How do you rid the stresses that the festive season can bring and banish any depressing thoughts of the long nights ahead? Put on a Christmas film! It’s an instant mood lifter, lifting your spirits in a flash; I mean yeah, ice skating is fun and all, but sometimes you just want to sit back on the sofa, where the most effort you will face is choosing between chocolate and popcorn. (Or both. It’s the one time of year you can get away with it.)
Guides divulging the best Christmas films are constantly thrust upon us, so-called “definitive” lists that can amount to as many as twenty films; enough for nearly every day of the Christmas season depending on how long yours goes on for. Add to this numerous TV specials and suddenly you find yourself spending a lot of your December in front of the big screen, trying to squeeze each out every last drop of festive film magic.
That doesn’t mean you HAVE to watch them all though- there’s still several festive classics that I have yet to see, which means I have a couple of new treats to enjoy each year alongside my core collection. Winter is THE perfect time of year to stay in, when the weather outside is frightful, so why not embrace it? Rather than tell you why each film fits the festive season so perfectly, I thought I would include what each of my regular roster means to me.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
A couple of Christmases ago, I got a quaint copy of the classic novel by Charles Dickens in my stocking, and I’d polished it off by the time we set off to my aunts for Christmas dinner. It was interesting reading it with the context of the Muppets adaptation at the back of my mind, but what surprised me was just how faithful the The Muppet Christmas Carol is to the original text. Okay, there weren’t puppets strewn across Victorian London, but asides from that it remains a very faithful adaptation.
I know not everyone warms towards the Muppets, but I’ve always loved their unique, hearty form of comedy, and Michael Caine will always be my definitive Scrooge; he refuses to let his bitterness be overshadowed by the performers around him. It isn’t just a festive classic, but a sterling literary adaptation, and one that refuses to be restrained by the label of a children’s film. One of my old school friends even managed to devise a drinking game, and though I missed the chance to give my liver something to moan about, it reinforces to me how the movie works well for every occasion.
As my first university Christmas approached, many of my hall-mates were shocked that I had never seen Home Alone while growing up. This resulted in a large group of us watching it together when it first came on to TV screens, and now it’s a firm favourite of mine. It truly is Macaulay Culkin’s defining role; he can go from tugging at your heartstrings as your heart aches for the poor boy left behind, to putting you in stitches with his juvenile angst, as he pranks the bandits again and again.
What I love most about the pandemonium Kevin pursues is how brilliantly creative it is. Yes, Christmas is a time of year for celebrating, but it’s also one that encourages you to let your imagination run wild, to believe in optimistic myths and perfect winter scenes. Not only will Home Alone have you in stitches, it will stimulate your creativity, albeit the devilish side of it. One for the filthy animal in all of us.
Miracle On 34th Street
I can’t remember exactly how old I was when my parents casually broke the news one summer evening about Santa (and if you’ve yet to have the news- don’t worry, it’s just about his delivery schedule). For some reason, I remember being particularly devastated while my sister casually shrugged her shoulders. It’s not as if I believed every department store Santa was really the big man himself, but I still clung on to the belief that Father Christmas was out there somewhere. Plus the notion of a job where you only really work one day of the year was a highly exciting prospect.
Miracle On 34th Street, despite a few flaws, can warm the hearts of the biggest Christmas cynics. It emboldens us to believe in all kinds of possibilities, and inspires us to make our own selfless mark on this wonderful time of year. Indulge in spontaneity, and forget the stresses that can come with the season; it’s the moments that you spend spreading goodwill, whether to family and friends or complete strangers, that truly warm the heart.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
On my first wander around Camden market, I picked up one of numerous knock off hoodies with Jack Skellington’s wicked grimace adorning the back. Because of the prominence of Halloween characters, you can sometimes forget The Nightmare Before Christmas is actually focused on the festive season instead. Because it straddles two holidays, I believe I can justify watching it anytime between the two, which means I always have plenty of time to enjoy it.
Aside from being an immense technical achievement in the field of stop motion, the film also promotes the idea that anyone can celebrate Christmas in our own individual way; we should not feel forced to be guided by tradition. There are so many things you can do at this time of year, you can sometimes feel a pressure to fit them all in before the season vanishes. Yes, Jack’s plans go a little bit awry, but you can’t deny the heart is there; do what you can, but don’t overestimate your own abilities.
There are plenty of others that I could mention- Elf, Meet Me In St Louis, The Snowman to name a few- but the films above are the ones I cherish the most. Amazingly, there are still several that I need to tick off my list for the first time; I’ve had quite a few shocked responses when I mention that I’ve yet to see It’s A Wonderful Life. This doesn’t bother me as much as some think it should; the way I see it, it means that I’ve got a festive treat to look forward to at some point in the future. After all, it’s the things you do in the present that define each Christmas, rather than reflecting on the past.