Ho! Ho! Ho! The festive season is upon us and there's hope in the air. Thanks to the wonders of science, better days are on the way. In the meantime, stay healthy and keep yourself entertained in the safety of your home with these all-time Christmas favourites.
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Screen icon Alastair Sim is outstanding as Dickens’ famously grumpy miser who finally sees the error of his ways after facing down the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Michael Hordern is Jacob Marley, Mervyn Johns plays Bob Cratchit and George Cole features in a memorable cameo as the younger, cheerier Scrooge.
“This is easily the best screen version of the much loved yuletide tale... not to be missed.” – Radio Times
A cinematic masterpiece and one of the most popular films of all time, Frank Capra’s timeless festive fantasy is the very definition of a feelgood family film. James Stewart stars as self-effacing hero George Bailey, and a superb ensemble cast includes Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, and Henry Travers as sympathetic guardian angel Clarence Odbody.
“A fascinating melange of social and personal impulses and the questionable charms of home. Funny, compelling and moving.” Time Out
This classic post-war drama stars a charismatic Ralph Richardson as Martin Gregory, a clergyman whose commitment to his parishioners leads him to neglect his family – until things come to a head at the Christmas get-together. Celia Johnson, Margaret Leighton and Denholm Elliott also star.
“A lovable, life-enhancing seasonal movie… it preserves in amber the austere atmosphere of postwar Britain.” Guardian
In this delightful seasonal romantic comedy, beleaguered Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) beseeches heaven for guidance and is visited by an apparent angel called Dudley (Cary Grant). A sceptical Henry is angered when Dudley ingratiates himself into the household – and wins the attentions of Henry’s long-suffering wife Julia (Loretta Young).
“A sweet, funny, captivating, altogether delightful picture, which too often gets omitted from lists of greatest-ever Christmas films.” Daily Mail
Broadcast in the dying hours of Christmas Eve, the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas was a fixture of the seasonal schedules throughout the 1970s, and spawned a long tradition of chilling tales to terrify yuletide viewers for decades to come. This expanded box set collects all 12 episodes of the classic series, the entire Classic Ghost Stories presented by Robert Powell, the M.R. James episodes of Spine Chillers presented by Michael Bryant, and three Ghost Stories for Christmas with Christopher Lee from 2000.
Lonely Chicago subway token collector Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is infatuated with well-to-do commuter Peter (Peter Gallagher). One day, Peter is almost hit by a train, but Lucy saves him and accompanies him to hospital. As he lies in a coma, his family mistake her for his new girlfriend and welcome her into their home – where things get more complicated when she starts falling for Peter's brother Jack (Bill Pullman).
“Breezy and adorable… this spirited screwball romance creates a rosy glow.” The New York Times
It’s 1843 and Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) sets out to write a book he hopes will keep his family afloat and revive his flagging career. This is the whimsical story of the six feverish weeks in which Dickens created A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the gang, transforming the holiday season forever. Christopher Plummer is Scrooge and Jonathan Price is Dickens’ father John. Simon Callow, Miriam Margolyes and Bill Paterson also star.
“We owe today’s Christmas and its popular pizzazz to the book, argue the film’s makers, and they may be right.” Financial Times
The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island are the standout classics in this box set, with Michael Caine hamming it up as Scrooge and Tim Curry a scene-stealing Long John Silver. The original The Muppet Movie presents a sweet and amusing origin myth, featuring cameos from Steve Martin, Richard Pryor and Orson Wells as Kermit heads to Hollywood; while The Muppets from 2011 sees Chris Cooper as villainous tycoon Rex Richman, who threatens to tear down the Muppet Theatre. Jason Segel and Amy Adams are the human good guys.
“The Muppets slaps a smile on your face you won’t want to wipe off.” Rolling Stone
Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood star in the 1947 triple Oscar-winning original as a mother and daughter who meet department store Santa Kris Kringle, who claims to be the real deal – and ultimately reinforces the Christmas spirit in everyone. The accompanying 1994 remake has a wholly believable Richard Attenborough as Kringle, and a soundtrack of ageless seasonal classics.
“This retelling is loving and gentle and lit like a 1940s musical.” Entertainment Weekly
Richard Curtis orchestrates a starry ensemble cast through love and holiday cheer across London. Among those in a romantic quandary are devoted wife and mother Karen (Emma Thompson), coping with her potentially straying husband Harry (Alan Rickman); Karen’s brother David (Hugh Grant), recently elected prime minister, and now smitten with his caterer Natalie (Martine McCutcheon); widower Daniel (Liam Neeson) whose stepson is engulfed in a schoolboy crush; and lovelorn Sarah (Laura Linney) who finally connects with a pined-for colleague at the office party.
“The ultimate Christmas fantasy.” Guardian
Classic festive comedy from 1954 starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, featuring seasonal songs by Irving Berlin, in which two happy couples discover that love, romance and a Christmas Eve snowfall make everyone’s dreams come true. A very loose adaptation of 1942’s Holiday Inn (below).
“Kaye is superb, especially in his knockout dance routine with Vera-Ellen, and the direction from veteran Michael Curtiz rightly embraces the sentiment rather than keeping it at bay.” Radio Times
With music by Irving Berlin, songs by Bing Crosby (including the first ever rendition of ‘White Christmas’) and dancing by Fred Astaire, Holiday Inn is one of the greatest musicals of all time. Crosby plays Jim Hardy, a song-and-dance man who leaves showbiz to open a Connecticut Inn. Astaire is Ted Hanover, Jim's former partner and now rival. Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale spike the lavish song and dance routines with love interest.
“Crosby’s easy, casual banter is just the right foil for Astaire’s precision acrobatics, his wry, offbeat humour.” TIME
In London, Iris (Kate Winslet) is in love with a man who is about to marry another woman. In Los Angeles, Amanda (Cameron Diaz) realises the man she lives with has been unfaithful. The two women connect on a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for the holiday – finding romance among the locals in the shape of Jude Law and Jack Black. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give).
“As corny as it gets, but in a cinemascape full of macho grunting and aggressive irony, Meyers is perhaps right to believe that corniness is what women – and their boyfriends – will be wanting.” Daily Telegraph
Todd Haynes directs this flawless adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel of forbidden love. In the 1950s, New York department store employee and amateur photographer Therese (Rooney Mara) meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an older divorcee who has popped in to buy a Christmas present for her daughter. As they strike up a relationship, they embark on a road trip to Chicago to test its depths.
“An intoxicating triumph.” Guardian