It’s the most wonderful time of the year! One of the best things about Christmas is the festive cheer we can get from watching classic Christmas films. Curl up on the sofa, with some fluffy pyjamas or a cosy blanket. Dig into the Quality Street, Roses or Cadbury Heroes – whichever you prefer. Enjoy a hot chocolate, mulled wine or festive Pimms. Here are 31 festive movies you can watch this December.
1st December – Home Alone | Home Alone: Lost In New York
After revelling for a while in every child’s ill-thought-out fantasy – “I made my family disappear,” says Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin when his family accidentally leave on holiday without him – Home Alone then promptly changes tack, inserting two grimy burglars into the mix. Cue some of the most inventive, and surprisingly violent, self-defence techniques you’ve ever seen.
Home Alone: Lost in New York is surprisingly excellent. Sure, it follows almost the exact same formula as the original. It merely relocates to the Big Apple, but with a recipe this good, and with Macaulay Culkin still on board, it’s hard to complain. If you’re after festive cheer, though, you might want to fast forward through Donald Trump’s brief cameo.
2nd December – Die Hard
Whatever side you’re on in the infernal debate over whether it’s actually a Christmas movie (Bruce Willis thinks not), it’s hard to deny that Die Hard is a perfect action movie. It takes place on Christmas Eve, and features lines like, “Now I have a machine gun, ho-ho-ho”, makes it ideal holiday viewing too – particularly if you’re a little sick of festive slush.
3rd December – Fred Claus
This one does seem to be like Marmite – you love it, or hate it. At first glance, Fred Claus appears to be just another family comedy where Vince Vaughn plays Vince Vaughn: a big, lovable, fast-talking guy whose only fault is that he’s a little selfish. Fred Claus appears to be that way because Fred Claus is that way. And perhaps that seems unoriginal and overdone to you. But the movie also follows another predictable Christmas movie tradition, in that it is predictably light-hearted and filled with laughter and cheer.
4th December – Love Actually
There is far too much to enjoy in this ensemble romcom – namely Emma Thompson’s extraordinary, rightly revered performance as the wronged wife of Alan Rickman. I think we all still want Hugh Grant to be Prime Minister too!
5th December – The Holiday
This romantic comedy about a pair of house-swappers that fall in love abroad will make you want to spend next Christmas in a charming English cottage (and make out with Jude Law). Expect simultaneous romantic disappointments and finding new men to swoon over.
6th December – Elf
This fish-out-of-water tale, in which one of Santa’s elves (Will Ferrell) discovers that he’s actually a human. He sets out to New York to find his father. Bolstered by strong performances from James Caan, Mary Steenburgen and Zooey Deschanel, Elf manages to be both self-aware and defiantly uncynical.
7th December – The Muppet Christmas Carol
Who’d have thought that one of the best interpretations of Charles Dickens’s festive fable would come courtesy of a bunch of wise-cracking puppets? In his role as Ebeneezer Scrooge, Michael Caine vowed to act “like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company”, whatever ridiculous antics were happening around him. His tactic worked.
8th December – Miracle on 34th Street
Whether you consider this film, a heart-warming gem of an insult to the 1947 original might depend on which version you grew up with. It’s hard to argue with the performances of Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, and Mara Wilson as the precociously cynical Dorey.
9th December – Four Christmases
Christmas has a way of bringing everyone together — even when you least expect it. In this modern Christmas movie, Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn play a happily married couple whose tropical holiday plans get derailed. They then have to split their time between their parent’s homes for Christmas, all four of them, as they are divorced. It has plenty of laugh out moments too.
10th December – Noelle
Siblings Noelle (Anna Kendrick) and Nick Kringle (Bill Hader) are facing their first Christmas since the death of their father, Santa Claus (Bryan Brendle). Nick, as the next living male Kringle, is expected to take on the Santa mantle, but his training isn’t going well. There are some big laughs and sweet moments in this movie.
11th December – Christmas in the Wild
The festive Netflix rom-com is stupid but charming. Kristin Davis and Rob Lowe fall in Love while taking care of elephants in Zambia in a colossally silly yet oddly likeable festive time-filler.
12th December – Bad Santa | Bad Santa 2
Leave this dark comedy for when the kids have gone to bed, and you want a good laugh. Billy Bob Thornton is Bad Santa: an alcoholic, foul-mouthed, whoring department store Santa Claus. He uses his job to rob his employers every year. As a respite from the more sweet and sugary films, it works perfectly as a palette cleanser if you are a little bit fed up of jolly Santas and helpful elves.
Bad Santa 2 has the same cast. The story focuses on Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) teaming up as criminals to work as Santa and an elf and to rob a toy store in Chicago.
13th December – A Christmas Prince | A Christmas Prince – The Royal Wedding | A Christmas Prince – The Royal Baby
The Netflix Originals have become a cult classic since the first film A Christmas Prince was released in 2017, with the sequels in the subsequent years. Are they kind of stupid? Absolutely. Are they entertaining? Yes! The Christmas Prince series follows the story of Amber and Richard. Amber was a journalist who disguised herself as a tutor to sneak into a palace. She was on assignment to write about the elusive Prince Richard. Later, the pair fell in Love, got married, and then they were pregnant.
14th December – The Christmas Chronicles | The Christmas Chronicles 2
Starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus, this jolly Netflix original film follows two children who encounter Santa in their own home. They find themselves on a magical adventure to help him save Christmas. There’s even a cameo from Kurt’s real-life wife Goldie Horne playing Mrs Claus. The Netflix Original is loved so much that in 2019 we’re getting The Christmas Chronicles 2.
15th December – Bad Moms – A Bad Moms Christmas
The plot follows the three mums from the first film – Bad Moms. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn have to deal with their own mothers played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon. They are visiting during the Christmas holiday. It’s ridiculous and more than a little sentimental, but often really funny.
16th December – Let It Snow
The Netflix Original sees small-town teens falling in and out of Love on Christmas Eve. There are three storylines that all intersect. The plotlines are well-balanced, and our investment is evenly distributed thanks also to an exceptional cast of young actors – all while a snowstorm is raging. It’s heart-warming and will leave you full of festive cheer.
17th December – The Knight Before Christmas
Another Netflix Original. There are some issues about believability – but it’s Christmas – just let them go. Cole is a 14th-century knight, who time-travels to present-day Ohio. Brooke, played by Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame, is a school teacher. There’s romance, funny and heart-warming moments and of course Christmas.
18th December – Nativity | Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger | Nativity 3: Dude Where’s My Donkey | Nativity Rocks
The original was released in 2009 and stars Martin Freeman, Ashley Jenson and Marc Wotton as Mr Poppy – the unexpected star of the show. The film follows the antics of the school producing its annual Nativity production. Things do not go to plan – especially as they think a Hollywood producer is coming to see it. It’s so popular, it’s even been made into a West End theatre production.
The follow-up films follow a similar format, and are easy to watch, with plenty of laughs. The cast does change, apart from Mr Poppy. There are plenty of British “celebrity” cameos too.
19th December – Deck The Halls
Matthew Broderick plays a dad whose entire ordered world turns into disarray with the arrival of his kooky neighbour, Danny DeVito. There’s then a contest of who can have more elaborate Christmas decorations and things turn predictably out of hand.
20th December – How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Inside a snowflake exists the magical land of Whoville. In Whoville, live the Whos, an almost mutated sort of munchkin like people. All the Whos love Christmas, yet just outside of their beloved Whoville lives the Grinch – played by Jim Carey. The Grinch is a nasty creature that hates Christmas, and plots to steal it away from the Whos which he equally abhors. Yet a small child, Cindy Lou Who, decides to try to befriend the Grinch.
21st December – Last Christmas
A new entry to the Christmas much watch lists, having only been released in cinemas Christmas 2019. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke plays a Christmas store elf who meets the charming Tom, played by Henry Golding. Cue the romance and holiday magic, and music from George Michael and Wham.
22nd December – It’s a Wonderful Life
Admittedly, for about 120 of this film’s 130 minutes, it’s really not a wonderful life at all. In fact, this tale of a down-on-his-luck bank clerk (James Stewart) driven to the brink of suicide. A trainee angel shows him what the world would have been like without him (spoiler: much worse), is deeply emotionally draining. But it’s also warm, funny, timeless, life-affirming, and a deserved classic.
23rd December – White Christmas
Featuring a reimagined version of the title song, which Bing Crosby introduced in Holiday Inn over a decade earlier, White Christmas was intended to reunite Crosby with Fred Astaire for their third Irving Berlin showcase musical. Astaire declined the project. The film has been entertaining audiences for nearly 70 years.
24th December – Office Christmas Party
Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston play feuding siblings who have different perspectives on how to run the company they inherited. Unlike the UK, where we head to a restaurant or a hotel for a meal then get lashed and dance the night away, it seems Americans do have the party in their office. Jennifer Aniston is a sexy ruthless boss, and the hilarity comes from the staff’s antics.
25th December – The Santa Clause: The Movie
This film just reminds me of my childhood. I was born in the 80’s, so this film was on TV every Christmas Day growing up. My parents would let me watch it whilst they prepared dinner. An elf, Patch, leaves the North Pole and travels to New York. Along the way, he ends up getting sucked into the evil world of a toy manufacturer. He is a ruthless tycoon with one goal… to turn Christmas into a profit machine for himself. Suddenly, Santa Claus has to get involved in saving not only Patch but Christmas itself!
26th December – Scrooged
One of the kings of 80’s movies, Bill Murray stars as the curmudgeonly TV executive who learns the true meaning of Christmas, in this modernized version of A Christmas Carol.
27th December – The Nightmare Before Christmas
In his 1993 stop-motion film, Tim Burton blends Christmas and Halloween together in a way that’s both spooky and heartwarming all at the same time.
28th December – Gremlins
There are three simple rules to keep a gremlin from wreaking havoc: don’t expose it to the light, don’t get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. Naturally, over the course of this Christmas comedy horror, all three of those rules are broken. The ensuing chaos makes for riotous viewing. I’d love a Gizmo for Christmas!
29th December – Jingle All The Way
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jingle All the Way sees dads competing to get their sons the most popular Christmas toy of the year. It’s Christmas Eve, and Arnold needs to find a Turbo Man action figure, the craze of the season. Only they’re sold-out, of course. Plus, who can forget the infamous quote, “Put down the cookie.”
30th December – Jack Frost
Sure, Michael Keaton gets a Christmas movie, too. He plays a man literally named Jack Frost, who lived his life as a bitter, ageing rocker and meets a tragic end in a car accident on Christmas Day. A year later, his son plays a song on his old harmonica and brings him back to life; this time as a snowman.
31st December – New Year’s Eve
Taking cues from Love Actually, this cute flick features interconnected arcs about love—a perfectly pleasant (and aptly titled) picture about New Year’s. It is an easy watch, and it has a huge ensemble cast. Including Robert DeNiro, Jon Bon Jovi, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel and Halle Berry. Trust me, this is only a handful of the cast!
Got time for a few more?
Meet Me In St Louis
Sick of playing juvenile roles, Judy Garland nearly turned down her role as the lovesick Esther Smith in this musical comedy. When she finally agreed to do it, the production was marred by her erratic behaviour. She would regularly turn up to set hours late, or not turn up at all. It’s responsible for one of the best Christmas songs ever made: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.
It’s not the most obvious choice, but Tim Burton’s second Batman movie is, in fact, a Christmas movie. Set during the holidays in Gotham, this superhero flick features a Christmas tree lighting, a holiday party, and one giant present filled with confetti and nefarious criminals.
The Polar Express
This isn’t one on my must-watch list. I’ve included it because it is popular with children and families. The Polar Express features Tom Hanks in an animated adventure based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. In the 2004 flick, a little boy takes a magical train ride to the North Pole.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
It takes place over one year, bookended by the Christmas holidays. Who can forget the ugly Christmas jumpers? It’s full of sex, swearing, and pragmatic negativity and end with a kiss in the snow.
Revolving around a young boy and a snowman that comes to life. The film ends with a breathtaking flourish, as the pair fly over England’s snowy plains to the melancholy strains of “Walking in the Air “. (Incidentally, sung by a Welshman, Aled Jones.)
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Funny men John Candy and Steve Martin team up for a classic holiday tale gone awry in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Released in 1987, this film features these two comedians at their best: as rivals trapped in the car on their way home for the holidays.
The Night Before
Once the kids go to bed, turn on this. The Night Before is messy in the way you’d expect any Seth Rogen movie to be. It’s a stoner-Christmas based around guys who just refuse to grow up. It reminds them that they’re not kids anymore, and if they were, Santa would absolutely not be stopping at their houses.
This 1942 Irving Berlin musical starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire features a song for each holiday of the year, but it begins and ends with Christmas.
The Santa Clause (1994)
When a divorced businessman (Tim Allen) accidentally kills Santa, he must take over the role in this movie. Allen plays your typical successful family film father who doesn’t have time to spend with his kid and so mystical powers intervene to show him the true meaning of Christmas.
It’s easy to forget that Lethal Weapon takes place during Christmas, but considering it starts with “Jingle Bell Rock” and ends with “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”.