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Christmas films that became timeless classics

 Macaulay Culkin in 'Home Alone'

It’s that time of the year when our screens reflect all things Christmas. During this season, we see films and advertisements with characteristic red and green colours, and the sound of jingle bells and Christmas carols become more prominent.

There are films, some old and some new that have become timeless classics. They are the go-to movies that put us in a festive mood and bring the whole family together for some quality time during the festive season.

We explore some Christmas films that have become timeless classics.

Home Alone (1990)

This Christmas comedy is the ultimate family-friendly film. It serves the entertaining narrative of a brave boy mistakenly left at home alone by his family- and having to protect the home from two burglars.

The film seems to resurface yearly, and when it did in 2018, The Guardian reviewed it as “a cutesiness overload.”

“It was a phenomenal box-office smash and made a megastar of angelic 10-year-old Macaulay Culkin doing his famous “Aaaaaaaah!” face as he slapped his palms to his cheeks,” the review reads in part.

Macaulay Culkin, then a child actor, joined a cast of renowned acts in the industry, including Catherine O’hara, John Heard, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern among others.

The Guardian’s review further describes the film: “A harassed extended family head off for France to celebrate Christmas, and in all the mad rush, impish little Kevin (Culkin) gets left behind. At first, he thinks it’s a magical fulfilment of his wish that his annoying folks would disappear, but then a couple of burglars try to invade his house. Kevin ingeniously repels boarders, and he also finds time to provide a Christmas miracle redemption for a local old guy with the Dickensian name of Mr Marley.”

The original Home Alone is not a solo film, it is part of a series of six films created through the years: Home Alone 1, 2, 3, 4, Home Alone: The Holiday Heist and Home Sweet Home Alone.

Macaulay Culkin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 1 this year. It was a testament to how he became a beloved household name from the franchise for which he is known; as well as the impact he has made in the industry.

 'Home Alone' star Macaulay Culkin

Elf (2003)

This comedy fantasy film is about Buddy (played by Will Ferrell), a human being raised amongst elves in the North Pole.

The Independent Critic describes Elf as sweet sweet-natured, innocent holiday film.

“As directed by Jon Favreau, "Elf" has a "go for it" spirit that is beautifully captured by Will Ferrell. This man seems unafraid to completely surrender himself to a role and seems to have complete faith in everything working out in the end.”

The Guardian reports that this is a Christmas favourite, with writer Kate Abbott noting; “At the beginning of every December, my only advent ritual is to curl up in a blanket and laugh with Buddy on a cold day.”

“Despite being the peppiest man alive, Buddy is impossible to dislike. He's not a real elf, but a human raised as one in Santa's grotto. He doesn't realise he's different – even when he can't take the toy-making pace,” the review notes, adding, “But after 30 years, he wises up to the fact that he's human and sets off to find his real dad in the wilds of New York City.”

Not only is it a well-loved film internationally, it also attained major critical and commercial success upon its release, grossing $220 million (Sh 33.9 billion) worldwide against a $33 million (over Sh5 billion) budget.

Business Insider reports: “In a 2015 interview, Ferrell said he's surprised that "Elf" has continued to see success years after its release. He joked that it could have been his last movie, but instead, the film has become a cult classic.”

 Elf [2003]

Love Actually (2003)

One of the romantic comedies that make this Christmas list, Love Actually was written and directed by Richard Curtis and featured a renowned cast, including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney and Keira Knightley among others.

In its November 2023 review of the film dubbed “Love Actually at 20”, The Guardian describes the film as “imperfect yet irresistible.”

“It’s Christmas, the movie trumpets loopily: time to tell someone you love them!”

Touching on the otherwise heavy criticism the film faces to date, The Guardian adds: “Richard Curtis’s star-stuffed directorial debut, which turns 20 this year, is nobody’s favourite romcom. But it’s a lot of people’s favourite Christmas film. Love Actually, in which a bunch of predominately white, upper-middle-class Londoners fall in love while being self-deprecating and swearing inventively, was critically panned but a hit with audiences, making $247m (Sh38 billion) worldwide.”

 Love Actually

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

This Christmas fantasy comedy, also known as Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Grinch has become a holiday favourite fans return to each year, per film review website Screenrant.

“A cherished Christmas movie for some and a crazy fever dream for others, 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas was an unexpected and ambitious project for Oscar-winning director Ron Howard to take on,” the report notes, adding, “The biggest draw for the project was, of course, Jim Carrey, who had been the king of comedy in the '90s. His involvement helped legitimize the idea and the movie went on to become a box office hit.”

The movie is about a revenge-seeking Grinch who plans to ruin Christmas for all of the citizens of ‘Whoville’ town.

American film critic Roger Ebert described the movie: “The Grinch lives in a cave on the garbage mountain that towers over the town, brooding and gnashing and remembering old wounds and childhood hurts. Eventually, the happiness below is so unbearable to him that he descends on the town and steals all the Christmas presents, and only the touching faith of little Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) redeems him.”

 How the Grinch stole Christmas

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