The Christmas season is upon us, bringing with it plenty of reasons to be full of cheer and goodwill. There's also the mixed joy of spending extended time with family, so – whether you're looking to laugh together, or just avoid awkward conversations – what better time to settle down to a good Christmas Movie? To save you cycling through Netflix, several thousand cable channels or Sky TV in search of a classic, here's our list of the best Christmas movies.
Whether you want heartstrings or hilarity, or perhaps something a little more edgy, like explosions or knife-wielding maniacs – all with a festive twist, of course – we've got the best Christmas movies to match any mood; from White Christmas to Die Hard (yes, it is a Christmas movie *sigh*). And many of them happen to be really darn good. So curl up with a glass of eggnog and fire up one of these many excellent options for the best in holiday viewing. As they say in Lapland: à votre santé!
25. The Ref (1994)
The film: The decorations are up and the family's on the way. A popular go-to for holiday flicks is the amusement wrung from the mounting pressures of entertaining family. For Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis, that stress gets kicked up a notch at Chrimbo when Denis Leary's fast-talkin' thief decides to bust in and hold them hostage. Joke's on him, naturally, as he discovers the dysfunctional couple's even more dysfunctional family is en route.
Most Christmassy moment: As the nitpicky sister-in-law, Christine Baranski nevertheless makes an effort to consider what the season is truly all about: "The spirit of Christmas is either you're good, or you're punished and burn in hell." Indeed!
24. Black Christmas (1974)
The film: You know what really makes it feel like Christmas? A good old-fashioned slasher, that's what! Black Christmas kicked off the festive stalk n' slash tradition, and remains the best of its kind. A masked killer terrorises the girls of a sorority house during their annual holiday party, really dampening the spirit of goodwill by leaving a trail of corpses. Tut tut.
Most Christmassy moment: A victim's screams are drowned out by the jolly sound of Christmas carollers outside. Really festive, that.
23. Batman Returns (1992)
The film: Tim Burton's second and last Batman movie is a flamboyant parody of Christmas movie conventions, with The Penguin (Danny DeVito) preying on seasonal goodwill to become Mayor and crooked businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) described as 'Gotham's own Santa Claus.'
Most Christmassy moment: Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) gets Batman (Michael Keaton) where she wants him - under the mistletoe. "You know, mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it," he warns. "But a kiss can be even deadlier... if you mean it," she replies, licking him from chin to masked forehead.
22. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
The film: Technically, the classic Vincente Minnelli musical covers an entire year in the life of the Smith family. But there's no denying how central Christmas is, as that's when dad Alonzo (Leon Ames) announces the family will have to leave St. Louis.
Most Christmassy moment: Esther (Judy Garland) uses the power of song to tell kid sister Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) to - everybody! - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas....."
21. The Polar Express (2004)
The film: Step aboard the Polar Express' first stop, The Uncanny Valley! A grandiose CGI animation that features a cracking motion-capture performance from Tom Hanks, who also leads the voice cast as the jolly conductor of The Express, an enormous train embarking on a journey to the North Pole. While not quite the smash hit everyone expected, the film is now widely-considered a bit of a classic.
Most Christmassy moment: The encounter with Santa, where the nameless Hero Boy is presented with a bell as the first gift of Christmas. Sure you wouldn't rather have a PS4, mate?
20. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
The film: Ever wondered where the myth of Father Christmas came from? Jalmari Helander's sick rewrite of conventional wisdom suggests Santa is a nightmarish beast supported by an army of ravenous elves. Might make you reconsider leaving a mince pie for Santa that's not laced with arsenic.
Most Christmassy moment: True to legend, the 'real' Santa cares if you're naughty or nice... but only because he kills anyone who falls into the former category.
19. Scrooge (1951)
The film: Commonly judged to be the definitive 'straight' adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. While the funnier riffs on the material are a hoot, this is the real deal. Alistair Sim is so good as the miserly Scrooge, he reprised it in voice form for the 1971 animated version.
Most Christmassy moment: Scrooge orders Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) into his office - and then confounds him by raising the clerk's salary, and then bursts into uncontrollable laughter.
18. Go (1999)
The film: Writer-director Doug Liman (yep, he of Bourne and Edge of Tomorrow fame) delivers a brilliant slice of action comedy set during the 24-hour period between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In the vein of Shane Black's festive movies, this involves a frantic web of plottings told from three separate angles. Things kick off when Sarah Polley's supermarket girl Ronna decides to hustle some extra cash via a yuletide drug deal.
Most Christmassy moment: Ronna and Claire (Katie Holmes)' best friend at work Mannie really gets into the spirit of things - before necking a ton of ecstasy - by totally Griswolding his car. It's seriously festive.
17. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
The film: A classic fairytale from a not-yet-insufferable Tim Burton. Johnny Depp is the man with scissors for hands, created by Vincent Price in his gothic mansion. He falls for Winona Ryder's Kim and is, at first, accepted by the residents of her cookie-cutter town. But then it all goes wrong...
Most Christmassy moment: While his adopted family prepare for the festivities, Edward uses his hands to whittle a block of ice into an enormous sculpture of his beloved. The shavings of ice fall like snow around Kim as he carves. With Danny Elfman's haunting score soaring, it's a genuinely moving moment.
16. Lethal Weapon (1987)
The film: The Christmas season provides the backdrop to the first meeting of soon-to-be-inseparable cop partners Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover), giving the suicidal Riggs a newfound reason to be jolly. That and the fact that he gets to engage in a fistfight with Gary Busey that's beautifully lit by Christmas lights!
Most Christmassy moment: Riggs tells a joke unlikely to make it into any Christmas cracker - "What did one shepherd say to the other shepherd? Let's get the flock out of here!"