is a Christmas scene in the movie as the puppies receive their collars and nametags – but the overall feel of the film, with scenes of snow-covered London and English countryside, is suitably festive. (Movie Magic: Glenn Close’s stunning performance as Cruella. It was pitched to villainous perfection.)

“Remember the Night” (1940): starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray. Shoplifter Lee Leander, played by Barbara Stanwyck, is arrested during the Christmas holidays. Taking pity on her, Fred McMurray’s sympathetic Assistant District Attorney postpones her trial and posts her bail so she won’t have to spend Christmas in prison. That is just the start of their adventure and romance. Will Leander return to the face the music – and if so, will it cost her the love of her life? (Movie Magic: The things one does for love.)

“Serendipity” (2001): starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. This romantic comedy starts and ends at Christmas and is thus festive enough, although suitable viewing any time of the year. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale meet by chance, appreciate there is a connection but are intended for others. Putting fate to the test with a couple of scribbles of the pen could be their only hope. It’s an endearing tale of destiny…of love that is simply meant to be. (Movie Magic: Scene-stealing glove salesman Eugene Levy: “No, no, no, no, please, on the other side of the counter! You cannot come back here, this is for authorised personnel only, please stay on your side of the counter, thank you very much!”)

“The Family Man” (2000): starring Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni. This movie urges us all to remember the important things in life: love, family and trust. There are appreciative nods to “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Nicholas Cage is Jack Campbell, a rich, high-powered New York broker who – after preventing a hold-up in a convenience store – awakes on Christmas morning to find his sports car has been replaced by a mini-van and his ex-girlfriend is now his wife. And there are children…and a job as a tyre salesman…and friends who bowl…and…well, he wants out. But perhaps the robber isn’t quite what he seems – and maybe this ordinary life isn’t quite so bad after all. (Movie Magic: Jack’s infant daughter acknowledges he’s acting strangely and tells him she knows he’s not her real Dad – only to touchingly welcome him back when she later sees a change in him.)

“While You Were Sleeping” (1995): starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. A delightful romantic comedy in which Sandra Bullock falls for a man who falls from a train platform on Christmas morning – then saves his life. He’s in a coma. Confusion ensues. Bullock’s character Lucy is engaged to comatose Peter…or is she? His family fall for her, she falls for them – and suddenly finds herself falling a little too much for Peter’s brother Jack. (Movie Magic: The family’s belated Christmas Day celebration, stockings, gifts, kisses, chatter and all. Beautifully observed and captured.)

“The First Snow of Winter” (1998): with the voice talents of Dermot Morgan, Miriam Margolyes and Sorcha Cusack. This animated film sees young white duck Sean cut adrift from his family as winter approaches in Ireland. There’s peril in the shape of the Red Fox – but friendship from a rodent named Voley and a puffin named Puffy. Christmas isn’t at the core of the film, but there’s more ‘cute’ than you can shake a stick at. That, combined with the wintry theme, is enough to open one’s festive valve and have the feel-good vibes pulsing. (Movie Magic: A duck, a vole and a chorus of sheep Irish dancing – and oh for the grand reunion.)

“Mixed Nuts” (1994): Steve Martin stars in this Nora Ephron-directed film, playing Philip – manager of a suicide-prevention hotline named ‘Lifesavers’. On Christmas Eve, Philip learns he and his assistants are to be evicted from their office. The landlord proves pivotal to the ensuing plot in more ways than one. Based on the 1982 French comedy “Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure”, this festive comedy was poorly received by critics and struggled at the box office in spite of the best efforts of Martin, Madeline Kahn, Juliette Lewis, Rob Reiner and Rita Wilson. Renowned film critic Roger Ebert wrote: Every character shines with such dazzling intensity and such inexhaustible comic invention that the movie becomes tiresome, like too many clowns.” But not all were quite so generous and it was invariably slayed. (Movie Magic: Occasional glimpses of the comedic genius of Steve Martin – but he deserved better.)

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“One Magic Christmas” (1985): starring Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton. Ginny Grainger is a wife and mother devoid of Christmas spirit. She’s even unable to utter the words “Merry Christmas”. With husband Jack out of work – but wanting to open a bike shop – and her two youngsters expecting generous gifts from Santa Claus, Ginny is the one to give her family constant reality checks. An angel named Gideon, in the guise of Harry Dean Stanton, is sent to give her a dose of her own medicine. Jack is involved in a tragic shooting, the children are kidnapped and all is gloomier than ever for miserable Ginny. Christmas is a magical time, however, and she’s about to rediscover that fact with the help of Gideon and an old letter to Santa. This Walt Disney production, filmed entirely in Canada, has elements of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol”. (Movie Magic: The Christmas lights come on again – can that really be Jack walking down the snowy street?)

“Get Santa” (2014): starring Jim Broadbent, Rafe Spall and Kit Connor. What’s this? Santa on the run from the police? Santa in Prison? We could be talking Bad Santa III at this rate. But no, this is a much gentler British comedy with family appeal. The wonderful Jim Broadbent stars as Santa Claus, who needs the help of nine-year-old boy Tom and his Dad Steve to save Christmas when he ends up ‘inside’ after a sleigh crash – while his reindeer roam loose in London. Broadbent also voiced Santa in the 2011 animated movie “Arthur Christmas” – capturing perfectly the incompetent Malcolm Christmas, Arthur’s father. Rafe Spall plays Steve, Kit Connor his son. Warwick Davis, Jodie Whittaker and Stephen Graham also star. They film is directed and written by Christopher Smith. Locations include Yorkshire hubs Leeds, Bradford and Wetherby – where the town hall becomes the Albatross Theatre. (Movie Magic: Jim Broadbent delivers joy as he superbly brings Santa to marvellous life. His interactions with the prison inmates are priceless.)

“Sleepless in Seattle” (1993): starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Christmas Eve is a time to make wishes come true. Jonah’s wish is a new wife for his widowed father – and he announces it on a radio talk show. Across the country from Jonah’s home in Seattle, Annie Reed is listening in her car and is touched by this small boy’s selfless act. While Jonah and his Dad, played by the brilliant Hanks, are inundated with letters from listeners, Annie develops a feeling that she’s destined to be with the man she has never met and that a mere continent cannot a barrier make. (Movie Magic: Why is it the Empire State Building and romance go so well together? Happy ever afters never looked so good.)

“The Rise of the Guardians” (2012): with the voice talents of Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin. Based on William Joyce’s “The Guardian of Childhood” book series and “The Man in the Moon” short film by Joyce and Reel FX this DreamWorks animation tells how Jack Frost is enlisted to help guardians Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy defeat Pitch Black and prevent this baddie from plunging the world into eternal darkness. Excellent viewing all-year-round but has an added impact in the dark winter months. (Movie Magic: The Sandman and his wondrous ways.)

“We’re No Angels” (1955): starring Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Rey and Peter Ustinov. Three convict escapees from Devil’s Island take refuge in a kindly shopkeeper’s store and home as Christmas looms. They are out to save themselves, but end up coming to the rescue of the store’s proprietors Felix, Amelie and Isabelle. There’s a curious angelic ending, which may leave you asking: “Really?” A rare comedy appearance for Humphrey Bogart, who is once again paired with “Casablanca” director Michael Curtiz. (Movie Magic: A pet viper bites his way into film folklore, albeit unwittingly, by saving the day for the Ducotels.)

“Balto” (1995): with the voice talents of Kevin Bacon, Bob Hoskins and Bridget Fonda. This has a snowy, wintry feel but is not set at Christmas. Nonetheless, it is perfect for the festive season. Balto is an animated adventure loosely based on the true story of sled dogs who helped save a community. Part husky dog and part wolf, Balto is an outcast in his Alaskan home town except to his close friends – Boris the Russian snow goose, polar bear cubs Muk and Luk and husky dog Jenna. A serious diphtheria epidemic spreads among the children of Nome, but a blizzard prevents life-saving medicine coming through. Jenna’s owner Rosy is among the sick. It is up to a dog sled team to rescue the day. However, only the most extraordinary animal can save this situation. The film starts and ends in live-action mode in Central Park, New York in front of a statue standing in honour of Balto. Rosy tells her granddaughter the famous Ididarod sled race covers the same trail Balto and his team took back in 1925. (Movie Magic: Adult Rosy stands before the statue and says: “Thank you, Balto. I would have been lost without you.”)

“The Great Rupert” (1950): starring Jimmy Durante, Terry Moore and Tom Drake. Also known as “A Christmas Wish”, this quirky family comedy has an animated performing squirrel at the centre of proceedings. He is the Great Rupert and he has the ability, in his own charming, unwitting style, to change the lives of two dysfunctional families at Christmas. (Movie Magic: The story goes that George Pal’s stop-motion animation, used to create the illusion of Rupert, was so realistic he received many inquiries as to where he found a trained squirrel.)

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“It Happened on Fifth Avenue” (1947): starring Victor Moore, Ann Harding, Don DeFore and Gale Storm. This comedy feature sees a homeless New Yorker move into a boarded-up Fifth Avenue mansion and soon gather quite an array of ‘roommates’ – but surely the millionaire owner can’t be one of them. After all, he’s wintering in the south. Well, strange things can happen at Christmas. The film lost out in the Academy Awards ‘Best Original Story’ category in 1948 to another festive offering “Miracle on 34th Street”. (Movie Magic: The homeless man who starts the mansion collective shows the millionaire the error of his ways and earns a front door pass for next Christmas.)

“Gremlins” (1984): starring Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates. Gizmo the mogwai is one of the cutest Christmas pets of all-time – but to feed him after midnight or let him get wet is the stuff of major regret. There is soon a multiplication of trouble, but light might yet cure the dark happenings. Chris Columbus wrote the screenplay for this American comedy horror, where the more sinister moments find stark contrast against the backdrop of Christmas. It was a big box office success. (Movie Magic: The first delectable appearance of Gizmo and his delightful tune. Now watch you don’t drop that water.)

“A Christmas Star” (2015): Noelle O’Hanlon is no ordinary girl. Born under a Christmas star, she has a special gift that means she can perform miracles. Noelle will need all her powers to save her Irish village from property developers. The cast includes Downton Abbey’s Rob James-Collier – dodgy American accent and all – Bronagh Waugh, Richard Clements, Suranne Jones, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan and Kylie Minogue. Erin Galway-Kendrick plays Noelle. (Movie Magic: When a young girl of strange power gains acceptance she might just rally the troops for a shot at victory.)

“Edward Scissorhands” (1990): starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. Tim Burton’s dark fantasy stars Johnny Depp as an artificial creation of a man, whose hands are a multitude of scissors and blades. The inventor is horror master Vincent Price in his last film role. Once discovered in a broken down mansion, Edward is welcomed into the neighbourhood and especially valued for his magical hedge-trimming skills. But the townsfolk turn on him and Edward must leave his newfound love behind. Will it be forever? (Movie Magic: While the Boggs family put up Christmas decorations, Edward creates a wonderful angel ice sculpture – and the shavings swirl as falling snow. This will have eternal poignancy.)

“Bachelor Mother” (1939): This American comedy stars Ginger Rogers and David Niven in a tale of mistaken identities and discovering love. When a baby is left on the steps of an orphanage at Christmas, passer-by Polly Parrish – played by Rogers in a largely non-dancing role – is drawn to assist. She doesn’t realise quite how much she will have to help. This light-hearted take on the serious subject of child abandonment was remade in 1956 as “Bundle of Joy” starring Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. (Movie Magic: David Niven oozing easy charm from every pore, showing what Samuel Goldwyn saw in him: the man was born to be a star. Also note the frequent cut-aways of the cutest baby – enough to melt the most frozen of Christmas hearts.)

“Jack Frost” (1998): starring Michael Keaton and Kelly Preston. When Michael Keaton’s character Jack Frost dies in a car accident, he returns as a snowman in this American fantasy film. His son Charlie struggles to come to terms with the loss of his father and withdraws from his friends. A magical harmonica changes the course of events – and snowman dad is able to help and support Charlie in a way he had not in human form. It was ill received by critics and was a box office failure, but still receives regular airings at Christmas. It involves a talking snowman after all. (Movie Magic: The snowman says ‘Charlie Boy’ and the grieving son knows his father is somehow back in his life.)

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie” (1998): with the voice talents of John Goodman, Kathleen Barr, Eric Idle, Whoopi Goldberg and Debbie Reynolds. Basically, this amounts to an extended movie on the life and times of Santa’s famous reserve reindeer. We all know how the story ends on that Christmas Eve night of blizzards and poor vision. This fills in some of the ‘gaps’ preceding that. This animated version of the 1939 story about Rudolph and his shiny red nose was a major box office disappointment. (Movie Magic: Rudolph beating the bullies.)

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“The Man Who Came to Dinner” (1942): starring Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Monty Woolley. Outspoken and prickly radio personality Sheridan Whiteside, played by the marvellous Monty Woolley, falls on icy steps of the Stanley house. He makes it clear his recuperation from injury will happen there – Christmas holidays or not. His assistant is Maggie Cutler, portrayed by Bette Davis. Romance blossoms for her and a local journalist – only for selfish Sheridan to attempt to blow love out of the water. This story was a great success on the stage and critically acclaimed as a film. Davis, though, was disappointed with the casting. She had wanted to play opposite John Barrymore and not Woolley. Legend has it, however, that Barrymore’s drinking habits had taken their toll and he couldn’t handle the fast-paced dialogue – even on cue cards. (Movie Magic: One more fall – and the Stanleys are lumbered.)

“The Lemon Drop Kid” (1951): starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. The famous Christmas song “Silver Bells” was introduced in this American comedy, directed by Sidney Lanfield. Bob Hope is known as The Lemon Drop Kid, a notorious horseracing tout who has a sweet tooth. He crosses gangster Moose Moran, owes him big money and has to deliver on Christmas Eve. The kid proves nothing if not resourceful – although he can’t extricate himself from his troubles alone. (Movie Magic: Hope and Maxwell sing “Silver Bells” and a festive classic is born.)

“The Apartment” (1960): starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. This comedy-drama was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture. A significant slice of this black & white Billy Wilder classic is set at Christmas, but there is little to feel festive about as Shirley MacLaine’s elevator operator Fran Kubelik hits the depths of despair in the apartment occupied by Jack Lemmon’s wonderfully portrayed Calvin ‘Bud’ Baxter. Her boss Jeff Sheldrake insists he loves Fran, but heads home to his wife and family in the suburbs for Christmas. Baxter has loaned out his apartment to executives in his company for their illicit liaisons so he can climb the corporate ladder. But enough is enough – especially where his true love is concerned. (Movie Magic: “Shut up and deal!”)

“A Christmas Tale” (2008): starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Roussillon and Mathieu Amalric. A family with strained relationships gather for Christmas. The mother has leukaemia. “Some grape juice will do you good,” says her husband to a troubled youngster at one point in the largely miserable gathering, referring to the wine on offer. And trust me when I say we could all do with being full of grape juice if we are to endure this story of family relationships, division, adversity, love and the complexities of life as only French filmmakers can deliver. Festive it most certainly is not. Self-indulgent it most certainly is. (Movie Magic: In French the film is called “Un Conte de Noel” and it was in contention for the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. That’s all the magic we can muster for this one.)

“The Night Before” (2015): Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie star in this raucous Christmas Eve drama directed by Jonathan Levine. Ethan, Isaac and Chris have spent Christmas Eve together for the past 14 years but Chris is getting more famous and Isaac’s first baby is due any day, so this year’s reunion may have to be the last. A gift of drugs and tickets to the best party in town see the festivities grow wild…a bit too wild. Can they keep it together enough to enjoy the final Christmas Eve reunion to the full? “The Night Before” was the grown-up comedy of Christmas 2015. Most definitely for adults only, with more scenes that hit than miss. (Movie Magic: When Seth Rogen’s character is tripping, the level of outrageous behaviour reaches shocking highs – including a rude but hilarious text exchange with a certain James. It turns out to be actor James Franco, who has Miley Cyrus for cameo company. Lovely touch to thank Santa Claus in the end credits.)

“The Shop Around the Corner” (1940): starring Margaret Sullivan and Jimmy Stewart. This romantic comedy is adapted from a Hungarian play and is centred on a Budapest gift shop. Two of the people working there appear to dislike each other intensely, without knowing they are falling in love as pen pals. The movie “You’ve Got Mail” takes its lead from this forties film. Meg Ryan’s character in the modern day movie owns a bookstore called “The Shop Around the Corner” and the two main characters at once love and loathe each other. The Christmas Eve crescendo in the forties classic is charming. (Movie Magic: Miss Novak’s “dear friend” becomes something more – and a Happy Christmas is guaranteed.)

“Reindeer Games” (2000): Ben Affleck plays Rudy Duncan, who has just been released from prison and plans to start a new life with Charlize Theron’s character, Ashley. They were introduced via pen pal letters while he was inside. But Ashley’s brother Gabriel (Gary Sinise) is no angel and stands between the couple and their happiness. There was a mixed response from test audiences to this film, leading to re-shoots and extra editing. That meant a film set at Christmas and due out at Christmas 1999 couldn’t be released until the following February. Directed by John Frankenheimer, the movie grossed a reported 32.17m dollars worldwide on a budget of 42 million dollars. (Movie Magic: Villainy Sinise style. A CSI goodie plays baddie rather well.)

“Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984): starring Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick and Toni Nero. A killer Santa Claus on the loose is hardly the thing of which festive dreams are made. Indeed, the depiction of a murderous Santa caused no small amount of controversy for this 1984 slasher flick. It was pulled from cinemas just a week after its release in November 1984. It has long since developed a cult following and was even remade as “Silent Night” in 2012. Billy is at the centre of the story. He witnesses the murder of his parents on Christmas Eve, suffers the horror of an abusive orphanage and then cracks in adult life. (Movie Magic: “You’re safe now. Santa Claus is gone.” Never thought it would be good to hear those words, but in this killer context we’ll make an exception.)

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“I’ll be Home for Christmas” (1998): starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Jessica Biel and Gary Cole. Jake Wilkinson has not been home for Christmas since the death of mother and his father remarried. Now 18 and away at college, Jake – played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas – is offered an incentive to travel home this year. His father tells him that if he can make it by 6pm on Christmas Eve he will give him a vintage 1957 Porsche. But dangling the carrot and eating the carrot prove very different propositions. This was poorly received by critics and something of a box office bomb. (Movie Magic: Trying to sidestep the Porsche prize for being an idiot.)

“The Bear” (1998): This animated short film, based on the book by Raymond Briggs, first aired in the UK at Christmas 1999. Like Briggs’s “The Snowman”, the film is accompanied only by music (although Dame Judi Dench narrates an American version). Tilly is parted from her teddy bear on a visit to London Zoo then receives an unexpected visit of her own – from a polar bear. They embark on a Christmassy London adventure and Tilly is introduced to the Star Bear. (Movie Magic: Friendship blossoms on a wonderfully festive tour of London landmarks.)

“The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” (2006): starring Tim Allen, Martin Short, Elizabeth Mitchell and Wendy Crewson. The third in The Santa Clause Trilogy picks up four years after the second installment. Santa and his wife Carol are expecting their first child together, but before the new arrival the big man is summoned to a meeting of the Council of Legendary Figures such as the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Jack Frost is there, unhappy he has no holiday or special occasion in his honour. He decides to steal Christmas from Santa using The Escape Clause and misery follows. Santa becomes Scott Calvin again and doesn’t like what he sees. Is there any way back to the North Pole? Perhaps…with a child’s help. (Movie Magic: Alan Arkin and Ann-Margret deliver winning performances as the bewildered in-laws dropped into the fantastical world of Santa’s North Pole.)

“Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year” (2002): with the voice talents of Jim Cummings as Pooh Bear and John Fiedler as Piglet. Michael York narrates. This direct to DVD animated collection includes the 1991 Christmas television special “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too” alongside the newer creation “Happy Pooh Year”.  In the delightful “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too”, Christopher Robin writes a letter to Santa asking for gifts for him and his friends. But Pooh is overlooked so retrieves the letter and adds his wish: a pot of honey, of course. Getting the revised letter to Santa is not as easy as Pooh hoped. Could Pooh Bear have ruined Christmas for everyone – and what sacrifice is he willing to make to rectify matters? (Movie Magic: Pooh Bear dresses as Santa and makes some rather special deliveries. Each recipient’s delight is not long lived.)

“The Magic Reindeer” (2012): with the voice talents of Matthew Boyle, Darragh Kelly and Ned Dennehy. This animated sequel to “The Flight Before Christmas” reintroduces us to adventurous young reindeer Niko. When his mother finds a new partner, Niko has to share life with a stepbrother Jonni and is far from happy about the prospect. But when eagles kidnap Jonni, Niko flies off to rescue him – helped by an aged former leader of Santa’s Flying Forces. However, they also have to face a wolf in search of revenge. This film was produced in Finland, Germany and Denmark, with post-production carried out in Ireland. In the US this film is entitled: “Little Brother, Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure”(Movie Magic: Brotherly love isn’t just about shared blood.)

“Bad Santa 2” (2016): starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox and Kathy Bates. More than a decade after first playing Willie Soke, Thornton returns with his angry elf sidekick and foul-mouthed mother to turn over a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. On the film’s release, Thornton proudly proclaimed “Bad Santa 2” was funnier and filthier than the original. As “Bad Santa” was awash with belly laughs and Father Christmas debauchery, that takes some doing. But he’s not far wrong. The 2003 original was shot in Los Angeles while the sequel was filmed in Montreal, where it fell to 30 below some nights. Thornton said he loved the Santa suit more this time for obvious reasons. (Movie Magic: Whatever the weather, Thornton’s creation is comedy gold.)

“In the Good Old Summertime” (1940): starring Judy Garland, Van Johnson and Buster Keaton. The film title hardly screams Christmas – and you’d be correct. It isn’t ‘happy holidays’ all the way. But this film is a musical adaptation of the Christmas-staged movie “The Shop Around the Corner” and includes the song “Merry Christmas”, sung by Garland. This is not to be confused with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: they are separate tracks. Although the locale has changed from Budapest to Chicago, the storyline is much the same as in “The Shop Around the Corner”: bickering music shop assistants, not knowing they are secret pen pals, fall for each other. Garland’s three-year-old daughter Liza Minnelli makes her film debut in the closing shot. This was Garland’s penultimate film with MGM before her contract was terminated by mutual agreement in 1950. The movie was a huge success. (Movie Magic: Buster Keaton saw how a violin might be broken that would be comical and plausible. When producers realised he could be the only one to execute it properly, they cast him in the film. Keaton also created the sequence in which Van Johnson inadvertently ruins Judy Garland’s hat and coached Johnson intensively to perform the scene. It marked Keaton’s return to MGM after he was fired in 1933.)

“The Preacher’s Wife” (1996): Remaking a Christmas classic like “The Bishop’s Wife” is never a great idea. The proof can be seen in a modern-day reimagining of the heart-warming and endlessly charming Cary Grant film. Not even the acting skills of Denzel Washington and singing talents of Whitney Houston can elevate “The Preacher’s Wife” to anything more than a poor imitation. Courtney B. Vance is the preacher, Houston is his wife and Washington is the angel sent to help them. Penny Marshall directs. The movie has its moments, underpinned by the quality of the gospel singing, but is patchy and overly solemn. (Movie Magic: Gospel singing extraordinaire.)

Scrooge, Scrooge and More Scrooge

If Scrooge is your man of choice this Christmas, then you are in luck. Not only do we have Alastair Sim in the classic 1951 film “Charles Dickens’ Scrooge”, but we have Albert Finney in the musical “Scrooge”, Michael Caine in the Muppets’ version, Jim Carrey in the Disney animated offering and Bill Murray in the modern twist of the treasured tale entitled “Scrooged”. You’ll find details of the latter on this page (see above) and all the others on our Top 30 Movies & Reviews page. But why stop there? Round out your Christmas Carol collection with this selection.

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“Scrooge” (1935): starring Seymour Hicks

This is the first film offering of “A Christmas Carol” with sound as well as pictures. The British movie differs from all other versions because most of the ghosts do not fully appear on screen – although their voices are heard. The Ghost of Christmas Present is the only spirit seen as a complete figure.

“A Christmas Carol” (1938): starring Reginald Owen

Lionel Barrymore was originally intended to play Scrooge in this American film, but illness thwarted him and Reginald Owen was cast. Some of the darker and more unpalatable aspects of the story, like Scrooge being left by his fiancee and people pawing over his belongings so soon after his death, were left out of the film to make it more appealing to an American audience. Indeed, there are some ridiculous liberties taken with the story and it fails miserably as a result. What arrogance to imagine the genius of Dickens could be improved upon. Owen is a pitiful Scrooge, adopting a strange stooped walk that would not look out of place in Planet of the Apes, while a chubby Bob Cratchit and his giddy family never looked so healthy and prosperous.

“A Christmas Carol” (1971): starring Alistair Sim

How wonderful to have Alistair Sim return to the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, twenty years after his brilliant performance in the live action film. Michael Hordern also reprises his role as Marley’s Ghost. Narrated by Michael Redgrave, this animated short, based on the splendid Charles Dickens novella, was made for American television network ABC and first aired on December 21st, 1971 – although it was so highly regarded it had a cinema release as well and won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. This animation isn’t ideal for young children as it graphically captures the darker elements of this story for the ages. The visuals are inspired by nineteenth century engraved illustrations in the original book by John Leech – best known for his work in “Punch” – and the 1930s pen and ink creations of illustrator Milo Winter.

“Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (1983): starring Mickey Mouse

Search out the 2001 DVD release “Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse” and you will find Mickey’s version of the Dickens classic. Disney characters galore are snowed in at Mickey’s place but are able to pass the time with some festive viewing on the magical mouse’s very own big screen in this first direct-to-DVD animated film spin-off from Disney’s House of Mouse series. The last feature cartoon in this collection is the best. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” is an affectionate re-telling of the story, with Mickey as Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck as miserly Ebenezer. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1984. It was the only Mickey Mouse short on which the great John Lasseter was involved as an animator.

“A Christmas Carol” (1984): starring George C. Scott

This is a made-for-television adaptation of the famous story, with George C. Scott as Scrooge. It originally aired on the American network CBS in December 1984, having been filmed on location in Shrewsbury, England. Scott cuts an imposing figure as the central character. The snowy, Victorian setting and the overall atmosphere of the film is deliciously seasonal.

“Ebenezer” (1999): starring Jack Palance

There have been musical versions, animations aplenty and modern day spins on the 1843 masterpiece “A Christmas Carol”. This is the western option, starring Jack Palance, and it debuted on the USA’s Turner Network Television on November 28th, 1998. The Canadian-made-movie depicts Ebenezer Scrooge as the most corrupt and mean-spirited villain in the old wild west. “NYPD Blue” and one-time child star Ricky Schroder features as Samuel Benson.

“A Christmas Carol” (1999): starring Patrick Stewart

British actor Sir Patrick Stewart found fame in the USA in the Star Trek series. He played Scrooge for the American network TNT, having performed a number of successful readings of the Dickens story on Broadway and in London. Richard E. Grant co-starred as Bob Cratchit. The ‘Silent Night’ montage, so often omitted from other versions, is included here – capturing different groups of workers and families singing and celebrating.

“A Christmas Carol” (2000): starring Ross Kemp

Written by Peter Bowker, this modern day take on the Charles Dickens classic sees Ross Kemp play Eddie Scrooge, an unscrupulous loan shark living on a poor estate in England. The piece starts with the shooting of Eddie’s business partner Jacob Marley. Eddie knows why Marley was killed, but it’s only when spirits show the surviving partner his past, present and future that he can lay his own ghosts to rest and change his wicked ways. The film premiered on UK television December 20, 2000.

“Christmas Carol: The Movie” (2001): starring Simon Callow

This animated version of the story has an unusual twist at the end in that Scrooge is reunited with his lost love, Belle. Simon Callow is the voice of Scrooge and Kate Winslet is Belle. Winslet also had a top 10 hit in the UK with the theme song “What If”.

“A Christmas Carol” (2004): starring Kelsey Grammer

This musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens novella does not include songs from the Albert Finney film “Scrooge” but rather the music and lyrics of Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens from the celebrated 1994 stage musical. “Frasier” star Kelsey Grammar plays Scrooge in this Hallmark production for American channel NBC, which premiered on November 28th, 2004. The score, adapted from the Madison Square Garden stage show, has few songs that will live as long in the memory as those in the big screen “Scrooge”. There are some dodgy Cockney accents, too.

Did you know…Basil Rathbone, famous for his movie portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, starred as Scrooge in a live television musical in the USA in the fifties? The show was entitled “The Stingiest Man in Town” and aired on December 23, 1956. American pop singer Vic Damone played young Scrooge. The songs were created by Hollywood writers Fred Spielman and Janice Torre, who also wrote “Merry Christmas” for Judy Garland in the MGM film musical “In the Good Old Summertime”.

Presents

Boxing Clever

There are many films synonymous with the Christmas holiday period without containing as much as a sprig of holly or dangling bauble. Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz”, Julie Andrews in “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music”, Dick Van Dyke in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (he stars in Poppins as well, of course) and Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”. And then there are the blockbuster collections. What would Christmas be without a James Bond film on Boxing Day? Box sets of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter make reassuring appearances.

Film scribble style 96877630 copyChristmas is traditionally a time for ghost stories – and not just from the Scrooge back catalogue. Try Daniel Radcliffe in the seriously creepy “The Woman in Black” – and Nicole Kidman in the equally eerie “The Others”. Murder-mysteries also sit well in the festive season, especially if delivered from the Agatha Christie archive. Albert Finney in “Murder on the Orient Express” and Peter Ustinov in “Death on the Nile” are perfect Christmas fayre. Don’t overlook epic disaster movies like the seventies version of “The Poseidon Adventure” somehow inextricably linked with this time of year. Could it be using a massive Christmas tree as an escape ladder is made for the season? Perhaps it is more that catastrophe acts as a suitable counter-point to the jollity of Christmas.

Sweeping epics and timeless musicals are must-watch movies in the holiday period. Epics like “Ben-Hur”, “Spartacus” and “El Cid” have a comfortable Christmas home, as do musicals such as Meet Me in St. Louis”, “My Fair Lady”, “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Oliver!”. Don’t mind a bit of a weep at an already emotional time Films montage 187595660 copyof year? Well, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in “An Affair to Remember” and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail” should have you reaching for the tissues. There are touching Christmas scenes in both films. For adventure and laughs, “The Goonies” is a festive favourite for many – with children at the heart of the story, as they are at the heart of the season.

If black and white oldies are your thing, you will relish such classics as “Some Like it Hot”, “Going My Way”, “Goodbye Mr. Chips”, “12 Angry Men” and “The 39 Steps”. All reside marvellously well in the Christmas holiday season, along with so many of Alfred Hitchcock’s gems like “Dial M for Murder”, “Suspicion”, “Rebecca” and “Rear Window”. At the opposite end of the time scale, recent movies filling us with seasonal splendour include the Bridget Jones Trilogy“Paddington” and the live action “Beauty and the Beast”.

We appreciate it is a safe bet many of these films will appear on our television screens over Christmas. If you can record movies easily enough – or subscribe to Sky Movies, Netflix, Amazon etc – you will have all your film-viewing bases covered. But should you now feel inspired to add to your personal movie collection with DVD purchases or downloads from our Box Clever bag of ideas, How to Christmas suggests you start with the following wish list:

1 – “Murder on the Orient Express” 2 – “The Woman in Black” 3 – “Some Like It Hot” 4 – “Dial M for Murder” 5 – “Ben-Hur” 6 – “You’ve Got Mail” 7 – “Singin’ in the Rain” 8 – “Skyfall” 9 – “An Affair to Remember” 10 – “Goodbye Mr. Chips” 11 – “Beauty and the Beast” 12 – “Paddington” 13 – “Bridget Jones’s Diary”

The Christmas Shoehorn Award

The Christmas Shoehorn Award – for use and abuse of Christmas content, backdrop and sentiment – goes to “Rocky IV” (1985). Where else could Rocky fight his menacing Soviet enemy Ivan Drago but Moscow? And what day of all the 365 in a year should he fight the wicked one? Why, Christmas Day of course.

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Top 10 Movie Lists

Animation

1 – The Polar Express

2 – The Nightmare Before Christmas

3 – Arthur Christmas

4 – Disney’s A Christmas Carol

5 – A Charlie Brown Christmas

6 –The Snowman

7 – Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

8 – The Flight Before Christmas

9 – Shrek the Halls

10 – Beauty & The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

A Christmas Carol

1 – Scrooge (1951): Alastair Sim

2 – The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): Michael Caine

3 – Scrooge (1970): Albert Finney

4 – Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009): Jim Carrey

5 – Scrooged (1988): Bill Murray

6 – Scrooge (1935): Seymour Hicks

7 – A Christmas Carol (1984): George C. Scott

8 – Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001): Simon Callow

9 – A Christmas Carol (1999): Patrick Stewart

10– A Christmas Carol (1938): Reginald Owen

Santa

1 – Miracle on 34th Street (1947): Edmund Gwenn

2 – Bad Santa: Billy Bob Thornton

3 – The Santa Clause: Tim Allen

4 – Arthur Christmas: Jim Broadbent

5 – Miracle on 34th Street (1994): Richard Attenborough

6 – Santa Claus: The Movie: David Huddlestone

7 – Get Santa: Jim Broadbent

8 – Fred Claus: Paul Giamatti

9 – The Santa Clause 2: Tim Allen

10 – Rise of the Guardians: Alec Baldwin

Comedy

1 – Elf

2 – Home Alone II: Lost in New York

3 – Bad Santa

4 – A Christmas Story

5 – Home Alone

6 – Trading Places

7 – Christmas with the Kranks

8 – Four Christmases

9 – Nativity!

10 – Fred Claus

Black & White

1 – It’s A Wonderful Life

2 – Charles Dickens’ Scrooge

3 – Miracle on 34th Street

4 – The Bishop’s Wife

5 – The Bells of St. Mary’s

6 – Big Business

7 – Holiday Inn

8 – Christmas in Connecticut

9 – Bachelor Mother

10 – The Man Who Came to Dinner

Christmas Backdrop

1 – While You Were Sleeping

2 – Die Hard

3 – The Family Stone

4 – Gremlins

5 – The Apartment

6 – Lethal Weapon

7 – Edward Scissorhands

8 – We’re No Angels

9 – Batman Returns

10 – The Family Man

Christmas Scenes Steal the Show

1 – Meet Me in St. Louis

2 – The Bells of St. Mary’s

3 – While You Were Sleeping

4 – Little Women (1949)

5 – Serendipity

6 – Holiday Inn

7 – Miss Potter

8 – Lady and the Tramp

9 – Bridget Jones’s Diary

10 – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Non-Christmas Festive Favourites

1 – The Wizard of Oz

2 – Mary Poppins

3 – The Sound of Music

4 – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

5 – Meet Me in St. Louis

6 – The Great Escape

7 – Where Eagles Dare

8 – Harry Potter Collection

9 – Star Wars Collection

10 – Oliver!

The Less Obvious

1 – We’re No Angels

2 – The Holly and the Ivy

3 – Noel

4 – The Man Who Came to Dinner

5 – The Apartment

6 – Scrooge (1935)

7 – The Lemon Drop Kid

8 – Remember the Night

9 – I’ll Be Seeing You

10 – Christmas Eve

Box Sets

1 – James Bond

2 – Star Wars

3 – Indiana Jones

4 – Harry Potter

5 – Lord of the Rings

6 – Toy Story

7 – Back to the Future

8 – The Chronicles of Narnia

9 – Die Hard

10 – Ice Age

Made-for-TV (Live Action)

1 – A Christmas Princess

2 – The Christmas Shoes

3 – A Dog Named Christmas

4 – A Christmas Romance

5 – Flight of the Reindeer

6 – A Christmas Carol

7 – Mrs. Claus

8 – A Christmas Visitor

9 – The Homecoming: A Christmas Story

10 – A Christmas Memory

Could Happily Live Without…

1 – The Preacher’s Wife

2 – A Christmas Carol (1938)

3 – Jingle All the Way 2

4 – I’ll Be Home For Christmas

5 – Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger

6 – Jack Frost

7 – Ernest Saves Christmas

8 – Home Alone III

9 – Reindeer Games

10 – Mixed Nuts

Presents

Movie Gift Boxes

Stuck for gift ideas with a novel twist – then try our collection of movie gift boxes. Each contains a festive film and items inspired by that particular movie. You can take our suggestions or go with your own variations on a theme. Click here for details.

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