Forget partridges in pear trees and lords a-leaping.
This festive season, ODEON is bringing you twelve of the best Christmas movies of all time.
Whether you’re in the mood for runaway elves, bungling burglars, dandy skeletons – or a right bunch of Muppets – now’s your chance to see these Christmas movie classics on the big screen.
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci, Catherine O'Hara, John Candy, John Heard
Bad enough that Kevin McCallister has been accidentally ditched by his scatterbrained family. Now, this precocious eight-year-old is the last line of defence when the notorious Wet Bandits plot to burgle every house on the block.
Three decades later, the original Home Alone is still on the podium of best Christmas movies for good reason. It’s touching, twinkly, heart-warming and… who are we kidding? The real reason we return to writer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus’ movie is the gleefully sadistic showdown, in which Macaulay Culkin’s angel-faced torturer subjects Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s thieves to tarantulas, rusty nails and palm-sizzling doorknobs.
All together now: “You guys give up yet – or are you thirsty for more?”
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Cast: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Peter Dinklage
In the movie that turned him from a Saturday Night Live hero to a bona fide Hollywood superstar, Will Ferrell is Buddy: a human adopted by Santa’s elves and raised at the North Pole, who has inexplicably never questioned why he’s so much taller and hairier than his toy-making co-workers.
Upon learning the truth, the overgrown elf sets off for New York in search of his biological father (played by a never-grumpier James Caan). But as wide-eyed Buddy clatters into the adult world of board meetings and dating, he leaves a trail of well-meaning destruction that might see him end up on the naughty list.
Directed by: Brian Henson
Cast: Michael Caine, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Frank Oz
The gang’s all here, with Muppets regulars Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and Animal beamed back to 19th century London in this fuzzier take on Charles Dickens’ classic tale of redemption. Unfortunately, so too is flint-hearted loan shark Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Michael Caine with industrial levels of grump.
But this Christmas Eve, Scrooge is about to get schooled, as three spirits drop in to show the mean old man the error of his tight-fisted ways – and the path to a brighter, kinder humbug-free future. True, history’s greatest novelist might have raised an eyebrow at director Brian Henson’s reboot of his 1843 novella (and probably didn’t envisage quite so many singing frogs). But he’d soon have joined us rolling in the aisles.
Directed by: Frank Capra
Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers
It might be the oldest of our Christmas movie classics, but the message of It’s A Wonderful Life still stands. Director Frank Capra’s 1946 movie opens on Christmas Eve and introduces us to George Bailey: a down-on-his-luck New Yorker on the brink of taking his own life.
Luckily, the prayers of Bailey’s concerned family have floated skywards to Heaven. And when their pleas catch the ear of Clarence Odbody, this guardian angel in-training visits the troubled earthling to show him visions of the profound mark he has left on the world – and how empty the lives of those who love him would be if he’d never existed.
Christmas films might come and go, but It’s A Wonderful Life is a movie to live by.
Directed by: John McTiernan
Cast: Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Bruce Willis
Granted, the words ‘Christmas movie’ and ‘crime syndicate’ don’t usually belong in the same sentence. But despite the original Die Hard having a distinctly non-jolly/holly plot – with hapless cop John McClane battling the terrorist gang who have commandeered an LA skyscraper – the Christmas Eve setting and Dean Martin ballads mean Die Hard qualifies.
Making a global action star of Bruce Willis (and a career villain of Alan Rickman), Die Hard remains a total thrill-ride. With action sequences that include the audacious fire hose leap, director John McTiernan’s franchise-sparking original is the perfect antidote to anyone looking for the best Christmas movies – but definitely not a silent night.
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Daniel Stern, Devin Ratray, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Pesci, John Heard,
Defending his home turf was one thing. But in this bar-raising comedy sequel, Kevin is flying solo in the Big Apple – just as the Wet Bandits bust out of jail and come looking for the kid who outfoxed them first time around.
There’s mischief by the ton, as Kevin lives like a prince at the Plaza Hotel on his dad’s credit card. There’s heart aplenty, as he befriends the old pigeon lady and learns the importance of family. And – of course – there’s a bone-crunching crescendo that might be even wincier than the original, as Kevin torments the burglars with blowtorches, staple guns and a good old-fashioned house brick in the kisser.
Directed by: Richard Curtis
Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Martin Freeman, Rowan Atkinson, Kris Marshall, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant
Writer-director Richard Curtis was on a romcom hot-streak in 2003, and this heartwarming hit skilfully weaves a fistful of interconnecting sub-plots that examine the joys and struggles of love, from every angle.
You’ll meet Hugh Grant as a disco-dancing Prime Minister with a soft spot for his Downing Street housekeeper (played by Martine McCutcheon). You’ll peer into the love triangle of newlyweds Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), whose best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) secretly carries a torch for the bride. You’ll snigger at the bromance between washed-up rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and his long-suffering manager.
Directed by: Henry Selick
Cast: Paul Reubens, Danny Elfman, William Hickey, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Sarandon
With an early career that took in Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and his distinctly gothic first entries to the Batman saga, we already knew that Tim Burton didn’t do ‘traditional’. So when the director returned with a stop-motion animated musical in 1993, we were braced for a leftfield take.
The Nightmare Before Christmas didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t just the stunningly macabre styling, which made this the first animation to be nominated for the Academy Award For Best Visual Effects. It was also the quirkball humour of a story that follows dandy skeleton Jack as he tries to bring Christmas traditions to his own Halloween Town.
Perfect for slightly older kids, The Nightmare Before Christmas is proof that the best Christmas movies can be spooky, spidery and skewed, not just sugar sweet.
Directed by: Brian levant
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rita Wilson, Jim Belushi, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Robert Conrad
Twins and Kindergarten Cop had established action supernova Arnold Schwarzenegger as a viable comedy star, and in this fast-paced festive caper, he knocks it out of the park as a workaholic dad on a promise to hunt down the sold-out Turbo-Man action figure for his son.
With a witty script from Randy Kornfield that riffs on the commercialism of Christmas – plus a candy cane fight sequence that won’t disappoint long-standing Terminator fans – this is the Austrian oak as you’ve never seen him before. No matter how many times you’ve watched Jingle All The Way – you’ll be back.
Directed by: Sarah Smith, Barry Cook
Cast: Laura Linney, Robbie Coltrane, Andy Serkis, Joan Cusack, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Michael Palin, Rhys Darby
Even in the modern age, it’s not easy being Santa Claus. And when the latest gift-delivery technology fails the big man and leaves a child without presents, the Claus family’s junior member, Arthur fires up the old-school sleigh and sets out to rescue Christmas morning.
Directed by Sarah Smith and Barry Cook – with an all-star cast that includes James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy – Arthur Christmas pulled festive movies into the future with its blend of sci-fi and breakneck action. But behind all the spaceships and gift-wrap apps is a simple tale of celebrating family and finding your place.
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks, Nona Gaye, Eddie Deezen, Leslie Zemeckis, Peter Scolari
Watching from his bedroom window on Christmas Eve 1956, a young boy sees a steam locomotive chuffing through the Michigan streets outside. This is the Polar Express of legend: a magical train that welcomes aboard children whose belief in Santa Claus is wavering, and whisks them to the North Pole for an audience with the man himself.
Tom Hanks turns in a tour de force performance (playing no less than five different roles) and the story rattles along faster than the locomotive’s wheels. But you can’t talk about The Polar Express without mentioning the sheer spectacle: back in 2004, nobody had seen performance-capture CGI on this level, and director Robert Zemeckis’s film is still one of the best Christmas movies to lose yourself in, preferably with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
Directed by: Les Mayfield
Cast: Richard Attenborough, James Remar, Elizabeth Perkins, J.T. Walsh, Jane Leeves, Dylan McDermott
We all remember visiting a department store Santa, but what if the twinkly-eyed gentleman in the grotto was the real deal? That’s the premise of Les Mayfield’s heartwarming Christmas classic, which finds Richard Attenborough’s Father Christmas presiding over Cole’s Department Store in New York – and making a suspicious number of kids’ wishes come true.
With Miracle On 34th Street, screenwriting legend John Hughes took the 1947 original and made it twinkle anew, bringing out central themes of family, friendship and seizing the day. You might have watched it at home every year since the mid-’90s – but nothing beats catching it on the big screen.
Enjoy cinema for less and access to a host of exciting benefits!
With a myODEON membership you can enjoy a faster, better booking experience, pay less with our Saver ticket, receive exclusive member offers, and so much more.Sign up for free