Christmas on Becca's Books | The Definitive List of the Best Five Christmas Movies Ever by Jon Teckman

~ The Definitive List of the Best Five Christmas Movies EVER ~

By Jon Teckman

I accepted Becca’s challenge to compile the definitive list of the best Christmas movies of all time with alacrity.  After all, I used to run the British Film Institute so I’ve seen more movies than most, and THE best Christmas movie of them all is so obvious that choosing the other four couldn’t be that difficult, could it? 

Well, actually, yes it could.  So after much huffing and puffing and distilling the views of friends and relatives, I decided to try a different approach. A cop out, if you like.  Instead of trying to prove that one film is superior to any other, I have decided instead to present you with five films that stand up to close scrutiny individually but also contrast with and complement each other so well that they make the perfect Christmas Eve schedule for the whole family.  So imagine settling down on your sofa at, say, 3pm on the 24th December, as the light fades and the first soft flakes of snow patter against your double-glazing - roll of Sellotape in one hand, glass of sherry in the other - and working your way through this lot.  
On second thoughts, better make that a bottle . . .

3pm     Miracle on 34th Street (1994);
There aren’t too many remakes of classic films that are even better than the original but this, for me, is one.  The film tells the story of a little girl who believes she has met the real Father Christmas but finds herself confronted by an adult world where miracles like this simply don’t happen. The magic of the movie revolves around the role of Kris Kringle, played by Edmund Gwenn in the original and Richard Attenborough here, and the question of whether or not he is the real Santa Claus. Both great films but, on balance, I opt for this version primarily because I was lucky enough to meet Dickie Attenborough several times and he was the most wonderful person, as well as being one of our most brilliant and under-rated actors.

5pm     How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The Grinch is one of my favourite Dr Suess books, treating the standard seasonal message of the hard-hearted crank being taught the true meaning of Christmas in an original and delightful way.  I’m not a huge Jim Carrey fan, but he is at his best when his gurning, over-expressive face is hidden behind heavy prosthetics and he does make a marvellous Grinch, terrorising but never quite destroying the belief of the innocent Whos for whom Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.  Recommended for anyone you know whose heart during the festive season tends to be a couple of sizes too small.

7pm     The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the ultimate Christmas story. To some extent all the films listed here are versions of this tale of the curmudgeonly Scrooge who hates the festive season and has to be convinced of the error of his ways by the innocent joy of all those around him (and – spoiler alert – several ghosts).  This, for me, is the best screen version.  Heart-warming, funny and genuinely scary at times, the script involves the full range of Muppet madness while still allowing Michael Caine to shine as Scrooge.  And anyone who can kibbitz in on Christmas feast of the Cratchitt family (as portrayed by Kermit, Miss Piggy and a bunch of little frog- and piglets) without bawling like a baby, really does have a heart that is two sizes too small. 

8.30pm It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Not just the best Christmas film of all time but the greatest movie ever made.  Another take on the classic Christmas story: an ordinary guy wanting to enjoy the holidays with his family versus a miserable old sod who can’t abide the frivolity of the season (I won’t spoil it by revealing who comes out on top!) I grew up watching this film and can remember recalling odd fragments of it as a small child – the dancefloor opening over the swimming pool, the young boy repeatedly saying “excuse me” after he’s burped  – without remembering which film they came from.  As I grew older I took different things from it, especially the core message that material wealth is as nothing compared to the riches derived from being a good person with strong friendships.  Now, as a writer, I can appreciate more fully the craftsmanship of the screenplay – the brilliant structure, the depth of the characters.  The film’s hero, George Bailey (played by the incomparable James Stewart), isn’t quite the straightforward small town Mr Nice Guy we might initially imagine him to be and nor is the film as sweet or schmaltzy as its (poor, benighted Grinchy) detractors would have us believe. I can never get through the whole film without crying but that has as much to do with the darker side of this tale of avarice and thwarted ambition as with the undoubtedly warm, cosy feeling we are left with at the end.

11pm   Trading Places (1983)
And finally, after putting you through the emotional wringer of Frank Capra’s masterpiece, let’s see in Christmas day with this broad, grown-up comedy from the brilliant John Landis. This is more Prince and the Pauper than Christmas Carol, as the down on his luck Eddie Murphy is given the chance to swap lives with Ivy League Wall Street broker Dan Ackroyd, but, although the story takes a different angle, it is still essentially about miserable, greedy bullies getting their come-uppance at the hands of the innocent and hope-filled.  A film you don’t have to concentrate too hard on to enjoy – which might be just as well at the end of our ten hour Christmas movie marathon!

So, there you have it – your Christmas movie viewing schedule.  Guaranteed to have you crying, sighing, laughing and barfing. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that really what Christmas is all about?

You can find Jon Teckman on Twitter | theprimewriters.com

4 comments :

  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the best, but I'll always be a bigger fan of the Chuck Jones version. He is a genius of an animation director and I think he really captured Dr. Seuss's world in a way you just can't with live action. Also, the Muppets Christmas Carol is such a throwback to my childhood XD

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    1. I do love the Chuck Jones animation, too, Audrey. I remember it as being quite dark and even scary for younger children. Sadly, I can't claim the Muppet Christmas Carol as a throwback to my childhood as I was already almost 30 when it came out! But I think it is a great version - and Michael Caine makes a great Scrooge.

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  2. My favourite Christmas film has to be Scrooge played by Albert Finney. Though have enjoyed all of the ones that you have mentioned. So funny that Jon chose Trading Places and I've compared his book to it in my review :)

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    1. Yes, as I said on Twitter, that did tickle me, Sarah - especially as it was not a comparison that I had made myself or seen before. I do like the Albert Finney version of Scrooge too - it is such a brilliant role that any half decent actor should be able to make a great character out of it. But can you imagine anyone else playing George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life?

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