Whatever Christmas looks like for you this year, there’ll come a point when you turn on the TV and look to settle down with some Christmas films.
Look no further than your festive guide to seven yuletide classics sure to entertain the whole family.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Directed by Hollywood icon Frank Capra and starring the much-loved James Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life is a perennial Christmas favourite, ranked twentieth best American film of all time according to the American Film Institute.
Stewart stars as George Bailey, a devoted family man contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. His guardian angel, Clarence – watching from Heaven and desperate to earn his wings – comes to his rescue.
In a take on Dickens’ ghost of Christmas past, Clarence shows George a version of reality in which he was never born. Seeing his hometown of Bedford Falls reduced to vice and poverty and his wife lonely, George begs for a return to his old, wonderful life.
2. Scrooged (1988)
Scrooged stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross in an update of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Cross is a TV boss who hates Christmas. With his TV channel working on a live version of Dickens’ story, due for broadcast on Christmas Eve, Cross is horrified to find real-life starting to mimic the fictional story, as three ghosts arrive to show him the error of his ways.
Directed by Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon), the film features the music of Danny Elfman and a Robert Mitchum cameo. Centred around a standout performance by Murray, this Christmas comedy is a lively – and occasionally slapstick – retelling of a classic story.
3. Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone introduced worldwide audiences to Kevin McCallister, whose family accidentally leave him behind when they head off for a Christmas holiday.
With the run of the house, Kevin initially enjoys his newfound independence. Until that is, he is forced to defend his house from two burglars, Harry and Marv, played by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci.
A sequel followed two years later that reunited most of the original cast and found Kevin once more alone, this time Lost in New York.
4. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Originally released in 1947 and starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood, Miracle on 34th Street was updated and remade in 1994, starring Richard Attenborough in the main role.
Kris Kringle (Attenborough) berates a drunken Santa and takes his place in the Cole’s Department Store Thanksgiving Parade. Impressing in the role, Kringle is taken on as the store’s resident Santa for the rest of the festive period.
When he winds up in court, framed by the original drunk Santa, his lawyer finds that to get Kringle released he will need to prove to the jury not only that Santa exists, but that Kringle is the real one.
While the 1997 remake didn’t match the original’s three Academy Awards, it is a captivating and magical festive film, with great central performances from Attenborough and Mara Wilson as sceptical youngster Susan Walker.
5. The Polar Express (2004)
Robert Zemeckis, best known for Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, is reunited with the star of the latter, Tom Hanks, for this animated feature. It follows the adventures of a young boy on Christmas Eve when he takes the Polar Express to the North Pole.
Using motion-capture technology, human actors are turned into animated characters, allowing Tom Hanks to play multiple roles in a timeless tale of childhood, self-discovery, and the magic of Christmas.
6. Love Actually (2007)
Richard Curtis directs an ensemble all-star cast in this feel-good romantic comedy and instant Christmas classic.
Bill Nighy’s ageing rocker Billy Mack makes an assault on the Top Ten with his cover of Love is All Around while British Prime Minister, David, played by Hugh Grant, falls for his secretary Natalie. Meanwhile, David’s sister, played by Emma Thompson suspects her husband, Alan Rickman, of having an affair with a younger woman.
Also starring Colin Firth, Kiera Knightley, Andrew Lincoln, and Martin Freeman amongst many others, Love Actually became an instant Christmas staple, though be warned, it may not be suitable for younger viewers.
7. Nativity! (2009)
Nativity! is a British comedy musical starring Martin Freeman as a heartbroken schoolteacher, Paul Maddens.
When a white lie about Hollywood coming to see the school’s Christmas nativity play escalates, Paul, helped by his high-spirited classroom assistant, Mr Poppy, tries to make the dream a reality.
Under the watchful eye of Mrs Bevan (Pam Ferris), Paul, aided by Mr Poppy, travels to meet his producer ex-girlfriend. He is forced to admit to the children that Hollywood won’t be attending their play after all.
But Christmas is a time for miracles.