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When we consider the popularity of a Christmas movie, we cannot treat the world as a huge lump. Take a look at some of the best and worst films.

A Christmas Film Tradition

Christmas is on the way, and the goose is getting fat (and a little nervous) – and it is time to make plans for our gratuitous dive into the Christmas movie. Such is the popularity of the Xmas flick that there is a whole channel devoted to showing them… in July. 

Even though we have got a little way to go yet, and some people will be annoyed by the mention of the word “Christmas”, we feel it is justifiable to languish for a while in the most popular Christmas films in the world.

Where in the world?

When we consider the popularity of a Christmas movie, we cannot treat the world as a huge lump. There are differences around the globe, though it does fall into three distinct camps. 

Elf wins out in the US and Mexico, for instance. Elf is a wonderful comedy that signals the start of festivities for many. Will Ferrell is the man-sized Elf with a joyous innocence that lands him in all sorts of memorable slapstick moments throughout the film. 

Sure, this is a movie about a grown man acting like a child and having an unflinching loyalty and devotion to Santa Clause. But we love it because some of Elf’s innocence lives inside each of us – and we love being able to pamper it for a couple of hours.

Travel over to the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, then it is Love Actually that wins the day – which is marginally better than The Holiday coming out on top. Both are romances with handsome leading characters that happen to be at Christmas. But it is all good fun – and the quality performance in Love Actually from Hugh Grant is worth an annual rewatch with some eggnog and the chocolate tin.

Yet, the real winner is Home Alone. Macauley Culkin, as the “adorable” (or annoying) kid trapped home alone at Christmas when some burglars come calling. The ingenious methods of doing harm to the slapstick pair are always funny – no matter how many times you watch it. Few corners of the world don’t view Home Alone as the all-out victor in Christmas movies.

What about the critics?

The critics and the public rarely agree, and many global favourites barely make it into the top five moves by critic rating. The top of the pile is A Wonderful Life, which is devastatingly sad, as an angel takes a desperately frustrated businessman through the world in which he never existed. Yes, always a cheery topic for a Christmas film – but with the obligatory tear-filled ending. 

Even though this film was made in 1946, it has enduring appeal. It matches many of the themes of A Christmas Carol, which is also a favourite with the critics. Clearly, they enjoy a film with a powerful message. 

Halloween bumps into Christmas in this dark fantasy. Jack Skellington wanders from Halloween Town and finds Christmas Town, where he tries to abduct Santa… all good family fun! Coming in close to the top for the critics is the classy stop-motion animation from Tim Burton, The Night Before Christmas – and all the spooky goings-on.

And at the box office

Maybe the real judge of what makes a great Christmas movie is how much money it earns – the Hollywood studios would certainly agree. Top of the pile is The Grinch taking a massive $511, 595, 957 in 2018; now, that is a number most of can’t even read, never mind imagine! Jim Carrey with his elastic – and this time green – face is clearly a massive draw for Christmas movie fans!

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