The best family Christmas films
Nothing beats cheery Christmas movies for rousing the festive spirit. Not only do they ignite that feel-good glow, but they number among the dwindling entertainments that can please the entire family. So grab your popcorn, some yuletide bubbly and screen your way through the top 10 festive films (as gleaned from the Mumsnet Talk boards)
Will Ferrell is an elf. Well, actually, he's a human who through a series of misadventures finds himself in the North Pole putting together Etch-A-Sketches (badly) for Papa Elf. Upon discovering his true identity (the height is a dead giveaway), he heads off to Manhattan to track down his birth father. Along the way he falls in love with Zooey Deschanel and converts cynical New Yorkers to the true spirit of Christmas.
“We love Elf here – but discovered the other day (yes, while watching it) that it's a PG and has the word 'pissed' in it! Was sat there hoping that DD didn't hear!”
You can't watch Elf on any of the major streaming services, but (nostalgia alert) you can buy it on DVD from Amazon for £3.90
Miracle on 34th Street (1994 remake)
Six-year-old Susan is too practical to believe in myths like Father Christmas. When her mother hires Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough) to replace the boozing Santa in the town's Thanksgiving parade Susan finds her sensible world views challenged. Kringle, meanwhile, is certain he's the real deal, a certainty that leads him straight to the courtroom dock where he's forced to prove Santa really does exist.
“I love Miracle on 34th Street. Christmas doesn't start till I've watched it!”
It's a Wonderful Life
It's 1946 and benevolent but unlucky businessman George Bailey is contemplating suicide. Not the most cheerful premise for a Christmas film but stick with it… Worried about his wellbeing, Bailey's friends and family pray for him. Their requests to the heavens are answered when a bumbling angel is sent down to show Bailey how bleak the world would have been without him.
“When I've finished the tree and put everything away I find the part in It's A Wonderful Life where George realises he's alive (you know, when he's on the bridge and his lip is bleeding) and watch the rest of the film from there. It's magic!”
Muppet Christmas Carol
Let's face it, there's nothing that isn't enlivened by the appearance of the Muppets, even this frequently-visited tale. Michael Caine is the tightfisted Scrooge, Kermit and Miss Piggy are the poverty-stricken Cratchits, and there are songs galore. A great introduction to Dickens for the little ones.
“God I love the Muppet Christmas Carol. We watched again it yesterday and I'm still singing the songs. I really should have waited until the week before Christmas.”
Santa Claus: The Movie
A film of two halves, the first part of Santa Claus takes place in the 14th century when a man called Claus is given immortality and trusted with delivering presents to kiddies across the globe. The second half moves into the modern era and focuses on Patch (Dudley Moore), a head elf who falls in with an evil toy manufacturer who's concocting a plan to kill Santa.
“The movie is a MUST in our house on Christmas Eve, it's lovely.”
For a generation the image of Macaulay Culkin, hands clapped to his cheeks, mouth dropped in horror is about as Christmassy as you can get. The boisterous tale of an eight-year-old boy left to fend for himself (ie battling burglars with painful booby traps) when his parents fly to France without him has aged brilliantly. Just hope your offspring don't take inspiration from this!
You can rent Home Alone from Amazon Video for £3.49 or you could treat yourself to the double DVD collection including the sequel for £5.64
A TV executive is haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in this comic update of A Christmas Carol. It's a daring remake pairing shoot-em-up Die Hard director Richard Donner with Bill Murray's deadpan humour, yet the whole thing comes off impressively. The outrageous slapstick will delight the kids while you can enjoy the subtle, sardonic edge.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Bored by the repetitive timetable in Halloweenland, pumpkin king Jack Skellington is delighted when he stumbles into Christmas Town. However he doesn't quite understand Christmas and when he tries to supplant Santa and put on Christmas himself things quickly go awry. A wacky comedy from the brilliantly twisted mind of Tim Burton.
It's not easy being the brother of a beloved celebrity, and no one knows that better than Santa Claus' older brother, Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn). Sprung from jail after his saintly sibling posts bail, Fred is forced to repay the debt by pitching in with toy-making duties in the North Pole. But Fred is bitter and belligerent and his antics will test the patience of (quite literally) a saint.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
The Griswold family's plans for a “good, old-fashioned family Christmas” turn into the customary Lampoon disaster in this fiercely funny combo of cartoon violence and utter mayhem. Particularly great if enjoyed as you knock back the eggnog while surrounded by a fractious extended family. You can comfort yourself that your family get-togethers aren't quite this bad.