Special Feature: Christmas in cinema

When you hear the words 'Christmas film', what comes to mind? These days a Christmas film can be anything released in the run-up to Christmas or anything where Christmas features heavily in the plot. Considering how wide a definition this is, there is a lot that can be covered in the history of Christmas films, so let's narrow it down to the history of Christmas in film. How has the holiday season featured in cinema over time, and how do we see it shaping up in future? Let's take a look at some of the greatest Christmassy movies of the last few decades in the order they were released.

A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is one of the earliest fan favourites which comes to mind when you think about Christmas in films. This entire movie revolves around one little kid and his quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas - a present his mother is staunchly against. The protagonist learns a few life lessons through the course of the film, and is eventually rewarded with the weapon he so desires.

A year later the movie Gremlins took this consumerism one step further. In this dark comedy a boy is given a Mogwai for Christmas, an incredibly cute, highly intelligent animal which comes with just three rules. Break these rules and all hell will break lose. Obviously the rules are inadvertently broken, and an elderly Chinese man imparts some wisdom on the protagonist's father - "You do with Mogwai what your society has done with all of nature's gifts. You do not understand. You are not ready." This was possibly one of the first Christmas films which used the holiday season to highlight our lack of responsibility as a species, years before global warming because a political buzzword.

Die Hard
A Christmas favourite for many men around the world, Die Hard tells the story of a cop who saves his wife and her colleagues from terrorists at Christmas. By and large this is just mindless fun, though there is an important underlying message in the film. The protagonist starts the film enraged that his wife won't use his name, but by the end of the film he has realised how short life is, and something as small as this shouldn't get in the way of having a family. Unfortunately this is something that the protagonist quickly forgets just so that there can be a couple of sequels.

When Harry Met Sally
Around 1989 Christmas in the movies started getting a lot more light-hearted - a stark opposite of Die Hard the year before. When Harry Met Sally is a prime example of this, with the young couple's adventure quickly becoming a Christmas favourite.

Home Alone
Continuing on with the light-hearted theme, 1990 classic Home Alone has now become one of the most iconic Christmas movies of all time. This almost slapstick comedy won the hearts of children and parents across the world, conveniently before America's strongest period of television marketing and consumerism ever seen. This was seen in the sequel a few years later when the hero's Talkboy hit the shelves in full force, quickly becoming a Christmas bestselling toy.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas is yet another light-hearted Christmas movie, though it's quite unlike any other movie on this list. This stop-motion masterpiece from Tim Burton is still hailed by many as one of the greatest movies of all time. This surreal outsider view of Christmas has won the hearts and minds of so many generations that it has even featured in videogames like the Kingdom Hearts franchise in recent years.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Several years later, Jim Carrey starred as The Grinch in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, taking light- hearted Christmas movies in a different direction. This Dr Seuss classic was expertly reworked for the big screen, and Carrey's portrayal was utterly perfect. This family classic is the last family film on the list; while there have been other family Christmas movies, they just haven't been worth mentioning. It's high time that family blockbusters like this start making a comeback.

Love, Actually
This amazing romantic comedy is so awkwardly British that it is already a firm favourite of millions around the world. It follows the lives of several interconnected families as they each march towards Christmas day. Though the families don't know each other, the community spirit that this film unwittingly bolsters is nothing short of incredible. It also spawned a load of awkward Christmas movies such as the last two on our list.

Just Friends
Just Friends is the awkward story of a guy and girl. The guy liked the girl at high school, she didn't like him back so he grows up into a highly attractive, emotionally detached womaniser. He meets her, she likes him and they are no longer just friends. Highly awkward though it is at times, Just Friends is an exceptional Christmas rom-com which will have you laughing and crying at all the right moments (if you want an extra laugh that's a bit festive then there are also some Christmas cracker jokes that are a must see as well as all these films).

Four Christmases
Finally we have Four Christmases. Christmas movies in recent years have taken a bit of a hit, with Four Christmases being the second best Christmas movie in the last 10 years. This film follows the four Christmases of a couple looking to visit all four divorced parents on Christmas. The awkward moments which follow, the humiliations, hard feelings and spilled secrets make for quite an amusing watch, though hopefully this will be last major Christmas movie focusing on how awkward family gatherings can be during the holiday season.

Despite a lack of recent Christmassy blockbusters, Christmas in the movies is by no means dead. As one of the world's favourite holidays, Christmas will always be around in the world's favourite entertainment medium. It's just having a bit of a lull at the moment. In 2016 we have Let It Snow to look forward to, followed by a yet-untitled Disney fairytale in 2017. Hopefully we will see a new Christmas movie entering the ranks of fan favourites over the next few years, getting the snowball rolling in earnest once more.


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