Christmas Films: Why we love them

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By George Mellowship, Third Year, Geography

A good Christmas film is as synonymous with the festive season as satsumas in stockings or Lynx Africa gift sets. With the Christmas avalanche descending on the worlds of music, retail and general life you’d be forgiven in thinking that people rightly suffer with overload.

The festive season is completely inescapable and so how is it so that we crave even more feelings of festivity through films? Films to me are one of the best distractions and forms of escapism from everyday mundane life and so why do we keep revisiting the same festive films with the same love every year?

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) | IMDb / Liberty Films (II)

The answer may be as simple as simplicity. Most Christmas films are designed for families and so can tell a heart-warming story without intricate plot or overly long runtimes. The nostalgia within us of watching a film with our families at the Christmas holidays is strong and as the end of term and deadlines loom, a Christmas film can act as a comfort blanket and remind us that the festivities are just around the corner.

| The Knight Before Christmas is a ‘knonsensical’ trip into hilarious historical inaccuracies

With constant retail deals bombarding us to spend hard earned cash, the General Election churning out multiple headlines daily and other distractions, one reason why I particularly love Christmas films is that they are designed to remind us of what is most important.

Whether it’s The Grinch’s anger at the material desires of the people of Whoville or Kevin McAllister wishing for his family to return home - despite leaving him behind in a woeful display of childcare - the sub-genre of Christmas films tap into our love for family and friends, and reminds us that they are all we really need at the festive season.

Who hasn't seen Love, Actually (2003)? | IMDb / Universal Pictures

It is important to remember though that Christmas can be a difficult time for some. Money is tight and family troubles and stresses may be amplified, but it is also a time for relaxation and so watching a Christmas film with friends or family can provide a light-hearted way of embracing the season with minimal effort.

Everyone has a particular favourite that holds a special place in their heart. Being one of the >1% of the population that hasn’t seen Love, Actually (2003), I can’t comment on it as a film, but the horror on the faces of others on hearing this fact is one of the highlights of my Christmas.

A Christmas film can act as a comfort blanket and remind us that the festivities are just around the corner

We seem to all have one Christmas film for which it is an insult for someone to have not seen: for me it’s Elf (2003) starring Will Ferrell. It triggers memories of spending time with my brother and so it provides a motivation of looking forward to time with him and my family over the holidays, making the Christmas overkill bearable.

Will Ferrell's elf Buddy doesn't fit in with the other elves in the heartwarming, hilarious Elf (2003) | IMDb / New Line Cinema

There are lots of brilliant Christmas films to watch over the season and escape from Netflix’s deluge of trashy offerings - look no further than The Knight Before Christmas (2019). From the classics of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and White Christmas (1954), to the highly underrated such as The Santa Clause trilogy (1994-2006) from Disney and Arthur Christmas (2011), and cult favourites like The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), the sub-genre is wide with choice.

The sub-genre of Christmas films tap into our love for family and friends, and reminds us that they are all we really need at the festive season

I started this article with the statement that the reason that Christmas films are loved was as simple as simplicity. We love these films because they simply are watched at one time of year and so their annual recurrence feels like a treat.

This perhaps makes them unique amongst regular films as they only feel special for the final months of the year. Whilst I’m sure there will be some reading that try to satisfy their Christmas addiction by watching a Christmas film in August/September, I challenge anyone guilty of this to argue that there is the same Christmas magic and excitement when watching these films earlier in the year.

The Muppet Christmas Carol saw our favourite characters retold in a familiar Dickensian tale | IMDb / Walt Disney Pictures

It is easy to be swallowed by the Christmas Avalanche. It is however impossible to avoid so you might as well embrace it. A Christmas film however reminds us of our childhood. When you’d be so excited for Christmas you could hardly sleep, when magic happens overnight and there is someone kind enough in the world to bring toys to all children.

| The reason we watch the same films each Christmas

I love Christmas films as they reignite a spark of that excitement. So put your feet up with a blanket and hot chocolate and make time to watch a festive film with your flat/housemates. At the time of writing it’s only 27 sleeps until the big day: Christmas is coming and fast so you may as well enjoy it!

Featured: IMDb / Paramount Pictures


Which of Christmas' many films is your favourite?

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