Christmas Movies To Bring Everyone Together

Celebrate the yuletide period with holiday classics and modern stories for the season.

By Yong Shu Chiang      25 December 2021

Just as we expect to hear Kit Chan sing Home when it’s National Day, laugh out loud at Stephen Chow when Chinese New Year rolls around, or listen to Mariah Carey belt out All I Want for Christmas is You around this time each year, there are several films that are synonymous with the festive season.

Some are expected, such as James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life (from 1946), a well-known Christmas staple in America; while others are surprising to discover, such as Eddie Murphy’s 1983 comedy Trading Places being celebrated to this day as a Christmas Eve fixture in Italy. There are also supporters of action flick Die Hard (1988), arguably Bruce Willis’ most popular work, which some passionately declare is a bona fide holiday film.

Others offer a more whimsical take on “the Christmas movie”, such as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993); Elf (2003), directed by Jon Favreau of Marvel Cinematic Universe fame; and Scrooged, a thoroughly suitable 1988 comedic vehicle for Bill Murray, which was inspired by Charles Dickens no less.

Then there is the alternative angle for horror lovers: a new streaming series about Elves in the Danish archipelago, which a family of four encounter during a Christmas vacation.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Out now, Disney+

Stars: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara

What happens when the King of “Halloween Town”, Jack Skellington (voiced by Sarandon and Elfman), becomes obsessed with Christmas? The Pumpkin King, as Jack is known, decides that he should take Santa’s place and deliver the presents himself. Based on a story by Tim Burton, this stop-motion fantasy has become a modern Christmas classic. When Jack’s plan lands jolly Saint Nick in the clutches of his villainous rival, Oogie Boogie, Jack realises that he has to save Santa and restore the Christmas that he loves.


Out now: Netflix

Stars: Sonja Steen, Milo Toke Bendix Campanale, Ann Eleonora Jorgensen

A family of four from the mainland takes a trip to an isolated Danish island, hoping to reconnect by spending the festive period together. They arrive to find a deeply religious community that does not welcome many tourists and keeps the mysterious forest fenced in. When the young daughter of the family, Josefine (Steen), ventures into the woods and rescues an injured creature, little does she know about the true nature of the creatures that dwell there and the deadly chain of events she has just set off.


Out now, Apple TV

Stars: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner

After a human toddler is unwittingly brought back to the North Pole, where he is raised by the elves at Santa Claus’ workshop, he grows up to be a peculiar – and oversized – “elf” named Buddy (Ferrell). Eager to find his biological parents, Buddy travels to New York City, where he meets and falls for a department store employee (Deschanel) and gets into trouble by mistaking a little person for an elf. He eventually reconciles with his biological father and also helps Santa (Asner) overcome a problem with his sleigh.

It’s A Wonderful Life

Out now, Google Play Movies

Stars: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

George Bailey (Stewart) is an upstanding citizen who has sacrificed his own happiness for the sake of others in his family and community. One Christmas Eve, a despondent Bailey finds himself at a bridge contemplating suicide. However, his predicament is observed by an angel, who watches flashbacks of Bailey’s life and then tries to convince him that his life has been worthwhile after all. This Frank Capra film is the quintessential Christmas classic, especially in the United States, where it is broadcast annually.


Out now, Google Play Movies

Stars: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe

This modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol centres on a cruel and conceited television executive (Murray), who forces his employees to work overtime on Christmas Eve to produce a festive programme. He is visited by his dead ex-colleague (Forsythe), who warns that he will encounter three spirits – the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future – before the night is over. They will force him to confront his unkind nature and the misery he’s inflicted upon others, and show him the fate that awaits.

Trading Places

Out now, Google Play Movies

Stars: Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis

The lives of two complete strangers become the sport of a pair of wealthy and powerful old men, who set up a social experiment to end the “nature versus nurture” debate once and for all. They destroy the life of a commodities trader under their employ (Aykroyd) and put a street hustler (Murphy) in his place, to see if one would thrive while the other flounders. This comedy is a festive classic in Italy, broadcast each Christmas Eve, where even Murphy’s trademark laugh is imitated memorably by an Italian voice actor.