The best festive films to see you through the season, from comedy to romance…
The tree may be up, the lights may be on and the cards may be out on the mantelpiece, but it wouldn’t be the season of goodwill without a good Christmas film – or five! Here we’ve shortlisted some of the best festive movies that are worth a watch this year. Seen them all? Find your favourite below and try our recommendation for a similar one that we know you’ll love…
What’s the story? It’s time for Aardman Animations’ Santa to retire and hand over the sleigh’s reins to his eldest son, Steve. Tech-savvy and forward-thinking, Santa-to-be has already digitised the North Pole and even designed a shiny new means of delivering all the presents. It’s another successful Christmas Eve until his younger brother, Arthur, discovers something unexpected: a child has been missed…
Who’s in it? An all-star voice cast, from James McAvoy in the lead role to Jim Broadbent as Santa, Imelda Staunton as Mrs Santa and Hugh Laurie as Arthur’s brother Steve – but for us, it’s Bill Nighy who steals the show as Grandsanta.
Best line “Oh look, a beautiful young reindeer. Well then who am I?”
You’ll also like The Santa Clause. Another story of someone else stepping into Santa’s shoes, this live-action family comedy sees Tim Allen put on the big red suit after a disastrous Christmas with his son.
What’s the story? Buddy the elf has always felt a little different. Maybe it’s something to do with being six-foot-two and having to sleep across two beds. This Christmas, his adoptive father finally tells him where he really comes from, and he sets out for the big city in a bid to find his birth family. Will Ferrell at his where-does-he-get-all-that-energy-from finest.
Who’s in it? It’s Will Ferrell’s vehicle as the eponymous elf, Buddy, but Zooey Deschanel’s Jovie grounds the film and gives it heart.
Best line “Why don’t you just say it? I’m the worst toy-maker in the world. I’m a cotton-headed ninny-muggins!”
You’ll also like Santa Claus: The Movie. Another elf-goes-to-the-big-city flick, this one is a film of two halves: the tale of how Santa Claus first came to be, and of a mid-Eighties Dudley Moore who finds himself designing toys for an evil corporation. Highlights include John Lithgow’s delivery of the immortal line “For freeeee?” and some wonderful animatronic reindeer.
What’s the story? Eight-year-old Kevin McCallister’s family is big. Minibus-to-the-airport big. Getting his parents, brothers, sisters, aunt, uncle and cousins on a plane in time for their Christmas holiday is such a mission that it’s not until they’ve taken off that his mother realises they’ve left him back at the house by himself. What ensues is a comedy of errors involving the creepy next-door neighbour and a couple of two-bit burglars who try to break in – only to be thwarted by Kevin’s ingenious booby traps.
Who’s in it? It’s the role that shot McCauley Culkin to fame when he played Kevin at just ten years old. John Candy reminds us why he was one of the comic treasures of the Eighties and Nineties, while Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern deliver some flawless slapstick.
Best line “I’m eight years old. Y’think I would be here alone? I don’t think so.”
You’ll also like Home Alone 2. Like The Godfather 2, it’s one of those rare sequels that many consider to be better than the original. This Christmas Kevin makes it to the airport but boards the wrong flight, and finds himself on his own in New York – where a couple of familiar faces are up to their old tricks…
What’s the story? There are nine of them, actually. Expertly intertwined by the writing talent that brought us Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill are tales of love in all its forms: Mark’s unrequited adoration of his best friend’s wife, Juliet; widower Daniel’s love for his lost wife, and his stepson’s first crush; Prime Minister David’s attraction to household staffer Natalie; caterer Colin’s quest to find a girlfriend on the other side of the pond; graphic designer Sarah’s desire for co-worker Karl and her sibling love for her disabled brother, Michael; broken-hearted Jamie’s burgeoning feelings for his housekeeper, Aurélia, despite not speaking her native Portuguese; homemaker Karen’s marriage to Harry, who’s head is turned by his secretary; rock comeback Billy’s unexpected affection for his manager, Joe; and John and Judy’s chance meeting on the set of an adult film, which masterfully becomes the most heart-warming relationship of the movie. We recommend both film and soundtrack.
Who’s in it? Many of the biggest names in British film, and then some. Since this is a Richard Curtis movie, Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy make their obligatory appearances, this time accompanied by no less than Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Martine McCutcheon, Laura Linney and, finally, Rowan Atkinson in a cameo so well done it even earned him a place on the cover.
Best line “Yeah, well, the difference is you’re still sickeningly handsome, whereas I look increasingly like my Aunt Mildred.”
You’ll also like Bridget Jones’s Diary. Richard Curtis had a hand in the screenplay here too, and it shows. Thirtysomething Bridget is torn between two men – and since they’re played by Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, it’s easy to see her dilemma. Expect a truly spectacular Christmas jumper, a cringe-worthy ‘tarts and vicars’ party and a breathtaking smooch in the snow.
What’s the story? Adapted from the picture book by Raymond Briggs, this beautifully animated short sees little boy James build a snowman in his backyard one Christmas, only for it to come to life on the stroke of midnight and whisk him off on an epic adventure. A timeless classic that simply mustn’t be overlooked.
Who’s in it? In some versions, older James is narrated by the author himself, while in a later re-release you may recognise the vocal stylings of David Bowie. Festive fact: it’s a common misconception that the angelic voice singing big number Walking in the Air in the 1982 film belongs to Aled Jones, when in fact he didn’t cover the song until three years later – that honour actually belongs to choirboy Peter Auty.
Best line “Rising up a / mighty monster / frrrrom its sleep.”
You’ll also like Father Christmas. This underrated animated follow-up, also by Briggs, is filled with gentle humour, and lets us in on what Santa Claus gets up to the other 364 days of the year. Another Bloomin’ Christmas is a charming ditty that you’ll still be humming on Boxing Day.
MAKE YOUR MOVIE NIGHT
The lights are twinkling, the curtains are drawn and the TV is paused at the opening credits since someone is still rushing around getting a drink together. Before you settle in, pull the blanket over your legs and start the festive film, lay out some seasonal snacks…
Perfectly plump marshmallows, blissful malt or crispy pretzels, smothered in milk chocolate and made for sharing – and pinching extras from when you think no-one’s looking!
Just One More
Lift the lid on these moreish bites and it’s not going back on – you’ll keep going back for another Caramelised Dark Chocolate Almond, Caramelised Milk Chocolate Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate Brazil, Cinnamon- and Hazelnut-Panned Almond or Malt Ball (or three!). It’s all in the name – don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Dunk breadsticks, biscuits, florentines and more – sweet and savoury – in luscious pots of just-melted chocolate. Choose from the Mini Chocolate Dipping Adventure with milk and white chocolate; the Extreme option with dark and chilli-dark chocolate; and the Large version with milk, dark, white and caramel.
Get in the festive spirit with boxes of chocolates in festive and favourite flavours, a dozen solid chocolate reindeer, seasonal desserts reimagined in chocolate, alternative mince pies and more. Wrap your hands around a warming mug of hot chocolate while you’re there, as well.
You can press ‘play’ now…
ARMCHAIR FILM CRITIC
Know some fabulous festive films we’ve missed? Let us know how you’re enjoying your favourites at @HotelChocolat