50 Unmissable Christmas Movies

36. A Christmas Tale (2008)

Catherine Deneuve headlines another ensemble Christmas film, this time for Rois & Reine director Arnaud Desplechin, and shines as the matriarch of a family requiring a bone-marrow transplant. As the family gather for the first time in years to see their unwell mother, drama ensues (and a few laughs too).

One-time James Bond villain Mathieu Amalric is a shining light in this movie, and Deneuve is herself unmissable, but its the bite of the writing and the patience of the editing that gift this Christmas film critical appraisal (a rarity among Christmas movies) and makes it a must-watch for anyone yet to familiarise themselves with non-English language seasonal fare or the work of one of France’s greatest ever actresses. JW

37. Nativity! (2009)

Classic Christmas themes are apparent in every corner of this very British seasonal offering which tells the tale of Martin Freeman’s grumpy school teacher learning to embrace the spirit of Christmas hope, togetherness and self-expression through his students’ stage rendition of The Nativity.

Featuring a cast of largely untrained child actors, Nativity! does an exceptional job of highlighting every last child, guaranteeing there are no dry eyes in the house as you watch them achieve their art together, no matter how it turns out. For something wholesome and loving with a sense of unique British humour, you can’t miss Nativity!. JW

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38. Arthur Christmas (2010)

Funny, charming and clever, Arthur Christmas may have been a collaboration between stop motion favourites Aardman and 3D animation juggernauts Sony Pictures Animation rather than a straight Aardman project, but down to its very core it holds the same hearty values of other Aardman films like Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Directed by Sarah Smith, this unapologetically festive offering features a who’s who of British names including James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, and Imelda Staunton, and offers themes and moments that will appeal to people of all ages, making it a lovable and rewatchable Christmas animation that is worthy of any seasonal watchlist. JW

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39. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

In Lapland, two boys playing around an attic research station trap a feral old man who has a sinister connection to the ancient creature who inspired Santa Claus.

This twisted Finnish take on Santa from mischievous filmmaker Jalmari Helander (Sisu) really keeps you on your frostbitten toes. A slow build of tension and a particularly strange mystery in an isolated locale soon gives way to wild, over-the-top action and a final stretch that is part creature-feature and part pitch-black satire. SSP

40. Rise of Guardians (2012)

An all-star cast fronts a dark children’s tale brought to life by the deft direction of Peter Ramsey (who would go on to co-direct the masterful Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). The evil spirit Pitch Black (Jude Law) is gathering strength, infecting children with nightmares and causing them to stop believing in Santa. The Guardians – a beefed up soldier Santa (Alec Baldwin), the tooth fairy (Isla Fisher), Sandman, and an incredibly gruff Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), need help to defeat him. Enter Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

Add cinematographer extraordinaire Roger Deakins as visual consultant and what you have is a beautifully choreographed, grown up Christmas tale about acceptance, faith and magic. The subverted rendering of beloved characters help create something memorable and unique. ML

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