Thanks to the streaming services we have available to us, we don’t have to settle down on Christmas Day to watch the Queen give her speech or watch the folks at Albert Square squabbling in Eastenders. Instead, we can stream a good movie, preferably one that is Christmas-themed and able to get us into the festive spirit.
We have highlighted some of them below so if you’re wondering about what to watch this Christmas (and if you want to silence the in-laws for a couple of hours by turning on the TV), here are our festive movie choices.
(Now TV(UK)/HBO Max (US))
From the trailers, 8-Bit Christmas looks like a knock-off of the 1983 festive classic, A Christmas Story, the 1940’s set nostalgia-fest that charted the story of Ralphie, and his desperate attempts to persuade his family to get him a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas.
In truth, this movie is quite similar, although it’s set in the late 80s and tells the story of young Jake whose dream Christmas gift is a Nintendo and not something that could put your eye out at close range! But is it is as good as that earlier movie? You betcha!
The movie is a heartwarming delight that evokes the period well and has many laugh-out-loud moments. The dialogue is witty and sharp, the father-son bonding is as emotional as it should be, and the story of Jake and his efforts to get a Nintendo will be familiar to anybody who went through the same in that era (and for anybody trying to get their hands on an elusive PS5 this Christmas).
This is a modern festive classic, perfect for family viewing, and ideal for anybody looking to smile and shed a nostalgic tear over their childhood and parent relationships.
If you’re looking for a Santa Claus origin story, you could watch the recent A Boy Called Christmas on Now TV, although that is a rather bland affair, in my opinion, hence the reason why it’s not on this list! Instead, check out Klaus, a beautifully animated movie that charts Santa’s origin in a new and wonderfully inventive way.
At first, it doesn’t appear to tell the story of Santa at all. Rather, we get to meet Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), a rather selfish and lazy young man, who is sent by his Postmaster father to the Scandinavian town of Smeerensburg to deliver mail. Unfortunately, there is no need for his services as the townsfolk of this rather bleak town are all fairly hostile toward one another.
Things change when Jesper meets Klaus (JK Simmons), a seemingly unfriendly woodsman, who creates his own wooden toys. Before long, Jesper comes up with an idea that will bring both peace to the town and encourage people to write letters again. You can probably see where this is going but that’s okay, as the absurd sight gags, amazing hand-drawn animation, and messages of hope, will give you a reason to keep watching, despite the expected ending.
(Netflix/ DIRECTV (US)/ Amazon Prime (US))
Krampus isn’t the movie to watch with the family after you have all had your Christmas dinner. This one is for adults and older teenagers only as it is a seasonal fright-fest that will make you think twice about your behaviour in the run-up to Christmas.
Toni Colette and Adam Scott star as the parents of a family who are forced to battle Krampus, the legendary anti-Santa, one wintry Christmas season. The monster is evoked when their son Max, tired of his bickering relatives, tears up his letter to Santa. From there, all kinds of mayhem ensues, involving not only Krampus but murderous elves, evil little gingerbread men, and a child-eating Jack-in-the-box clown too. Not your average Christmas then!
There is much to like about the movie, from the state-of-the-art special effects to the moments of black comedy which bring that other festive horror classic to mind, Gremlins! And while this is a horror movie, it is still a Christmas movie at heart, as lessons are learned about the importance of family at this most wonderful (or most frightful) time of the year.
Is Love Actually a Christmas cracker? Richard Curtis’ festive rom-com is certainly a divisive title. However, it’s one of those movies that makes an appearance on television every year and it tends to attract large viewing figures for those watching on their streaming devices, so for some of you, I guess it might be!
If you are a fan of the movie, you need no further recommendation to see it. But if you are in that remaining 1% of the world’s population that hasn’t seen it (my figures may not be entirely accurate), expect to see a gallery of stars, including Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, and Emma Thompson, interact and fall in love with one another during the Christmas season.
It’s the sentimental Yuletide movie that people want at this time of year, especially die-hard romantics that believe love conquers all. From the now-famous scene of Andrew Lincoln professing his love to Keira Knightly via a romantic card gesture at her front door, to the moment when Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister shares his first kiss with Natalie, his tea lady, there is much here to cause anybody to swoon. The cynical amongst us won’t shed a tear but if your heart isn’t as frozen as mine, there is much for you to love, actually!
(Now TV (UK)/ (US))
Happiest Season is another romantic comedy but less sentimental than Love Actually and the thousands of Hallmark movies that hit our TV screens at this time of year. It tells the story of Harper (Mackensie Davis) who returns home to her family with her partner in tow, Abby, played by Kristin Stewart. The only problem is, she hasn’t yet told her family that she is gay, which isn’t that surprising considering she has to deal with judgmental siblings, an uptight mother, and a father who is in the running to be mayor.
There are times when the movie slips into sitcom mode as the comedy is rather broad. But then there are those moments in the movie when things become rather emotional, both for the characters within and for those watching at home. Chances are, the movie might resonate with you, especially if you’re somebody who longs for acceptance from your family, especially at Christmas time when you are encouraged/forced to spend more time with your loved ones.
I don’t think this movie will ever become a Christmas classic. But its message of being true to yourself is told in a bold and refreshing way, without falling into the trap of similar movies that resort to clichés and unrealistic happy endings.
It’s certainly worth a watch if you’re looking for something that is funny, romantic, and meaningful, and it might be your movie of choice if you want the catalyst to share long-hidden secrets with your family.
Miracle on 34th Street
(NowTV (UK)/Hulu (US)/HBO Max (US))
While the remake with Richard Attenborough does a good job capturing the magic of this film, there’s just no beating the original from 1947.
Miracle on 34th Street is an imaginative and well written treat; a festive cracker that’s packed with heart and charm.
For those unaware, the story revolves around a divorced New York mother, who hires an old man to play Santa Claus at Macy’s. Only, he claims to be the real Santa. When his sanity is questioned, a lawyer defends him in court.
If you haven’t seen the original you really should, Miracle on 34th Street is a brilliant movie and certainly one of the best Christmas movies out there.
It’s A Wonderful Life
(NowTV (UK)/Amazon Prime(US))
When It’s A Wonderful Life originally released, it wasn’t actually that successful, especially compared to other Frank Capra films. However, over time this juggernaut has soon established itself as a mainstay on the Christmas calendar.
The story here is pretty straight forward, revolving around a disgruntled and frustrated businessman. When an angel is sent from Heaven, he’s shown what life would have been like had he never existed.
The themes, ideas and message all come together through one of the best lines of dialogue in the movie. “Each man’s life touches so many other lives.”
The Nightmare Before Christmas
What’s this? What’s this? A Halloween film or a Christmas film? Well, how about both? Yes, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a wonderfully imaginative and unusual take on the conventional Christmas movie.
The animation is superbly done, the imagery typical Tim Burton weirdness but with enough heart and charm to make it a somewhat restrained offering from him too.
Taking place in a fantasy land, we follow the exploits of Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town. When he becomes disillusioned with Halloween and tries to spice things up, he stumbles upon Christmas Town and attempts to incorporate the celebrations into his own land. Of course, everything goes wrong.
There’s a great message at the heart of this one too, and some of the songs are really well composed.
Home Alone and its follow-up, Home Alone 2, are wonderful Christmas movies but that’s not to say they’re wholly enjoyable all year round too. There are some great jokes, the pranks are brutal and the wacky, cartoony tone helps to keep everything lighthearted.
Our protagonist is 8 year old Kevin McCallister, a boy who’s largely frowned upon in his large family. When he’s accidentally left home alone during Christmas vacation, he’s forced to defend his house from a pair of burglars.
The pranks are absolutely brutal (who else cringed during the nail scene?) while Macaulay Culkin absolutely carries this film. His charm, clever quips and, of course, elaborate traps, are partly why this film works as well as it does. The less said about Home Sweet Home Alone the better.
(Disney+/IMDBTV (with ads)
Admit it, you scrolled all the way down here to make sure Die Hard was on the list, right? Of course, you did! And for good reason too.
Die Hard is one of the greatest Christmas films of all time and the quintessential action flick. Of course, debates will continue to rage over whether this is actually a Christmas film, which is partly why it continues to circle the cultural zeitgeist every year.
The story itself centers on an NYPD officer called John McClane who tries to save his wife and several other people who have been taken hostage.
With German terrorists fronted by Hans Gruber, John finds himself stuck inside the building and forced to fight back alone.
Die Hard is great fun and while the sequels try to replicate the magic the original conjured, none have come close to this gem.
What did you think of our list? Do you agree with our choices? Have you seen any brilliant Christmas movies we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!