The Snowman: For millions of Brits growing up in the ’80s and ’90s this film just is Christmas. Apart from the oft-forgotten David Bowie cameo there isn’t a word of dialogue spoken from start to finish, and yet it is one of the most touching and memorable stories you could hope to witness. The magic comes from the genius of Raymond Briggs’s drawings and a spectacular soundtrack. There is rarely a dry eye in the house by the time the final credits roll around and there is always fun to be had singing along with the famous theme tune.
Father Christmas: It is probably the very fact that this animation has voices and speech that means it falls short of The Snowman. Having said that, it is the best characterisation of Father Christmas ever committed to celluloid and helps bring to light the private life of Santa. If you’ve ever wondered what Father Christmas does on the other 364 days a year, this delightful animation will fill in the blanks.
The Santa Clause: Any film that kills off Santa Claus is on thin ice as far as kids on Christmas Eve are concerned. But the usually grumpy Tim Allen’s turn as the unlikely replacement is a funny family romp that is going to excite children and amuse adults. Worth returning to just once a year, although the ill-advised sequels should be kept under the tree.
Nightmare Before Christmas: Is this a Halloween horror or a Christmas caper? Actually a lot more festive than a first scan suggests, this is perfect fodder for children and parents not sold on some of the sentimentality and saccharine sweetness of most seasonal offerings. In Jack Skellington, director Tim Burton has created one of the great anti-heroes of any holiday.
Elf: Will Ferrell’s comedic level is most directly pitched at infantile college kids and teenage boys. By playing a grown-up elf he actually manages to find a similarly easily pleased demographic of young kids. That the character he plays seems no different to any other character played by Ferrell gives an idea of the performance. It’s a good introduction for children to his style, as they may be too young to watch some of his other movies.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe: Easy to forget that this book is so Christmassy, but with a Father Christmas appearance and entire sections of the film set in the snow, it certainly qualifies. One of the few films on the list that can be viewed all year round, it is also one that will capture the imagination of younger and older children.
A Charlie Brown Christmas: This might be a bit hard to track down on DVD, but ordering it on the internet is one of the best things you can do for your child. Despite being more than 40 years old, it is a genuine classic that stands head and shoulders above crass cash-ins from the likes of Sonic The Hedgehog and Garfield The Cat. If only more children were like Charlie Brown…
Home Alone: Age cannot wither him and cynicism cannot spoil some moments of pure cinema perfection from one time king of cute McCauley Culkin. Director Christopher Columbus went on to direct two of the Harry Potter movies, and is up in Steven Spielberg’s level when it comes to getting masterful performances from his young charges. A great one for putting on for youngsters while you hurry away to wrap up presents and write last minute Christmas cards.
Millions: Time Out likes to champion independent film every now and then, but we never thought we would be congratulating Trainspotting director Danny Boyle for making kids’ films. Millions won’t appeal to the youngest of children, but anybody over the age of 10 is likely to be captivated by the touching and heartbreaking story of the little boy who finds a million pounds.
Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas: Where would any list of children’s films be without Mickey Mouse and friends? This holiday classic tells three tales of the festive season set to enchant your kids and bring back memories of Christmas past for you too. Entertaining and with the usual beautiful animation, this one shouldn’t be missed.