Festive flicks: the best films to watch at Christmas

Films to lift your Christmas spirits!

A house-front with baubles and Christmas lights
Miracle on 34th Street. Source: Wikimedia Commons

At Christmas, there’s no better way of relaxing than sinking back into the sofa and sticking on a festive film with friends and family. Here are some of my favourites to watch this season, including a few that are technically not Christmas films at all.

Jingle All the Way (1996)

This comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as workaholic Howard Langston remains one of my favourite Christmas films (despite its terrible rating on Rotten Tomatoes). To make up for being an absent father, Howard promises his son Jamie the toy that every child is after: Turboman. Anyone who has ever left their Christmas shopping to the last minute, or got caught up in the mad rush on Christmas Eve, can sympathise with Howard’s increasingly frantic search for the figure. Jingle All the Way may be critiqued for its silliness and unevenness, but with plenty of slapstick humour and a poignant message about the importance of spending time with your family, it is a perfect choice for some light-hearted fun.

Jumanji (1995)

Jumangi is not a Christmas film is any traditional sense of the word – in fact, it only contains one scene that features Christmas – but its focus on friendship and family amidst the carnage created by a supernatural board game imbues the film with the spirit of Christmas. Second to curling up in front of the television during the festive period is undoubtedly a good board game. As heated as family games of monopoly risk becoming, these look tame in comparison to the waves of destruction that Alan, Sarah, Peter, and Judy unleash by playing the game. Their only hope to reverse the destruction is to see it through to the very end. Robin Williams’ comic genius is put to brilliant use here.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

Remakes of classic films often get a bad rap, but the 1994 release of Miracle on 34th Street (the fourth incarnation of this classic Christmas treat) is a heart-warming delight from start to finish. Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough) is hired by Susan’s mother as the new Santa Claus for the department store Coles, but the people’s belief in Santa Claus is threatened when Kris is arrested. Mara Wilson is as charming in the role of Susan as she is in Mrs Doubtfire and Matilda.

Home Alone (1990)

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The opening of Home Alone perfectly captures the chaos created by large family reunions at Christmas, as Kevin McCallister is accidentally left alone when his family leave for the airport without him. The film follows his parents’ attempts to return to their stranded son and Kevin’s struggle to defend his home from criminals Harry and Marv. The booby traps that Kevin rigs to stop the burglars liberally stretch the bounds of what an 8-year-old can reasonably construct, but if you can ignore your disbelief, then Home Alone will have you laughing harder than you’ve ever laughed before.

Love Actually (2003)

The number of different stories that Richard Curtis manages to pack into Love Actually is impressive, particularly because it never feels overcrowded. If you are a fan of romantic comedies, then Love Actually is the perfect choice – the film is full of humour and emotionally engaging stories that may even bring a tear to your eye. It combines one of the greatest soundtracks of any Christmas film I’ve seen with an all-star cast, including Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, and Keira Knightley. Hugh Grant gives a wonderful performance as Prime Minister David (and if you’re a fan of his irresistible onscreen charm, then I’d recommend also trying to fit About a Boy into your schedule). Red Nose Day Actually, released in 2017, is also worth a watch to find out what happened to its interlocking characters.

Harry Potter franchise (2001-2011)

Though watching the Harry Potter franchise is not limited to the festive season, a marathon at Christmas will only emphasise the magic of the films. Seeing the Great Hall decorated for Christmas in The Philosopher’s Stone and the beautiful scenes of Hogwarts in the snow in The Prisoner of Azkaban are bound to get you in the holiday spirit.