skip to Main Content

A Personal Selection of Holiday Movies

It’s all too common at this time of year to see lists of the best holiday movies. Many include the same classic (and not so classic) films in various permutations. The entertaining Vox article, 5 ways The Night Before pays homage to classic holiday movies, references five such movies that typically crop up on such “best of” lists: Home Alone (1990), A Christmas Carol (1951), A Christmas Story (1983), Elf (2003), and Love, Actually (2003). Time will tell if this year’s The Night Before will prove to be a mainstay of top holiday movie lists in the future, but I suspect it might.

Five Less Common Holiday Movie Picks

To provide a contrasting view, I’m taking this opportunity to offer my personal selection of holiday movies that may not be quite so familiar. In no particular order …

Comfort and Joy (1984)

Written and directed by Bill Forsyth, this warm comedy takes place during the holiday season in mid-Eighties Glasgow. The story follows a radio announcer who inadvertently becomes embroiled in a dispute between rival ice cream van operations. Full of beautifully observed characters and wryly amusing situations, the film includes a delightful homage to the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera (1935), with the “sanity clause” joke rendered impeccably in Glaswegian accents. Forsyth also wrote and directed the excellent Gregory’s Girl (1981) and Local Hero (1983).

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Produced by Aardman, the folks that created Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, this marvellous re-imagining of the legend of Father Christmas is one of the best of the recent computer generated animated movies that manages to appeal to adults as much as children. Muddled marketing seems to have resulted in less acclaim for this movie than more well-known Pixar works, but it is well worth seeking out.

The Snowman (1982)

A visually stunning, wordless rendering of Raymond Briggs’ timeless picture book story of a young boy flying with his snowman to visit Father Christmas at the North Pole. Just half an hour long and including a haunting rendition of the song “Walking in the Air,” this film is the very definition of the word heartwarming. Anyone growing up in the UK in the Eighties and Nineties has no doubt watched this many, many times on television at home with their family.

A Child’s Christmas In Wales (1987)

This hour-long TV movie adaptation of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ 1950 prose work, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” recalls simpler, traditional Christmases past. On the last Sunday before Christmas, CBC’s North by Northwest traditionally broadcasts a 1952 recording of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” narrated by Dylan Thomas himself. The movie version provides a wonderful companion to this.

Life of Brian (1979)

The funniest movie ever (in my humble opinion), this qualifies as a holiday movie because of course the eponymous hero of the story, Brian, happens to be born on the original Christmas Day. Thereafter the story doesn’t really have anything to with the holiday season, but it’s a reliable source of hilarity over the holidays or if you wish to offend the more reactionary members of your extended family.


Iain Pardoe is an online university instructor who enjoys the movies of Hayao Miyazaki even more than the kids and loves rewatching favourites from his youth with his family when he’s not playing soccer or skiing.