You will always watch films at Christmas - at least make them good ones. Films play a vital role at times of hard work and family stress: everyone can sit down, have a rest (maybe a nap), nobody has to do anything, and nobody has to talk. Afterwards (or during) you can slip quietly off to bed, or you can allow the film to transport you somewhere where there are no brussels sprouts to peel.
The trouble is that the TV schedules will be filled with bad films. So dig out Netflix/the old VHS player/get recording from the schedules to make sure you have these on hand.
Here at Lumens HQ we subscribe fully to the seasonal maxim: it's not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls off Nakatomi Plaza. The joy of Die Hard is its simplicity. It doesn't matter how Turkey-sleepy or prosecco-pickled you are, you won't have trouble following the goings on in this seminal shoot-em-up. Watch the cheeky smile play on Bruce Willis's lips as another zinging one liner whips past, play a shot-per-body drinking game, or just marvel at the continuity nightmare that deteriorating white vest must have presented to the film's wardrobe department. However you roll, make sure Die Hard is part of your Christmas ritual.
There are two jokes in Elf. In elf-land Will Ferrell is really big! In New York he's really child-like! Somehow the filmmakers spin gold from this story of a foundling human baby brought up by Santa's elves. It's a funny, sweet film full of wonder and laughter without being too saccharine. A lot of of that is down to Ferrell's fully committed performance, but also down to the moving, unconditional love shown to the elf by his adoptive elven father. It will help you see the world through a child's eyes at Christmas, and that's quite the gift.
3 While You Were Sleeping
The perenially watchable Sandra Bullock makes any film worth seeing, and While You Were Sleeping gives her the screen time, and moves at a slow enough pace, that she shines brighter than ever. Clumsy, likeable, error-prone and unfailingly kind, her character is one you fall in love with while watching her fall in love with a coma victim's family, then his gorgeous brother (Bill Pullman: woof!).
4 Trading Places
Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy light up the screen as pawns in a rich men's experiment who find a way to get their own back. It's full of gags (Akroyd crashing his ex-firm's Christmas party dressed as Santa and stuffing his coat pockets with buffet meat is a higlight), has a heartwarming message and you'll end up knowing more than you thought possible about the workings of stock markets. Perfect!
5 It's A Wonderful Life
It's A Wonderful Life is the Christmas film that appears in other Christmas films to demonstrate that it's Christmas. James Stewart's performance is wonderful and though at times the film really is just too shmaltzy, in the end you have to give in to its sentimental power. If you're not blubbing when the family gathers round the Christmas tree at the end you're a much stronger than we are. This is a great one for multi-generational watching.
Fun fact: the five year old actress playing Zuzu didn't see the film until 1979!
6 Home Alone
This film has firmly entered the realms of fantasy now that it could solved by a quick mobile phone call. It's a fun adventure but you might be shocked if you haven't seen it for 20 years at just how violent Kevin's traps for the burglars are. It adds a nice bit of grit to the sweetness.