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Christmas Films: Past, Present and Global


Sitting down to watch a Christmas film with a hot chocolate or mulled wine has long been a popular tradition during the holiday period. In 2018, 60% of US families said that they watched at least one Christmas film together and these films have long-held strong positions at many movie rating databases.

Christmas Films Past

Somewhat unsurprisingly, across almost all reputable online Christmas movie rankings such as Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, it is the older nostalgia filled films that take the top spot. 

On Rotten Tomatoes the top five rated films were all released before 1970. And with an almost unanimous critical opinion that Frank Capra’s holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life is the greatest Christmas film ever made.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

So why is this? Is it simply due to the nostalgic feeling that Christmas brings and the comfort that comes with familiarity? Or is it simply that these films now operate on an exhausted formula?

The latter may seem like the more likely consensus. However, we need only look at recent Christmas releases to realise that perhaps the former holds the answer. 

Christmas Films Present

The 2019 release Last Christmas seemed like an original and intriguing concept. A romantic comedy based around the song of the same name. Starring Game of Thrones’s very own Dragon Queen, Emilia Clarke.

The film did make a considerable profit. On a budget of $30 million it grossed $123.4 at the box office. The critics, however, had a different opinion. Labelling it “forced” and “incredibly, shockingly, monumentally bad”.

Last Christmas (2019)

So perhaps it is simply that the age of new Christmas films to watch as you wrap up in front of the fire, whilst the mulled wine warms your hands and the smell of minced pies floats above you, is over.

That being said, there are films made in the past twenty years that are popular and original. Such as Will Ferrell’s hilarious Elf, or the touching Arthur Christmas. So maybe it is a combination of the both.

With the formula being almost used up people prefer the comfort of familiarity and the memory of Christmas past brought on by the films of years gone by.

Global Christmas

A quick Google search of Christmas films would seem to confirm that Hollywood and the USA hold the monopoly on these films. With the odd British film starring Hugh Grant or Jude Law sneaking in here and there.

But there truly is a global cinema of Christmas films out there. Many of which can give the Hollywood classics a run for their money. Just some of these include:

  • All is Love (2014) – In its native German, Alles ist Liebe is Europe’s answer to the now classic Love Actually. But on a grander scale. It tells the story of ten men and women in Frankfurt whose lives intersect in beautiful, funny and problematic ways during the Christmas period. This film stands to show just how magical the seemingly ordinary can be at Christmas.
  • Tokyo Godfathers (2003) – This touching, Japanese anime film tells the captivating tale of three misfits in the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo. Upon finding a baby in a dumpster they set out on a Christmas adventure to return it to its family.

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
  • Fanny and Alexander (1982) – A hard hitting emotional epic from Swedish director Ingmar Bergmann. Two young siblings’ lives are turned on their head with the death of their father and the resulting remarriage of their mother. As Bergman’s final film it is an emotional Christmas night’s watching. A touching tale of childhood imagination, resilience, and the prevailing love of family.

Christmas at IB

Here at IB Insider we love a good Christmas film. Here are just a few of our favourites and why they are special to us.

Jade, Editor-in-Chief: The Holiday (2006) – “It’s got an amazing cast of actors and the romcom-ness of it all is mixed with moving and inspirational scenes and quotes”

Isabelle, Social Media Executive: Love Actually (2003) – “Everyone loves love so I can’t see how anyone could hate such a feel-good film. Every storyline makes me so happy. Plus, Hugh Grant’s awkward dancing makes me laugh every time”

Love Actually (2003)

Lotte, Journalist and Deputy Editor: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – “It’s probably the most aesthetically pleasing film I’ve ever watched”

Louis, Journalist: The Nativity (2009) – “Heartwarming, hilarious and deeply relatable. You can’t beat it”

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