My Favourite Festive Films: Part One

Favourite Christmas movies

This weekend I’m unexpectedly spending a quiet weekend at home in Vancouver. My plans for the weekend got cancelled at the last minute, and by the time I tried to make plans in Vancouver, everyone was busy. ‘Booked solid’ were words I heard more than once. That time of year…

So…on the agenda this weekend: baking, wrapping Christmas gifts, and watching holiday movies. Not the really obvious ones – I’m saving those for closer to the big day – but some of the other Christmas movies I love. Below are my very favourite movies to watch while I’m trimming and wrapping.

Top Christmas Films 1 of 4

1. It’s a Wonderful LifeI like to think that this is the most obvious, best Christmas movie ever ever ever, and that every human being on the planet watches it on Christmas Day, just like my family does. I think the world would be a better place if that were true. Alas…some families are Love Actually* families, and I will have to accept that. As you may have guessed, this classic is a mainstay in my family. My brother does a fantastic George Bailey impersonation; we all recite and laugh at the same lines every time (“I wish I had a million dollars. Hot dog!”); and every year, my mum jokes upon seeing Mary the spinster librarian that that would have been her fate had my dad not come along and rescued her. And it makes me (and my sap of a dad) cry. Every. Damn. Time. Classic. If you have never seen it, shame on you (said in Mandy Lahiri voice, for the record). Watch it this year and every other year until the end of time.

I will not be quite as bossy about the remainder of the films on this list, I promise.

2. The Family StoneThis movie, which has a terrific cast including everyone’s crush Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, and Clair Danes, also makes me tear up every time. Though there’s one really weird element at the end (the switcheroo; you guys know what I’m talking about), I love love love the feeling of this big-family Christmas movie. It makes me wish for about three more siblings and reminds me of big Christmases with my dad’s side of the family when I was younger. Anyway, this one has a tough act to follow after number 1, but I watch it every year.

3. ScroogedThree words: Bill fucking Murray. That should really be enough, but I’ll give you more just the same. This modern take on the classic Dickensian tale is hilarious and gruesome. We had it on VHS as kids – horrible quality, recorded off of TV – and my brother loved it. I don’t remember loving it quite so much, but I watched it last year and, well, Bill…Not the same warm and fuzzy tone as most of my other Christmas favourites, but worth a watch for sure. Good for those who don’t love more maudlin Christmas fare (see #2).

4. A Christmas Tale (Un Conte de Noel)I can’t call this a Christmas classic yet because it’s much newer, and I only discovered it very recently. It’s a cooler (read: French) take on the Christmas family drama. I’m a sucker for a French film, so I recommend tracking this one down…even if it won’t likely become a watch-it-every-Christmas-Eve tradition.

*Note: Love Actually is not on this list…and will not be on Part Two either. Gasp. Formerly a Christmas staple, I’ve realized in the last  few years that I don’t love it quite so much anymore. There’s something really weird about the writing. Throughout the movie, there are some really strange and at times off-putting lines that raise my eyebrows/make me cringe every time. Someone suggested that this was me not being down with British humour, which, as a person whose social circle is probably about half British, I took offence to. I like the idea of Love Actually a lot. I just don’t like the idea one bit. I’m prepared for people to take issue with this opinion and with the film’s omission from this list.

Best Christmas Movies 2

5. The Shop Around the Corner. Jimmy Stewart = Christmas, as far as I’m concerned. If you watch this for the first time this holiday season, it will definitely feel vaguely (or very) familiar. It’s almost the exact same plot as You’ve Got Mail, but in the olden days (i.e. the main characters are real, old-fashioned pen pals, not online chat room friends). It’s lovely. Watch it. You might even like it better than the Tom and Meg remake.

6. ElfI feel silly even explaining why this is a Christmas must-see. It’s just so obvious: Will Ferrell is a grown man who grew up in the North Pole thinking he’s an elf. He goes to NYC to find his real dad, all the while thinking he’s a bona fide Christmas elf. It’s Christmas comedy gold. “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favourite.” 

7. Joyeux NoelI’m a sucker for the World Wars, and the story behind this movie – the WWI Christmas truce – is precisely what Christmas is all about (if you want to see a shorter video about the same subject, check out this tearjerker Sainsbury Christmas ad).

8. National Lampoon’s Christmas VacationSomehow, it’s been years since I’ve seen this movie. It’s on Netflix now, though, so there’s a very good chance I will watch it by, like, tonight. My favourite bits that I remember: 1) the big Christmas tree hunt (and the tree that doesn’t fit in the house); and 2) the put-upon yuppie neighbours (including Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

That about does it for Part One. The second and last instalment will be along tomorrow.

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