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Netflix, no! Our writers pick the Christmas films we actually like

Yes, Christmas films can be dodgy – but there are also some stone-cold classics in the festive canon

<p>Love Actually, which not everybody loves, actually</p>

Love Actually, which not everybody loves, actually


t seems you can’t open Netflix these days without a barrage of trailers for their endless Christmas movies (it’s not just me is it? Serves me right for watching that entire series of Christmas Prince films last year). It’s overwhelming and the quality is often extremely dubious (I love the world’s favourite diminutive country star as much as the next person, but Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square is one of the cheapest bits of tosh I’ve seen in years, including the aforementioned Christmas Prince movies. And don’t get me started on Operation Christmas Drop, which should have been ditched somewhere over the Pacific). To help you upgrade your holiday viewing, Standard writers have picked the festive films they actually like.


Pure, distilled festive joy

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Elf is, in my mind, THE Christmas film – the one you wait until the final hours of Christmas Eve to watch just because you need to savour the pure, unbridled festive joy it brings. Yet somehow, I’m still able to quote it all year round. Director Jon Favreau heavily favoured practical effects over CGI, which means that the 2003 film has aged remarkably well and still manages to transport me back to my 8 year old self, sat in in the cinema and really, truly believing that Father Christmas was real. I’ve gone all goosebumpy just thinking about it. Jessica Benjamin

The Santa Clause

Legally required viewing

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Whilst not exactly a festive staple, The Santa Clause is a very ‘90s Christmas film that I like to think has become something of a cult classic. Essentially an entire film based upon someone in the Disney boardroom saying ‘hang on… what if Santa Claus had an E on the end’ is surprisingly watchable, with the montage of Tim Allen morphing into a round, jolly Santa against his will a highlight of the film. Who knew that a plot centred on a legal small-print technicality would have such joyous festive consequences? JB

Home Alone

Unexpected tear-jerker

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I feel it as soon as the violins start up in John Williams’ twinkling lead song, Somewhere in my Memory. My skin prickles, and when the choir kicks in? That’s it, I’m a goner. It doesn’t sound all that moving on paper: an extremely privileged eight-year-old accidentally left alone at Christmas while his family jet off on a first-class trip to Paris. Home all alone, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) becomes the target of two hapless burglars and is forced to fend them off via a series of clever, and fairly vicious, booby traps. After all the high jinx, in the end, the message is kindness (a lovely subplot sees Kevin befriend a lonely elderly neighbour) and familial love. A reminder that though families are complicated and often quite annoying, there’s nothing quite like them. Suzannah Ramsdale

The Family Stone

Beats fighting with your cousin

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If the politics of bubbling up this festive season have not caused enough drama on the family WhatsApp, might I suggest The Family Stone? It's Christmas and Dermot Mulroney's Everett Stone, in his lip-curling, all-American prime, is bringing home his girlfriend, Meredith - played by Sarah Jessica Parker as a sort of supercharged Frankenstein version of Charlotte York and Carrie Bradshaw - to meet the family. Said bohemian family is politely bemused by her finickety neuroses - except Everett's sister Amy (Rachel McAdams), who is impolitely horrified. In desperation, Meredith calls her own sister up to Connecticut for back-up and theatrics ensue, including some bed-hopping, stand-offs and a very sad storyline involving Diane Keaton. Needless to say it is a masterpiece - and beats fighting with your cousin. Phoebe Luckhurst

The Snowman

Walking in the air

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If this film doesn’t scream sitting in your grandparents’ living room on Christmas Day whilst they’ve just gone to fetch a video they think you’ll enjoy and don’t worry it’s only 25 minutes long, I don’t know what does. This is staple Christmas viewing, fitting snugly between the Queen’s speech and taking your place at the dinner table, with a killer soundtrack to boot. The Snowman was actually nominated for an Oscar in 1982 – that’s how good it is. JB

Love Actually


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I hate rom-coms but this cheesiest of all Richard Curtis’s movies is the joyful exception. Every Christmas we get the DVD out of the cupboard and dust it down, together with all the other kitsch baubles, and after 17 years it’s still hilarious, actually. The casting is as absurd as it’s brilliant: Hugh Grant as the posh PM, Billy Bob Thornton as the oily US president and Rowan Atkinson as the ultimate in-store gift wrapper, performances only topped by Bill Nighy as the has-been pop star trying to make his comeback. It’s also the most wonderful love letter to London at Christmas. Katie Law

The Holiday

They lied to us about the cottage!

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An uber-glam Cameron Diaz, a devastatingly handsome Jude Law, ultimate English rose Kate Winslet and… romantic lead Jack Black?  Somehow, it works – brilliantly. The chemistry between Iris and Miles is enough to carry the entire film as you beg for director Nancy Meyers to please god just give Iris her happily ever after. Plus, the sub-plots of elderly gent Arthur Abbott regaining his confidence and Graham’s ultra-cute daughters becoming a happy family with Amanda make for an all-round tear jerker. By the way, I already checked - Iris’s cottage isn’t real, you can’t buy it, and yes that is the only negative aspect of the film. JB

Happiest Season

Everyone’s having a gay old time

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The first ever queer Christmas film was always going to be a winner. What else would you expect from a healthy helping of Kristen Stewart, a spicy seasoning of Aubrey Plaza (*cue lesbian Twitter losing their minds*) and a flavouring of familial love and acceptance? For me (and, if social media is anything to go by, the rest of the queer community), to watch Happiest Season and see a lesbian love story depicted against a backdrop of festive hallmarks was long overdue and a breath of fresh air. The best part though? Not only has a sequel been teased by director Clea DuVall, but the film also broke premiere records for Hulu, boasting the best viewership for any original film on the service in its opening weekend. I’ll raise my mulled wine to that. Naomi May

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Caine wasn’t even the biggest star

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Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit. Need we say more? This film is a winner because it manages to follow Dickens’ classic yuletide tale pretty faithfully — the over-the-top, Americanised studio meddling is left at a minimum, thankfully — and imbues all of that with as much Muppet-based silliness as you could hope for. The songs are endearingly goofy, and Michael Caine’s heartwarming thaw as Ebenezer Scrooge is a pleasure to watch. It might not get the credit it deserves, but Kermit and the gang deserve to be near the top of your festive watchlist. Jochan Embley

Bridget Jones’ Diary

Yep, we’ll be staying in our jimjams too (like the rest of the year)

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Don't let the sun dappled rowing boat scene fool you, Bridget Jones' Diary is a Christmas film – I mean, how much more festive can you get than Colin Firth in a reindeer jumper at a turkey curry buffet? It takes the very real premise that this can be a lonely time - you may feel down that another year has passed and you are not where you (or your mother) think you should be in life - and shows the funny side, skewering all the insufferable types you have to endure at parties. But the most Christmas-tastic bit? The implausibly romantic ending in the snow. This year, prepare to feel nostalgia for this era of Hugh Grant after seeing him in The Undoing. Susannah Butter

Little Women

Christmas isn’t Christmas without an ice skating accident


"Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without any presents," says Jo March and nor would it be Christmas without Little Women  - all three film versions of it (avoid the BBC adaptation). When I was younger the 1995 version of the film was my definitive idea of what Christmas should be, although growing up in North London I had to make do with ice skating at the leisure centre rather than a beautiful lake in snowy Massachusetts. Since then I've broadened my horizons - Katharine Hepburn makes a captivating Jo March in the 1933 version and Greta Gerwig's take, with its depiction of sister relationships, was a highlight of last year. SB