December 23

What makes a Christmas film a Christmas film?


By Esther Roberts

‘Tis the season, and quite possibly the only season to pose such a question of what makes a Christmas film. We’ve already discussed our favourites, and maybe you’ve let us know yours, but surely they all have one thing in common right? The holiday! But does that truly make something a Christmas film? I’ve rounded up Jay and Serena for their opposing ideas and vow to put an end this debate once and for all.


Jay – Join the club

In Jay’s opinion it truly does not matter. You’re a film and you feature Christmas? Welcome to the club. If it wasn’t already obvious from his Christmas film pick, The Lion in Winter, according to Jay even if the film vaguely centres around Christmas it counts. Therefore, by that logic it constitutes that films such as ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, ‘Gremlins’ and ‘Die Hard’ are all Christmas films. I agree… and to some extent. In the film ‘Gremlins’, the period is set around Christmas, with the inciting incident being given as a Christmas present. Regarding, ‘Die Hard’ the terrorists plan happens during a busy Christmas party. However, in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, the character of Santa Clause shows up randomly to give the Pevensie children some presents. This is where Jay’s logic becomes a little bit flimsy for me and starts to unravel, leading me into Serena’s train of thought.

Serena – Christmas matters

For Serena, the plot has to revolve around Christmas for it to be considered a Christmas film. Christmas has to be the integral motivator, inciting incident and the end goal. Whether that means a man finally accepts his destiny to be Santa, or a magical anti-Santa wrecks havoc. The plot could not happen if it was not Christmas. If we apply Serena’s logic to the films I just mentioned it makes Jay’s point completely redundant. Technically speaking, Billy from ‘Gremlins’ could’ve gotten a birthday present. The terrorists in ‘Die Hard’ could’ve attacked during a number of office parties. For ‘Narnia’ the children get their gifts from Aslan. By putting Christmas at the forefront of the narrative it seeks to give the holiday some importance. Thus highlighting the magic of the festive period. Could Scrooge be visited from the ghosts of Easter Past, Present and Future?

What does Christmas really mean?


There is always a deeper message that goes beyond the joy of Christmas. The season is often used as an allegory or critique. The ‘Grinch’ is about consumerism culture, ‘The Polar Express’ is an allegory for Christianity and ‘Home Alone’ is a cautionary tale about judgement. I’m going to answer the question of what does Christmas really mean with another one… Does it really matter what makes a Christmas film? A Christmas film can be anything that brings you the magic of Christmas. Whether it’s the ‘Harry Potter’ saga because it comes on television almost every year and you love seeing the Great Hall decked to perfection. Or maybe you adore watching ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ because it totally and absolutely counts as a film for both holidays. Whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside is completely valid because that is exactly what the Christmas season is about.


Education, Film Reviews, Talent Development

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