Either way, as I begin new traditions with my boyfriend this Christmas, I can’t help thinking about how influenced we are by the VHS tapes we watched as children. As the oldest child, my boyfriend loves watching Elf. He talks of his excitement about watching Elf in the cinema and eagerly showing the film to his younger sisters when it came out on video. I was the opposite. Traditions had already been paved. My sister pushed The Snowman into the VHS player before I had even decided to watch a film.
No matter, The Snowman still elicits the same warmth and excitement for Christmas as Elf does for my partner. Even if he insists that Christmas cannot begin until he watches an elf costumed man-child stuff his face with spaghetti.
(Thankfully, he is not the one writing this list of feel-good Christmas films. So, I can rightfully put the more sophisticated Snowman first.)
1. The Snowman (& Father Christmas)
A short film perfect for watching with a warm cuppa when resting between wrapping presents. The film tells the story of a young boy whose snowman comes alive in the night. He is taken on a magical adventure - and gets to meet Father Christmas! One of the only films I have watched from video to DVD to now digital. If you are a fan of hand-drawn animation, I recommend watching Father Christmas created by the same studio. It is a charming and quintessentially British film.
A hilarious comedy about a grown man who thinks he is an elf. Elf encapsulates children’s excitement for this magical time of the year in a light-hearted and silly way. Why can’t adults shout about Santa like a 3-year-old does?
3. Miracle on 34th Street
Santa Clause is real – and he lives down the road from you. 34th Street tackles what would happen if Santa lived among us today. It is a heart-warming story of belief as a child and lawyer work together to stop evil adults sending the real Santa to an institute.
Now that I’ve finally recovered from hearing ‘Let It Go’ on repeat, Frozen is a beautiful Disney film to watch at Christmas. The movie teaches us the importance of family as Anna fights to keep her sister Elsa in her life after Elsa cannot control her icy powers.
5. Home Alone
Slapstick to fill any belly full of laughter: Macauley Culkin shows us what would happen if your parents forgot to bring you on the family Christmas holiday. I would say it is a timeless classic – but the remake Home Sweet Home Alone out on Disney+ this year highlights how difficult it is to remake this scenario in 2021.
6. Meet Me In St. Louis
Another favourite family tradition, Meet Me in St. Louis, is a feel-good musical that focuses on a year in the life of four sisters. It is a character-driven story that relaxes into relatable storylines and sings truths of the joys of Christmas and life itself.
7. The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a saving grace compared to the hundred other remakes of Dicken's novel. Kermit and friends spin this dark story into a humorous musical watchable for all ages. If you can't get enough of those loveable puppets on your screen, watch Muppet's Treasure Island afterwards and make an afternoon of it.
8. The Grinch
My housemate banned watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas when living at university because she was terrified of Jim Carrey dressed in that green-furred costume. I completely get it; the live-action one was creepily uncanny. Thankfully, there are three other Grinch films available, with the newest one being a sweet Christmas film to watch with the children.
9. It’s A Wonderful Life
For such an infamous Christmas film, it came as a surprise to learn the story is about an angel saving the life of a suicidal man. What a morbid synopsis for a Christmas film! But It’s A Wonderful Life does teach a valuable story that each of our lives gives value to the world (even if we may not see our purpose).
I know, we scoff at films made by Netflix (because they weren’t good enough for the “big screen”). But you’re wrong!! Klaus is a lovely and funny film about a postman who befriends a toymaker. Now that we are all ordering presents online, why not spend an hour and a half appreciating the life of an animated postman.
11. Little Women
Little Women is a story of sisters independently making their way into adulthood. Greta Gerwig spins this timeless classic into a whimsical tale with an excellent cast. Even better, the newest remake of Little Women is now available on Netflix.
12. Tokyo Godfathers
I must admit Tokyo Godfathers is a little more obscure compared to the other films on this list – but who’s to say that Christmas films should only come from Britain and America? This animated comedy shows the good in humanity as three homeless people search for a baby’s missing parents.
13. Love Actually
Have you seen Love Actually, or have the hundreds of spoofs fooled you into thinking you’ve seen it? That is a question I ask myself repeatedly as I watch another parody of Keira Knightley reacting to a celebrity at her door. But who am I to judge? Love Actually beats any other Christmas film in popularity and charm.
14. A Charlie Brown Christmas
I love a short film – although this is technically a television special. A Charlie Brown Christmas tells us that Christmas is more than asking for presents and outdoing your neighbours with fancy fairy lights. The film tells us what really is the true spirit of Christmas – and asks the dark question of whether Christmas has become too commercialised?
15. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
Rudolph is a notorious image of Christmas and cannot be left off this list. The fantastical nature of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer has left people in disbelief that reindeers are real (even if they do not fly). Most likely because reindeer are such a picturesque image of Christmas and another reminder to be nice to people because everyone has value.
Hate all Christmas films but love a good pantomime? Why not convert your old tape recordings of school plays and amateur dramatics for Christmas? Get started here.