1. The Holiday (2006)
Film trailer editor Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and wedding columnist Iris (Kate Winslet) exchange homes over Christmas in an attempt to escape their terrible love lives. This Nancy Meyers classic is as predictable as its fake movie trailers, but it’s warm and witty, with a strange but sweet subplot involving an Oscar-winning nonagenarian.
2. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Based on Robert Nathan’s 1928 novel, The Bishop’s Wife stars Cary Grant as perhaps the most charming angel to ever grace the silver screen. Taking on human form in order to help a struggling bishop (David Niven) and his fractured marriage, Grant’s Dudley accidentally falls in love with the eponymous Julia (Loretta Young). He’s an angel, though, not a homewrecker, and all is well come Christmas Eve.
3. Honest Thief (2020)
Whatever side you’re on in the infernal debate over whether it’s actually a Christmas movie (Bruce Willis thinks not), it’s hard to deny that Die Hard is a perfect action movie. That it takes place on Christmas Eve, and features lines like, “Now I have a machine gun, ho-ho-ho”, makes it ideal holiday viewing too – particularly if you’re a little sick of festive slush.
4. A Christmas Carol (1999)
There have been about a hundred screen adaptations of Charles Dickens’s iconic novella, which sees a penny-pinching miser change his ways after encountering the ghosts of his Christmas past, present and future. Though this made-for-television film is far from the most famous reimagining, it is one of the best – thanks in no small part to perfectly pitched performances from Patrick Stewart and Richard E Grant.
5. Gremlins (1984)
There are three simple rules to keep a gremlin from wreaking havoc: don’t expose it to the light, don’t get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. Naturally, over the course of this Christmas comedy horror, all three of those rules are broken. The ensuing chaos makes for riotous viewing.
6. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Home Alone franchise went on for three films too long – but this first sequel is surprisingly wonderful. Sure, it follows almost the exact same formula as the original, and simply relocates to the Big Apple, but with a formula this good, and with Macaulay Culkin still on board (he wisely bowed out after this one), it’s hard to complain. If you’re after festive cheer, though, you might want to fast forward through Donald Trump’s brief cameo.
7. Love Actually (2003)
Nine intertwined stories examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love. Among the characters explored are David (Hugh Grant), the handsome newly elected British prime minister who falls for a young junior staffer (Martine McCutcheon), Sarah (Laura Linney), a graphic designer whose devotion to her mentally ill brother complicates her love life, and Harry (Alan Rickman), a married man tempted by his attractive new secretary.
8. The Snowman (1982)
Though this beautiful, wordless animation is not widely known outside the UK – it was the first broadcast on the then fledgling Channel 4 in 1982 and then annually ever since – it is well worth 26 minutes of anyone’s time. Revolving around a young boy and a snowman come to life (a little like Jack Frost, except not terrible), the film ends with a breathtaking flourish, as the pair fly over England’s snowy plains to the melancholy strains of “Walking in the Air“.