Glasgow Living's Top Ten Christmas Movies
Everybody loves Christmas movies. You might as well admit it. They’re usually heartwarming, fuzzy, and, most of the time offer the protagonist a chance at redemption. That’s why by the end of the film you’re clinging on to “fluffy” the dog like a lifeboat.
Honestly, apart from your granny toppling the tree after one too many sherries, there’s nothing quite like a Christmas themed movie to stir your Christmas spirit. Glasgow Living is proud to bring you our essential top ten Christmas movie list.
Have a gander, did your favourite make the final ten?
10. Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
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Tim Burton’s and Henry Selick’s twisted perspective on Christmas, the leading man, Jack Skellington grows tired of celebrating the festival of Halloween in Halloween Town and stumbles across Christmas Town. Kidnapping Santa Claus, Skellington decides to take over Claus’ role, and it turns into an absolute disaster. Christmas is nearly ruined and Santa is nearly eaten.
Could be an analogy of the comparative difference between religions and their relative holiday customs, or could simply be the mental Tim Burton’s attempts at a Christmas movie (Batman Returns is also kind of a Christmas movie believe it or not).
9. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
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A surprisingly sincere retelling of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” (except, you know, most of the cast are furry puppets), Michael Caine excels at playing the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge, and some scenes with the three ghosts are genuinely creepy. (What do you mean I’m a creep?)
8. Jack Frost (1998)
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Not the slasher horror. The one with Michael Keaton as a snowman. Controversial but Michael Keaton plays the lead character (conveniently) named Jack Frost. A reasonably talented rockstar, fronting the band “The Jack Frost Band”. Always chasing the big break, Jack neglects his wife and young son. Tragically he dies in car accident on the way to spending a weekend with his family. He is reincarnated into the body of a snowman and given the second chance, bonds with his son, helping him deal with the untimely bereavement.
Hilarity ensues. Well, as much hilarity as can be rinsed from a grieving boy who might or might not have serious mental issues and an unnatural attachment to anthropomorphised snow.
(Watch hungover during the Christmas holidays and try not to well up at the end!!!)
7. Scrooged (1988)
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Many people’s favourite Christmas movie thanks to the legendary performance by Bill Murray. Who could be more fitting to play a miserable old bastard, than the king of the hound-dog expression?
Basically a contemporary retelling of A Christmas Carol, Bill Murray plays a cynical, horrible, programming executive, who on Christmas Eve is visited by three ghosts, sent to force him to see the error of his ways and change them before it’s too late. The appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Future is still terrifying. Hilarious in parts, horrifying in others. (Even has a singalong at the end!)
If you haven’t seen it, why are you still reading this? Stop reading. Stop it. Go watch it.
Still here? OK, read on… (Only if you promise to watch right after though).
6. Gremlins (1984)
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Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg’s ultimate destruction of the holiday season, the carnage spawned from everybody’s most desirable Christmas present.
No bright lights, no water, and the most important rule, no matter how much he begs, cries or pleads, never, ever, feed him after midnight. Well inevitably that goes completely pear-shaped and the resulting mayhem is a joy to behold, as Gizmo’s mentally unstable offspring lay waste to the picturesque Christmas landscape of Kingston Falls. Brilliant.
Don’t know about you, but we’d still risk the blood and murder to be able to keep Gizmo as a pet.
5. Bad Santa (2003)
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A classic for all those “bah humbug” cynical folk out there.
Billy Bob Thornton is the worst Santa of all time: alcoholic, womanising, foul mouthed, a professional robber. And he uses the disguise of a store Santa to plan his robbery beforehand.
Unexpectedly, a child helps him learn the error of his ways, well sort of. He in turn teaches the kid to beat people up, swear and generally act like him. Even weirder it’s actually kind of touching. His partner in crime is a less than traditional elf, and he absolutely steals the show. Bernie Mac and John Ritter also play their part.
4. Home Alone 1+2 (1990, 1992)
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John Hughes’ seminal classic(s) about the importance of family and spending time with them during the holidays. Add a considerably fearsome Joe Pesci and hapless Daniel Stern as Harry and Marv (aka the Wet Bandits) whose one Christmas wish is to rob and murder a small child and you have the makings of… Waaaaaaait… Hold… On.
Yup when you think about it, it’s quite a dark script for a Christmas movie. Two multiple felons who may or may not have killed people, decide to rob a home at Christmas but are halted in their tracks by a series of increasingly violent attacks, using household items as weapons.
Home Alone 2 is similar in idea except Kevin boards the wrong plane (the nineties was such a carefree decade) and ends up in New York. He then bumps into the freshly-broken-out-of-jail Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, renamed as the “sticky bandits” and it’s up to Kevin to stop them robbing the Christmas Eve charitable donations of a toy store.
Still the most successful live action comedy of all time, Home Alone and its sequel cemented the childhood superstar status of Macauley Culkin and gave Joe “Goodfellas” Pesci an unlikely avenue into the world of comedic acting.
3. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
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Arguably most people’s top Christmas movie. (And another that could bring a tear to a glass eye).
Unbelievable casting from John Hughes. (Yup him again!) Richard Attenborough (the old guy guy from Jurassic Park) plays Kris Kringle, the kindly old man, who shares more than a passing resemblance to Jolly Saint Nick. A series of events transpire that results in him being put on trial and threatened with incarceration within an insane asylum. It’s up to a lawyer to prove the impossible: that Santa is both real, and also sitting in the defence box facing undue persecution. Throw in an intertwined storyline in which Kris Kringle tries to win a young child’s Christmas Spirit back and you’ve the makings of one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. I’m getting emotional just writing this…
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
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Throwing personal opinions aside (The Glasgow Living office took a vote over No. 1), this writer, moi, the author of the article, lost the vote. Democracy sucks.
Anyway, It’s a Wonderful Life is not only one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, but quite simply one of the greatest movies of all time. Throw in one of the greatest, most honest, screen performances by James Stewart as George Bailey and you have the ingredients for a piece of filmmaking, primed, to stand the test of time.
68 years old this year, Frank Capra’s simple story of a down on his luck family man whom wishes he had never been born, but before he commits suicide (damn a lot of these Christmas movies are pretty dark) is guided by Clarence, a young angel, who is still to earn his wings. His job is to show George what life would have been like without him being born, and how many lives he changed during the course of his own.
Often copied but never bettered, It’s a Wonderful Life has become a timeless classic, to the extent that when a remastered copy was released with added colour, people still preferred the original. It’s that good.
Before we reach No. 1, a special mention should go toward Director Shane Black. Black loves setting his movies at Christmas. Hell, he even turned Iron Man 3 into a Christmas Carol, Marvel style. Characters from Tony’s past, present and future appear to teach him the errors of his ways. In Shane Black’s own words. “Christmas is fun, it’s unifying and all your characters are involved in an event that stays within a larger story. It roots it, I think, it grounds everything.” Basically it gives the characters a connection, everybody is involved in Christmas, therefore it’s easier to empathise with the characters.
1. Elf (2003)
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A modern classic, timeless, Will Ferrell’s man child has never been better, slapstick comedy with heart, excellent dialogue, unforgettable characters, simply the greatest modern Christmas movie of recent times. James Caan plays the grumpy father, who discovers that his son is an actual elf, from the North Pole. (Albeit a 6″3 elf who’s had a beard since he was 15.) Buddy decides to leave the North Pole and find his biological father in New York. However before he leaves, Santa informs Buddy of terrible news. His Dad is on the naughty list. It’s up to Buddy to save his dad and Christmas.
(Try not to get choked up during the finale of the movie, featuring New York, carol singing and Christmas spirit). Literally so good, it’s acceptable to watch at any time during the year.
Nearly but not quite: The Grinch, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Snowman, The Santa Clause, Jingle All The Way, While You Were Sleeping, Love Actually and Die Hard 1+2.
What are your thoughts Glasgow? Have we got it wrong? What would your No.1 be?
Leave a comment below.