In Depth

Christmas TV guide 2016: 21 best shows and films to watch

Welcome Doctor Who, the Bronte Sisters, Sherlock, 007 and Roald Dahl into your living room

Christmas is a hectic time, but once the shopping is done, the presents are opened, and you've polished off your last mouthful of Christmas pudding, you can finally enjoy a well-earned rest. To help you relax, we've compiled a list of the best television shows and movies to entertain you over the holiday break.

The Great Christmas Bake Off

Enjoy a double helping of Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue together for the very last time, in two special episodes of The Great Christmas Bake Off. Each instalment welcomes back four bakers from past series, dressed in silly jumpers and aprons, as they tackle three sticky festive baking challenges.

Christmas Day at 4.45pm and Boxing Day at 7pm, BBC1

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Peter Capaldi's Doctor Who will be traversing the time vortex and rematerialising this Christmas to save New York from an alien threat. Matt Lucas also stars as Nardole, while Charity Wakefield plays investigative journalist Lucy Fletcher. The Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, will also feature an as yet unidentified superhero.

Christmas Day at 5.45pm, BBC1

The Last Dragonslayer

This family-friendly drama adapts the first of Jasper Fforde's popular series of novels melding fantasy, medieval tales and modern themes. Young orphan Jennifer Strange (Ellise Chappell) lives in the UnUnited Kingdoms and discovers that her destiny is to become the last Dragonslayer.

Christmas Day at 5.45pm, Sky 1

Gogglebox: 2016

Catch up on some of the best moments of this very meta show, which allows viewers to watch viewers watch TV, from the past year. Gogglebox: 2016 reunites us with the country's best-loved TV-watching households.

Christmas Day at 9pm, Channel 4

Inside No. 9: The Devil at Christmas

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith offer some dark comic relief from the Christmas cheer. Rula Lenska and Jessica Raine star alongside Pemberton as guests at an alpine chalet who learn from a local man (Shearsmith) about the legend of The Devil of Christmas in which good children are rewarded and the bad are punished.

Tuesday 27 December at 10pm, BBC2

The Bronte Sisters: To Walk Invisible

Sally Wainright's To Walk Invisible reveals the extraordinary story behind the three remarkable Bronte sisters who drew on their traumatic family life experiences to produce some of the greatest English language novels. Stars Jonathan Pryce as the Bronte father, Adam Nagaitis as the troubled brother Branwell and Charlie Murphy, Chloe Pirrie and Finn Atkins as sisters Anne, Emily and Charlotte.

Thursday 29 December at 9pm, BBC1

Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes

Dahl's wickedly witty fairy tales have been turned into a two-part animation featuring the voices of David Walliams, Dominic West and Tamsin Greig. The two half-hour films weave together Dahl's retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella.

Boxing Day at 6.30pm and Tuesday 27 December at 6.30pm, BBC1

Robot Wars Christmas Special

Robot Wars returns for some festive mayhem in two specials, which will see a host of celebrity guests battling it out. Dara O'Briain and Angela Scanlon will be joined by Radio One DJs Scott Mills and Chris Stark, as well as other yet-to-be-named celebrity contestants, and the popular House Robots, Sir Killalot, Matilda, Shunt and Dead Metal.

Wednesday 28 December at 8pm and Thursday 29 December at 8pm, BBC2

We're Going On A Bear Hunt

A Christmas treat from the makers of The Snowman, featuring the voices of Olivia Colman, Pam Ferris and Mark Williams. Based on the hit bedtime book written by Michael Rosen, the one-off half-hour special follows a family who go in search of a bear, but find a surprise in a cave on the other side of a dark forest.

Christmas Eve at 7.30pm, Channel 4

Maigret's Dead Man 

ITV's adaptation of Georges Simenon's famous detective story stars Rowan Atkinson as Chief Inspector Jules Maigret. The police investigate a series of murderous attacks on farms while Maigret is preoccupied by the killing of an unknown Parisian.

Christmas Day at 9pm, ITV

Frozen 

The Oscar-winning 2013 film is an easy crowd-pleaser. The kingdom of Arendelle becomes trapped in perpetual winter after its queen, Elsa, loses control of her magical powers. Only her fearless sister Anna can break the icy spell.

Christmas Day at 3.10pm, BBC1

Sherlock

Baker Street's famous double act, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr Watson (Martin Freeman), return to TV screens on New Year's Day with an episode called The Six Thatchers, in which a mysterious thief is expected to steal a series of busts of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Luckily for fans, this is the first of a three-part series.

New Year's Day, time TBA, BBC1

The Artist

This multi-Oscar winner stood out as the first black and white silent film to become a hit in decades. Set in Hollywood in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it charts the decline of a silent film star and his romance with a rising young actress as silent cinema falls out of fashion and is replaced by the "talkies".

Christmas Day, 2:25pm, BBC2  

It's a Wonderful Life

The ultimate feel-good Christmas film starts with an unpromising premise. James Stewart stars as George Bailey, a man who thinks the world would be better off without him – until a guardian angel shows him just how wrong he is.

Christmas Day, 2:20pm, Channel 4

Dallas Buyers Club

An unconventional Christmas film choice but one that is ultimately about good will to all men. Matthew McConaughey stars in the true story of Ron Woodroof, an electrician who is diagnosed with Aids and goes on to overcome his own homophobia to save the lives of hundreds of gay HIV patients. Co-stars Jared Leto.

Christmas Day, 10:30pm, C5

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Part of a series of Harry Potter films being shown on ITV over the Christmas break, beginning with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on Christmas Eve, the second instalment of the wizarding franchise sees the heir of Salazar Slytherin open the chamber of secrets, unleashing a monster that terrorises Hogwarts school. Can Harry, Ron, Hermione and the gang put it back in its box?

Christmas Day, 11:55am, ITV

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The adventures continue with Harry's third year at Hogwarts and the boy wizard is under threat from escaped Azkaban prisoner Sirius Black.

Boxing Day, 4:10pm, ITV.

The Harry Potter film series continues with Goblet of Fire: Tuesday 27th December, 7:30pm, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Wednesday 28th December, 7:30pm, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Thursday 29th December, 9pm, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1: Thursday 30th December, 9pm, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2: time TBC, ITV

Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass, the director of the Bourne films, adapts the true story of the 2009 hijacking of a cargo ship. Tom Hanks stars as Phillips, with an impressive performance from Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the Somali pirates. 

Boxing Day, 9pm, ITV

The Indiana Jones films

A treat for fans young and old. The franchise is based on the adventures of Dr Henry "Indiana" Jones, a fictional archaeologist played by Harrison Ford. The series, created by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg, began in 1981, with the first three films considered to be the best.

Raiders of the Lost Ark: Tuesday 27th December, 1:35pm, BBC1Temple of Doom: Wednesday 28th December, 1:45pm, BBC1The Last Crusade: Thursday 29th December, 1:55pm, BBC1Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Thursday 29th December, 11:20pm, BBC1

Skyfall

Would any Christmas be complete without a visit from James Bond? The critically acclaimed Skyfall sees 007 dealing with the legacy of his troubled childhood while battling Javier Bardem's former MI6 agent-turned-villain Raoul Silva.  

Tuesday 27th December, 8pm, ITV2

Robot Wars Christmas Special

Robot Wars returns for some festive mayhem in two specials that see a host of celebrity guests battling it out. Dara O'Briain and Angela Scanlon are joined by famous faces including Radio 1's Scott Mills and Chris Stark – and, of course, house robots Sir Killalot, Matilda, Shunt and Dead Metal.

Wednesday 28 December at 8pm and Thursday 29 December at 8pm, BBC2

Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

This US adaptation of the Swedish original, based on the hit thriller by Stieg Larsson will give you the winter chills. Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist trying to solve the disappearance of a woman 40 years earlier with the help of a vigilante computer hacker played by Rooney Mara.

Friday 30th December, 10:00pm, ITV4

Sherlock

Baker Street's famous double act, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr Watson (Martin Freeman), return with The Six Thatchers, in which a mysterious thief is expected to steal a series of busts of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Luckily for fans, this is the first of a three-part series.

New Year's Day, 8.30pm, BBC1

Captain America: The Winter Soldier 

The second tale from Marvel's Captain America franchise is said to be influenced by 1970s conspiracy fiction such as Three Days of the Condor. Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a superhero struggling to embrace his role in the modern world who teams up with fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Black Widow to battle an assassin known as the Winter Soldier. 

Friday 30th December, 8:30pm, BBC1

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