Hollywood Christmas Magic
Christmas is around the corner so I thought this week I’d take a step away from my job and instead tackle a tricky subject that’s started coming up every year with more and more voracity.
Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
First some background. Die Hard came out in 1988. It was put on general release in the US in July, and in the UK in February 1989.
That was easy…
So instead of talking about whether or not Die Hard* is a Christmas movie I thought I’d list ten that I truly enjoy. These might not be my ‘Top Ten’, and there are plenty of other Chritmas films that are 'better', but they are ten movies that I heartily recommend.
The Bishop’s Wife (1947): Cary Grant - as close to the ideal man as I can imagine - is always watchable, and with David Nivin and Loretta Young you have a gorgeous and talented cast. The story is a simple one, but its themes of devotion and sacrifice, and the bitter sweet resolution are touching and perfectly in keeping with the holiday season.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): After ten years in the wilderness Michael Caine gives us a stunning performance. Couple that with the wackiness and festival of frivolity that is The Muppets and you have what has become for many people a yearly institution. It’s hard to overestimate how much this movie means to people, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s joyful, soulful, and fun.
Trading Places (1983): An amazing comedy, with both Murphy and Aykroyd turning in hilarious performances, along with the easily overlooked Jamie Lee Curtis and Denholm Elliott, both of whom have great comic turns. Though I watched it as a child, this may not be suitable for younger viewers.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947): I really do enjoy the remake with Richard Attenborough, but the original version is still the best. It manages to blend a tense, courtroom drama with the warmth and heart of It’s a Wonderful Life. Sweet but not sickening, it’s the benchmark for this kind of Christmas film.
Elf (2002): I find Will Ferrell movies a bit of a lucky dip. But here he has absolutely delivered one of the great Christmas movies of our time. His childish humour - which so often can lead to eye rolling and annoyance – when coupled with the open eyed innocence of Buddy the Elf is absolutely perfect. One of the few films which can wear the title of ‘For All the Family’ comfortably.
A Christmas Carol (1938): The second time this story has appeared on my list, though when you think of the number of versions of it, that’s not bad. Don't worry, there won't be any more. For me this is the classic and best film version of the story that created Christmas as we know it. The almost 80 years since this was filmed has only added to its charm and Alastair Sim is the perfect Scrooge. Never, ever watch the colourised version.
Arthur Christmas (2011): This film has exactly what I look for in a Christmas movie. Heart. Stacks of it. As you can expect from Ardman the attention to detail, in-jokes and visual gags are all there. It also looks sumptuous and, if I had to pick one of the voice actors out, I’d say that Jim Broadbent as Father Christmas is everything you want from jolly old St Nick.
Babes in Toyland (1934): Not as well known in this country as it is in the US, this film is Laurel and Hardy at their absolute best. Not only are the performers on point, but everything else is wonderful, with lovely set pieces and stunning sets and costume.
Scrooged (1988): Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t do any more Christmas Carol films, but this version, which updated it for the ultra-sleek 80’s, is just amazing! Though everyone here is great – and I do love Robert Mitchum – you’re watching this for Bill Murry. Watching dispassionately this isn’t a perfect movie, but again it has that key ingredient: heart. And the sing-a-long at the end gets me every time.
Hope you liked my list. As I said, these aren’t necessarily the best, but they are ones I enjoy and just popped off the top of my head. I’d love to hear which movies have snuck into your Christmas tradition, and next week I’ll be back to talking about magic of the none-Hollywood variety.
*Or Gremlins. What about Batman Returns or Death Race. (Yes, really)