Watching films over the holiday period has long been just as much of a festive tradition as mince pies, mistletoe, and singing carols.

Most of us have a favourite Christmas-themed film. Often, it will be one you enjoyed as a child and that instantly gives you a nostalgic rush of times gathered around the TV with your parents.

In this list, you will find a mix of genres, from genuine family classics and films aimed at young children, to some you will probably want to watch when the children are out of the room. 

With streaming and catch-up services making almost every film available on demand, we are not restricted by whatever films TV channels happen to be showing anymore. 

So, take a look through this list, pick one, tee it up, and sink in!

1. It’s a Wonderful Life

As well as always ranking highly in lists of the top Christmas films, It’s a Wonderful Life also regularly features in surveys of the best films ever made, regardless of genre.

Hollywood legend, James Stewart, rightly deserves the acting plaudits for his portrayal of George Bailey who, after a financial error, wishes he had never been born. He then gets to see the alarming outcome of that wish actually coming true.

It passes as a Christmas film as the climax is very much around seasonal celebrations and an opportunity to appreciate the season of “goodwill to all men”, even including the avaricious villain, Potter, superbly played by the veteran Lionel Barrymore.

2. Scrooge (released as A Christmas Carol in the US)

According to Time magazine, there have been over 100 adaptions of the Charles Dickens classic story, A Christmas Carol, since the first film was produced in 1901.

Collider recently listed their top 24 versions, and agree with us that the 1951 iteration, with Alastair Sim in the title role, is the best of them all. 

It is certainly one of the most faithful to the original story, and the performance of Sim, with a wonderful mix of villainy, pathos, and humour, would have probably earned him an Oscar nomination had it been made in Hollywood rather than London.  

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol

As well as the “serious” film adaptations of A Christmas Carol, there have also been a series of them featuring popular animated characters. Most of these, such as the Mickey Mouse and Flintstones versions, are forgettable, but this version is a notable exception. 

If you have young children, it is a great opportunity to introduce them to one of the all-time great Christmas stories, and the Muppets. 

Mixing real-life actors with puppets does not always work, but Michael Caine does a great job of playing second fiddle to the likes of Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie Bear!

4. Die Hard

One of the longest-running cinematic arguments is whether or not Die Hard is actually a Christmas film in the true sense.

However, there is no doubt that it is a classic action movie and perfect for watching over the festive break if you do not want to have to think too hard.

Bruce Willis as John McClane, the New York City policeman and reluctant hero, is the deserved star, but Alan Rickman nearly steals the film with his wonderful portrayal of an action-movie villain.

Bonus feature: the sequel, imaginatively titled Die Hard 2, is perhaps not as good as the original, but still another very watchable Christmas film.

5. Miracle on 34th Street

One of the big problems with many of the hundreds of Christmas films is the excess of sentimentality. By ladling on the saccharine too heavily, they just leave you feeling queasy rather than entertained. 

Miracle on 34th Street, however, does prove that a sentimental theme can work if the story and production are effective.

The classic tale of Kris Kringle going on trial to prove he is both sane and Father Christmas, works because the quality of the cast (including a very young Natalie Wood) allows you to suspend disbelief. 

We have chosen the 1947 version, but a more recent remake starring Richard Attenborough in one of his last films, is also worth watching.

6. White Christmas

If you watched Christmas films with your parents or even your grandparents, this would have very likely been one of the ones you would have watched. 

It is an unashamedly sentimental Christmas favourite that still bears repeated viewing once a year.  

Bing Crosby was always a bit wooden as an actor, effectively playing the same character in nearly all his films, but Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney carry him through an entertaining musical extravaganza of the kind that Hollywood excelled at. Bing also gets to deliver the eponymous song at the end!

7. Love Actually

It often gets criticised as an overstuffed sugary tale, but the fact this has nine self-contained stories makes it highly watchable as a Christmas film. It is likely that you will find at least a couple of stories to your liking. 

It supplies an excellent cast, from Hugh Grant as the newly-elected prime minister falling for the young woman on his Downing Street staff, to Emma Thompson as the wife slowly realising her husband is having an affair with his secretary. 

Then there is Bill Nighy upstaging everyone as an aging rock star with an unlikely Christmas hit to promote. 

8. Elf

Although Will Ferrell is the epitome of a “Marmite” comedy actor, he turns in a hilarious and charming performance in this family comedy. 

It also stars James Caan as the stereotypical hard-nosed businessman who gradually has his heart softened by the childish elf.

It is a highly entertaining film that your children will love, and you will certainly enjoy. It also bears repeated viewing, so it is very easy to watch on an annual basis.

9. Trading Places

Of the 10 films on your list, this is the only one that may require a level of parental discretion if you have children of TV-watching age.

However, if you do not have children, or they are upstairs watching films of their own, it is well worth teeing up this classic Christmas comedy. 

Trading Places celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, but it still packs a punch as a hilarious social satire. 

Some of the language is rather unreconstructed, but it is a great story and Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd are a superb comedic pairing, as are veterans, Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy, as the scheming Duke brothers.  

10. The Polar Express

The final film on your list is a nice reversal of the theme from Elf. Rather than the adult not believing in the idea of Christmas, The Polar Express is based around the idea of a young child having the same doubts.

As a result, he is taken on a train ride to the North Pole to help him discover the true meaning and inherent magic of Christmas.

Although the CGI animation looks a bit dated by the dizzy standards of today, it was considered ground-breaking when the film was first released in 2004.

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Please note

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.