As the most wonderful time of the year steadily approaches, it’s normal to start playing Christmas carols, thinking about putting up the tree, investing in an advent calendar and just generally getting into the Yuletide spirit.
It’s also perfectly normal to be in the mood to watch a Christmas movie or two, just to really start getting prepared for the festive season. After all, here in Australia it never really feels like proper Christmas thanks to our lack of snow, so a good old fashioned Christmas flick is the way to go.
Now, every year movie studios throw new Christmas fodder our way and we love them for that, we really do. However, there are just a few Chrimbo classics that will always reign supreme in our hearts.
Read on for our round-up of the best Christmas movies of all time. And, no Love Actually is not on the list because it is just all kinds of terrible and it makes my heart hurt.
Christmas With The Kranks
Hands up if you were today years old when you found out that acclaimed crime writer John Grisham (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, A Time to Kill. etc) had also written a couple of comedic novels. You’re not alone there and his 2001 novel Skipping Christmas served as the inspiration for 2004’s Christmas With The Kranks.
The classic comedy film stars Tim Allen and Jamie-Lee Curtis as Luther and Nora Krank who decide to skip Christmas in the absence of their daughter, only to be met with pure rage from their neighbours about their decision. A surprise visit from their aforementioned daughter sets the wheels in motion for some truly chaotic Christmas fun.
I know, I know, I can’t seem to write a single round-up without harping on about my love of the Gremlins movies. So sue me — after you watch the first film.
The plot goes like this: In a very last-minute effort to buy his son a Christmas gift, an inventor named Randall Peltzer buys his son, Billy, a mogwai named Gizmo, against the warnings of a mysterious shop owner named MrWing. The rules for owning such a creature are simple and yet thoroughly annoying: don’t get them wet, don’t let them eat after midnight and don’t expose them to bright light.
Of course, all of the above happens and cute, cuddly little Gizmo soon becomes patient zero for an army of scaly, mannerless gremlins who run amok in Billy’s small town of Kingston Falls.
This movie works for Christmas, it works for Halloween, it works for Easter…sort of (something about new life when the new Gremlins hatch?) just, please — watch it and I swear I’ll shut up about it (until next year.)
The Santa Clause
Yep, another Tim Allen Christmas movie for you.
This time, he plays a single dad named Scott who is eager for his son to continue believing in Santa Claus. The only problem there is that Santa is tragically killed in a freak fall from Scott’s roof (did he push him? We’ll never know) leaving Scott to don the red suit and take on the gift delivering duties of the late Saint Nick.
Of course this one is on the list — it has Catherine O’Hara in it!
Before she was Moira Rose, she was Kate McCallister, a rather negligent parent who doesn’t realise she’s left her bébé Kevin at home as she and the rest of the family board a flight to Paris (you would have thought his lack of whining would have tipped her off but she was probably just so thankful for the peace).
Anyway, this leaves Kevin home alone to fend off two of the world’s most hapless criminals through the use of some pretty fun booby traps.
It’s a Wonderful Life
This one definitely starts out quite sad — it’s Christmas and George Bailey has so many problems he is contemplating suicide.
As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback and just as George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence – who then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds over the years.
Obviously this is here, and if you don’t know the plot and most of the dialogue by heart by now then I really just can’t help you.
Miracle on 34th Street
Man, old-timey Christmas movies really have a dark side.
In this Christmas classic, an old man going by the name of Kris Kringle fills in for a drunk Santa in Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. He proves to be such a hit that he is soon appearing regularly at the chain’s main store in midtown Manhattan.
When Kringle surprises customers and employees alike by claiming that he really is Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his mental health and, more importantly, his authenticity.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The madness that is the Griswold’s is back in one of Chevy Chase’s classic comedies.
In Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold (Chase) wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), and children, as he tries to make sure everything is in line, including the tree and house decorations.
However, things go awry quickly. His hick cousin, Eddie (Randy Quaid), and his family show up unplanned and start living in their camper on the Griswold property. Even worse, Clark’s employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs.
Buddy the Elf is not really an elf, but he doesn’t know that as he was raised by Papa Elf among all of the other elves in the North Pole.
Suspecting that something is up, adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs, a cynical businessman who works as a children’s book publisher despite having a lump of coal for a heart.
After a DNA test proves this, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results.
There’s also a vaguely disturbing sub-plot where Buddy, who is essentially enslaved by department store Gimbels, starts a romance with his co-worker Jovie, despite the fact that he clearly has the EQ of a toddler.
Here’s a heartwarming alternative origin story for Santa (have tissues ready, you’ve been warned).
After proving himself to be the worst student at the academy, a postman named Jesper Johansson is banished by his father to a frozen town in the North named Smeerensburg with the task of posting six-thousand letters within a year.
Failure will result in being cut off from his inheritance so it is vitally important that Jesper figures it out.
When he meets a reclusive toymaker named Klaus, the pair embark on a mission to deliver all of Klaus’ beautiful creations to the children of Smeerensburg (in exchange for the kids writing him letters) in order to fulfil Jesper’s quota.
Of course, while the town of Smeerensburg remains frozen, your heart will be thoroughly melted by this beautiful animated film.