Christmas TV guide: All the movies to watch, from Wreck-It Ralph to Ant-Man

Ranging from beloved classics to more recent superhero outings

Jacob Stolworthy
Friday 28 December 2018 11:45 GMT
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Let’s be honest, Christmas is a time for opening presents, eating – and watching loads of films.

It’s most likely the only time you have off work for a sustained period, and this is a fact that should be truly embraced.

Fortunately, the TV schedules are bursting at the seams with films – ranging from beloved classics to more recent superhero outings – that you can settle down to watch over the coming weeks.

If picking what to watch seems like a gargantuan task, don’t fret: below is a highlight of the films showing on television each day.

Saturday 22 December

The Muppets, BBC2, 10am

The Muppet Christmas Carol may be a festive go-to, but this 2011 adventure – starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams – is a treat that’s as much fun for the kids as it is the grown-ups.

The Wizard of Oz, ITV3, 1pm

There’s no better time to venture over the rainbow and watch this musical, starring Judy Garland, than at Christmastime. An unadulterated classic.

Old School, BBC1, 12.35am

An underrated comedy that’s rightly earned cult status since its release in 2003. It follows three thirtysomethings, played by Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell, who re-live their college days by starting a fraternity.

Sunday 23 December

Brief Encounter, ITV3, 2.45pm

In his time, David Lean may have enjoyed making a sweeping epic or two (see: Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago), but he still found room for more intimate affairs. This romantic drama, starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, is still considered one of Britain’s greatest films.

Krampus, Channel 5, 11pm

An entertaining way to spend a few hours. This festive horror-comedy – based on the malevolent hoofed figure from European folklore – is an offbeat departure from the Christmas classics of which you might have grown tired.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Film4, 11.20pm

Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated gem is as enjoyable now as it was upon its release in 2012, bolstered by an uproarious performance by Ralph Fiennes, who leads an all-star ensemble including Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan and Edward Norton.

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Christmas Eve

Zootropolis, BBC1, 2.55pm

Disney pulled it out of the bag once again with this tale of a world run by animals, in which a bunny (Ginnifer Goodwin) attempts to break out of her rural roots to become a city cop. One of the best animations of the decade.

Rear Window, Channel 4, 3.20pm

Having time off work over Christmas provides you with time to catch up with the classics you might not have seen. Start with Rear Window, the Alfred Hitchcock thriller following a housebound photographer who becomes convinced his neighbour has murdered his wife.

Gremlins, ITV, 9.30pm

Gremlins may have seemed like a risky experiment (it’s a creature feature Christmas horror comedy, after all), but it’s one that paid off. When a teenager is given a cute new pet named Gizmo, he’s instructed to follow a set of three rules, which he swiftly breaks. You know the rest...

Christmas Day

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Channel 5, 1.05pm

If you’ve not seen this musical – which features a standout performance from screen legend Howard Keel, and deserves as much love as Stanley Donen’s other classic, Singin’ in the Rain – this Christmas is the time to rectify that oversight.

The Jungle Book, BBC1, 3.10pm

The BBC’s big premiere is Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book, which was released to acclaim back in 2016. Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) did such a good job, the studio handed him the reins for a similar Lion King remake, which will be released in cinemas in the summer of 2019.

Monsters, Inc, ITV, 4.10pm

Naming your favourite Pixar film is an increasingly difficult task, but Monsters, Inc should always be in contention. In it, monster duo Sulley and Mike Wazowski (brilliantly voiced by John Goodman and Billy Crystal) live in a city fuelled by children’s screams, which is turned upside down by the arrival of a young girl named Boo.

Boxing Day

Song of the Sea, Channel 4, 5.40am

This little-seen fantasy film, an Irish co-production, charts the journey of a young boy who discovers that his mute sister is a mythical selkie. The beautiful hand-drawn animation alone makes it worth your time.

Raiders of the Lost Ark, BBC1, 1.25pm

As is Christmas norm, the BBC will show the original Indiana Jones trilogy over three consecutive nights. Apologies to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but there’s no denying the franchise peaked with its debut – an adventure film unlike any in existence.

Saving Mr Banks, BBC2, 2.30pm

Saving Mr Banks is a worthy watch if only for the on-screen chemistry between Emma Thompson – here starring as Mary Poppins creator, PL Travers – and Tom Hanks who plays the man responsible for bringing the character to screen: Walt Disney. John Lee Hancock’s film brings the emotion (all together now) in the most delightful waaaay.

Thursday 27 December

The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists!, BBC1, 9.25am

Cast-iron proof that Aardman Animation is every bit as good as Pixar and DreamWorks. This feature takes viewers to the high seas for an adventure centred on Hugh Grant’s kooky captain.

Skyfall, ITV, 8pm

Bond 23 may be patchy, but it features several highlights, namely Javier Bardem’s genuinely eerie bad guy. The thrilling opening sequence is one of the most memorable in 007 history.

Jimi: All Is by My Side, BBC2, 12.50am

This music drama was a festival favourite upon its release in 2013. Written by 12 Years a Slave scribe John Ridley, it charts the beginning of Jimi Hendrix’s career, weighted by an impressive lead performance from Outkast’s André Benjamin.

Friday 28 December

Emma, BBC2, 12.30pm

Perhaps the most entertaining Jane Austen adaptation there is. Gwyneth Paltrow leads the troupe as the eponymous character who plays matchmaker in her small community in 19th-century England. Toni Collette and Ewan McGregor also star.

Wreck-It Ralph, BBC1, 4.10pm

Whether you’ve recently seen its new sequel or you’re planning a cinema trip before the new year, Wreck-It Ralph is undoubtedly worth your time. The voice work of John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman – who plays video game character Vanelloppe von Schweetz – is Disney’s most compelling since Goodman and Crystal’s in Monsters, Inc.

Vertigo, Channel 4, 1.50am

Watched Rear Window the other day? Now it’s time to tick another Hitchcock classic off the list (or re-watch it for the hundredth time). This regular fixture at the top of “Best of...” lists demands to be devoured.

Saturday 29 December

Groundhog Day, Channel 5, 11.35am

If it seems like Groundhog Day’s on television at the same time every year, that’s probably the point. Harold Ramis’s seminal comedy – starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell – is as charming now as it was upon its release 25 years ago.

Ant-Man, BBC1, 7.50pm

If you find the Marvel Cinematic Universe slightly impenetrable, but are on the hunt for an undemanding way in, Ant-Man‘s the film for you. Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas, it’s a film that can be enjoyed by all the family, regardless of whether you like superheroes or not.

Philomena, BBC2, 9pm

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll cheer in this incredible adaptation, which charts the journey of an Irish woman (Dame Judi Dench) searching for her son, who was taken away by nuns at birth. Steve Coogan, who plays the real-life journalist helping her on her way, co-wrote the Oscar-winning script.

Sunday 30 December

Paddington, Channel 4, 5.40pm

While Paddington 2 may still have a 100 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes, don’t go forgetting that its predecessor was equally as glorious. Paul King brilliantly captures the spirit of Michael Bond’s beloved bear, who finds himself taken in by a kindly family in London after straying from his home turf of Peru.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, ITV, 8pm

It’s been a rough year for the Star Wars saga, with disappointing box office takings for its second spin-off, Solo. However, The Force Awakens remains a glistening jewel that blends the old and new eras effortlessly, thanks to the capable direction of JJ Abrams.

Calvary, BBC2, 12am

John Michael McDonagh – brother of Three Billboards writer-director Martin McDonagh – followed up his razor-sharp directorial debut The Guard with this shocking murder mystery of sorts. it follows Brendan Gleeson’s priest who is warned, in confession by an unknown member of his congregation, that he’ll be killed in a week’s time.

New Year’s Eve

Big Hero 6, BBC1, 2.40pm

Another Disney gem that’ll have you beaming one minute and grabbing the tissues the next, Big Hero 6 features surely the cuddliest of the studio’s characters: the inflatable robot Baymax.

Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie, BBC1, 9pm

Absolutely Fabulous is the latest comedy to get the big-screen treatment, reuniting Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders’s fashionistas, along with a wide range of bizarre cameos (see: Jon Hamm). It may not be vintage Ab Fab, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Basic Instinct, ITV, 12.10am

Christmas doesn’t only have to be a time for festive films. Basic Instinct – the controversial erotic thriller starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone – is the perfect antidote to all the cheery fun you’ll have undoubtedly had over the past week.

New Year’s Day

Inside Out, BBC1, 5pm

Pixar’s cerebral yet entirely accessible film is for kids and adults alike. Following a series of personified emotions inside a young girl’s head, it’s a film whose complex, existential concept makes for movie magic.

The Revenant, BBC2, 10pm

This intense drama, which won Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar, places viewers in the 19th-century wilderness and tracks one man’s hunt for his missing son after a grizzly bear attack. It’s thrillingly directed by Alejandro G Iñárritu, who won an Oscar for best director, having also won the year before for Birdman.

Young Frankenstein, BBC2, 12.25am

“Puttin’ on the Riiiiiiiiitz.” You don’t get funnier than Mel Brooks’s horror spoof, starring Gene Wilder as a descendant of Mary Shelley’s famous scientist.

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