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A festive prescription of feelgood festive films for Christmas

PUBLISHED: 00:33 08 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:38 08 December 2017

Will Farrell in Elf - HE KNOWS HIM!! (c) New Line Cinema

Will Farrell in Elf - HE KNOWS HIM!! (c) New Line Cinema

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Fire up your festive feelgood factor with a selection of fantastic films guaranteed to help you channel your inner Elf

Macaulay Culkin and Joe Pesci in Home Alone - because nothing says 'Merry Christmas!' like your parents forgetting you exist (c) Twentieth Century Fox Macaulay Culkin and Joe Pesci in Home Alone - because nothing says 'Merry Christmas!' like your parents forgetting you exist (c) Twentieth Century Fox

The countdown is on until Christmas Day and you’ve probably enjoyed your first mince pie, your first glass of mulled wine and you may even have cracked a nut or two. But if there’s anything that’s absolutely guaranteed to get your Christmas cockles stirring and your seasonal spirit levels rising, it’s a fabulously festive film.

According to new research, the average Briton doesn’t begin to feel festive until 7pm on Christmas Eve and for one in six, it takes until the end of Christmas Day to feel reach seasonal critical mass.

Quite clearly, this is just not acceptable: we want that festive feeling to kick in far earlier and there’s only one thing for it – to bring out the movie big guns and fast forward to Christmas tidings of comfort and joy. Fire up the DVD player or get streaming, warm up the mince pies and egg nog, hang the mistletoe, we’re going to binge-watch the Grinch right out of you.

Tim Burton's holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. (c)  Disney Tim Burton's holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. (c) Disney

10 Fantastically Festive Films

1) It’s A Wonderful Life (1946): George Bailey (James Stewart) is a banker – don’t stop reading – who has long considered himself to be a failure and is, when we meet him on Christmas Eve, facing financial ruin and arrest. He feels that the only way out for him is suicide, but high above Bedford Falls, two celestial voices discuss his dilemma and decide to send bumbling angel Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers) who after 200 years still hasn’t earned his wings, to help George out. Clarence is given a crash course on George’s life and the difference he has made for others – he saved his younger brother’s life, he was beaten up protecting a grieving man, he cancelled a trip to Europe so that he wouldn’t let customers down and he stopped town despot Potter (Lionel Barrymore) from taking over Bedford Mills and ruining its residents. When George wishes he’d never been born, Clarence shows him the reality of his wish and his sadness washes away as he realises that he’s had A Wonderful Life. A tearjerking, life-affirming Christmas classic. Best quote: “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

2) Elf (2003): This is the one that will be on in my house on Christmas Eve. Will Ferrell is Buddy, the tall human who thinks he’s an elf after being brought up by Santa (Edward Asner) and his elves at the North Pole. Having happily worked for the past 30 years in the toy workshop, his ungainly size begins to become a liability in the elf-sized environment and Santa suggests he heads to New York to find his biological father (James Caan). Unsurprisingly, Buddy stands out somewhat and finds himself in all sorts of scrapes as he gets used to his new family and surroundings. Elf truly is a Christmas miracle: a film the whole family can watch without rowing. Best quote: “I planned out our whole day. First we’ll make snow angels for a two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookiedough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle…”

3) The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): I watched this last year at my oldest friend’s house in Hastings as she decorated the largest Christmas tree I have ever seen in normal human’s house. It was magical. The first Muppet film to be made after the death of creator Jim Henson in 1990 is a triumph and although it’s a little dark, it’s also jam-packed with love. Following Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel (Dickens is played by Gonzo aided by Rizzo the Rat) it stars the fantastic Sir Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge who never once acknowledges that his fellow cast members are puppets. Scrooge sees Christmas as a humbug, the Muppets put him right, particularly the criminally cute Robin the Frog, a kind of mini Kermit. A beautifully festive story told with all the panache of Dickens himself. Best quote: “Mother always taught me: ‘never eat singing food’”.

4) Love Actually (2003): A soul soother that offers the viewer more than two hours of unadulterated love and romance with a spectacular ensemble cast that includes Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompston, Rowan Atkinson, Martin Freeman, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Andrew Lincoln. It’s as if director Richard Curtis came up with the premise of eight intertwined love stories in order to jam-pack the cast full of superstars. Set at Christmas, the film unashamedly grabs your heartstrings and pulls them as hard as possible – in particular, the scene where Karen discovers that the necklace she’d assumed was for her, has been given to another, younger woman and where Sarah realises her relationship with Karl is doomed because her brother needs her. Best quote: “But for now, let me say, without hope or agenda, just because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas you tell the truth, to me, you are perfect.”

5) Miracle on 34th Street (1947): Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) plays the last-minute replacement for the drunken Santa who was supposed to have led Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. He’s offered a job as the toy department’s Santa but staff find it strange that he appears to believe he’s the real Father Christmas and he’s eventually sectioned. His friend John Payne represents Kris at his sanity hearing and goes on to prove that his friend really is the real Father Christmas, making one little girl’s Christmas completely magical. Best quote: “For the past 50 years or so I’ve been getting more and more worried about Christmas. Seems we’re all so busy trying to beat the other fellow in making things go faster and look shinier and cost less that Christmas and I are sort of getting lost in the shuffle.”

6) The Polar Express (2004): A young Santa denier is given the trip of a lifetime when, late on Christmas Eve night, he lies in bed hoping to hear the sound of reindeer bells but instead discovers that a train has pulled up outside his window, and it’s headed to the North Pole. The boy joins other pyjama-clad children where they all receive a wonderful gift that only those who still believe in Father Christmas can experience. Enchanting. Best quote: “At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

7) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Like a gothic vault of festive treasure, this magical Tim Burton film tells the story of Jack Skellington who becomes disillusioned with frightful goings-on in Halloween Town. When he stumbles across the wondrous Christmas Town, he attempts to bring back the concept of Christmas to his world, with bizarre repercussions. Best quote: “You know, I think this Christmas thing is not as tricky as it seems! But why should they have all the fun? It should belong to anyone! Not anyone, in fact, but me! Why, I could make a Christmas tree! And there’s not a reason I can find, I couldn’t have a Christmastime! I bet I could improve it, too! And that’s exactly what I’ll do!”

8) Home Alone (1990): Mischievous Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left at home by his parents when they take a festive trip to Paris and is left to fend off a pair of bumbling crooks at Christmas. The cunning eight-year-old wires his house with makeshift booby traps to stop the burglars and bring them to justice. Best quote: “I made my family disappear”.

9) The Snowman (1982): Raymond Briggs’ (sadly no relation) enchanting picture book is brought to life in this wonderful cartoon which, in typical Briggs style, ends with a melancholy message about love and loss. But don’t let that put you off, there’s Walking in the Air to do before the snowman shuffles off this mortal coil. The flight scenes are a treat, the snowmen dancing is beautiful and by the time your heart is broken, the beauty you’ve seen will be compensation enough. Try and watch the version with David Bowie narrating as an extra bonus: Best quote: (The Snowman is wordless, this is from Bowie’s introduction) “We spent all our summers by the seaside, and in the winter at home, by the fire, frost on the window, and snow. Snow. I was always making snowmen. One winter, I made a really big snowman. I got a scarf from him. You see, he was a real snowman. That winter brought the heaviest snow I’d ever seen. The snow fell steadily all through the night. Then when I woke up, the room was filled with light and silence, and I knew then it was to be a magical day.”

10) How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000): Inside a snowflake is the magical land of Whoville where the Christmas-loving Whos live. Just outside Whoville lives the Christmas-hating Grinch who has lived in spiteful seclusion for most of his life and despises the phony commercialism of the festive season and plots to steal it wholesale from the Whos. But he hasn’t banked on little Cindy Lou Who: she wants to be his friend and eventually turns his whole life upside-down. Dr Suess’s tale of the real meaning of Christmas is a crowd-pleaser. Best quote: “Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn’t allow it. 4pm wallow in self pity; 4:30pm, stare into the abyss; 5pm, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30pm, jazzercize; 6:30pm, dinner with me - I can’t cancel that again; 7pm, wrestle with my self-loathing... I’m booked.”

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