As Andy Williams sings, ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ – yes, Christmas is here and kids are filling up with excitement in anticipation of presents and magic.
As Andy Williams sings, ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ – yes, Christmas is here and kids are filling up with excitement in anticipation of presents and magic. No child’s Christmas would be complete without ‘the Christmas movie’ in the run up to big day. Of course the movie industry will provide new Christmas movies around the holiday period, but just which ones stand the test of time, are watched by millions every year and stay in the memories of children as they grow older? Here Misha Wallace lists the top ten Christmas movies for kids.
No. 10 – The Polar Express (2004)
The Polar Express, an animation based on Chris Van Allsburg’s classic tale of the same name, tells the story of one young boy, Billy (Hayden McFarland) who is sceptical about Christmas, doubting the magic and the existence of Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve he is invited to board a magical train to the North Pole to visit Santa himself. During the adventurous train ride, he meets a ghost, learns a few lessons and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. In this way, The Polar Express is reminiscent of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with one person’s belief in the wonder and power of Christmas being reawakened on Christmas Eve.
Best For: Restoring kids’ faith in the magic of Christmas.
No. 9 – Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
In Miracle on 34th Street, a charming, old man named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) starts work in a department store as Santa Claus. When he begins to claim that he is, in fact, the real Santa Claus, he is declared insane and arrested. A court case ensues and a lawyer (John Payne) must prove that the real Santa is alive and well and sitting in the dock. The magic, gentility and charm of Kris eventually eases the doubts in particular of one little girl, Susan (Natalie Wood) and her sceptical mother (Maureen O’Hara). Miracle on 34th Street was re-made in 1994, starring the legendary Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle and was actually a delightful remake. The original 1947 version, however, remains a classic, expressing in timeless black and white what it means to believe in the magic of Christmas.
Best For: Keeping the magic of Santa alive for the kids for that little bit longer.
No. 8 – How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
How The Grinch Stole Christmas, narrated by Boris Karloff, brought the wacky, rhyming world of Dr. Seuss on to our television screens as an animation. The story was re-visited as a live action movie in The Grinch in 2000 with Jim Carrey, but this original attempt (although it is only 26 minutes long) is closest to Seuss’s original story. The grumpy, bitter and Scrooge-like Grinch gazes in distaste upon the village of Whoville from his cave upon a hill. He cannot stand the fact that the Whos revel in the joy of Christmas, singing, dancing and giving presents. Disguising himself as Santa Claus, he takes great pleasure in raiding the village, stealing and hiding gifts, decorations and any other indication of Christmas. It is one, small girl who helps the Grinch to warm to the Christmas spirit: ‘Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through.’
Best For: Helping you to remember what Christmas is all about.
No. 7 – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas gives us Tim Burton’s take on the festive season which is of course, Christmas with a hint of scary. In this animation we follow Jack Skellington, who feels unfulfilled in his role as the Pumpkin King of Halloween Land. One day he accidentally comes across Christmas Land and peering in, is captivated by what he sees. Jack decides to fill himself with the magic of Christmas by becoming Santa Claus and bringing Christmas in to his own world. This film is a crazy mixture of horror and joy: we see terrifying creatures, scenes of gore (albeit it mild – this is for kids after all), yet enchanting musical numbers and a sweet, little love story are thrown in to the mix. Burton has been clever in creating a wonderful and unique animation that tempts kids by mixing their two favourite holidays into one movie.
Best For: Watching during that time just after Halloween when you are starting to feel Christmassy.
No. 6 – Home Alone (1990) / Home Alone 2 (1992)
Home Alone and Home Alone 2 are both excellent Christmas movies in their own right. This is one of the rare instances that a sequel is loved almost as much as the first movie. In both these films, 8-year old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is left alone by accident while the family head off on holiday: once at home and in New York in the sequel. He lives it large for a while until he is threatened by two robbers, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), then the audience get to enjoy watching one kid cleverly getting payback on the bad guys, in all kinds of hilarious ways. For a kid below the age of 12, the idea of having an entire house to yourself and what you could get up to with absent parents and no rules was always going to be popular material. Home Alone, however, firmly places itself in the festive line-up by showing that good always overcomes evil at Christmas.
Best For: Keeping kids highly entertained on Christmas Day while you cook up a storm.
No. 5 – Elf (2003)
In Elf, Christmas gets the Will Ferrell comedy treatment. Adopted and raised in the North Pole as an elf, Buddy (Will Ferrell), a human who is now a full size man, begins to unintentionally wreak havoc and generally stick out like a sore thumb amongst his peers with his gargantuan size. Hanky on stick over his shoulder, he sets off to New York to find his real parents and Christmas chaos ensues. Elf provides plenty of slapstick and hilarious comedy quotes that kids find hysterical. Buddy, in all his hilarity, clumsiness and Christmas spirit that can only be described as intense – but sincere, reminds those who have who have forgotten what Christmas is all about to join in the festive cheer (by ‘singing loud for all to hear!’).
Best For: A good family giggle on Boxing Day.
No. 4 – A Christmas Carol (2009)
Cruel and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge despises Christmas and all it represents and wastes no time in demonstrating this towards others, particularly the less fortunate. On Christmas Eve he is visited by three ghosts, who take him on a journey of self-discovery to cure him of his nasty ways. This Charles Dickens classic tale has been adapted for the big screen so many times it is difficult to ascertain just which version kids have responded to more. The Muppets Christmas Carol cannot be overlooked. Everyone, young and old, loves the Muppets and they brought their Muppet chaos and hilarity to this Christmas classic. Similarly, Mickey’s Christmas Carol first brought some Disney magic to the story. However, this most recent Disney version with Jim Carrey as Scrooge re-visits the story again in an eerie and captivating animated version of the ultimate Christmas tale.
Best For: Reminding kids (and adults) that it pays to be nice – especially at Christmas.
No. 3 – A Christmas Story (1983)
Not many people seem to be aware of this movie. Yet those who have seen it remember it very well, especially if they have been lucky enough to see it for the very first time in their childhood. A Christmas Story is about one boy, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his Christmas dream – to get a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa on Christmas morning. Narrated by Ralphie as an adult, a story about childhood unfolds and shows the lengths a kid will go to – just to get that one toy they are obsessed about. Some great scenes include the scariest shopping mall Santa there ever was (and the most irritating kid in the queue behind), the most vile school bully, a crazy lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg (yes really) and a kid getting his tongue stuck on an icy lamp post. A Christmas Story may be one of the lesser known Christmas movies but it really deserves a lot of recognition for its humour and its understanding of the mind of a child at Christmas.
Best For: Watching in the run-up to Christmas when kids are most excited.
No. 2 – Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
This movie has not always sat well with critics, being branded as a bit tacky and over-thought. However, it cannot be denied it has all the wonder and magic of any other Christmas movie. Santa Claus: The Movie gives us the story of how Santa Claus came to be: from a gentle, endearing peasant who loves children to the immortal embodiment of Christmas himself. This movie brings to the screen all a kid dreams about Christmas: Santa, flying reindeer, colourful elves and a sack load of Christmas magic. David Huddleston actually makes a wonderful, jolly Santa and bring in Dudley Moore as Patch the Elf and John Lithgow as the bad guy and you have a bizarre but effective recipe for a superb Christmas movie.
Best For: Watching on Christmas Eve, snuggled up in a blanket.
No. 1 – The Snowman (1982)
The top spot of course must go to The Snowman – it is the ultimate Christmas classic. In this animation a little boy makes a snowman on Christmas Eve. His snowman comes alive that night and transports him to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus and dance with the other snowmen and women. The film chooses a musical score over dialogue with the renowned ‘Walking in the Air,’ sung by Aled Jones as the boy flies through the air with his snowman. It is fun, sweet and tear-jerkingly sad. With just the right dose of Christmas magic, The Snowman is a film that will be watched by millions at Christmas for years to come.
Best For: Watching as a family Christmas Day after the meal as the festivities come to an end.
Christmas is a time about mixed emotions. It is all about learning lessons, doing good for others, shedding a few tears and having a lot of fun. Kids like characters which they can identify, laugh and enjoy the magic of Christmas with. Who needs the soap opera Christmas specials, the Queen’s Speech or the Coca-Cola advert when you can revel in the antics of Kevin or Alfie or marvel at the magic of Mr Santa Claus himself? Choosing one of these classic movies this Christmas to watch with your family, you will all walk away feeling full of the Christmas spirit and you can be guaranteed that your children will always remember it.