Tis the season for huddling round the TV with a hot chocolate and a mince pie, settling in with a festive flick to get into the spirit of Christmas.
And there’s a whole host of Christmas classics we enjoy every year – from Home Alone to Elf, Love Actually to The Snowman, there are just a handful of films without which Christmas isn’t complete.
But alongside these family favourites, there are plenty of hidden gems in the world of festive cinema.
So while you won’t find Miracle on 34th Street or It’s A Wonderful Life on this list, you may discover a classic or two you’ve never seen before.
In no particular order, here are just ten favourites from us – enjoy!
1. Jack Frost
Michael Keaton plays musician Jack Frost in this 1998 family flick. Following his death in a car accident, Jack is given a second chance with his son when he is revived as an animated snowman.
And in spite of the slightly spooky CGI, this heart-warming tearjerker is about grief, second chances and the importance of family.
As far as retellings of A Christmas Carol go, this one tends to get forgotten.
But Bill Murray’s curmudgeonly wit makes this modern-day retelling of the Charles Dickens classic stand out from the rest. Murray stars as Frank Cross, a cynical, Christmas-hating TV exec who is visited by the ghosts of his Past, Present and Future and, just like Ebenezer Scrooge, is shown the error of his ways and what may come if he doesn’t change.
As well as being a Christmas comedy classic, the film marked Murray’s return to the silver screen after more than four years.
3. The Family Stone
If meeting the in-laws is your worst nightmare, you’ll love this festive comedy featuring a star-studded cast that includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams.
When Meredith Morton (Parker) joins her boyfriend Everett Stone for a family Christmas, things get off to a rocky start. The film has a certain ‘awkward’ factor as Meredith’s missteps manage to upset just about every member of the family, but its comedic highlights – including its three female leads ending up drenched in egg casserole – make it all worthwhile.
Top tip for this film? Bring tissues.
4. Arthur Christmas
This 2011 animated family film features the voice talents of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy, and offers a fun new take on the ‘character saves Christmas’ trope.
Upon discovering that a single gift has been left behind by Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, the titular character sets out to deliver the lost present single-handedly. Chaos inevitably ensues as Arthur enlists the help of the elves and the reindeer to save Christmas and ensure no child is forgotten.
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
While not necessarily underrated, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a controversial addition to any festive film round up as the debate rages on – is it a Christmas movie, or a Halloween movie?
Whichever side you’re on, Tim Burton’s charming stop-motion animation style has endured over nearly three decades and remains hugely popular with fans of all ages.
The Nightmare Before Christmas also saw the feature-film directorial debut of Henry Selick, who later went on to direct the 2009 film Coraline.
Nativity stars Martin Freeman as a primary school teacher tasked with the unappealing challenge of putting together a Christmas play with a class of ten year-olds and a teaching assistant with an equally childlike nature.
But when a lie gets out of hand, he finds himself embroiled in an attempt to turn a school nativity into a Hollywood production.
While the film itself never achieved blockbuster status, it was released to critical acclaim and has since seen a musical adaptation, as well as two sequels featuring David Tennant and Martin Clunes respectively.
7. Last Holiday
Queen Latifah stars in Last Holiday, a funny, endearing and completely moving Christmas film
Set in the Czech Republic, the film follows Georgia Byrd after a diagnosis which estimates she has just weeks to leave. During this time, she sets about living her life to the fullest in the Hotel Pupp.
Despite its bleak premise, this heart-warming film brings a unique flair to the 1950s original on which it’s based, and is sure to leave you laughing.
8. Fred Claus
Ever wondered what the rest of the Claus family gets up to?
Fred Claus attempts to answer the question, following the life of Fred (Vince Vaughn) as he grows up in the shadow of his more successful brother Nicholas. And when Fred’s life gets on the wrong track, Nick agrees to help him on one condition – that Fred joins him in the North Pole, repaying his debt in Santa’s workshop in a slapstick, silly but ultimately entertaining festive set-up.
9. Deck the Halls
If you suspect (or are indeed embroiled in) a festive neighbourhood competition for the most extravagant Christmas decorations, this flick starring Danny Devito and Matthew Broderick is not to be missed.
10. The Christmas Chronicles
This 2018 Netflix original is a newcomer to the festive classics scene, but we think that The Christmas Chronicles has quickly earned its place amongst the greats of seasonal cinema.
After accidentally crashing Santa’s sleigh, brother-sister duo Kate and Teddy have to help St Nick (Kurt Russell) save Christmas. The film has already spawned a sequel, with a third instalment rumoured to be on the way.
There you have it! Our round up of ten oft-forgotten Christmas favourites.
We at ARU wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
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