This week marks the most festive time of the year, with the auspicious occasion of Christmas, followed by the New Year, marking the end of 2022. Therefore, this holiday time is ripe for major celebrations, one being that of devouring films and, particularly, Christmas films. Hence, this list will consist of films that are set against the backdrop of this festive season and can be the perfect watch for one’s holiday celebrations. So, here is the list of 10 Christmas films one needs to watch out for.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) (Dir. Frank Capra)
This is the perfect film to cheer one up during this time of the year. It is an out-and-out classic that has actually aged like fine wine and is the perfect watch for the family in front of the fireplace and Christmas tree. Legendary filmmaker Frank Capra perfectly brings out a kind of innocence and affection along with a sense of warmth in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946), which majorly revolves around the character of George Bailey. The film is brilliant in showcasing a fable-like approach that also is a very optimistic take on society and its people with a very positive message, along with being a very collectivist take on the American Dream.
The Apartment (1960) (Dir. Billy Wilder)
This Oscar-winning Billy Wilder directorial is unlike what one traditionally expects from a Christmas flick and is one of the most acclaimed films in the history of cinema. “The Apartment” (1960) does not present you with what one expects the festival to be like, but it prefers to keep a rooted and realistic approach to how people celebrate. It has a wide range of emotional moments as the film will make one laugh, cry, and feel love while at the same time having a very warm and feel-good effect through the brilliant journey of an ensemble of interestingly written characters and themes dealing with sex, loneliness, and alienation.
Die Hard (1988) (Dir. John McTiernan)
An all-time classic action entertainer that can be a perfect watch during this festive period with great repeat viewing value. “Die Hard” (1988) plays perfectly with the hostage thriller aspects, and even though the majority of the film is set inside a single building, it is very intense and filled with brilliantly choreographed action sequences and set pieces while at the same time containing some of the most iconic characters and dialogues that further act as an icing on the cake. The film also comprises impressive performances from its main cast, especially that of the protagonist John McClane played by Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, perfectly portraying Hans Gruber, the cool villainous antagonist.
The Night Before Christmas (1993) (Dir. Henry Selcik)
The duo of Henry Selick and Tim Burton come up with a very one-of-a-kind film that looks at Christmas from a very dark and yet very intimate lens. This 1993 dark fantasy musical is brilliantly conceptualized and carried out through a marvelous use of stop-motion animation, which perfectly chisels out a world that is filled with imagination and feels very fresh and original, at the same time being a film that both an adult and a child can feel dazzled by. Furthermore, it pans out in a very evocative way, paying a nod to the expressionist school of art, as seen in various paintings and also in the noir and German expressionist films.
Bad Santa (2003) (Dir. Terry Zwigoff)
The major positives of “Bad Santa” (2003) lie in its brilliant and taut writing that perfectly brings out it’s dark and cheeky humor and acts like an evil sibling to all the traditional and classic Christmas films. It is majorly a character-driven film through the brilliantly written lead character of Willie T. Soke, played outstandingly by Billy Bob Thornton with a tongue-in-cheek approach, and is the perfect watch if one is interested in witnessing a brilliantly twisted, quirky, and genre-subverting comedic film.
Tokyo Godfathers (2003) (Dir. Satoshi Kon)
Director Satoshi Kon is one of the finest and most unique filmmakers of this era, who unfortunately met a sad demise at the very tender age of 46, and this film is a testament to the brilliance he displayed through his filmmaking skills. The narrative is mainly focused on three homeless people who are in search of the parents of a foundling newborn baby. “Tokyo Godfathers” (2006) is Kon’s impressive take and visualization on various themes; questions related to the core concept of family, commercialization of Christmas, especially in Japan, along with the consumerist approach, gender, and many more, all set against the backdrop of Christmas.
Carol (2015) (Dir. Todd Haynes)
“Carol” (2015) is a very meticulously directed film by Todd Haynes that perfectly showcases the essence of the emotion of love and makes one feel it, as compared to many romantic films. The film contains brilliance in acting from both the leads, played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, who bring out tiny nuances and build up great chemistry with each other. Major credit should be given to Edward Lachman, the cinematographer, for perfectly capturing the imitation and detailed nuances through a brilliant use of the grainy 16-mm film that gives the film a unique visual aesthetic.
Anna And The Apocalypse (2017) (Dir. John McPhail)
It is on this list solely for its outrageous attempt to create one of the most unique blends of genres, and that too against the festive backdrop of Christmas. It can be categorized as a zombie-comedy-musical, and as weird as it sounds, the film is even whackier and something that will definitely bewilder the viewers, that too in a positive way. The major plot revolves around Anna and her friends, who try to save their loved ones and stop a zombie outbreak in their small town. Even though “Anna and the Apocalypse” (2017) is dangerously fun, zany, and quirky, it is also filled with a lot of heart and has very strong emotional moments.
Klaus (2019) (Dir. Sergio Pablos)
“Klaus” (2019) is like that perfect Christmas treat that one gets enticed by just after having a look at it. It is a brilliant canvas of impressive, gorgeous, and unique hand-drawn animation that blends perfectly with its carol-like quality and further gives a great origin story of Santa Claus. This film is a must-watch with the family and is very endearing and heart-warming, along with it being quite humorous. The film is a fantastic take on love, loss, and redemption that also has a uniting effect and reflects upon the divisive nature of people, causing enmity among people and in society in contemporary times.
Spencer (2021) (Dir. Pablo Larraín)
Pablo Larraín is one of the most promising and exciting directors of current times who is perfect in his handling of biopic films, and this film is also another example of that. “Spencer” (2021) is based on Lady Diana and revolves around her Christmas holidays at the Queen’s Estates; it showcases a rather haunting and harrowing side and focuses less on the factual than on the emotive. It acts more like an emotive painting that prefers dwelling deep into the psyche of the character and exploring her mind space. The film is a perfect watch for one who seeks to find a very deep and layered film with performances par excellence, especially that of Kristen Stewart, and also contains one of the most brilliantly haunting scores of recent times, courtesy of Jonny Greenwood.
The above-mentioned films are an embodiment of the different approaches to various visions related to the festival of Christmas and contain a bit of everything from renowned old-school classics to some recent hidden gems, and one may try watching these in order to have a glorious time at such an auspicious moment of the year. Other than these, here is a list of special mentions: “Miracle On 34th Street” (1947), “A Christmas Carol” (1951), “A Christmas Story” (1983), “Trading Places” (1983), “Home Alone” (1990), “Elf” (2003), and “Tangerine” (2015).
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