There’s the classics, right? Home Alone, Elf, Love Actually... But if you’re bored of the same old seasonal films, here are some suggestions that would make perfect holiday viewing.
Edward Scissorhands (1990) dir. Tim Burton
There’s a fairytale quality to Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands that makes this film such a joyful thing to watch. The sickly-sweet pastels of suburban America collide with Burton’s classic gothic style, and an unlikely romance between half human/half machine Edward (Johnny Depp) and ‘girl next door’ Kim (Winona Ryder) is formed. Much like an Aesop’s Fable, the film champions a message of accepting people despite their differences, and seeing the beauty in the non-traditional.
What solidifies this film as an ideal Christmas watch is its memorable final scenes. When Edward harnesses his creative flair, he carves out ice sculptures, creating a snow shower that falls over Kim as Danny Elfman’s swooning soundtrack plays – nothing short of heartwarming.
A Grand Day Out (1989) dir. Nick Park
Wallace and Gromit exist in an England of tweed, cobbled streets and faded floral wallpaper. Who would ever suspect that a balding man donning green knitted vests along with his mute canine sidekick could embark on such a glorious journey into outer space? And yet they do! There is a quaint Britishness to the whole thing, and as an audience we can’t help but be charmed by the simplicity of this beautiful little story, and what must have been the most tedious animation process. Our titular characters journey to the moon to find the perfect cheese to accompany Wallace’s crackers, and encounter a robot that wishes to spend his days skiing in this endlessly endearing animated short.
The film only has a total run time of thirty minutes, but is a perfect choice to watch with anyone, from any generation.
La La Land (2016) dir. Damien Chazelle
Whilst only five years old, La La Land already proves itself as a modern Hollywood classic. Taking place in sunny California just as the Christmas season is about to begin, we meet Mia (Emma Stone) and Seb (Ryan Gosling), and follow their relationship as it develops and grows over the year.
La La Land showcases the painful realities of trying to ‘make it’ as a creative, in a vapid environment that doesn’t keep all the promises it makes. The couple’s relationship strains when both try to achieve their ambitions, and calls to question what is worth sacrificing in the name of art.
The continual references to old Hollywood, as well as the musical numbers which propel the story, make for a delightful watch.
Top Hat (1935) dir. Mark Sandrich
Top Hat is a classical screwball comedy, featuring one of the most famous showbiz duos in Hollywood history: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Whilst not having much in terms of plot, the film instead keeps the audience entertained by relying on the charm of its leads and its gloriously choreographed sequences.
The ‘Cheek to Cheek’ sequence continues to be one of the most romantic and memorable moments in a film of this era. Top Hat was made to be a form of escapism for its contemporary audience, and can still be so for audiences today. So, if you want to slip away into a glamorous world of feathered dresses and dreamboats, this may be the musical for you.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) dir. Stanley Kubrick
Unlike the other recommendations on this list, this film is suggested to those who want food for thought rather than a wholesome family watch. Stanley Kubrick’s reputation for being a controversial director holds true when discussing Eyes Wide Shut, particularly in regards to his treatment of the leads on set. Arguably, Kubrick used Kidman and Cruise’s real marriage and their portrayal of a fictional couple to blur the lines between reality and fiction, in the same way the story does when Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) uncovers a sex cult and the truth is no longer clear.
The film takes place not in the Viennese Mardi Gras of its source material, but during Christmas in New York; it explores the disturbing nature of secret societies hosted by powerful figures, as well as the exploitation of women and lurid fascination with the female form.
As twisted as the film can be, it’s ultimately about the insecurities experienced by a couple that seemingly ‘have it all’: the nice apartment, the status and children. However, Alice (Nicole Kidman) is plagued with illicit fantasies about other men and Bill attempts to one-up his wife by seeking sexual encounters with other women. Whilst neither ever technically cheats on the other, jealousy drives the couple into unfamiliar terrain which tests their relationship and exposes the difficulties of long-term love.
Maybe don’t watch this with your parents – especially if you already find the intimate scenes in Love Actually too awkward to bear.