These family classics and overlooked cult favourites will make any Christmas better... Make sure you enjoy a little sofa time this festive season
As the UK’s favourite festive films are announced in a poll from the Radio Times, we countdown a list of the best to watch this season. The turkey may be overcooked, you may be overstuffed and your least favourite long lost relative may have turned Trivial Pursuit into World War Three, but our favourite Christmas movies can always be relied upon to bring a smile back to our faces and restore our faith in magic and human nature. Cheese isn’t just for Christmas, but at this time of year it’s officially guilt-free…
If you really hate Christmas films though, don’t worry – we’ve got something for you too! Prefer your comedy black to romantic? No worries – from the old favourites to the cult should-be classics, we’ve got something to keep you – and all those difficult family members – happy.
Click through for the Radio Times top 20 Christmas films chosen by the UK, and a few more of our picks of the greatest Christmas films of all time…
Topping the list, Love Actually is officially the UK’s favourite Christmas film of all time. Our favourite ‘grown-up’ Christmas movie, we can’t get enough of the witty script and overlapping storylines.
The film follows a host of Londoners, from unfeasibly hunky Prime Minister Hugh Grant to has-been rocker Bill Nighy and dutiful mum Emma Thompson, as their lives criss-cross in the run-up to Christmas.
The perfect Christmas Brit flick, Love Actually is funny, unapologetically sentimental and packed with moments we enjoy more with every repeat viewing (‘Eight is a lot of legs, David!’).
Buy Love Actually on DVD
The ultimate Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life never fails to put festive stress in perspective. In this 1940s classic, an angel called Clarence comes to the aid of suicidal banker George Bailey (James Stewart), on a mission to prove that life is worth living.
Buy It’s A Wonderful Life on DVD
Buddy the elf notices he’s not like all the other elves in Santa’s toy factory… He’s twice as tall, for a start.
So he journeys to New York to find his roots – and teach the cynical, world-weary inhabitants of the ‘real world’ a thing or two about the true meaning of Christmas while he’s at it.
Will Ferrell’s credulous Buddy is hilarious, and the moment he comes face-to-face with a ‘fraud’ department store Santa is a thing of joy.
Buy Elf on DVD
We think the only thing missing from Dickens’ timeless Christmas tale was Kermit the Frog’s singing voice, because The Muppet Christmas Carol is seasonal perfection.
This warm, clever adaptation is surprisingly faithful to the novel, but the original songs – and Miss Piggy – are the icing on the cake!
Buy The Muppet Christmas Carol on DVD
In this 1992 hit, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), the youngest of a large family, is left at home, forgotten by his wealthy parents as they jet off for the Christmas break.
All would be dandy (jumping on the bed and chocolate for breakfast!) if it weren’t for a pair of pesky burglars – luckily, Kevin is a dab hand with a booby trap…
Buy Home Alone on DVD
This 1989 classic tells the tale of the overly optimistic Clark Griswold, as he tried to make his families Christmas the best they’ve ever had – to disastrous consequences.
Buy National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on DVD
Bruce Willis fights against all odds (and Hans Gruber) as John McClane in the first of the Die Hard films. Although it probably won’t enamour you with festive cheer, it’s gone on to become one of the biggest Christmas films of all time.
Buy Die Hard on DVD
This animated musical film, which sees Tom Hanks take on six different roles, divided opinion on its release, but has been described by many as the best Christmas movie of all time. Watch it and decide for yourself.
Buy The Polar Express on DVD
This family friendly comedy sees a hapless dad forced to take on the role of Santa after accidentally killing the real Santa one Christmas Eve. He dismisses it as a dream, until he begins to gain weight and grow a white beard?
Buy The Santa Clause on DVD
This charming silent animation by Raymond Briggs is as much a part of Christmas as sherry and sprouts. We never fall out of love with this tale of a young boy whose snowman comes alive for one magical night.
Buy The Snowman on DVD
A failure in the critics eyes at the time of it’s release – 1985 – this pick has now go on to achieve cult status, as it charts the origins of Santa from the very beginning.
Buy Santa Claus: The Movie
When a sweet old man working as a department store Santa claims to be the real thing, cynical store manager Doris and her daughter Susan’s Christmas is transformed.
A modernisation of the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, a obnoxious TV executive who learns that there’s more to life than work.
Buy Scrooged on DVD
If you’ve seen Love Actually one too many times, try this 2006 romantic comedy for size, instead. It stars Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet as two women who try out a cross-Atlantic house swap following their respective romantic disasters. Will they find love across the ocean? Well, come on, it is Christmas?
Buy The Holiday on DVD
Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis team up to become a musical act – and rapidly become smitten by beautiful sisters Betty and Judy.
A series of romantic mix-ups ensue – not to mention a spine-tingling performance of the timeless hit, White Christmas.
Buy White Christmas on DVD
We may prefer Kermit’s interpretation, but this 1951 version of A Christmas Carol has legions of fans – and a brilliant central performance by Alastair Sim.
Buy Scrooge on DVD
Kevin’s second Christmas adventure takes him to the big bad city of New York, where he unfortunately meets the ‘Sticky Bandits’ – to hilarious consequences. One of our favourite slapstick films of all times.
Buy Home Alone 2: Lost In New York on DVD.
The 1947 version of the emotional Christmas classic rounds up the Radio Times list of the UK’s favourite Christmas films. Starring Maureen O’Hara and John Payne, this one wins us over every time.
Buy Miracle on 34th Street (1947) on DVD
Another wonderful Raymond Briggs cartoon, Father Christmas tells the ‘real’ story of the mythical Christmas figure.
This curmudgeonly Santa Claus mucks out the reindeer, holidays in Vegas and, of course, visits every child in the world in one very busy night.
A sweet, funny antidote to the usual Christmas schmaltz.
Buy Father Christmas on DVD
It’s been described as one of the worst films ever made, but don’t let that put you off. This black comedy starring Steve Martin as a suicide prevention helpline manager might just be the best Christmas film you’ve never seen…
Buy Mixed Nuts on DVD
Jim Carrey is in his element as the titular character in this 2000 adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ book of the same name. Will Benedict Cumberbatch manage to surpass him when the CGI-animated reboot is released? We’ll have to wait until 2018 to find out…
Buy How the Grinch Stole Christmas on DVD
This 1995 romcom stars Sandra Bullock as a ticket conductor who rescues a commuter who is pushed onto the tracks on Christmas Day. When she is mistaken for the comatose man’s fiancee, things quickly spiral out of control?
Buy While You Were Sleeping on DVD
This heartwarming Nick Thornby adaptation is perfect for those who like a little less schmaltz with their romantic comedies. It stars Hugh Grant as a womaniser living off the royalties of a Christmas song composed by his father, but it’s an adorable pre-teen Nicholas Hoult who steals the show.
Buy About A Boy on DVD
This 1944 musical saw Judy Garland debut the song ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. Set in the run-up to the 1904 World’s Fair, the film follows the fortunes of the Smith family, and showcases one of Garland’s finest performances.
Buy Meet Me In St Louis on DVD
If you enjoy a Christmas romcom or two, why not try a classic? This charming 1949 film stars Robert Mitchum opposite a pre-Psycho Janet Leigh.
Buy Holiday Affair on DVD
Suffering from romcom overload? Then this black comedy crime caper is for you. It stars Billy Bob Thornton as a professional thief who takes on a second job as a department store Santa each year. It’s the perfect cover, at least until everything starts going wrong?
Buy Bad Santa on DVD
In the mood for something a little more? grown up? Try this erotic drama, based on a 1926 novella by Arthur Schnitzler and starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. For this adaptation, Stanley Kubrick relocated the action from Mardi Gras in turn-of-the-century Vienna to Christmas in late twentieth century New York.
Buy Eyes Wide Shut on DVD
If you’re in the market for something a little less saccharin-loaded than your typical Christmas fare, watch this fictionalised depiction of the 1914 Christmas truce, as seen through the eyes of French, British and German soldiers.
Buy Joyeux Noel on DVD
This 1965 TV special might have been short and sweet, but it still deserves a space on your Christmas viewing list. Indulge in a little nostalgia this festive season…
Buy A Charlie Brown Christmas on DVD (also includes I Want A Dog For Christmas)
This criminally underrated 1983 comedy is a firm festive favourite of those in the know. It stars Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy as a broker and homeless man who inadvertently ‘switch lives’ during the Christmas period as part of an elaborate bet between the broker’s coworkers.
Buy Trading Places on DVD