Even someone as battle-hardened as myself isn’t invulnerable to Christmas and over the years I’ve got a list of various things that I love that makes me enjoy Christmas. This is a changeable list every year, but right here now this is a list of films, TV programmes and music that is my idea of Christmas joy.
30/ The Ramones-Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)
The Ramones in the 80’s were a patchy affair from their 70’s peak, but they still made great tunes and this little oddity from them is a great tune.
29/ David Bowie and Bing Crosby-Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.
It’s Bowie still in his pomp, and still clearly on one matey. It’s Bing Crosby looking a wee bit confused. It’s one of the oddest, but greatest Christmas records ever.
28/ The Star Wars Holiday Special.
I first saw this thing at a SF convention in the 80’s in Glasgow. It’s appalling but it draws you in just to see how much worse it can get. It is however worth it just to see how totally muntered Carrie Fisher is.
27/ Batman Returns
The first of three Tim Burton related things here. Batman Returns is the only Batman film so far to tap into the perverse Gothic nature of Batman and his universe, and it’s set at Christmas!
26/ The Office Christmas Special
Ricky Gervais’s David Brent character had grown tired (that bloody dance!) during The Office’s second series, and the plan to end the programme with a pair of Christmas specials was the right decision. It was a pretty perfect ending.
25/ Glasvegas- A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) EP
This isn’t going to be the first Glasgow Indie band on this list. This EP is a modern classic, and the title track is glorious.
24/ Only Fools and Horses Christmas Specials 1996
Most comedy programmes don’t get to have an ending, much less one that everyone thinks is a perfect ending. Only Fools and Horses did as Del and Rodney finally made it big. Then they fucked it all by bringing them back but lets not talk of that ever again….
23/ Tales From the Crypt (1972)
Tales From the Crypt is an adaptation of several classic EC Comics stories, and this one starring Joan Collins as a total and utter bitch is glorious. There’s more horror to come on this list, a lot more….
22/ Black Christmas (1974)
This pre-Halloween slasher film is a gem of a film. It’s more or less following the template of every slasher film ever years before that template became cast in stone. It’s also a great film. The remake isn’t a great film.
21/ Greg Lake- I Believe In Father Christmas
The 1970’s were a shining Golden Age of the Christmas single and this one has a fantastic cynicism hiding behind the jolly Phil Spector-esque sound.
20/ John Lennon- Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
The 1970’s really did smash out some great Christmas songs didn’t it?
19/ Lethal Weapon.
In the same way the 1970’s were a shining Golden Age for Christmas singles, the 1980’s were a shining Golden Age for action films. The first Lethal Weapon is set at Christmas and is one of the best action films of the era, not to mention it stars Mel Gibson before he became your old racist relative you don’t talk to at Christmas.
18/ The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Specials
During the 1960’s and 1970’s the comedy double act Morecambe and Wise produced a Christmas special every year that was their A-list material. Sadly the BBC seemed to have purged YouTube of their best work at their peak in the mid-70’s before they went to ITV and declined as used to be the case when performers moved over. This clip though is from the 1969 special and features Fenella Fielding….
17/ Edward Scissorhands
Remember when the idea of a Tim Burton directed film starring Johnny Depp was a thing of excitement and not something that made your heart sink? Edward Scissorhands is simply one of Burton’s best films as it mixes satire, comedy, horror, romance and Christmas all in one fantastic mix.
16/ A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector
Remember when Phil Spector wasn’t in prison for murder but instead was just a musical genius, albeit one that was an abusive arsehole? This oddity is simply the finest Christmas album ever. Just try to disassociate the man from the work….
15/ The Wizard of Oz
There’s nothing Christmassy in this film but for a certain generation of people in the UK who first saw this as a wee child in the 1970’s this is forever locked into being an essential part of Christmas.
14/ The Great Escape
If there’s one single film that screams ‘British bank holiday entertainment’ it’s The Great Escape. It’s the easy fix for TV schedulers as you stick this one and bingo! You’ve filled nearly three hours so you can go on the lash for a bit!
Most people forget that Terry Gilliam’s brilliant Brazil is actually a Christmas film. It actually says more about the modern age of Christmas consumerism than anything else I can think of, and that’s the last and only bit of political comment on this list…
12/ Scrooge (1951)
There’s a load of adaptations of DIckens’s A Christmas Carol out there, but this post-war version from 1951 starring Alistair Sim is by far the greatest version. It’s one of those films that’s unanimously considered a classic.
11/ Trading Places
Dan Ackroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis and Eddie Murphy are all at the peak of their game in this classic John Landis film. It’s also one of the best comedy films of all time, not to mention for teenage boys of a certain age it contains the most fantastic scene ever…
10/ The Nightmare Before Christmas
This Tim Burton produced film directed by Henry Selick has become a modern day Christmas classic because it’s something so original and different, but yet still manages to feel like a traditional Christmas film.
9/ Cocteau Twins-Winter Wonderland/Frosty the Snowman
The second Glaswegian band on this list produced in 1993 the EP, Snow, which was a Christmas release from one of the last bands you’d imagine doing a Christmas release. I’ve included both songs as they’re the most lovely versions of the songs you’ll hear.
8/ The Snowman.
Back when Channel 4 produced brilliant stuff all the time rather than endless game shows featuring crap comedians, they produced this classic adaptation of the Raymond Briggs comic. The version above is the original version including the sometimes edited out David Bowie introduction that for me, helps set up the animation brilliantly.
7/ It’s A Wonderful Life
It’s the ending of this film that’s made it so loved, but it’s all the dark horrible stuff that leads up to that ending that makes it worthwhile. You earn that happy ending.
6/ M R James’ Whistle And I’ll Come To You
Thanks to the Victorians and M.R. James the idea of the ghost story has become a Christmas tradition. This is the best filmed version of a James story, and is still utterly terrifying.
This updated 1980’s version of A Christmas Carol stars Bill Murray and for a while was a bit of a hidden gem but over the last decade or so, Scrooged has rightfully taken its place as one of the few versions in the modern era that adapted the source work for the modern age so perfectly that it’s easy to forget this comes from Dickens and the Victorian age. Even today some 25 or so years later it still has something to say.
4/ The Pogues- Fairytale of New York
Yeah, not a lot to be said about this. It’s flawless. It’s a song that can be easily played at any time of the year, not just Christmas and there’s no other Christmas song I can think of where that’s possible.
3/ Die Hard.
Die Hard is a Christmas film. It’s got a happy ending where the hero and his wife drive off into the Californian sunrise as it snows, well, it snows millions of dollars in paper bonds. Of course Bruce Willis has to go through hell and fight for the love and trust of his wife who he’s been estranged from, It’s also a film that has barely got an ounce of fat on it, so nothing is wasted in this film, not to mention in this first film John McClane isn’t a superhero as he is in later films, but an ordinary man trying to get out of an extraordinary situation. That’s I think the attraction of this. Any of us can put ourselves in McClane’s position, that and of course it’s just a bloody good film.
2/ Slade-Merry Christmas Everybody
It’s not Christmas til you hear Noddy Holder scream ”It’s CHRISTMAS”. Of course once you hear this for the first time in the year (normally around the first of December) you’re sick of the sound of it, but then 11 months later when you hear it again the following year for the first time you’re transported back to that Golden Age of Christmas songs from the 1970’s. Just try not to remember power cuts, flares and Jimmy Savile….
1/ Wizzard- I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
In the 1970’s men from the Black Country strode across popular culture like giants, and for me, none more so than Roy Wood. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is perfect. Imagine today if people sung with Brummie accents on pop songs? It’s the cheery joy and goodwill dripping from this that makes it impossible to not hum along with regardless of where you hear it. There’s few songs that are so timeless that in a century it’ll still be played over and over every single December for as long as humanity celebrates Christmas.
And that’s it for my little list. I’m having a very, very, very, very quiet Christmas this year to recharge my batteries ahead of a very potentially hectic January, so a word of thanks to people that’ve supported my efforts here this year and may everyone have a happy Christmas and I hope everyone gets what they wish for…..