Now that we're into December, I feel we can safely proceed full-steam towards all things Yuletide. If you need a little nudge to get you into the spirit of the season, here are a half a dozen films you might want to try out. The bonus is they’re British so you can enjoy Christmas number ones, those little paper crowns and a healthy helping Father Christmas!
There are countless productions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; however, this 1935 adaptation called Scrooge stars Seymour Hicks as the famous miser Ebenezer and is one of the more authentically British versions out there. It is also purportedly the first time this story was filmed as a “talkie.”
You all know the story of course, so I’ll assume no synopsis is required. You can stream Scrooge on Hulu. Please be aware this is a colorized version of the original so film purists may not approve. It’s my understanding the surviving prints were in very poor condition so that’s perhaps why the colorized version is offered instead.
The Snowman was a classic in our house when my kids were growing up. This 1982 animated TV special, based on a children’s book by Raymond Briggs, wordlessly tells the story of a little boy named James who builds a snowman in his front garden. The next day he wakes to find his creation has come to life.
The remainder of the narrative follows the two new friends as they introduce one another to their very different worlds – the Snowman to the wonders of a modern English home and James to the magical land of snowmen and Father Christmas.
A modern Christmas classic, Love Actually is twelve years old, believe it or not. Set against the backdrop of London in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the plot is loosely woven between nine different loving relationships. Examples range from lifelong friends and school boy crushes to stagnant marriages and a budding romance with a language barrier. All ages and stages of love are examined in a touching and humorous way. Written and directed by romantic film maker extraordinaire, Richard Curtis, Love Actually stars a dream ensemble of British acting talent which includes Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth and Bill Nighy among many others.
If you are one of the rare Anglophiles who hasn’t seen this most awkward of amorous films, it can be streamed on Netflix.
Sherlock and The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman stars in Nativity!, a 2009 comedy about a once-aspiring producer/director turned primary school teacher, Paul Maddens. As if being tapped to head up his school’s nativity play isn’t bad enough, going up against his former drama school classmate (Jason Watkins) in the annual nativity rivalry is positively frustrating. Mr. Maddens makes up a little white lie about a Hollywood producer being involved with his play to intimidate the competition which, predictably, ends up snowballing into a media frenzy. Poor Paul, how will he ever get out of this mess?
Also featuring Pam Ferris, Marc Wootton and Ashley Jensen, this holiday family film might seem a bit reminiscent of School of Rock with less talent but perhaps a bit more endearing. You can stream Nativity! on Amazon Instant Video.
Released in 2011, Arthur Christmas is an entertaining computer animated film about holding onto the true spirit of Christmas in an increasingly complicated world. The premise is that on Christmas Eve, a child has been missed on Santa’s (Jim Broadbent) rounds. This has happened despite the fact that Santa’s eldest son and heir apparent Steve (Hugh Laurie) captains a technological marvel of a sleigh-like ship, the S-1. In the end, it comes down to Santa’s youngest son Arthur (James McAvoy), a seemingly bumbling misfit, to save the day with his determination and pure heart.
Featuring the additional voice talents of Bill Nighy, Ashley Jensen, and Imelda Staunton, you can stream this lovely Christmas adventure on Amazon Instant Video and or order it on Netflix DVD.
Get Santa is the newest Christmas film on this list and one I admit I’ve yet to see. Jim Broadbent once again takes on the persona of Santa who, unfortunately, crash lands his new sleigh on a test run right before his busiest night of the year. While trying to track down his reindeer in the streets of London, St. Nick is arrested by the police and put in jail. However, a young boy named Tom (Kit Connor) and his father Steve (Rafe Spall) come to Santa’s rescue; saving Christmas in the process, I’m sure.
Get Santa also features Warwick Davis, Stephen Graham and Jodie Whittaker. If you’d like to give this 2014 family comedy a look, you want to head over to Netflix and stream it there.
I hope you find something new (or pleasingly familiar) to feed your Christmas spirit from the list above. What is your favorite British film to watch this time of year? Tell us about it in the comments below!