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Debate – What Makes A Great Christmas Movie?


Posted November 30, 2015 by

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What Makes A Great Christmas Movie?

It’s that time of year again, and with it comes the never-ending stream of Christmas films. The panic buying and family fights are accompanied by Santa movies and elf movies and ‘every other kind of Christmas theme you can think of’ movies, all using the holiday season to roll out more dross. I may sound cynical, but to me, Christmas movies of late have been significantly lacking. The last good Christmas films I remember were in 2003, with the likes of ‘Bad Santa’ and (my personal favourite) ‘Love Actually’. So what is it about the last decade or so that has seen a serious decline in the Christmas success story?

For me it is simple. The films of the last few years have almost been too Christmassy. They focus explicitly on Christmas and nothing else. Take ‘Four Christmases’ as an example, the Vince Vaughan and Reese Witherspoon movie that shows a couple, both from divorced families, who end up having four Christmases in order to visit each parent during the holiday season (riveting stuff, I know). There is no other focus than Christmas itself, and the mayhem that ensues with the ridiculous situation they are put in.

Putting the focus purely on the time of year is never going to lead to success (hence the lack of Easter films and Thanksgiving tales). You need an actual story, something that can stand alone by itself once you remove the Christmas element from it. Take one of the true classics ‘Home Alone’. The film would be just as good if it had been set in any other time of the year; it is not solely reliable on the holiday season to work.

In looking through some of the lists of the Top 10 Christmas movies that exist, films that often appear near the top include ‘Love Actually’, ‘Batman Returns’, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and ‘Edward Scissorhands’. All of these movies have a Christmas theme, but don’t rely on it to tell the story. To hammer the point home even further, one of the most famous Christmas films of all time is actually set around Halloween (‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’). At the very least, if the focus is going to be Christmas, you need a solid performance at its centre to make it worthwhile (‘Elf’ being a prime example).

The element that really leads to success is its appeal. If a movie can appeal to the entire family, then you have a winner. There’s a reason why Boxing Day TV is filled with Pixar movies, Superhero films and musicals. The ability to entertain everyone will always make a good Christmas movie, whether set in the holiday season or not.


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Amy Ulliott
Just One More Movie
Freelance Contributor

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