Christmas and New Year is that time of the year where everything around us pretties up and everyone looks forward to have a good time around family and friends. There is warmth in the chilly air and with everything slowing down a bit for a break, it is the perfect time to sit curled up in our couches and enjoy some good movies, around Christmas or otherwise. Hence this seemed like a perfect time to list down some of my favorite movies that either have Christmas at its core, or have things happening around the Christmas time, or have some significant or important events happening around the Christmas time as part of the narrative. They are not necessarily all the sugary sweet feel good movies that we usually default ‘Christmas movies’ to, and a quite a few of them are very unlike the charming holiday movies we have in mind for this genre. Also, these are not necessarily the best Christmas movies made by any means, these may not include a lot of movies that are considered Christmas classics, these are just personal favorites and not ranked in any chronological order. So here my 20 favorite Christmas movies with quite a bit happening around Christmas, and the feel of the times distinctly staying back with us in one way or the other.
01. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) | Frank Capra
Considered an all time Christmas classic, this movie will possibly feature in all movie listings around Christmas. The goodness and the warmth of the times just gets you, wants to make you believe in power of angels, and has to make you smile through and through as you experience this beautiful movie with a happy heart.
02. The Holiday (2006) | Nancy Meyers
The Holiday has to be one of the most heart warming romcoms around, and it is sometimes surprising that this beautiful film about holidays and Christmas is not remembered with as much love as some of the other favorites of the genre. Two women, swapped homes in new countries and their newly found love – there is just a lot of warmth and feel good charm all around this movie, and makes a huge favorite for a multiple revisits.
03. Klaus (2019) | Sergio Pablos
Klaus has to be a very special movie to be the only full length animated feature film to make it to this list. This charming beauty of a film explores the blossoming of an unlikely friendship between a selfish postman and a reclusive toymaker and how they end up spreading joy all around a dark and sad town where the kids rediscover a new found childhood. One of the best animated movies of recent times, Klaus is bound to tear you up here and there.
04. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) | George Seaton
This Christmas classic has a man named Kris Kringle playing the Santa Claus in Macy’s annual Thanksgiving parade, and soon starts claiming that he is the real Santa Claus. With a lot of non-believers going behind him including casting aspersions on his mental health, filing a court case, this film is a simple but heartwarming tale of faith and trust on the power of goodness and miracles, and not letting cynicism win over our natural innocence.
05. Carol (2015) | Todd Haynes
Carol may not be having Christmas in its absolute core like the other films in this list so far, but there is enough and more of important plot points based around Christmas, so whenever I remember my favorite Christmas movies, I remember Carol. A forbidden love story of 1950s between an aspiring female photographer and an older woman going through divorce, Carol has tremendous storytelling and lovely performances at its core to make it a beautiful experience.
06. Home Alone (1990) | Chris Columbus
How can one talk about Christmas movies and not talk about Home Alone? The first and the best film of the franchise, Home Alone is the experience that you live along with a young kid who is left back home alone by his family on Christmas by mistake and how he manages to survive alone during the time, also shooing away threat of dangerous robbers in the process. Charming, fun, innocent, Home Alone has all smiles and cheer and fun.
07. The Impossible (2012) | J A Bayona
The Impossible actually belongs to the Disaster and Survival movie genre and can raise questions for a few if it is a Christmas movie. But the whole sequence of events occur as a family goes to Thailand on vacation during Christmas holidays and get hit by the disastrous tsunami of 2006. An excellent film that highlights the spirit of family bonding, survival and courage, The impossible makes a compelling watch for sure.
08. Little Women (2019) | Greta Gerwig
Yes one can argue that Little Women is lot more that Christmas, but one cannot argue that Christmas and the typical feel of the season makes a recurring theme in this lovely film. Telling the story of the March sisters and their twists and turns of life as they enter womanhood, Little Women has a very large heart in its core, and the 2019 version of the film especially has some very smart filmmaking going for it as well, making it one of the best films of that year.
09. Love Actually (2003) | Richard Curtis
What’s not to love in a heart warming, intertwined tale of eight couples from London who are dealing with relationships and discovering new depths and complexities of love in the process! A perfect romcom for the holiday season, Love Actually is the kind of cinema one can enjoy any time without thinking too much about its cinematic value, filmmaking brilliance or other such complex things. Love by itself is complex enough!
10. Happy Christmas (2014) | Joe Swanberg
Happy Christmas is a sweet little Indie film that should be watched and loved by more people. Built in the typical setting of what happens when someone from the extended family comes to spend Christmas with you and things then starting to go not as planned, there is a lot of honesty in this film unlike the typical silly treatment of such a theme in most other such movies. That is what makes it stand out.
11. It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) | Roy Del Ruth
Another one of those Christmas classics, It Happened on 5th Avenue has a lovely beating heart at its core in spite of a lot of melodrama. A film makes a moving statement about the haves and the have nots, the true meaning of richness and joy, and how one needs a loving heart a lot more than truckloads of wealth to touch and transform lives. The final sequence of the film is lovely and one that stays back with you the most.
12. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) | Stanley Kubrick
An erotic psychological thriller, Eyes Wide Shut has its ball rolling in the backdrop of a Christmas party and the whole sequence of events happen over that day and the next. The final film of the maverick filmmaker, Eyes Wide Shut has brilliant storytelling and performances at its strength and is possibly one of the darkest Christmas movies on this list challenging the genre type.
13. When Harry Met Sally (1989) | Rob Reiner
There may not be a lot of Christmas here, but there is a lot of holiday season vibes and chance encounters of old friends on New Years Eve in When Harry Met Sally. And there is a lot of charm, and oodles and oodles of warmth surrounding a beautiful relationship that could be on the either side of love and friendship at any point of time depending on where you see it from. A lovely watch, any time, every time.
14. Tangerine (2015) | Sean Baker
Tangerine is not an easy watch by any means. Exploring the Christmas Eve proceedings of a group of transgender women, Tangerine is dark even when it is funny. There is hardly any plot here, only moments of loss, helplessness, anger and heartbreak. Shot completely on iPhone, Tangerine was a festival favorite but didn’t get into the mainstream conversation that it deserved.
15. The Apartment (1960) | Billy Wilder
Considered an all time classic, there is a lot happening in The Apartment during the Christmas to New Year’s week, with an ambitious man using his abode as the means to rise to the top and a lot of relationship intricacies getting exploited and exposed in the process. The film works so well mainly because of its treatment and never losing the deep human angle in its storytelling.
16. Christmas Again (2014) | Charles Poekel
A lovely little Indie, Christmas Again is not talked much about at all. The film tells the story about a heart broken salesman who spreads Christmas cheer by selling Christmas trees to all, but his own life has very little to cheer about. Again one of those films that is less plot and more moments, the film stays back with you in spite of its rough edges, because just like the film, life is also most often not so perfect, even amidst festivities all around.
17. While You Were Sleeping (1995) | Jon Turteltaub
While You Were Sleeping in a way is the typical Christmas time rom-com that is frothy, fluffy, light and lots of feel good. In other words, it could be the perfect Christmas mood movie for the lighter mood. In spite of its typical genre feel, it stays memorable because of the little moments it creates, the romantic gloom around the festive season, and the earnest performances from all.
18. One Magic Christmas (1985) | Philip Borsos
One Magic Christmas does have a It’s a Wonderful Life inspiration to form its core. A story that builds itself around the myth of Christmas, Santa Claus and everything magical around the season, this is an emotional but powerful tale of love, life, loss and the search for happiness for a family that is desperately looking to have a good time at Christmas. It is manipulative yes, but at times everyone likes to be indulged in make-believe world and seek some bliss.
19. The Snowman (1982) | Dianne Jackson
Just like full length feature films surrounding Christmas, short films about Christmas is a genre in itself, especially short animations. The Snowman at around 25 min movie length has stayed back with me amongst quite a few watched. A tale about a young boy and a snowman who comes to life for a day, this silent film has a Studio Ghibli feel to it and makes you happy and sad at the same time.
20. Spencer (2021) | Pablo Larrain
One cannot be talking of Christmas movies and not talk about Spencer in that list. Playing almost like a psychological horror movie based on a Christmas weekend, the film explores the complex psychological dynamics of Princess Diana, her beautiful relationship with her boys, and her stifling ostracized existence as she comes to spend the Christmas weekend with the royals at the brink of a broken marriage. This film is all things beautiful, heartbreaking and impactful. Enough said.
Those were some of my favorite Christmas movies. What are yours? Don’t forget to share and wish you a happy times at movies around the holiday season. Merry Christmas!
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