5. Carol (2015)
Where you can watch: Amazon Prime (UK)
The film: Todd Haynes’ lush, gorgeous lesbian romance unfolds over the Christmas season of 1952. Carol (Cate Blanchett) first meets Therese (Rooney Mara) when she – accidentally or intentionally – leaves a pair of gloves behind while shopping for presents. Carol is going through a difficult divorce, with husband threatening to use the “morality clause” and expose her homosexuality so he can have full custody of their son. Carol and Therese are forced to keep their relationship a secret.
Why it’s worth a watch: Carol more than deserves its status as a modern Christmas classic. Not only is it devastatingly romantic, but it possesses the kind of rich, warm glow and simple elegance which always feels reminiscent of department stores dressed up for the season. Considering every Christmas at home inevitably descends into chaos, it’s nice to daydream about spending the holidays dressed up to the nines and drinking martinis under the mistletoe.
4. White Christmas (1954)
Where you can watch: Netflix (UK/US)
The film: White Christmas, ironically, was not the first film to feature the song “White Christmas”. It originally appeared in 1942’s Holiday Inn, as sung by Bing Crosby, though the actor rerecorded the track for this musical, released over a decade later. Crosby and Danny Kaye play two WWII veterans who make it big as Broadway producers. They fall in love with a pair of sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen), who perform as a double act and are set to play in Vermont over the holidays.
Why it’s worth a watch: As sweet as chocolate cake and as soothing as a warm glass of milk, White Christmas is guaranteed to hit the spot – whatever your mood during the holiday season. Alongside its iconic title track, the film features a bevy of brilliant show tunes penned by Irving Berlin, including “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing”.
3. Home Alone (1990)
Where you can watch: Disney Plus
The film: Nothing better captures the spirit of the season than watching an eight-year-old child enact vigilante justice on a pair of robbers (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), causing them permanent injury and a lifetime of chiropractor visits. Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally abandoned by his parents as they head off to Paris for the holidays. He turns out to be surprisingly self-efficient, coming up with a number of ingenious schemes to stock up on snacks and fortify the homestead.
Why it’s worth a watch: Although Home Alone has a surprisingly twisted sense of humour for a family film, it’s still a heartwarming sight to see Kevin reunited with his family – having finally learned not to take them for granted. Most Christmassy of all is John Williams’ twinkling theme song for the film, “Somewhere in My Memory”.
2. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Where you can watch: Disney Plus
The film: If you’re in need of a dose of instant nostalgia, there’s no better option than The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s the story we’re all familiar with, but performed by a cast of felt puppets. Gonzo, playing Charles Dickens, and Rizzo the Rat narrate the story. Kermit stars as Bob Cratchit, while his nephew Robin makes for an adorable Tiny Tim. Best of all, Statler and Waldorf strut their stuff and jangle some chains as the ghostly Jacob and Robert Marley.
Why it’s worth a watch: Is this the best adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol ever made? Quite possibly. The film sticks surprisingly close to the source material, while reinterpreting its message of “goodwill to all” to give it a distinctly Muppets-esque spin – it’s goofy, but sincere. Plus, Sir Michael Caine is perfectly cast as Ebenezer Scrooge, delivering miserly with a mischevious glint in his eye.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Where you can watch: Amazon Prime (US)
The film: It’s the most loved and treasured Christmas film of them all. James Stewart stars as George Bailey, a man so selfless that he gave up on all his dreams in order to help his family and community. But a series of misfortunes leave him broken inside. On Christmas Eve, he contemplates suicide, only for a guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) to turn up and show him what the world would be like if George had never been born.
Why it’s worth a watch: Initially a box office bomb, It’s a Wonderful Life was criticised by contemporary reviewers for being too sentimental and optimistic. But, funnily enough, those are the exact qualities we’ve come to appreciate in the passing years. At a time of year that can be difficult for many, there’s something to be said for having a film that reminds each of us of the positive impact we have on other people’s lives – whether we realise it or not.