By Hayley Doyle
“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!”
Ever wondered where that famous phrase comes from? Read on to find out…
It’s the one time of year when you indulge in utmost familiarity, isn’t it? We find comfort in what we already know. Attaching fond memories to certain movies is a major part of Christmas. It allows us to unwind, destress and get a little reacquainted with our roots. Every year, you can be sure the big hits of the last few decades will be shown on TV or available on streaming services. Love, Actually is so firmly part of the furniture in many households that nobody seems to notice the multiple bonkers storylines anymore. We just accept that all American women fancy goofy English blokes and that your best mate will force your wife to lie about carol singers while he silently declares his love for her. Is it even the festive season without the atmospheric tinkling of the Home Alone soundtrack complimenting Kevin sniffing his cheese pizza? And while the Elf on the Shelf might be keeping lots of families on their toes, Buddy is the only Elf we truly care about, right?
But what about the classics? The catalysts for the films we know word for word, frame by frame? There are some much older movies that haven’t lost an ounce of charm and will warm your heart from start to finish. So grab your Quality Street and slip into your onesie. Why not add one of these Christmas films to your list this year? You might discover they become part of your annual rituals from now on, too. Thanks to the magic of Disney+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, you can gather around the glow of your screens and enjoy these throwbacks all through the season.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Director Frank Capra brings fantasy into such a reality, that audience members have questioned their own importance on this planet throughout the decades, ultimately feeling hopeful by the end. James Stewart stars as the iconic George Bailey, a young banker with big dreams. He falls in love with Mary, played with a perfect touch of class by Donna Reed and they build a life together as a respectable family within his small town community. But doom and gloom kicks in, pushing George to the edge, and he only discovers the value of his life thanks to a visit from Clarence, his guardian angel. So yep, you guessed it. That famous quote is from this movie. According to the American Film Institute, this the most inspiring movie of all time.
2. White Christmas (1954)
If you love a big Hollywood musical number, complete with sequins, feathers and the impressive dance skills of Vera-Ellen, then look no further. Casablanca director Michael Curtiz steers Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in this essential Christmas musical, the highest-grossing film of 1954. Filmed in vivid Technicolor, this was the first movie ever released in widescreen process VistaVision. It’s jam-packed with songs and comedy, plus a storyline that’s twee, yet full of surprises. We’re all familiar with the velvet tones of Mr Crosby singing the title song, and it’s well worth striking a friendship with the film it comes from. It even has a delightful song called, ‘Snow’.
3. Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)
This is a turn of the 20th century slice-of-life musical. While it follows the Smith family throughout all four seasons - starting with summer - the winter quarter of the movie is simply legendary. After a festive scene at a ball, alongside an emotional storyline, it famously showcases Judy Garland debuting ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, as she sings to her baby sister on Christmas Eve. It’s impossible to have a dry eye during this scene! Director Vincente Minnelli makes every frame in this movie a picture postcard, and it’s so full of life, colour and spirit.
4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
For all the non-believers out there, this is the movie that will convince you he’s real. Winner of three Academy Awards, it’s about an old man - going by the name of Kris Kringle - who fills in for an intoxicated Santa in Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Kringle proves to be such a hit that he becomes the meet’n’greet Santa at the Manhattan store. But Kringle surprises customers and employees alike, claiming to be the real Santa Claus. This leads to a court case to determine his mental health and his authenticity. The charming 1994 remake starring Richard Attenborough as Mr Kringle has also become a Christmas classic in its own right.
5. Scrooge (1951)
The ultimate festive tale has to be Charles Dickens’s 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. “Bah humbug,” is thanks to the story’s main character, Ebenezer Scrooge - a spiteful and miserly man - who encounters three spirits on Christmas Eve who show him the folly of his ways. The novella has been adapted countless times for stage and screen, from musicals to BBC dramas, and even a muppets movie and a cringeworthy episode of UK soap opera Hollyoaks! But this particular movie, Scrooge, sees actor Alastair Sim give a mighty, complex performance as Ebenezer. The whole ambience is dramatic, full of humour, but balanced with some totally terrifying moments.
6. Heidi (1937)
This delightful adaptation of Johanna Spyri’s well-loved children’s novel stars America’s silver screen sweetheart, Shirley Temple, in the title role. It’s full of toe-tapping songs, telling the tale of orphan Heidi who goes to live with her grandfather in the Alps. It takes a while for the grumpy old man to warm to his new life with a child, but hey, Shirley Temple can win the heart of anybody. As soon as they’re getting on like a house - or picturesque chalet - on fire, Heidi’s aunt shows up and takes the child away, keen for her to be a companion to a rich family’s invalid daughter. It becomes Heidi’s mission to get home to her grandfather and of course, this drama reaches its climax around Christmastime, when the snow is heavy and families wish to be reunited.
7. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
James Stewart will give you festive feels once again, although this time he’s not George Bailey of Bedford Falls… Instead, he plays Alfred, who works at a gift shop in Budapest. Although he’s an excellent salesman, he hates his colleague, Klara (can you guess what happens next?!) Well, in his spare time, Alfred is enjoying writing to his anonymous new penpal, an intelligent and cultured woman whose ad he came across in the newspaper. In case you were wondering, yep, that woman is indeed, Klara. Perhaps you recognise the story by its remake, You've Got Mail. But The Shop Around the Corner is a charming little love story that might surprise you this Christmas.