12 classic Christmas films on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video
Must-watch festive flicks include The Christmas Chronicles 2 and Home Alone
There’s nothing better at Christmas than tucking into a selection box and sitting down with the family to watch a film.
So grab the remote, unwrap the sweets and enjoy these festive flicks.
This much-loved classic has got to be on everyone’s Christmas watchlist. Mischievous Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) enjoys an unexpected staycation, delighting viewers with slapstick scenes as he wards off “The Wet Bandits” (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Even 30 years after its initial release, Home Alone is hailed by The Guardian as a “box office smash hit” and has been a “favourite, decades after”. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a zipline across the garden, a hot iron to the face and a baubles booby trap, would it? “Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”
As a traditional, festive romantic comedy, Love Actually has been a staple on Christmas Day television since 2003. With a star-studded cast including Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Kiera Knightley to name a few, this winter warmer will have you in giggles as Hugh Grant boogies around 10 Downing Street, swooning as Colin Firth falls in love, and in tears with Emma Thompson as her marriage collapses. The New York Times, which once described the film as “an indigestible Christmas pudding from the British whimsy factory”, has since conceded that it is a “classic” and it rests firmly in the UK’s top five Christmas films.
The Polar Express
From the writer who brought us the 80s smash-hit, Back to the Future, The Polar Express is another of Robert Zemeckis’ triumphs. Nominated for three Oscars, this 2004 animated film encapsulates the magic, sparkle and excitement of a snowy Christmas Eve. With Tom Hanks as the voice of no fewer than six characters, it’s almost a one-man show. Using what was then, state-of-the-art animation technology, says Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, viewers are transported on a whimsical adventure on a steam engine to the North Pole.
Secret-agent elves in night-vision goggles ziplining into bedrooms, sleighs and reindeer replaced by the metal giant, the S1, and a control room of Santa’s helpers organising the night with pinpoint precision... this is Christmas for the modern age. Enter Arthur, the gangly, loveable son of Santa, voiced by James McAvoy. Usually out of sight and mind in the mail room, Arthur takes on the challenge to deliver a gift to a child who has been missed. Packed with laughs for both children and adults, this is a fantastic, feel-good film. “A great, big joy”, said Empire’s Olly Richards. “Even if you’re a bit bah humbug, just delight in the supremely clever Aardman comedy.”
The Christmas Chronicles 2
Sequel to the 2018 hit, this new release returns to Kate, now a teenager, trying to avoid spending her holiday with her mum’s new boyfriend and son. Through a magical twist and Christmas miracle, the young heroine finds herself whisked away to the North Pole. It’s every child’s wildest dreams come true. “The director, Chris Columbus, fills the village with marvels: toy factories, storybooks, a swarm of beatific elves,” said Natalia Winkelman in The New York Times. Reminding us about love, friendship and the power of Christmas spirit, this is an uplifting watch in the run-up to 25 December.
Fleeing disappointing relationships and finding love over Christmas, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet are a winning pair in this popular yuletide film. A film-trailer maker in glamorous Los Angeles and a quiet, country girl in the heart of rural Surrey swap houses – and lives – enjoying a topsy-turvy getaway for a week in late December. Full of Christmas cheer, romantic encounters and Jude Law as the dishy leading man, The Holiday puts together beautiful locations and cheesy, yet heart-warming dialogue into a festive rom-com. The Telegraph’s Sukhdev Sandhu hit the nail on the head by calling it “winter’s cuddliest movie”.
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Miracle on 34th Street is set in snowy, 1990s New York, where a department store Santa claims that he is the “real deal”. With the help of a young girl Susan, and her begrudging and cynical mother, Kris Kringle takes on a lawsuit to prove that he is the man in the big, red suit. The take on the 1947 original brings not only colour, but also Christmas cheer and smiles to everyone who watches it. The fabulous cast includes Richard Attenborough who “positively sparkles in the role of the mysterious Kriss Kringle”, says Empire. It’s a bona fide Christmas classic.
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
One of Tim Burton’s glorious stop-motion masterpieces, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a “delectably ghoulish fairy tale” for all ages, says The New York Times. Spindly skeleton with a heart of gold, the prominent citizen of Halloweentown, Jack Skellington, hatches a plot to kidnap Santa Claus and take on the role himself. A unique twist of both Halloween and Christmas, Burton’s fantasy towns and landscapes are not just for children. “I found the movie a feast for the eyes and the imagination,” said film critic Roger Ebert.
The Grinch (2018)
The green, furry, smirking Grinch is a Christmas personality almost as recognisable as Father Christmas himself. With the quirky backdrop of Seuss’ Whoville, this 2018 film retains all the hallmarks of the old favourite, together with some new additions - Max, his enthusiastic canine helper and a soundtrack of Pharrell Williams songs. “The Grinch spreads the message of Christmas through its theme about spending the holidays together, with people you love”, said Johnson Thomas for Mid-day, which is what we all need this year.
You either love it or you hate it. In the “Marmite” movie of Christmas, Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, an overgrown Santa’s helper let loose in New York City. While many may find it cheesy as Ferrell bursts into a tiny coffee shop in Manhattan intent on congratulating the owner for having the “world’s best cup of coffee” or slurping mountains of spaghetti slathered in syrup, the light-hearted humour, unashamedly young-at-heart Ferrell and quirky co-star Zooey Deschanel, bring the Christmas spirit to life. “Elf is hilarious,” says Kate Abbott in The Guardian. You would be a “cotton-headed ninny muggins” to miss this one at Christmas.
New Year’s Eve
Those who are excited by the countdown to 1 January can be transported to New Year’s Eve in the Big Apple, ready to watch the Times Square Ball Drop. Without the real event this year, viewers can delight in the Love Actually-style drama of the intertwined lives of Halle Berry, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hillary Swank, Sarah Jessica Parker and Abigail Breslin. With the pangs of teenage romance, a ticking clock on an incomplete bucket list and two 20-somethings falling in love in a broken elevator, this film ties together all the stereotypes of a not-so-serious American comedy with amusing results.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
One of the few sequels to make the list, Home Alone 2 is a reprise with just as much sparkle and mischief as the original. Mistakenly boarding a flight to New York while his motley crew of family members rush for a flight to Miami, Kevin McAllister is once again single-handedly facing his archenemies. While it may appear that the fun and games of Home Alone have just been repackaged, it’s the Tom & Jerry-esque plot and “sparkling slapstick climax” that kids and adults enjoy, says The Hollywood Reporter. Plus the sprinkling of magic that comes with a Christmas in New York.