No need to look any further for the definitive list of top 5 Christmas films – you’ve found it.
5. Love Actually (2003)
2h 15m. Dir. Richard Curtis.
Love Actually represents Christmas guilty pleasure at its best. Best watched while loading up on mince pies, mulled wine, and avoiding eye contact with elderly relatives during the ersatz porno scenes.
The wonderful thing about Love Actually is its interlocking relationships and storylines played out by an array of conflicting characters who, in their contrast, create a comprehensive list of the people you’re likely to have contact with over the Christmas period. Weird work colleagues, slimy relatives, horribly pushy shop attendants – the list is endless.
The film is 2 hours 15 minutes – if you’ve watched this film once a year for the past 14 years (which, let’s be honest, you probably have) then congratulations, you’ve successfully wasted 31 hours 30 minutes of your life! And if you have also watched The Holiday every year since it came out, you can bump that up to over 56 hours watching sickeningly cheesy, beautiful trash. Commendable, but only at Christmas. And only because love really is all around.
4. The Polar Express (2004)
1h 40m. Dir. Robert Zemeckis.
Zemeckis’ The Polar Express, based on the bildungsroman by Chris Van Allsburg, is a live action motion capture animation featuring Tom Hanks in no less than 6 roles as Conductor, Hobo, Scrooge, Santa Claus, and as the protagonist, Hero Boy. The film is a spectacle on more than just a superficial level. Although it is the first all-digital capture film, blurring the lines between cartoon and real life human acting, the magic goes deeper than that. The journey of Hero Boy is familiar: beginning with scepticism concerning the authenticity of Christmas – that it might not be as magical as he had always imagined when he was younger – a feeling that most over the age of 10 have probably had to come to terms with. At the close of the film, enchantment is restored albeit a matured reincarnation, with the protagonist’s understanding of the true spirit of Christmas thoroughly evolved.
It is hard to place the target audience of the film, with many critics arguing that it is adults who would be most affected by the film because it embeds layers of alternative meaning in the familiar symbols of Christmas. A quick search online will provide you with a bounty of thought-provoking material too numerous to include here.
3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
1h 25m. Dir. Brian Henson.
Without a doubt, Brian Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol, is the only adaptation of Dickens’ classic tale you will ever need. Michael Caine as the dour Ebenezer Scrooge is accompanied by the cast of the Muppets in this live-action musical re-telling of avarice, soul-searching, and ultimately, redemption. Versions of the novel have come and gone but The Muppet Christmas Carol remains a firm favourite in my household as a top icon of Christmases past, present, and future.
Fear not, die-hard fans of the original story: Henson sticks closely to the original plot. The Great Gonzo as Dickens/Narrator, and Rizzo the Rat acting as Greek chorus injects the otherwise sombre tale with fresh, humorous commentary. Caine reportedly only accepted the role on the condition that he could play Scrooge as “an utterly dramatic role” with no Muppety puppety business; he delivers with aplomb, the performance on par with stage royalty Peter O’Toole, Imelda Staunton, Denis Gough, and the like. Although sadly snubbed by the Academy Awards, one IMDB user reviewed it as the ‘most perfect and poignant film of Dickens’ work the world will likely ever see. 10/10’, which is good enough for me.
2. Elf (2003)
1h 37m. Dir. Jon Favreau
Elf is undoubtedly the film to play on loop for the loved ones in your life who are more humbug-inclined. Word on the grapevine is to cover said-humbug with tinsel, clementines and a large box of Quality Street, to then play the film until they are fully in the Christmas spirit. They will be so thrilled it’s over, all other festive activities will pale in comparison.
Has anyone not seen Elf? It seems almost pointless to describe the plot of a film consistently ranked as a top 10 Christmas film by all reputable publications since its release in 2003. Here’s the short version: human baby stows away with Santa Claus, human baby is raised as elf, human does not fit in with elven society, human leaves for New York to find father, experiences culture clash, hilarity ensues.
1. Home Alone (1990)
2h. Dir. Chris Columbus
The Christmas film franchise to end all Christmas film franchises. The film for the top spot was always going to be difficult, between Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York there wasn’t much in it, but in the end, the original trumps the sequel on its novelty and the introduction of Macaulay Culkin as a cultural icon and all-round bad boy.
The film follows Kevin McCallister as he navigates the peaks and troughs of being accidentally left at home whilst the rest of his family enjoy a trip to France. The peaks include eating whatever takes his fancy and watching the shows that would usually be prohibited to a boy of 8. The troughs, as Kevin quickly discovers, involve bringing to justice a pair of dastardly baddies intent on robbing the McCallister house, with a set of makeshift booby traps.
Although what should be a film plagued with plot holes, the ingenuity of John Hughes’ (Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club) writing gives the audience various means of filling them in. And for those still unconvinced, the endless source of quotable material should provide reason enough to enjoy. “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!” is likely one of the best quotes to come out of the ‘90s, and although it technically comes from the second instalment, I, like our grand hero, is no sucker for the rules.
Did you know?
Kevin Macaulay’s stunt double was a particular short 30-year-old man.
– Emily Earp
Featured image source: https://images.justwatch.com/backdrop/166842/s1440/the-polar-express