Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Easily my favourite film to get me in to the Christmas spirit – which is odd, because it’s actually a movie set around American Thanksgiving. But since I’m not American, I call that a Christmas movie :) One of John Candy’s finest performances, and Steve Martin is his usual comedic best in this heart-warming and hilarious movie about a hapless businessman trying to get across the country to see his family for Thanksgiving.
Stars: Steve Martin and John Candy, basically.
Fun fact: No transportation company wanted to appear inept or deficient in any way, so crews had to rent twenty miles of train track and refurbish old railroad cars, construct a set that looked like an airline terminal, design a rent-a-car company logo and uniforms, and rent 250 cars for the infamous Rent-a-Car sequence!
Favourite quote: Del (Candy) “You know I had a feeling that when we parted ways. We would somehow wind up back together again. I’ve never seen a guy get picked up by his testicles before. Lucky thing for you that cop passed by when he did. Otherwise, you’d be lifting up your schnutz to tie you shoes. I’m sorry. That’s terrible. Do you have any idea how glad I am I didn’t kill you?”
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
One of the all-time classics, and a great movie to warm your cockles to in the run up to Christmas. Follow the story of George Bailey (the marvelous James Stewart) as he experiences one of the most compelling rollercoaster life-stories, leading up to an ill-fated Christmas Eve where he considers ending it all – before being told the story of how life would be different by a fallen angel named Clarence.
Stars: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen and Ward Bond
Fun fact: Two of Sesame Street’s Muppets, Bert and Ernie, share their names with the film’s cop and cab driver, respectively, but it’s believed to be just a coincidenc
Favourite quote: George (Stewart) “I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long…”
Love Actually (2003)
I know it’s cheesy to have a Richard Curtis film on the list, and I’m sure some of my more movie-snobbish friends will tell me I’m a fool, but I love a bit of Love, Actually in the run-up to Christmas. From Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson’s breaking-down marriage to Martin Freeman and Joanna Page and their porn-stand-in first meeting, I don’t think there is a single character or story in this film that I don’t love. The soundtrack is brilliant too!
Stars: Loads, including Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Kris Marshall…
Fun fact: When David arrives at No. 10 Downing Street, his tie changes 11 times between shots when meeting Natalie. Apparently, Hugh Grant had changed his tie after a post-lunch nap and no one noticed at first. They decided to “play with it” and went all out and changed the tie 11 times just for the heck of it.
Favourite quote: Jamie (Colin Firth) – in portugese “Beautiful Aurelia, I’ve come here with a view of asking you to marriage me. I know I seems an insane person – because I hardly knows you – but sometimes things are so transparency, they don’t need evidential proof. And I will inhabit here, or you can inhabit with me in England.”
The Snowman (1982)
Probably not technically classed as a “movie” (though I’m not sure what you’d call it if it’s not?) but this has got to be a main-stay on everybody’s Christmas viewing list. I think I could count on one hand the number of Christmases where I *haven’t* watched the Snowman, and with a son of my own now, it’s definitely staying on the festive line-up. The only tiny thing I’d say slightly spoils an otherwise brilliant viewing experience is the bizarre and frankly completely odd opening scene with David Bowie…! It was only added when the film was released by PBS in the states, and it really jars with the overall feel of it.
Stars: A snowman and a little boy.
Fun fact: The little boy’s name is James!
Favourite quote: Aside from the aforementioned Bowie intro, not a single word is spoken in this wonderful film, so this is a bit null and void really!