25th December, A Christmas Carol, Animation, Article, Bad Santa, Charles Dickens, Chevy Chase, Christmas, Cinema, Film, Film Article, Home Alone, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, It's A Wonderful Life, James Stewart, Jim Carrey, Jim Henson, Love Actually, Michael Caine, Miracle On 34th Street, Movie article, Movies, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Robert Zemeckis, Santa, The Grinch, The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Muppets, The Nightmare Before Christmas
With Christmas Day coming in less than 7 days, here is a list of the 10 films that I believe are essential to watch to build up your excitement for the magical occasion. Also, I’d like to point out that this list isn’t ranked by film quality, but by what I believe are the most enchanting for me in terms of Christmas. So, from 10 down to 1, here it is:
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This is an interesting film because it has been stapled as a remake of a classic adaptation, a parody of it and as a somewhat serious version about a collection of characters, who even got casting credits despite being performed by someone else. On that note, Brian Henson, directed and co-produced this film as tribute to his father (Muppets creator Jim Henson) and in doing so achieves the same towards Charles Dickens’ novella. Because we’ve seen so many adaptations of the book, nobody seemed to really care that we’ve got a Muppets version, whether you’re a fan of them or not. It seems unrealistic as its central characters, except Scrooge, are puppets but the novella is to expand imagination and is targeted towards children, which is something that they would appeal to. Also with Michael Caine himself in the leading role of Scrooge, we see a sense of Hollywood sophistication, too, and it is in that performance which adds another charming attribute to The Muppet Christmas Carol as a festive film.
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
I’d like to point out that I’ve seen some of the National Lampoon films and from the ones I’ve seen, Christmas Vacation is one of the very few above decent instalments. This isn’t only a biased opinion because it’s a Christmas film, but mainly because it’s fun, entertaining and has a moral. The central premise of the film is disaster at Christmas and it is something that we can all relate to. Clark Griswolf Jr (Chevy Chase) is preparation for Christmas – setting up the tree, placing the decorations and reunions with loved ones. All of it goes ship-shaped and it is portrayed as something comical, such as trying to place the lights on the roof by stapling them to remain intact, which the audience can identify themselves to when they are setting up Christmas traditions. It is linked with viewers, emotionally and within the plot, so it has the potential to make you laugh and make you feel emotional. Therefore, Christmas Vacation has, since its release in 1989, become a Christmas classic.
- Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Released just a year after It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle On 34th Street is another Christmas delight that triggers a sense of hope following the end of World War II. It centers more directly towards the Christmas tradition, specifically the Kris Kringle character, played by Edmund Gwenn in an Oscar-winning performance, who claims to be the real Santa Claus. Over the course of the film, we see Christmas on a more emotional level and relies mainly on faith, like religion. It is an exceedingly charming and inspirational film that should make you think about the true meaning of Christmas and to explore the goodness in humanity. However, it (SPOILER ALERT) can destroy the imagination of children who believe in Santa Clause yet there will be adults watching who know (SPOILER ALERT FOR KIDS) that Santa doesn’t exist, that it’s still enchanting to believe in him within your heart.
- A Christmas Carol (2009)
Out of the countless number of adaptations based on Dickens’ wonderful classic story, the 2009 animated version by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey is undoubtedly the best one to date. Through the use of motion-capture, 3D and other stunning spectacle effects, A Christmas Carol plunges the tradition and fantastical conventions into new depth, perhaps more so than any of the other adaptations. It is perhaps one of the scariest animated films in contemporary cinema, but this works well for the script and its use of visual effects and motion-capture. Robert Zemeckis improves massively with this after the extremely bland Polar Express and Jim Carrey plays another Christmas character turned from villain to hero after the Grinch. He produces an identical performance in terms of facial expressions, but character development is different. If you’re a fan of the book, a fan of Jim Carrey and love animation, then I’m sure this will be one that you won’t regret seeing at Christmas.
- Bad Santa (2003)
This is a different addition to this list as it is a Christmas film more suitable for adults and its contents practically disputes its traditional norms yet at the same time, acknowledges them. Instead of a friendly, hard-working, fat and old Santa, we’ve got a middle-aged drunken, sex-addicted thief pretending to be Santa. Starring Billy Bob Thornton in a Golden Globe-nominated performance, Willie is a similar character to Scrooge who doesn’t so much hate Christmas, but just doesn’t care about it. This is reflected as somewhat comical through its black comedy humour with language and sexual references but despite this, Bad Santa progressively develops into a more emotional film in which Willie slowly succumbs to the charming traditions of Christmas and, especially by that kid who looks up to him as a friend. If you’re looking for a film that both parodies and praises Christmas, then Bad Santa is one to check out.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Whether this film centers more on Christmas or Halloween is debatable, but I would still state that it is an essential film to watch on both occasions. Its title goes against the song ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and the plot derives itself, more or less, against the entire Christmas tradition. We see that Tim Burton has produced his own interpretation of Christmas within a gothic structure, like naming “Sandy Claws” for Santa, a ‘dead’ Dr. Frankenstein and other unorthodox characters. Despite this, Disney have produced a family film that’s enjoyably scary for kids and adults, especially the enchanting songs. Particularly ones like “What’s This?”, “Jack’s Lament” and “Making Christmas” enhance our ability to understand Jack’s character further and how he plans to structure Christmas like it is an object. It may influence from other films, whether Christmas or not, but The Nightmare Before Christmas’ unique mixture of fun and fright creates a unique portrayal of Christmas for kids and consequently generates a magical experience.
4. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Though this film was heavily criticised, it has still become a Christmas classic within only 14 years of its release. As the live-action version of Dr Seuss’ novel and the original 1966 short film, this DreamWorks film directed by Ron Howard stars Jim Carrey in the title role. His performance is unique as he exhibits his own characteristics as an actor, and exemplifies the sinister yet emotional personality of the Grinch. In terms of Christmas magic, it ticks the boxes that you’d expect to see. It’s charming, has heart with a meaningful message and it is set within an imaginative world that casts a magical reflection. It’s actually one of those escapist films that allows you to transport into a world which enhances emotional experience and makes you reflect on goodness among individuals. It may not be everyone’s favourite film, but I’d recommend that people who love Christmas watch this at least once every year.
3. Home Alone (1990) & Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)
I’m including both films in this list as they are pretty much two of the same thing with the exception of location. Similar to It’s A Wonderful Life, Home Alone is a film that focuses on family as an inspiration at Christmas time that doesn’t always center strongly on Christmas traditions. Yet, its comical attributes are substantial to the fun of watching a kid act like an adult and see him outsmart two burglars. The second film is more or less the same, but a little more clichéd in terms of narrative. It is important, though, that the sequel focuses on Christmas in the outside world in the city of Manhattan, not only for Kevin and his family. Neither are serious films and don’t at any point try to be as they are practically like cartoons shot in live-action, but both are highly enjoyable for both children and adults to watch at Christmas.
- Love Actually (2003)
Following in the footsteps of Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994 and Notting Hill in 1999, Love Actually marks Richard Curtis’ unofficial romantic comedy trilogy at the very highest standards. In addition to it serving as a wonderful, inspirational film about love, family and friends, the festive season of Christmas is utilised in the plot to represent this feel-good factor. Exploring the ordinary lives of British citizens with a fantastical context, Love Actually reflects a glorious Britain and provides us with an important message to the Christmas occasion – love is everywhere and that it most important to acknowledge it at Christmas. Though the film features an almost entire British ensemble cast and crew members, it is still a beautiful film that all audiences should enjoy and watch every Christmas.
- It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
This is not only one of my favourite films but is, for me, the ultimate one to watch at Christmas. It constitutes everything that Christmas has and how the occasion makes us realise what we have in our lives. No, It’s A Wonderful Life isn’t entirely Christmas-themed with elves, Santa, presents etc involved, but the time setting is Christmas and the magic of family, friends and life in general is acknowledged on Christmas Eve. Released in the immediate aftermath of World War II, it became a symbol of hope that life can be full with love and friendships. Directed by the late Frank Capra and starring legendary actor James Stewart in his greatest role, the film reveals the true meaning of Christmas as it expresses its genuinely tender but extremely important message: that Christmas is really about being with our loved ones. If anyone misses watching this, whether it is a re-watch or first-time, Christmas will not feel complete.