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27th November 2019

A Film Lover’s Guide to Christmas

In the long-awaited sequel to our Mancunian Guide, we asked our writers to pick their favourite festive films — all you have to do is trust them
A Film Lover’s Guide to Christmas
Photo: bm.iphone @flickr

Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year to argue about whether Die Hard is or isn’t a Christmas film. With an overwhelming selection of Christmas-themed visual media out there, we asked our writers to pick their favourites — all you have to do is trust their opinion.


Black ChristmasCarl Fitzgerald, writer

To this day, 1974’s Black Christmas is one of few amazing horror films set during the holidays. Telling a bare and basic story of a serial killer stalking a sorority house, based loosely on the “babysitter and the man upstairs” urban legend, the film goes above and beyond what could be a dumb schlockfest thanks to its characters and pacing.

The main women all feel three dimensional and realistic, while the film’s slow-burn atmosphere makes it one of the most suspenseful watches of the seventies. Not only that, but it has one of the scariest endings in cinema history.


Die HardJosh Sandy, editor

Firstly, yes it is a Christmas film.

It is simply a classic tale of one man’s attempts to spend Christmas with his family, just one with gun-toting terrorists, brutally graphic violence and immensely quotable profanity-laden dialogue. Featuring iconic and career-defining performances from both Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, Die Hard is a pitch-perfect blend of adrenaline-fuelled action and ruthless dark humour with more than enough heart to deck your halls with boughs of holly.

It redefined the entire action movie genre upon its release, and it’s the perfect opportunity to open a box of Quality Streets and end your Christmas Day with a bang.


Elf Bec Oakes, online editor

Elf is the greatest Christmas film ever. This is not something to be debated. It is a fact. Elf celebrates the most wonderful time of the year without any of the cynicism, sarcasm or horror of its competitors. It is pure festive joy; filled with romance, humour and a healthy dose of Christmas carols. After all, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”

It’s also endlessly quotable with arguably some of the funniest lines in film history. There’s just something about Will Ferrell running frantically around the North Pole in tights screaming, “Not now, Arctic Puffin!” that will never not be funny. Speaking of Will Ferrell, he is absolute perfection as Buddy the Elf. I dare you to try and think of a better casting choice. He is equal parts adorable and hysterical and his positive attitude is an inspiration to us all. Elf is hilarious, heart-warming and without a doubt the best Christmas film of all time.

Disagree? You’re a “cotton-headed ninnymuggins” and “you sit on a throne of lies!”


Home Alone – Michal Wasilewski, writer

The 1990 family comedy has achieved cult status in my home country of Poland, being shown on TV every Christmas for almost 20 years with around 5 million people tuning in every year.

What makes it so special? It is indeed a simple, humorous film full of absurdities. Yet, on the other hand, it presents an uplifting story about fighting for yourself even when the odds are against you. This may be why little Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) has become a symbol of hope for so many people in the hard times of political and economic transformation.

Regardless, Home Alone remains a cultural phenomenon in Poland and I simply cannot imagine Christmas without seeing it on TV with my dear ones.


It’s a Wonderful Life – Patrick Jones-O’Brien, writer

Frank Capra’s 1946 masterpiece is as American as it is filled with Chrismas cheer.Faced with the seemingly inevitable collapse of the small-time building society he runs, a workaholic hometown hero is driven to attempt suicide. He’s rescued by his guardian angel who shows him how better off everyone in his community is thanks to him.

It was a non-starter at the box office but has since become the gold standard of nostalgic American cinema. Its populist, community-driven theme and healing messaging combine with its Christmastime setting ensure warm fuzzy feelings in any viewer.


Jingle All The WayTobias Soar, editor

I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas; sure, I love the spirit of it all but it seems to be overshadowed by the mad crowds and the anxiety caused by shopping for presents. Those very reasons are why I understand Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in Jingle All the Way on a spiritual level.

The film boils down to a man’s quest to purchase a highly-requested action figure for his son. He wades through crowds, he loses his temper, and he comes up with a cunning plan which all comes together in the final act.

It may not be Arnie’s finest work, but I simply adore it. The timeless anxieties present in the story and Schwarzenegger’s knack for comedy get me every time.


Love ActuallyWill Johnston, writer

The pangs of unrequited love. The thrill of a first kiss. The emptiness of loss. This film, set at Christmas, a time of family, friends and all that we hold dear, is a raw display of the spectrum of human emotion.

I hurt with laughter at Hugh Grant dancing to “Jump”, I sob with sympathy at Emma Thompson as Joni Mitchell’s vocals haunts her scene and I smile with utter joy as the innocent love between Colin Firth and Lucia Moniz grows. And I’m sure every other living room around the world does the same during every iconic scene this movie has to offer.

Richard Curtis is a genius.


The Muppet Christmas CarolJames McCafferty, writer

Featuring starring roles for cinematic legends Michael Caine, Gonzo the Great and Kermit the Frog, The Muppet Christmas Carol is everything that should be celebrated in a Christmas film.

It engages with the important themes of compassion and redemption that characterise the classic Charles Dickens novel it’s based on, while at the same time having all the delight and absurdity expected from the Muppets.

From the brilliant musical numbers to the timeless sense of humour, the film captures the spirit of Christmas perfectly.


Nativity! – Katy Taylor, writer

Christmas is about experiencing unadulterated joy away from the non-festive trials of the adult world. There’s nothing my family love more than to watch films that we can quote all December, that remind us of better days. Some films keep that feeling alive beyond the festive season – one being Nativity!, which we quote even in mid-May.

There’s no escaping the charm of the pint-sized cast, the iconic Mr Poppy (Marc Wootton) and his one-liners, or even that of uptight Mr Maddens (Martin Freeman). You can’t help but sense that warm nostalgia of your own childhood, and that dodgy nativity in Year 3 (I personally can’t avoid my dad bringing up when I, Mary, dragged Baby Jesus out the manger by his plastic hair making all the parents crease. I was mortified.) And in Nativity! their performance is far from dodgy — 10-year-old Angel Gabriel on a death-slide? What’s not to adore?

But, above all, this film wraps “feel-good” and Christmas perfectly, encapsulating everything lovely about it – sing-song, family and a good old-fashioned happy ending. And in the bleak adult world which clouds this December (let’s not mention the E-word), now more than ever, stick on Nativity! and forget about it all for an hour or so.


The Nightmare Before Christmas Georgina Davidson, writer

A spooky tale that despite being marketed as a Tim Burton film was in fact directed by Henry Selick!

The film has a beautiful blue shaded colour scheme. Distinctive animation makes the film stand out from the crowd, with the iconic figure of Jack Skellington taking centre stage and making active use of Chris Sarandon vocals. The Nightmare Before Christmas seals the deal with a Danny Elfman score that tracks the characters along their adventure and features on many Christmas soundtracks.


Seinfeld: Festivus – Patrick Jones-O’Brien, writer

Perhaps one of the greatest episodes of television ever to air, ‘The Strike’ is not, strictly speaking, about Christmas. The father of the most neurotic main character, an odd man prone to very loud speeches making very odd points, skips Christmas in favour of a holiday of his own creation.

It’s an anti-consumerist holiday, featuring a Festivus dinner, feats of strength, and the airing of grievances, along with an aluminum pole to replace the Christmas tree. The celebration of the holiday is the culmination of the episode’s zany plot, centred on one character’s coming off a 12-year strike from a bagel store.

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