Everybody has their own opinion as to what's the best Christmas film of all time. We've had numerous conversations (and arguments) in the office the last 2 weeks and finally come to our conclusion. Whether you love the classics or have some room in your top 10 for the new pretenders we think our list covers all bases - and if it doesn't...let us know in the comments!
10. Bad Santa
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac, John Ritter
Santa: we all know him, right? Jolly, fat, basically decent even if he does break-and-enter every Christmas night. Except that here he’s a swearing, hard-drinking, bullying, self-loathing, chain-smoking, rogering, safe-cracking, store-robbing bugger. And, as it turns out, he’s more loveable than ever. Billy Bob Thornton was born to play the role of a curmudgeon who’s slowly won over, not by a cute and perky child, but by the weirdest, fattest little boy in history. If he learns anything, it’s mostly by accident, and if he adopts the Christmas spirit it’s largely in self-defence, making this perfect viewing for those who consider themselves immune to the season.
9. Love Actually
Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Rodrigo Santoro, Thomas Sangster, Andrew Lincoln, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman etc.
The third beloved Christmas movie to emerge from the 2003 season, Richard Curtis’ sprawling ensemble piece is best watched at this time of year, when you’re bound to find at least one storyline among the several million on offer that you like. Perhaps it’s the porn star stand-ins finding a tentative, awkward sort of romance, or Colin Firth’s fumbling attempts to woo a woman with whom he doesn’t share a common language. But for us it will always be the sad stories here that ring truest, with Laura Linney’s devotion to her brother and Emma Thompson’s quiet heartbreak really hitting home.
8. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Director: Henry Selick
Starring: (voice) Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, Paul Reubens, William Hickey, Greg Proops
The wonderful thing about Henry Selick’s stop-motion classic, based on Tim Burton’s story, is that you can legitimately watch it any time from Halloween on, which enables you to cope with those early Christmas cravings (it can’t be just us, right?). What’s more, as Pumpkin King Jack Skellington learns about Christmas, Selick and Burton manage to both undermine all the cutesiness and underline the bits of Christmas that really matter – like the bit where your toys don’t bite you or turn into snakes. That bit’s really important.
7. Jingle All The Way
Director: Brian Levant
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Jake Lloyd, James Belushi
For many stressed-out parents, this story of a man desperate to get his son the must-have toy of the season must ring uncannily true. The difference is that most parents lack Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ability to take direct and sometimes violent action in pursuit of said so-hot-right-now plaything while still finding the energy to quip occasionally (“Put that cookie down NOW”), and most parents don’t have to compete with Sinbad to get them. Which, on reflection, is probably a good thing. Without this film, Jake Lloyd might never have amassed the acting experience to land a starring role in the Phantom Menace – and there’s another thought to ponder.
6. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Director: Brian Henson
Starring: Michael Caine, Frank Oz, Steven Mackintosh, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson
Michael Caine singing to a bunch of puppets: it shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. The Muppets slot perfectly into Charles Dickens winter’s tale, but bring their own anarchic comedy stylings with them (“Light the lamp, not the rat!”). Gonzo, who clearly has no place in the 19th century, does a creditable job as narrator, using language lifted directly from the book for the most part, and Caine somehow keeps a straight face to give us one of the most faithful movie Scrooges, and one who always convinces as he undergoes his transformation from miser to mensch.
5. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Randy Quaid, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Anothers ‘80s cracker sees family man Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) try his damndest to provide the perfect family Christmas and continually fall foul of his own expectations, his nasty neighbours, his parsimonious boss and his rowdy relations (top honours, of course, to Randy Quaid’s none-more-redneck cousin). The plot is essentially a demonstration of Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The moral of the story, we believe, is that one should always kidnap the boss if your bonus isn’t up to scratch, and that squirrels and Christmas trees are a bad combination.
4. It's A Wonderful Life
Director: Frank Capra
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers, Thomas Mitchell
Frank Capra’s perennial classic may not make the top spot here, but it remains essential Christmas viewing. The story of George Bailey, a man trying to do the right thing and finding his options gradually reduced to nothing, is genuinely tough watching at times during the first hour or so, and it’s made even tougher when we see the nightmare of life without his well-intentioned efforts, thanks to angelic intervention. So that happy ending, when it comes, feels earned rather than fluffy, and Christmassy rather than schmaltzy.
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Mary Steenbergen, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner, Bob Newhart
A recent entrant onto the Christmas chart, but one that went straight to the top of everyone's affections and deserves to be there. When it screened on British TV one Sunday this December it trended worldwide on Twitter, such is its popularity and extraordinary quotability. Buddy the Elf is, along with Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell’s finest comedy creation, and he’s the most adorable movie character since we saw that YouTube video with the kitten in the tiny top hat. You’d have to be a cotton-headed ninnymuggins not to love this one.
2. Die Hard
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedalia, Reginald VelJohnson
Arguably the greatest action movie ever made, and now it’s one of the greatest Christmas movies ever made too. Bruce Willis’ John McClane may seem like an unlikely Santa Claus – he doesn’t have enough hair for one – but what better Christmas present is there than the gift of terrorists getting taken down as they try to take Nakatomi Plaza hostage during a Christmas party in order to carry out an elaborate theft? Nothing says deck the halls like jumping off a roof tied to a fire hose, and nothing says season of goodwill like a machine gun. Ho ho ho.
1. Home Alone
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci , Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard
Highly popular in the Coup office and a movie that we watched as a group just last week, Home Alone jumps right in at the top spot. Basically a live-action cartoon with a John Hughes script, it may not be big or even clever but it’s a lot of fun and, in its own way, emphasises the importance of love and family just as much as It’s A Wonderful Life. As in Capra’s tale, being deprived of family and safety makes little tyke Macauley Culkin realise how much he needs them, and fending off burglars all alone gives him a unique appreciation of the Christmas spirit. Also, he gets to drop a hot iron on someone’s face, so that’s nice.