For most of us, movies are a big part of Christmas. We all have at least one movie that we watch every year, and that we feel like Christmas wouldn’t quite be the same without. For many years one of mine was ‘Home Alone’ (1990). By now, I think I can safely say I’ve watched that particular movie enough to last me this lifetime (perhaps due to the fact that I would watch it several times each Christmas), but it has since been replaced by others.
Here’s a list of my favourite Christmas movies, from the nostalgic childhood favourites to the recently added and more widely associated ones:
The traditional “must-sees”:
These are the ones that I have watched more or less every Christmas for as far back as I can remember. ‘Reisen til Julestjernen’ (‘Journey to the Christmas Star‘, Nor 1976) and ‘Tri Iskory Pro Popelku’ (‘Three Wishes for Cinderella‘, Cze 1973) are shown on TV from around midday every Christmas Eve. How a Czechoslovakian movie became part of Norwegian Christmas tradition, I have no idea. Both are traditional fairy tales featuring a beautiful, innocent protagonist, an evil relative, a castle ball, magic and happy endings. The reason I keep watching them every year is due to nostalgia more than their cinematic qualities. Neither of them are masterpieces, to put it modestly, yet they are both charming and entertaining, perhaps as much for their faults as their merits. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) is usually shown on New Years Eve. It’s a magical and incredibly touching story, and the first of what has since turned many collaborations between an outstanding Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton. If you’ve somehow managed to miss it, you should make it a priority to watch it this holiday season.
With the exception of the obvious choice, the very holiday-centered ‘Love Actually‘ (2003), these aren’t strictly speaking Christmas movies, but they’re pleasant feel-good dramas that are perfect for quiet Christmas afternoons at home. ‘White Fang‘ (1991) was one of my favourite movies (and novels) growing up, and I still get overwhelmingly emotional every time I watch the story about the young miner and the lone wolf who form an unbreakable bond of friendship. ‘Little Women‘ (1994) is the story based on a novel by Louisa May Alcott, about four sisters growing up in the late nineteenth century. It has an Austen vibe to it, though the women in this story are perhaps more progressive than Austen’s protagonists, created around half a century earlier, ever were. The cast list is pretty impressive: Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Gabriel Byrne, Kirsten Dunst and Christian Bale.
These three might not immediately strike you as obvious choices for holiday mood-setters; in fact, they seem to be rather the opposite of what a Christmas movie should be. Instead of Santa, elves or magic spells, this selection respectively deals with HIV, murder and mental disorder, and all three of them (I just realised) contain scenes of recreational drug use.
The most easily justifiable title is perhaps ‘Rent’ (2005). The movie is an adaptation of a stage musical (which is in turn based on the opera ‘La Boheme’ by Giacomo Puccini) that is very dear to me. The story is about a group of struggling artists, most of them HIV positive, living in NYC in the late 80’s. It may not sound cheerful, but the main message is about love and friendship and carpe diem. Far more difficult to justify is ‘In Bruges’ (2008), a pitch black comedy which must hold some record of most swear words uttered in the time frame of one hour and forty-five minutes. Perhaps it’s just a weak excuse to watch one of my favourite movies yet again, but there’s something about the quiet and contemplative depiction of Bruges in winter, along with the turbulent yet loyal relationship between Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) that positions this movie as a great candidate as an alternative Christmas watch. Lastly there’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, which strictly speaking won’t be available this Christmas since it was shown at the cinema only a short while ago (you might have read my post-watch ramble on it). I found it one of the strongest cinema experiences this year, so much so that I renamed my blog after one of its scenes. As mentioned earlier, this is a movie with a dark plot line and a fair bit of drug consumption, but it’s by no means a dark and gloomy movie: at heart it’s a beautiful and optimistic story about friendship and connection.
I would love to hear which movies you can’t get through Christmas without!