At this time of year newspapers, magazines and websites routinely feature lists of the best Christmas movies. I am always surprised by some of the inclusions, invariably disappointed by the omissions, and frequently mystified by the choice of certain interpretations of a Dickens classic over the others available. That said, picking one’s favourites is an inherently subjective exercise – bounded by age and the arc of childhood memory as much as anything – so I thought I would assemble my own list of 10. Well 11 actually, but I’ll get to that.
What follows is what I would hope my nephew and nieces have already seen, or might be persuaded to watch as they grow older. Some have long since entered the classical canon; the others will, I think, stand the test of time. Most have obvious Christmas themes; the others are closely associated with Christmas by virtue of their setting.
1. The Shop Around the Corner
One of the best films of all time and Lubitsch’s personal favourite. Spawned passable remakes (the Garland musical In The Good Old Summertime in 1949 and Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail in 1998) but nothing approaching the original. The romance between Stewart (Kralik) and Sullavan (Novak) is superbly played by both, but it is the rest of the cast – Morgan (the owner of Budapest’s Matuschek and Company where everyone works), Schildkraut (as the two-faced Vadas), Bressart (as Kralik’s kindly, if perpetually nervous, friend Pirovitch) and Tracy (who rises from errand boy to clerk) – that elevates this film from great to sublime. A lonely Matuschek describing a proposed Christmas Eve dinner to new delivery boy Rudy near the film’s end is magical.