Four Empire writers bring you the greatest gift of all: the top ten festive films of all time
Chris: First of all, ‘Christmas movie’. That’s a bit nebulous. What’s a Christmas movie for you?
Terri: So, snow. Or talk of snow. Heartwarming moments. Presents. Trees. Dolph Lundgren.
Chris: Wait a second… You’re zeroing in on one particular movie here.
James: Also, you just described Cliffhanger up until that point.
Terri: I looked for a common theme throughout my ten. And most of them, with the possible exception of Female Trouble, there is some sense of a parable or some sense of there being a story about goodwill, about love, about community, about the true spirit of Christmas, which is giving.
Chris: Receiving is also good.
Terri: It’s hard to define, but I have to feel like a better human being after watching that movie.
Chris: Does it have to be set at Christmas?
James: Set at Christmas is kinda key, I would say. There should be an element of festive cheer. There is a cockle-warming, warm and fuzzies-type thing that many movies people wouldn’t consider to be Christmas movies do have.
Terri: Rocky IV.
James: Like Rocky IV.
Chris: There aren’t that many nailed-on Christmas classics. It’s A Wonderful Life is one. But how many are actually great?
Chris: What are they?
Jonny: Whatever my top seven are. The thing with Christmas movies is you’re given free rein to have nostalgia. Movies that mean a lot to you, but which aren’t very good, can rank quite highly. Santa Claus: The Movie is third on my list. I assume that to people who haven’t seen it every year since they were four, it’s not a good movie. But it’s a wonderful movie to me.
Chris: When was the last time you revisited it?
Jonny: I see it every year. And my son is just about old enough that I’ll show it to him this year.
Chris: That was a big movie for me growing up. I had the novelisation.
I loved David Huddleston as Santa Claus. I hated Dudley Moore as Patch The Elf.
Jonny: Even as a kid?
Chris: Even as a kid. He was taking the attention away from Santa Claus. It’s called Santa Claus: The Movie. Not ‘Sodding Patch The Elf: The Movie’.
Terri: I think we have different standards when it comes to Christmas movies, right? I want something different from a film I watch at Christmas, with a QC on the go, and I don’t really care so much about cinematic quality.
Chris: I’m going to alight on Love Actually. It’s on a lot of people’s lists. It’s not on mine, because it’s one of the worst movies ever made. But a lot of people overlook its flaws.
James: It’s a film Terri and I love. I love Love Actually.
Terri: I watched it six times last Christmas.
James: Okay, that’s just psychotic.
Terri: That scene with Joni Mitchell playing, where Emma Thompson’s discovered the gift Alan Rickman’s going to give to the strumpet, when she cries and straightens the bed... one of the most devastating moments in British film.
Chris: I’ll grant you that. And it has Hugh Grant. I’ll Hugh Grant you that. But by and large, it’s an awful movie. I liken it to being repeatedly stabbed in the eye with a marshmallow. It’s awful, but you don’t feel the pain.
James: Like boiling a frog.
Chris: What’s the first Christmas movie you remember seeing?
James: Scrooged is the first one I remember seeing. It’s certainly the most salient Christmas movie I remember seeing. To me, that is A Christmas Carol.
Chris: It has been superceded for me by
The Muppet Christmas Carol. We revisit that every single year.
James: I have no love for Muppets.
Chris: That’s because you are a muppet.
James: That may be true. But I just don’t like them. And I’ve done a podcast with Pepé the Prawn and Kermit.
Jonny: I think it’s a wonderful telling of that story. It’s full of imagination and retains something of the original novel but takes it in another direction.
Chris: Terri, was it Rocky IV for you?
Terri: I wore that tape out. Not in the way that that sounds.
Chris: When that robot butler came on, my word.
Terri: You know I’ve never seen Muppets?
Jonny: You’ve never seen Muppet Christmas Carol?
Terri: Why would I watch it? Not bothered.
James: I’m with Terri on this.
Chris: “Not bothered”.
Jonny: It’s everything you claimed you want from a Christmas movie.
Terri: Is it? It’s not people. I want people. Real people. A man puts his hand up a puppet’s arse and I’m supposed to think that’s good cinema?
Chris: Are we still talking about Rocky IV? Okay, what is the greatest Christmas movie of all time?
Terri: It’s A Wonderful Life.
Terri: It’s about sacrifice, it’s about having a family, it’s about discovering the greater meaning. And there’s loads of snow.
Jonny: There are very few films that can make me cry regularly. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of them. It always gets me going at the end when George Bailey realises he’s loved. I think about this film a lot. Chris: Jimbo? It’s Die Hard, isn’t it? James: Yes, it obviously is Die Hard.
I love Die Hard because it’s among the greatest films ever made. It’s the greatest action film ever made. It’s set at Christmas, therefore it is the greatest Christmas movie ever made. It is just the greatest across the board.
Chris: This is impeccable logic.
James: I could watch it every day of the year. But definitely at Christmas.
Chris: What about Die Hard 2?
James: I’ve got a lot of time for it. It’s not as good as Die Hard, obviously. But you do get to see William Sadler’s extraordinarily chiselled posterior, which is a festive treat.
Chris: You get to see the outline of his testicles. If you pause it just right.
Terri: Merry Christmas!
Chris: Right. Enough squabbling. Let’s vote!
To listen to the full Christmas film debate as a podcast, go to www.empireonline. com/podcast.