A yearly staple to help ease you into the festive period, the Christmas film is best enjoyed in front of the television with a good supply of wine and seasonal fare.
But with such a large range of films to choose from, it's hard to know which sentimental titles to stay clear of, and which have just the right amount of seasonal schmaltz.
The Independent's film critic Geoffrey Macnab gives his definitive list, with a good mix of titles to satisfy even the biggest scrooge.
The 1951 take on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is well worth a watch if you fancy a vintage film to entertain the grandparents and children alike, while Nicolas Cage's performance in The Family Man is a more modern derivative of the classic, complete with a heavy dose of necessary Christmas emotion.
From festive favourites such as It's A Wonderful Life and Macaulay Culkin's Nineties hit Home Alone, to Bruce Willis' fast-paced action movie Die Hard, look no further than the gallery below.
Ten best Christmas films
Ten best Christmas films
1/10 It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
The enduring appeal of Frank Capra’s yuletide movie lies in its toughness. Yes, the film lets us know that 'no man is a failure who has friends' and features an angel called Clarence, but it also touches on bankruptcy, suicide, frustrated ambition and the dark underbelly of small town American life.
It's A Wonderful Life
2/10 Die Hard (1988)
This is an action movie, not a Christmas film as such...but it is set over the Christmas period. Bruce Willis in a vest pitted against Alan Rickman’s sneering villain is an antidote to the typical yuletide fare.
3/10 Fanny and Alexander (1982)
Ingmar Bergman’s sprawling drama has a quite magical sequence of a family Christmas with all the trimmings - gluttony, lechery, presents, dancing and even a relative who can fart at will.
Fanny and Alexander promotional poster
4/10 The Family Man (2000)
Yes, it’s schmaltzy and highly derivative of 'A Christmas Carol', but Brett Ratner’s Christmas film features such a heartfelt, Eeyore-like performance from Nicolas Cage that you buy into it anyway. Cage is the man whose life can go in two directions - either he can be a Master of the Universe on Wall Street or a small time family man...
5/10 Joyeux Noel (2005)
Christmas in the First World War trenches and there is an impromptu ceasefire between the Germans and British and the French. Instead of killing each other, they play football and sing songs. Directed by Christian Carion and with a cast of French, British and German actors, this is a crowdpleasing Christmas Euro-pudding of a movie.
6/10 A Christmas Carol (1951)
Scrooge has been portrayed on screen many times. Alastair Sim certainly isn’t the meanest incarnation of Charles Dickens’ skinflint but he is the most appealing.
7/10 The Polar Express (2004)
Robert Zemeckis is a visionary who is rarely given his due. Visually, this motion capture computer animated film is an absolute tour de force, although some critics complained about its mawkishness and the fact that Tom Hanks seemed to play almost all the roles.
8/10 Decalogue III (1988)
The third episode on Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 10 part Decalogue is set on Christmas Eve and is an embroiled and fraught drama about a woman desperate to coax her ex-lover away from his family and spend the night with him.
9/10 Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983)
This was the first sight that western audiences had of the great Japanese comedian Takeshi Kitano, now a very respected filmmaker in his own right. Kitano plays the brutal, hard-drinking Japanese Sergeant who utters the lines that give Nagisa Oshima’s film its title, discovering his own humanity in the process.
10/10 Home Alone (1990)
It is a measure of how cleverly written and directed John Hughes’ movies were that they’re still being watched today. Macaulay Culkin became the biggest child star of the 1990s on the back of his performance here as the enterprising kid, left home alone at Christmas and defending himself from a pair of nincompoop burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern).
- More about:
- Actors And Actresses
- Charles Dickens
- Festive Events (including Carnivals)
- Male Actors
- Nicolas Cage