Everyone has their favourites, but Christmas is a sacred time for films in the Story household. We don’t like to mess around. It’s a time for grabbing something to eat, complaining at each other, turning the tree lights on, my Dad fumbling around because he’s got more remotes than you can shake a stick at, and watching Christmas movies. These are our favourites, and I’d like to think that we can help you get into the Christmas spirit by giving you our own Christmas movie marathon.
Now, there has been a great debate, not within my household but rather across the world. Whether Die Hard is a Christmas film, or merely a film set at Christmas time. These have lead to heated debates as to which virtues a ‘Christmas film’ should have. Is it in the setting? Plot? Release date? All I can say is that I’ve ran the tests and there’s no conclusive way for me to say Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie. With that peace said, I can calmly ensure you that it actually didn’t end up making this list.
Gremlins (1984, dir. Joe Dante)
Kicking it off with a bonafide classic, here. Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives the most adorable Christmas present in the world in the form of a Mogwai named Gizmo (gaze upon his cuteness and weep). And most importantly, everything will be totally, completely, utterly fine. All Billy has to do is follow three simple rules and Gizmo won’t spawn terrible Gremlin creatures that’ll start wrecking up the town.
Billy is a forgetful chap, and madness ensues. The best, festive kind too as Gremlins delivers just the right balance of action and comedy to get your Christmas marathon going. It’s pretty violent too, as we get everything from an old woman being thrown out of a window thanks to a supercharged stair-lift to a Gremlin exploding in the microwave. There’s the underlying message of learning responsibility as you grow up, but who really cares when you’re beating back tears because GIZMO’S LEAVING AND HE SAYS GOODBYE AND IT’S JUST TOO MUCH FOR ME RIGHT NOW. I’m sorry, it’s just, Christmas time, it’s got that magic to it, you know?
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, dir. Henry Selick)
Our second alternative offering of the marathon is the film that gave even goth kids something to get into the festive spirit with. But seriously, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a wonderful, musical adventure of one man (or skeleton, in this case) trying his best to understand the holiday. Bored with celebrating Halloween year after year, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) discovers Christmas and wants to have a crack at it himself. You can imagine just how well that pans out, as Christmas goes awry and Santa Claus needs to be rescued.
Rarely can I come pretty damn close to quoting a film line by line, but I’d say this is the closest. The Halloween town’s many residents have their own moments while the main story powers through and things are kept light-hearted. The songs, too, are great as we hear the merriment of Jack discovering Christmas town in ‘What’s This?’, his eureka moment in ‘Jack’s Obsession’ and the glitz and glamour of ‘Oogie Boogie’s Song’. A tremendous look at how anyone can get into the Christmas spirit. But we’ve spent enough time with monsters for now…
Arthur Christmas (2011, dir. Sarah Smith)
Arthur Christmas is a movie that could have very, very easily been terrible. Taking the idea of Santa Claus and putting something of a ‘modern twist’ on it runs the gambit of all modernly twisted media. It risks making tacky references and diluting the heart of the source material. Thankfully this films nails it. And I do mean across the board, showcasing Arthur (James McAvoy), the younger, jubilant member of the Claus family trying to deliver a present to a child who’s been missed by Santa’s rounds.
Arthur dabbles in some serious material. Santa’s Christmas Day routine has been made more efficient with a military-precision squad of elves and computer systems, meaning Malcolm (current Santa, Jim Broadbent) is a figure-head, Steve (Hugh Laurie) is obsessed with doing a good job rather than the spirit of it and Grand-Santa (a hilarious Bill Nighy) pines for the spotlight as he looks to prove himself useful by aiding Arthur when others dismiss his rescue mission with “it’s just one child”. That line is the heart of the movie. One person believing that, in a massive world, every single person deserves the best for Christmas, and it’s hard to argue against that.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992, dir. Brian Henson)
This is the only way to get ready for Christmas Day in my house, and so it should be for you. A Christmas Carol is a classic tale that has been adapted many times, with some great results along the way. Nothing, however, better weaves in a childish sense of wonder than the Muppets as Gonzo himself takes the role of Charles Dickens, telling you the transformative tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine).
The songs that accompany the delightful antics are classics. In particular: ‘Scrooge’, ‘It Feels Like Christmas’, ‘Marley and Marley’ and I dare you not to get excited for the day ahead after hearing Kermit chirp the line “after all it’s only one more sleep ’til Christmas”. Then you have the delight of spotting where your favourite Muppet characters with pop up. Beaker? Asking Scrooge for charity donations. Sweedish Chef? Cooking at Fozziwig’s Christmas party. Sam the Eagle even teaches a young Ebenezer at school and the whole story caps the marathon with a feel-good warmth that only Christmas can bring.
Gremlins – 1 hour 46 mins
The Nightmare Before Christmas – 1 hour 16 mins
Arthur Christmas – 1 hour 37 mins
The Muppets Christmas Carol – 1 hour 26 mins
Total – 6 hours 5 mins
If you’re watching this any old day in December, then things are flexible. However, I recommend watching this marathon on Christmas Eve, which means starting things at 5pm. There’s no other way about it. Kick things off at 5 and grab your food in-between Nightmare and Arthur. The food itself doesn’t matter, but for drink you’ll be enjoying the soothing taste of Snowballs. It’s the only time of the year that you can justify buying Advocaat, after all. That way you’ll be finishing Muppets at 11:30 which gives you just enough time to get ready and up to bed. As my mum always said (perhaps simply in a way of calming my excitable self down) ‘the sooner you get to sleep, the sooner it’ll be Christmas’.
Let us know if you try out A Very Merry Story Family Christmas in the comment section below and I’ll be back next time to give you my best of 2014 selections!