ScreenCritics Adam and Mike check out the top 10 festive films that get them in the mood for all things Christmas every year.
Tis the season. The season where you eat and drink far too much to drown out the noise of what has been a pretty rubbish year. The year that gave us President Drumpf, brought fascism back in fashion and gave us two thoroughly rubbish DC Superhero films. In a year that can only be described as one long, general clusterf**k, its appropriate those films should be released in 2016.
However, December provides us with ample opportunities to watch fabulous festive films and our film fanatics Adam and Mike have compiled a list of ten of their favorite Christmas films.
Mike: The definitive in many people’s eyes. A genuinely great adaptation of Charles Dickens’ seminal literary work and the second best telling of A Christmas Carol if only due to the powerhouse performance of the great Scot Alastair Sim. The scene where Ebenezer Scrooge is shown his own grim future is laden is a masterclass in directing from Brian Desmond Hurst and Sims performance belies a far more complex character than a mere miser. A film that garnered a lukewarm reception at the time but garnered a greater audience as time went on.
Adam: A grumpy person will often say that we don’t make new Christmas classics anymore, in terms of music and film. But I’d disagree with that. There’s a few fun Christmas films that have been released in recent years, I’m disappointed that we couldn’t squeak Krampus in this list, but Elf seems to be the natural new Christmas classic. It seems like such a simple idea, putting one of Santa’s actual elves in modern New York, and it works as well as it should. Will Ferrell is very game as Buddy and you can even see a pre-Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage, which is pretty cool. But in a film that could have been very cynical, it’s sweetness is what makes me really enjoy this one.
- The Polar Express.
Mike: A film of haunting beauty by Robert Zemeckis that infuses the magic of Christmas with an underlying melancholy as the film follows a boy who has lost his faith. This film has all the bells and whistles of standard festive fair along with the always likable Tom Hanks. There is a darkness to this film however. At times, it has an eerie atmosphere that makes you think anything could happen. The animation is beautiful and Hanks’ motion capture performance is superb.
- A Christmas Story
Adam: The reputation of A Christmas Story has taken a nosedive in recent years due to an atrocious sequel and the sheer amount of merchandise released for it. It’s quite similar to what happened to The Nightmare Before Christmas in fact. But that shouldn’t disguise that this is a very honest take on Christmas for a child. Not many films actually take a proper look at childhood, pretending to sanitise it and be overly sentimental instead. But this film always felt grounded due to the overall tone and the fact it’s not afraid to say Christmas isn’t perfect, but it’s still pretty special. I like that.
Mike: One of last year’s surprises was the comedy-horror Krampus. A fiendishly funny festive horror treat. However, is spiritual mentor is still the tops. 1984’s Gremlins is brilliant little creature feature. A bunch of cute critters are fed accidently after midnight to become miniature demons causing chaos. Director Joe Dante delivers a Christmas comedy on anti-materialism during this time of year with a genuinely nasty edge.
- A Muppet Christmas Carol
Adam: As you saw earlier on in this list, A Christmas Carol is a classic story and quite honestly you could probably do a top ten of the best adaptations of the classic Dickens story. While Scrooge is probably technically better, I will always love A Muppet Christmas Carol. Firstly, it gets the tone of the story absolutely correct and it’s not afraid to be a bit dark and scary like the source material. The Muppets perfectly fit into the characters and Michael Caine is such an obvious Scrooge I’m surprised he was never one in a serious film before this one was made.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
Mike: Its easy to forget that before falling into a level of self-parody and lazy, commercial “quirkiness” Tim Burton was one of the finest creative minds in Hollywood. The Nightmare Before Christmas was directed by his hand but it was his brainchild and can easily rank as one of the best musicals ever made, as well as one of the best animated films, nevermind Christmas! Drawing inspiration from the darkness of Dickens and the strangeness of Dr Seuss and Dali, director Henry Selick and Burton as producer delivered a Christmas film as wonderful as it is weird. This is all before we get to the magnificent score and soundtrack written by Danny Elfman – who also does Jack Skellington’s singing voice. This charming nightmare is nothing short of a modern masterpiece.
- Home Alone
Adam: If you have kids and want to put on a family Christmas film that isn’t the cheap crap that’s often put out at this time of year, I am one of those people who has sat through the Snow Buddies film so I know, you put on this film. Yes the message that Christmas time is for the family isn’t the most original, but it delivers this message in the most fun and creative way it’s very easy to get on board with. Plus, Macaulay Culkin is great, which is nice to say because we wouldn’t get many opportunities to do that again.
- Die Hard
Mike: Yea it’s a bloody Christmas film alright! Stop arguing. What could be more festive than Bruce Willis foiling a terrorist plot masterminded by the late Alan Rickman who didn’t so much chew the scenery as dine out on it as if it were a high end 3 course meal. Often imitated but never bettered, this was everything an action film should be. Heart-stopping, hilarious, thrilling and entertaining. Willis is magnificent as the iconic John McClane, a man with a bad habit of always being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Jolly Old Saint Nick would say “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-Ho-Ho!”
- It’s A Wonderful Life
Adam: I’m not going to proclaim this film as perfect. It isn’t. It has a very a slow start and for modern audiences, that can be a struggle. But it is worth it because that final third is so incredibly special. It exudes the Christmas spirit so much in that amazing final third where George Bailey is shown what would have happened if didn’t exist. I cry every single time when he realizes how important his life is and it’s one I watch every year.
Mike: This is undoubtedly a classic by Capra, if not entirely in the manner he intended. Taking things at face value, It’s a Wonderful Life is a touching festive film, however, it is also one of the most subversive. The grinding negativity of people around George Bailey and his own frustration with his own career hasn’t gone away by the happy ending. Neither has the fact George is a lot closer to his nemesis, local wealthy leech, Mr Potter and not as good of a man as he portrays himself than he dares to admit. This is not a backhanded compliment though, as it’s the many layers of this film that continue to make it watchable and relevant today.
This was a contribution article written by Adam and Mike.