THE festive television season is here. It may not be what it once was, back when we had three TV channels (and thought ourselves lucky) but whether you have the spirit of Santa or Scrooge, here's our 12 must-watch Christmas celluloid crackers.

Elf (2003)

The brilliance of Elf begins and ends with Will Ferrell's perfect performance. He plays Buddy who, as a baby, crawls into Santa's sleigh and is raised as an elf in the North Pole.

Fast forward 30 years and the 6ft 3in elf catches on, discovering that his birth father lives in New York City.

Buddy heads to the Big Apple in search of his dad, embodying the phrase "ignorance is bliss" as he marvels at the world around him.

Whether it's hugging wild raccoons, eating gum off the street, or wrestling a shopping centre Santa, Buddy's antics are always hilarious.

This movie ticks all the Christmas boxes: a family reunited, true love, oodles of Christmas spirit, and all capped off with one of the best performances of Ferrell's career.

Elf is on STV, on Christmas Eve, at 5.15pm

The Santa Clause (1994)

In terms of pure Christmas magic, very few do it better than The Santa Clause. Humbug Scott Calvin, played by Tim Allen, must take on the role of Santa, and watching him fill with festivity as the film progresses creates a feel-good classic.

The setting and scenery are expertly done, bringing the North Pole to life as if plucked straight from a child's imagination.

There are some questionable moments, like when Scott accidentally kills the original Santa, but these are fine if you don't dwell on them too long.

Regardless, the wonderful world that The Santa Clause creates is more than enough to distract from its sillier moments.

The Santa Clause is on STV, on Monday, December 23, at 2.15pm

Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually has perhaps the best cast of any Christmas film: Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Kiera Knightley, Martin Freeman, and the list goes on.

Despite its star-studded cast, this film is all about normal people and the love that binds them. You'll find yourself cheering and wincing as the various characters fall in love and break each other's hearts, putting themselves through highs and hardships that everyone can relate to.

It jumps between the dozen main characters in incredibly smart ways, gradually bringing them together as Christmas day approaches.

Love Actually is on STV, on Friday, December 27, at 10.10pm

Home Alone (1990)

Everyone loves an underdog story and watching an eight-year-old outsmart a pair of fully-grown men never gets old (well, until Home Alone 3, 4, and 5).

Young Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, wishes for an unusual Christmas miracle: for his entire family to disappear.

To his surprise it comes true. He is somehow forgotten on a family trip to Paris and left home alone for Christmas.

Meanwhile, wannabe bandits Harry and Marv, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, are prowling the streets in search of empty houses to rob.

Kevin must defend his home from the dastardly duo, installing ridiculous homemade traps to ward them off, and it's incredibly satisfying to see his creations unleashed as the three engage in a brutal battle of wits.

Home Alone is on Channel 4, on Christmas Eve, at 5.30pm

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

This has the best New York City story of any Christmas film. It includes staples like decoration-filled shopping centres and the spectacular parade, but the film focuses on a court case that grounds the story in a traditional New York tale.

Kris Kringle, played by Richard Attenborough, works as a shopping centre Santa who believes he's the real deal. It's a sceptical world though and Kringle is threatened he'll be locked away if he doesn't admit he's a normal old man.

Defending him is a young girl and her mother, who previously didn't believe in the fairy tales of Christmas, and a determined lawyer who attempts to prove that Kris Kringle is the real Father Christmas.

The film never declares that he is, or is not, Santa. Instead, the viewer is left to enjoy every magical moment alongside the characters as they gradually believe more and more in Kringle.

Miracle on 34th Street exists in a believable and real New York City, making the surreal moments even more special as they unfold throughout the film.

Miracle on 34th Street is on Sky Cinema Christmas, on Sunday, December 22, at 3.25pm

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Set in Whoville, a sickly-sweet village full of Christmas-loving Whos. These strange characters epitomise the materialistic, over the top tendencies of Christmas, but don't worry, that's the point.

Enter the Grinch, played by Jim Carrey. He hates them. He hates Christmas. He hates that they love it. The feeling is mutual, as the Whos all fear and despise the very idea of the Grinch.

All but one. A young girl named Cindy Lou knows that the Whos' behaviour isn't right. She reaches out to the Grinch, and he returns to Whoville.

Jim Carrey is brilliant in the role, using all his flamboyancy and comedic flair to portray the wacky, utterly insane Grinch.

That, alongside the film's message to put people over presents, makes The Grinch a must this Christmas.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is on STV, on Christmas Eve, at 12.40pm

Die Hard (1988)

It's been the subject of fierce debate, but we reckon that Die Hard counts as a Christmas film. It's set on Christmas Eve, it features Christmas music, and it's full of Christmas references like, "Now I have a machine gun HO-HO-HO" written across a man's chest in blood. Christmas!

Now, ignoring Christmas for a moment, Die Hard also happens to be one of the best movies ever.

It's an underdog story (a little more violent than Home Alone), it's got great action, punchy one liners, and it's not overcomplicated. One man must take down a building full of terrorists; that's it.

On the more festive side, Die Hard also has great relationships. John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, is fighting to reunite with his wife, and an unlikely friendship also forms between McClane and a policeman over the radio. It's heartfelt stuff.

In terms of pure entertainment, you'll struggle to find a better Christmas Day watch than Die Hard.

Die Hard is on Christmas Day, on Sky Cinema Christmas at 9.55pm

Bad Santa (2003)

This one is for the folk who dislike Christmas. Bad Santa is a dark, dirty comedy that follows the life of a washed-up shopping centre Santa.

Main character Willie Soke, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is an alcoholic thief. He and his partner in crime Marcus, played by Tony Cox, pose as Santa and elf while plotting to steal the shopping centre's cash.

To be clear, this is not a family-friendly film. It's closer in taste to Step Brothers, The Hangover, and Superbad than the rest of the movies on this list.

That being said, it's a hilarious film that veers far from the expected formula, and is definitely worth a watch if you enjoy dark comedies.

Bad Santa is on Sky Cinema Christmas, on Monday, December 23, at 8pm

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Muppet's version may be the best way to watch A Christmas Carol. The colourful cast of characters sing and dance while retelling Dickens' story with surprising accuracy.

Michael Caine plays Scrooge, a miserable bugger who cares more about money than anything else. His misery and selfishness peaks on Christmas eve, prompting a visit from the ghosts of Christmas who try to change his ways.

Caine is brilliant as always and is joined by a cast of crazy muppets including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, and Rizzo.

The Muppet's Christmas Carol is also incredibly self-aware, adding an extra level of comedy to the already amusing ensemble.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is on Sky Cinema Greats, on Christmas Eve, at 5pm

Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins is another dark Christmas comedy that leans more towards violence and dirty jokes. A mysterious creature called a mogwai is gifted to main character Billy Peltzer, played by Zach Galligan, alongside a set of three simple rules.

It takes roughly 10 minutes for these rules to be broken though, and chaos ensues as more mogwai spawn and turn into scaly monsters.

The gremlins are unleashed on the town in a goofy comedy that at times gets seriously dark.

Gremlins is on STV, on Monday, December 23, at 10:45pm

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

An ode to the classic set-up of high expectations not being met. Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, wants a good old-fashioned family Christmas, but what a boring film that would be!

Instead, disaster strikes at every turn. He's forced to dig up a Christmas tree after forgetting the saw, he shuts down the entire city's power while trying to turn on Christmas lights, and then his homeless cousin turns up and kidnaps his boss.

Everything is over the top in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Everything is exaggerated and everything goes wrong, making it a stupidly funny festive film.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is on Sky Cinema Comedy, on Boxing Day, at 7.45pm

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Perhaps saving the best for last, It's a Wonderful life is widely considered the best Christmas film of all time, and one of the greatest films period.

It starts in a dark place as George Bailey, played by James Stewart, is considering suicide. An unfortunate string of events becomes too much for George, but his guardian angel appears and shows him all the good he's done for the world.

The film flashes back throughout George's life in feel-good moments that remind him and the viewer that there's always something to live for.

Though some aspects of the film don't shine so brightly in 2019, It's a Wonderful Life still holds up as a must-watch, and especially during the Christmas period.

It's a Wonderful Life is on Sky Cinema Christmas, on Friday, December 27, at 8pm, and on the big screen at the GFT in Glasgow and the Cameo in Edinburgh