With not long to go until the big ho-ho, we asked six of our writers to share the films and TV programmes (whether they’re about Christmas or not) that get them in the festive spirit.
Every autumn, as soon as the air turns crisp, I get out my DVD of The Box of Delights. First shown on BBC One in the run up to Christmas 1984, this truly magical children’s adventure utterly consumed me. I was nine and I desperately wanted to “go swift” with Kay Harker and his magical box that could shrink him, make him fly and take him to strange and wonderful places.
I wanted to live in my TV during every episode, pursued by a terrifying Robert Stephens as arch villain Abner Brown. The first twinklings of its wonderful theme tune – a variation on The First Nowell by Victor Hely-Hutchinson – still has the power to melt me like a snowflake on a radiator. It IS Christmas, and this year I finally get to show it to my son.
Home Alone is my favourite Christmas film. It came out in 1990 (Jesus! Sorry) so it’s old but not rickety old. Old enough for some of the cast to be dead but not all of them. The definition of a modern classic, surely.
Forgetting your kid and accepting a lift home from a bunch of men in a van aside (Polka or no Polka, stranger danger is everywhere), Home Alone tells me all I need to know about Christmas: whatever it takes, be with people you love and who love you. Oh and “eating junk and watching rubbish” is practically a festive rule in our house. Festive. Ha. Year round, more like.
It has to be Elf. I cry laughing at it. It is clever, funny, stupid and sweet all in one go. I think Will Ferrell is one of my heroes. From lines like, “Francisco! That’s a fun name to say!” to proclaiming “Did you hear that?” after a massive disgusting burp, to the way he spins through revolving doors, I love how indulgently ridiculous it is and how it both fits and breaks the mould of Christmas flicks. SSSAAAANNNTTTTAAAAAA!
I go all spine-tingly at the cartoony-sounding music at the beginning of It’s A Wonderful Life, knowing it’s time to hear Jimmy Stewart’s voice and exclaim to a roomful of people yet again just how much I love Clarence – the best shambolic guardian angel ever.
It’s akin to an annual bobsled run of emotions: I laugh and cry at all the twists and turns, say the same wiseass wisecracks, and then, ultimately, get suckerpunched into looking like Satan due to sobbing so hard at the last two minutes. (Even though I beam when a bell rings right at the end.)
The Muppet Christmas Carol: the greatest adaptation of the Scrooge story by far. Also these days they tend to cut Michael Caine’s song, so it’s win/win.
Die Hard: CHRISTMAS AND EXPLOSIONS AND CHRISTMASSY EXPLOSIONS. If Bruce Willis as a washed-up cop learning to love killing again isn’t what Christmas is all about, I don’t know what is. Also, Alan Rickman is sexy as hell in this.
Batman Returns: Not just a great action packed Christmas-set movie, not just one of Tim Burton’s best films but also, in my opinion, the best Batman movie. SHUT UP NOLAN FANS; I WILL FIGHT YOU. Sadly, even though it’s A Christmassy Batman, there is no mention of his BO problem and at no point does the Batmobile lose its wheel and drive into the hay.
Arthur Christmas: current favourite Christmas film for my kids. The funny and very sweet story of the enthusiastic but accident-prone youngest of a dynasty of Santas. Bill Nighy’s embittered Grandsanta and Hugh Laurie’s stilted, officious Santa-In-Waiting Steve are the highlights for me.
Watching The Sound of Music was a bit of a Christmas tradition in our house; nothing says festive like fascism and clothes you didn’t want made out of someone’s curtains. We had the film on an old VHS, and during the festive season it lived next to the telly so it was always to hand for repeat viewing.
At some point when I was very little someone accidentally recorded over the end of the film with some sports footage. I was horrified years later to discover the film ended with Nazis, not ice hockey.
In Norway, at Christmas, when I was a kid, they always showed a film called The 90th Birthday, also known as Dinner For One: a black and white two-hander in which an old servant, James, provides dinner for his ‘Miss Sophie’, acting out the four characters of her presumably long-gone male friends and drinking their booze for each course.
He quickly gets insanely drunk. Then she does him. But you don’t see that bit. Nothing says festive like tripping over a tiger skin rug, doing impressions of dead people, and, of course, having sex with your boss.
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