Maddie Soper gives her rundown of the best-of-the-best festive films.
Every year they’re wheeled out to do the rounds again, like your favourite winter jumper. They’re dependable, comforting, and familiar. But what really are the best Christmas films?
First on the list is Jim Henson’s 1992 Muppet treatment of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Whilst it may not have the hallmarks of a cinematic triumph, it’s nevertheless a beautifully crafted and moving take on Dickens’ greatest tale.
As with any musical, it was always going to be make or break with the songs, and in that regard it delivers in spades. Michael Caine is wonderful as both the villainous and reformed Ebenezer Scrooge, but was clearly cast for his acting gravitas rather than musical ability. But nobody cares, because Michael Caine is singing with Muppets about Christmas, and everything is perfect in the world.
They may be puppets, but the scenes at the Cratchett house demonstrate that Kermit and Miss Piggy can break hearts just as easily as split sides, and every year I still end up crying shamelessly at a tiny frog. Its widespread popularity and solid place in our hearts does just go to show that the films are much better judged by their place in childhood memories than by box-office earnings.
But where would Christmas be without the miraculous inter-weaving of eight seemingly unconnected storylines?
In a shocking turn of events, 2003’s Love Actually sees a Richard Curtis romantic comedy featuring Hugh Grant. Only this time he’s joined by the crème-de-la-crème of British movie talent, and in addition to that pesky love in the air, there’s Christmas all around.
Ignoring the usual criticisms of “trite”, “contrived” and “painfully self-indulgent”, I stand firm behind my love of this movie. With a fabulous soundtrack and shots of an increasingly Christmassy London, Love Actually’s charm lies precisely in the unremarkable nature of the stories it tells and the lives it unfolds.
Whether it’s the sickeningly adorable Martin Freeman and Joanna Page, or Colin Firth with his Portuguese waitress, there is bound to be a story that melts your heart. There’s even patriotic British speeches and grand romantic gestures with cue-cards. But most powerful of all is the reminder that Christmas isn’t necessarily all happy. The scenes with Laura Linney and her mentally-ill brother are agonizing to watch, and involve the winner for most heartbreaking sequence featuring half-naked people.
But my favourite strand has always been the impeccably-acted Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman story that leaves you feeling wretched in all the right ways and features the perfect use of a Joni Mitchell song.
But when it comes to perfect Christmas movies, there is only one to top the list.
Fading-in on the utter despair of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, it’s hard to comprehend how his tale will end up the most inspirational and joyous of them all. It’s A Wonderful Life may have been released in 1946, but it holds the same power to captivate and move audiences every Christmas season. As we see all the lives that this seemingly unremarkable man has touched, It’s A Wonderful Life serves to remind us that no matter how bleak the world may seem, Christmas is a time to appreciate what really matters.
And when we return to Bedford Falls each year, and hear that little bell ring, the magic of this Christmas classic will always be there to welcome us.
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