Christmas films are a genre onto themselves, but are not solely reliant on the fact that are set during the holidays or are tailored for screening at this time of year: they are, in the end, a matter of mood, because we perceive them as Christmassy, regardless of whether they take advantage or not to exalt the event. In other words, they’re Christmassy because they evoke it directly or indirectly, and because they assist us either loving or hating the holidays based on our attitude to the silly season.
We start off with the time-honored classical Christmas movies, the most essential being It’s A Wonderful Life, which apart from having the perfect structure for a Christmas tale, is also a wonderous invitation to reflect on our lives at a time of the year when the moral burden weighs heavily. You could also try White Christmas, a dynamic musical with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye that is a veritable compendium of everything good.
Insofar as the more modern Christmas classics are concerned, Home Alone is a must-see. The film that disguises an even more vehement celebration of family unity and the values that best reflect the time of year with anarchic comedy; Scrooged, a modern-day version of the classic directed by Richard Donner with Bill Murray in his element; Jingle All The Way, chronicles Schwarzenegger’s transformation into superhero in an effort to find the toy his son’s heart desires; The Polar Express, Robert Zemeckis’ greatest contribution to animation and also a remarkable remake of the traditional Christmas hoax; and While You Were Sleeping, a romantic chestnut with Sandra Bullock pretending to be the girlfriend of the man of her dreams (in a coma after an accident) that, even though you might not want to admit it, will keep you glued to the screen whenever it’s on.
And of course, Love, Actually, the star-studded comedy that has become a benchmark of the genre thanks to its ability to illustrate the many ways to perceive and experience Christmas. Each individual story has that special something, but few manage to deliver the irony and brilliance of this tale starring Bill Nighy.
If it’s turning Christmas values around you’re looking for, then one of your best options would be to revisit Gremlins, undeniably one of the most subversive Christmas stories ever made and when have you ever heard Christmas carols sounding so fresh as when sung by our little green friends. In a similar fashion, the fundamental The Nightmare Before Christmas chronicles a kidnapping that threatens to endanger traditional values, while at the same time serving to make us aware of the need to modernize them.
If you’d prefer sassy, saucy and unholy this yuletide, then look no further than our two favorite unconventional Santa Claus flicks: Bad Santa, with Billy Bob Thornton and an evil drool mocking the most sacred of all holiday uniforms, and Silent Night, Deadly Night, an unbalanced slasher delivering hatchet-blows instead of gifts. However, if it’s terror you’re after, then either of the 1974 or 2019 version of Black Christmas will do the trick.
To wrap up (pardon the pun), an irrefutable classic and personal favorite, the first of which is the best ‘Christmas’ movie of all time: Die Hard. John McClane represents the Scrooge we all carry around inside in our fight against the terrorists threatening our family reconciliation. “Now I have a machine gun, Ho, ho, ho.” is a philosophy for living. My second choice is The Night Before, Jonathan Levine’s priceless comedy where three lifelong friends, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie, spend the night before Christmas in a whirlwind of drugs, private parties, Miley Cyrus and Michael Shannon. What more could you ask for?