So, Christmas is upon us and as a lover of movies, I like to indulge in an occasional Christmas(sy) movie. Here is a totally biased list of the ones I like best:
10. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Romantic comedy with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan about Harry and Sally knowing each other for years, finally becoming good friends but being confronted with the question whether men and women can be good friends without sex getting in the way… Not really a Christmas film but there are a few Christmas time scenes and it ends on New Year’s Eve, so it’s on my list. Includes funny and to the point observations of how men and women see things differently when it comes to love and sex.
9. About a Boy (2002)
With Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult and Toni Colette. Heartwarming story of an unlikely friendship between an immature man who once scored a one-time hit and a nerdy boy who is afraid to end up alone if his depressive mother should commit suicide. The definition of family becomes broader than just blood ties, nicely shown at the end of the film set at Christmas.
8. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
A beautiful old film with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. From IMDB: “Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand one another without realizing they’re falling in love though the post as each other’s anonymous pen pal.” Lovely sweet film, almost all set at the shop, the latter part set during the Christmas season, with nice supporting characters as well. This was the inspiration for “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan which is a lovely romantic movie too.
7. The Apartment (1960)
With Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Another ‘small’ movie about a man hoping to rise on the career ladder and loaning his apartment to his boss for flings but the man falls for the boss’s vulnerable girlfriend and saves her life at Christmas time when she tries to commit suicide. Underplayed and beautfiul scenes when Lemmon and MacLaine are alone together in the apartment and get to know each other.
6. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
THE classic Christmas movie, I guess, and it’s good. Set at Christmas, with James Stewart and Donna Reed, about a man depressed about all of his financial troubles. An angel shows him what life would have been like had he not been around… and he learns a thing or two about what really matters in life.
5. While You Were Sleeping (1995)
A lonely young woman through circumstances pretends to be enaged to a slick rich businessman that she has been in love with from afar but she doesn’t fool his brother. I’m a sucker for a good romantic comedy and this is a good one set around Christmas, about the yearning for love and the warmth of a family.
4. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth. A romantic comedy and retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, one of my favourite books! And have I already mentioned that I love Colin Firth? Beginning and end of the movie set during Christmas, so that makes it a Christmas movie for me. 🙂 And really, how can you miss with an embarrassing moment like this…
3. The Vicar of Dibley – The Handsome Stranger and The Vicar in White episodes (2006)
OK, so not a movie but a two part TV series finale, also set around Christmas. One of my favourite comedy series about a woman village vicar and then Richard Armitage ends up being the love interest in the finale! Especially the first episode of this finale, “The Handsome Stranger”, is spectacularly funny! From the meeting to the misunderstanding and Geraldine’s fantasy of Harry marrying someone else to one of the absolutely best proposals ever put on film. And: there are references to another Jane Austen novel (Sense & Sensibilty) included! This can not be missed…
2. Love Actually (2003)
The ultimate feel-good film set in the weeks leading up to Christmas about love in all it’s forms. It is so cleverly done, interweaving the characters and stories and with the creme de la creme of British actors! I love all the stories, it’s hard to pick a favourite. Of course, we have Colin Firth falling in love with someone he can’t talk to because of the language difference, and Hugh Grant as PM, Emma Thompson rallying to maintain her marriage to Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson finding a connection to his stepson and encouraging him to get the girl he likes in school, Bill Nighy as the washed up popstar making a comeback, Marin Freeman as stand-in for a porn movie…. need I go on? So brilliant and hugely funny and very touching and warm. Here’s a 10th anniversary picture of some of the cast…
1. The Life of Brian (1979)
So, maybe not generally regarded as a Christmas movie but for me it is. And an Easter movie. To me this is the best comedy of all time and as a parallel to the life of Jesus this is just undeniably brilliant. Best thing Monty Python has ever done. Such classic scenes, from the mix up at the crib in Bethlehem, to the political commentary (“What have the Romans ever done for us?”) and poking fun at Roman leaders and centurions, to making fun of revolutionary groups (The People’s Front of Judea or the Judean People’s Front), poking fun at organised religion and Brian accidentally turning into a leader and telling the people he doesn’t want to be followed and ending with the crucifixion scene. That scene contains one of the best pieces of advice you will ever receive: “Always look on the bright side of life”! Maybe a controversial choice but I don’t care – this movie is laugh-out-loud funny and brilliant in every way.
So, it turns out, Christmas for me isn’t about Santa Claus at all. While I do enjoy a Christmassy movie that adresses the magic of Christmas and believing in the wonder of Santa, those are not the movies I enjoy most. So, what does this top 10 list tell you about me? I guess it says that for me Christmas is about love and family (in the broadest sense of the word) and (dare I say it as a non-religious humanist daughter of a clergyman) it’s about Jesus as well and not taking life too seriously.