10. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
An impeccably scripted rom-com from Rob Reiner starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan (before she turned into an alien), When Harry Met Sally is not technically a Christmas movie. However it does focus on family, friends, love, heartbreak and the passage of time – the embodiment of the holiday season. The film’s primary recurrence is New Year’s Eve: taking stock of the past with hope for the future, as most of us experience at this time of year. But there are a couple of Christmas scenes in the movie! In the earlier one, Harry buys Sally a Christmas tree and they carry it together, in the later one Sally is alone and must carry it by herself. It’s simple juxtapositional throwbacks like these which make When Harry Met Sally a really lovely film to watch at Christmas.
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Christmas from the mind of Tim Burton, you say? I don’t think anything more needs to be said about this stop-motion fantasy masterwork. Imaginative, entertaining, and technically brilliant, it’s one for the whole family.
8. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Can’t we just watch a stupid, 80s Christmas movie starring Chevy Chase? It’s a damn classic, people!
7. Scrooged (1988)
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been adapted so many times because of how perfectly it depicts the holiday spirit transforming even the biggest, uh, “scrooge” into a bell ringing, pudding eating Yuletide lunatic. Flip a coin between The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992) and this version, but it’s Bill Murray’s exuberant genius that makes Scrooged the one I’m voting for.
6. Love Actually (2003)
It’s soppy, and can be summarised as “a bunch of shit just packed into a bloated rom-com star vehicle.” But good luck not beaming like a fool when Billy Mack’s (Bill Nighy) “Christmas Is All Around” hits number 1 on the charts and he finally acknowledges his long-suffering manager by suggesting they celebrate by getting drunk and watching porn. The structure of the film (being around eight or nine separate but tenuously intertwined stories) lends itself to the craziness associated with having the family over for Christmas. Whack it on the TV, and try to take five minutes to sit down and have a look. Just make sure someone else is keeping an eye on the food cooking in the oven, because you’ll get hooked in. It happens every year.
5. Go (1999)
It’s 24 hours until Christmas, and Ronna (Sarah Polley) is about to get evicted from her apartment because she can’t make rent. Solution? Sell some drugs. It’s an unconventional Christmas plot told from three different perspectives, and that’s what makes it a heap of fun to check out. It also stars Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant, and the dude from Party of Five.
4. Gremlins (1984)
Christmas movies tend to need a scrooge, and we usually see this character reform by the end. Gremlins’ scrooge is surprisingly not the titular monsters, but Mrs. Ruby Deagle: an evil, anti-Christmas, would-be dog mutilator. Surely she’ll find the meaning of Christmas? Uh…no. Gremlins have tampered with her staircase aid and now she’s DEAD. It’s moments like these that elevate Gremlins above nostalgic children’s fare and make for delightful viewing with an overt but heartwarming message.
3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
This post-noir comedy thriller kicks off with Robert Downey Jr attempting to steal a Christmas present for his son, and from there goes deep down into the murder-mystery rabbit-hole. Michelle Monaghan’s festively sexy Christmas outfit isn’t something that jolly old Saint Nick could pull off, but she absolutely slays it, rising high above the early casual objectification to a seriously layered character essential to the film. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is ridiculously clever and Val Kilmer’s “Gay Perry” going toe-to-toe with RDJ makes for comedy gold. Must see!
2. Die Hard (1988)
You’ll struggle to find too many action movies that celebrate Christmas. So why not just watch the best action movie ever? You can totally get away with it because it ingeniously happens to be set amidst an office Christmas party.
1. Bad Santa (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton’s Santa is a selfish, offensive, brash, alcoholic thief. And he doesn’t give a fuck. This is the Christmas movie for those who can’t stand schmaltz, but deep down know that at this time of year it’s important to be thankful for your loved ones. His moment of seeing the light and noticing his partner-in-crime’s load of swag (“do you really need all that shit?”) embodies the Christmas spirit sans the forced consumerism. Don’t worry, it’s not a political message – it’s completely heartfelt. It’s also my favourite Christmas movie ever.