Outtake Presents: your Christmas watchlist

Stuck for what to watch this Christmas? We’ve compiled a list of great festive movies to suit all tastes, from cheesy rom-coms and horror comedies, to Kubrick dramas and childhood classics. Best enjoyed with a hot drink and plenty of snacks, these offerings are guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit, however you find yourself spending it. Happy holidays from the Outtake team!


Gremlins (1984)

For decades now, the “Christmas horror” sub-genre has been defiling that most sacred of Judaeo- Christian holidays, in much the same way that the recent announcement of five more years of Mrs Brown’s Boys has done to my faith in humanity. Apparently, somewhere along the way in movie-town, someone decided that the only thing missing from the season of joy, peace and togetherness was a load of people getting murdered with sharpened candy canes and exploding jack-in-the-boxes.

1984’s Gremlins is the ultimate, fun-for-all-the-family, Christmas-set horror; based on old air force jokes about little monsters sabotaging aircrafts during WW2, this anarchic film expertly balances slapstick, parody, spooks and more chunky green fountains of gore than Sam Raimi’s entire back- catalogue. The story of a cuddly, adorable proto-Baby Yoda accidentally spawning tiny, murderous doppelgangers not only introduced the world to the now-iconic creature designs, it pushed the limits of stop motion animation and animatronics. It also subtly jabbed at the little-discussed practise of buying exotic animals as Christmas gifts, and contains arguably one of the finest examples of dog acting ever put to film. So this Christmas, just remember to stay away from chimneys, Christmas trees and snow-ploughs… and maybe re-think getting that stairlift for Grandma. – Adam Morley


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is Disney’s take on the classic portal fantasy by C.S. Lewis. Dramatic and fantastical, this adaption brings to the screen the sense of wonder and danger that defined the books. The child actors’ acting is particularly impressive, and the adults who bring the world’s mythical beings to life also deliver amazing performances. Tilda Swinton as the White Witch is woefully terrifying and Liam Neeson’s voicing of Aslan adds gravity to the great and mighty lion. Every detail of this movie draws the audience into the wonderous world of Narnia, and the ‘always winter’ backdrop certainly adds to the Christmas feel. And with a visit from Father Christmas, I think this can certainly be included to your Christmas movie collection! – Keri Baptiste


It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It would be too easy to say Die Hard, wouldn’t it? It is set on Christmas Eve and is about a man doing everything in his power to be reunited with his family for the holidays. And yet, if I am being totally honest, the best film for this time of year has to be Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. When I worked at an independent cinema in Aberdeen, the Christmas Eve screening of this classic was always a highlight. Even now that I no longer work there, I still go along every year to watch it on the big screen. It has become my holiday tradition. It is strange to think of this fairly dark movie about depression and suicide as a Christmas movie, but the happy ending in which George Bailey realises that “no man is a failure who has friends” is very much in line with the Christmas spirit. Sharing the experience of this classic film with a cinema audience is like a warm hug from an old friend. I know every line, every moment and… every audience reaction. It is guaranteed that when George prays to God “Let me live again”, the sniffles start to echo around the auditorium. Missing out on seeing it on the big screen this year may be a huge disappointment, but it’s important to remember that even with its setbacks, “you really have had a wonderful life”. –  Stuart Dallas King


The Polar Express (2004)

There’s two types of people this time of year: those who insist on watching The Polar Express on Christmas Eve, and those who beg not to. Robert Zemeckis’ digital capture Christmas classic has become a bit of a marmite watch around the festive season, but fans of the film will speak to the deeply nostalgic, unadulterated Christmas spirit that makes this film tug at your heartstrings, year after year. Between the chill-inducing power of the magical score, Tom Hanks singing about the hot chocolate you always wanted to try, and hearing that sweet ring of Santa’s sleigh bell, this certified classic is like one big cosy Christmas Eve hug. Hollie Geraghty 


The Holiday (2006)

Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, 2006’s festive rom-com The Holiday is the universe’s answer to the Christmas omnipresence of Love Actually. Starring Kate Winslet as a column writer and Cameron Diaz as a movie trailer editor, these two lovelorn women organize a home exchange to flee their respective heartbreaks. In the process, Diaz finds romance with Winslet’s brother (played by Jude Law) while Winslet strikes a friendship with Diaz’s colleague (Jack Black). Like most Nancy Meyers movies, the set design of The Holiday is seemingly given more weight than the actual plot. With that in mind, it’s probably best to just let the film wash over you as you enjoy the quaint cottage and cozy Christmas jumpers, rather than pick apart plot lines or try to understand the movie’s incredibly confusing characters. – Amal Abdi


Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Massively overlooked on release, Kubrick’s 1999 masterpiece is only now beginning to catch some of the recognition it deserves for being one of the strangest and most unsettling works of the late 20th Century. Eyes Wide Shut’s nocturnal odyssey through conspiracy and shady sex cults controlled by America’s elite has long been the subject of rumours and crackpot theory, but in 2020 feels particularly appropriate and sickening. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Kubrick’s hypnotic vision (aside from all the fucking) is how he chooses to light almost every scene with multicoloured fairy lights or Christmas trees, giving nocturnal New York a serene, dreamy atmosphere so thick you can’t help but get lost in it. Parallels to Dickens and classic Christmas cinema abound in a work so multi-layered and strange we probably won’t get to the bottom of it for decades to come. – James Witherspoon


The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

From the opening tracking shot of snow-covered rooftops, to the heart-warming musical finale, The Muppet Christmas Carol is simply one of the best things about the holidays. It is no accident that it has become such a beloved Christmas classic. Few adaptations remain so loyal to the source material while putting such a quirky, moving, and funny twist on the story. Such is the love for the Muppets that they bring an emotional centre to the classic tale that Dickens himself never could. Each Muppet is perfectly cast, and Michael Caine plays his role to perfection as the embittered, callous Scrooge. Few Christmas adventures feel so timeless. It is arguably the best of the Muppet films, and in such a tumultuous year, the Muppets bring a reassurance and warmth that we are in desperate need of this festive season. – James Hanton


Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually is the ultimate festive rom-com – heartfelt, hilarious and unequivocally British. This 2003 festive flick sees writer, director and rom-com veteran Richard Curtis weave together a collection of storylines tackling love in all its forms. Featuring performances from British acting royalty Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Colin Firth, Love Actually has stood the test of time and rightfully remains one of the most well loved Christmas films of all time. Even after multiple viewings, Alan Rickman’s ‘necklace-gate’ betrayal of Emma Thompson never fails to draw tears from even the most stoic viewer. If you are in the mood for a modern classic to make you laugh and cry in equal measure, then Love Actually is a perfect choice. – Megan Whitehouse


Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Every household has their own list of Christmas classics, films they watch every year during the festive season which leave them filled with joyous nostalgia and good cheer. In my house, that list always starts with the greatest Christmas film known to man or, at least, to Brits: Bridget Jones’s Diary. Filled with humour, romance and some of the cringiest scenes imaginable, it’s a movie which pleases all year round, but which holds particular sentimentality for my mother and I at Christmas. From the hideous Christmas jumpers at the start, to the semi-nude snogging in the snow at the end, this film screams festive joy and always manages to put a smile on our faces, while we dig into a box of Celebrations and pretend it isn’t pouring with rain outside. Now, in the nightmare of a year that has been 2020, I invite you to consider yourself part of the family and do the same. – Rebecca Barnes


Jingle All The Way (1996)

PUT THAT COOKIE DOWN! NOW! Jingle All The Way may not be the best Christmas film ever made, but that isn’t to say it’s not the perfect Christmas movie. The best festive films are the ones that capture the spirit and warmth of the holiday season, tapping into those themes of giving and family, hope and joy, in a season built upon all on those values. Jingle All The Way has all of that and then some. It’s a film that is unapologetically dialled to 11, from the wonderfully ludicrous crime syndicate of Santa conmen to Arnold Schwarzenneger quite literally uppercutting a reindeer in the jaw. But it’s the commitment to the cheesy antics – and the sheer charisma of its leading man – that makes this movie such a crowd pleaser from start to finish. And at the heart of it all is a soft, gooey, earnest heart that melts all your worries away (even just for its 95-minute runtime). It’s far from a masterpiece, but it feels like the perfect film to be watching at this time of year because it’s just such a fun, warm blanket of a movie. It always gets me in the Christmas spirit and that’s why it’s a staple in my annual festive viewing. Awais Irfan


Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone makes spending Christmas alone look pretty damn fun, from pigging out on junk food and watching gangster movies, to defending your home from two determined (if mildly inept) burglars. The well-known, beloved 1990 Christmas classic from screenwriter John Hughes and director Chris Columbus was a box-office smash, and for good reason. Packed full of eccentric details, fantastic slapstick comedy, and memorably inventive booby traps, Home Alone is hilarious from start to finish. A great movie for the whole family, and a true holiday staple. – Laura Potier

Laura Potier

Co-founder and editor of Outtake, feel free to drop me a line with any questions or article pitches at laura@outtakemag.co.uk