This Christmas more than any other is a time for sitting back, forgetting your woes and enjoying a good movie. Here are 30 of the best the festive schedules have to offer.


Disney’s best film for years, this heart-warming and funny tale features a brilliant soundtrack – Let It Go is the stand-out, but it’s all good – and tells the story of Elsa, the princess who can control and create ice and snow. Idina Menzell stars as the voice of Elsa (and what a voice), while Kristen Bell is younger sister Anna and Jonathan Groff is reindeer-loving iceman Kristoff. Two Oscars, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe are testament to the film’s worth.

Christmas Eve, BBC One (1.30pm)

It’s A Wonderful Life

Probably the greatest Christmas film ever made, Frank Capra’s 1947 comedy-drama stars James Stewart (pictured below) as family man George Bailey, a bank manager facing disgrace through no fault of his own. Considering suicide, he’s interrupted by an over-enthusiastic angel who shows him what life would be like if he had never existed. Moving and utterly magical, it’s impossible to watch the film’s closing scene without a tear in your eye. A Christmas tradition no home should be without.

Christmas Eve, Channel 4 (2pm)

The Herald:

North By Northwest

Cary Grant excels as hapless advertising man Roger Thornhill, who finds himself unwitting dropped into an espionage plot after a case of mistaken identity. Switching masterfully from sinister paranoia to comedy – well, it is Cary Grant after all – the 1959 thriller is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best-loved film, and also features one of his most iconic scenes: Roger being buzzed by a crop duster on an open road in the middle of nowhere. Eve Marie-Saint and James Mason also star.

Christmas Eve, BBC Two (3.20pm)

Back To The Future

What can you say? A true classic is what. Director Robert Zemeckis hit pay-dirt with this tale of high school kid Marty McFly, who is transported from 1985 to 1955 and ends up meeting his own parents. Michael J Fox stars alongside Christopher Lloyd and a souped-up DeLorean with an iffy flux capacitor.

Christmas Eve, ITV2 (3.45pm)

Home Alone

We’ve all done it, haven’t we – gone on holiday and left a child behind. Yes, even David Cameron (remember him). Here it’s the McCallister family, who jet off from Chicago to spend Christmas in Paris but leave behind eight-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) – who gamely defends the house from a couple of inept burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) who keep trying to break in. The great John Hughes (see Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off etc.) directs.

Christmas Eve, Channel 4 (6pm)

Little Women

Greta Gerwig’s fabulous adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel is still available to view on Netflix, but this is Australian director Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version and it’s almost as good. It certainly has as starry a cast: Susan Sarandon is March family matriarch Abigail, while the roles of Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg are taken by Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Samantha Mathis and Trini Alvarado respectively. Wow. Kirsten Dunst, in one of her earliest screen outings, is young Amy and the role of Laurie goes to a certain Christian Bale.

Christmas Day, Film 4 (1.35pm)

A Castle For Christmas

In this seasonal Netflix offering Dalmeny House near Edinburgh stands in for Dun Dunbar, the romantic Scottish castle in which best-selling American author Sophie Brown (Brooke Shields) finds herself spending Christmas alone. Or almost alone: there is the small matter of grump laird Myles (Cary Elwes of The Princess Bride fame). Is there a romance on the cards? That would be telling, though there’s a clue in the title.

Streaming now on Netflix

Mary Poppins Returns

Emily Blunt plays the famous nanny in this 2018 sequel to the much-loved 1964 original, which starred Julie Andrews and her amazing performing carpet bag. Here, we’re in the Great Depression and the Banks children – Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) – are both grown up and finding that life has dealt them one or two hard knocks along the way. Enter Mary to sort things out for them. Again. Also starring: Lin-Manuel Miranda (pictured below), Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury and (oh yes) Dick Van Dyke.

Christmas Day, BBC One (3.10pm)

The Herald:

Singin’ In The Rain

One of the best musicals ever made – and the dancing isn’t bad, either – this 1952 classic stars Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor and is set against the background of the Hollywood silent era. Kelly, who co-directed alongside choreographer great Stanley Donen, plays studio star Don Lockwood. Jean Hagen is his glamorous on-screen partner Lina Lamont and together they can do no wrong, but the arrival of ‘the talkies’ threatens their future. Why? Watch and find out. Reynold is Don’s girlfriend and star-in-the-making Kathy, O’Connor his best friend, Cosmo. What a glorious film.

Boxing Day, BBC Two (12.40pm)

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Aiming to do for Marvel what the brilliant Lego Batman Movie did for DC Comics, this tongue-in-cheek animation dips in an out of various parallel dimensions while giving free rein to all your Spidey faves: Mary Jane, Green Goblin, Doc Ock etc. Great fun.

Boxing Day, Film 4 (1.10pm)


Can Cher act? Hell, yeah. Haven’t you seen 1987’s Suspect? She starred in two more films that same year, The Witches Of Eastwick being the second and this Norman Jewison-helmed romantic comedy the third, and she won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in it. The singer plays Italian-American book-keeper Loretta Castorini, who is caught in a love triangle between estranged brothers Ronny and Johnny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage and Danny Aiello). Bet you can’t guess who she chooses? Handily, it follows a screening of opera La Bohème, which features in a crucial scene between Loretta and Ronny.

Boxing Day, BBC Four (11pm)

Don’t Look Up

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence star in Adam McKay’s sci-fi satire as a pair of astronomers who, convinced that an approaching comet is about to wipe out all of humanity, undertake a media tour to convince people of the need to act. Good luck with that. McKay is a veteran of comedy staple Saturday Night Live and has also directed hits such as Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy and The Big Short, and among the stellar cast are Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Ariana Grande, Ron Perlman, Jonah Hill and a certain Timothée Chalamet.

Streaming from Christmas Eve on Netflix

Paddington 2

Sequels which are even better than the original are rare, but this is one. Paddington (pictured below), now installed in the attic at 32 Windsor Gardens, the Browns’ family home, finds himself embroiled in the machinations of creepy luvvie Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant in a career-best role) and banged up in prison as a result of a misunderstanding over the disappearance of an antique book. Brendan Gleeson also stars and the whole thing is a delight from start to finish.

December 27, BBC One (5.55pm)

The Herald:

Blade Runner 2049

Director Denis Villeneuve scored a hit this year with his remake of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, and this is the work which proved such an enticing calling card for that film’s backers, itself a sequel of sorts to Ridley Scott’s cult adaptation of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Ryan Gosling stars and, while Villeneuve brings his own stylistic panache to the production, it’s filled with motifs from Scott’s original film.

December 27, BBC Two (9pm)

Isle Of Dogs

Wes Anderson, the King of Quirk, drafts in his usual array of starry collaborators – Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, F Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton etc. – for this futuristic animated caper set on an island off the coast of a fictitious Japanese city where all of its dogs have been quarantined after an outbreak of canine influenza. Oh, and Yoko Ono plays a scientist called … Yoko Ono.

December 27, Film 4 (11.15pm)

Wings Of Desire

Wim Wenders directs this black and white, 1987 arthouse classic about the angels who inhabit a still-divided Berlin, watching from rooftops and listening to the thoughts of the people going about their business – people such as trapeze artist Marion (Solveig Donmartin), with whom angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz) falls in love. Also in the cast are Peter Falk, playing himself, and Nick Cave, who was living in the city at the time. A big winner at Cannes and probably the best film to never garner an Oscar nomination.

December 27, Film 4 (1.20am)

Murder On The Orient Express

Kenneth Branagh takes on Agatha Christie’s classic 1934 whodunnit and casts himself as Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian sleuth. On board the famous train when murder ensues are gangster Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), his secretary Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), governess Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), widow Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Princess Natalia Dragomiroff and her maid Hildegarde (Dame Judi Dench and Olivia Colman respectively) missionary Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz). Remember: Christmas ain’t Christmas without an Agatha Christie mystery.

December 28, Channel 4 (9pm)

The Meg

What do you do when you come across a 75-foot long megalodon shark swimming along the floor of the Pacific Ocean, after you’ve said: ‘My what teeth you have!’ and ‘I thought you became extinct three million years ago’? You send for Jason Statham, of course. He plays diver Jonas Taylor, the man who pits his wits and his pecs against the underwater creature. Think Jaws-meets-Jurassic Park-meets-Lost World.

December 28, Channel 5 (9pm)


Before Parasite, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho turned 1980s graphic novel Snowpiercer into a big screen extravaganza with such aplomb it was spun-off into a TV series. We’re in a post-apocalyptic world beset by a new Ice Age where the only thing still running is a train. A very, very long train in which the poor are relegated to the rear while the elites swan around in the front – a microcosm of society, in other words. But all that’s about to change … Chris Evans (pictured below), Tilda Swinton and Joon-ho regular Song Kang-ho (the dad in Parasite) all feature.

December 28, Film 4 (11.35pm)

The Herald:

A Star Is Born

The third remake of the rags-to-riches story, this one features Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as country music singer Jackson Maine and Ally, the singer he discovers in a drag bar and later marries. Cooper also directed and is as good as you’d expect: Lady Gaga is even better and garnered two Oscar nominations as a result, winning the one for Best Original Song.

December 29, BBC One (9pm)

Hot Fuzz

It isn’t quite the riot of fun that Shaun Of The Dead was, still this 2007 follow-up from SOTD collaborators Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is perfectly watchable. Pegg and Frost play bobbies on the beat, and the setting is a sleepy village in Gloucestershire where after a gentle preamble all manner of mayhem ensues as the trio send up virtually every action/buddy film under the sun.

December 29, STV (10.20pm)


Weird and wonderful 2019 film about a group of child soldiers stranded on a Colombian mountain top and tasked by their militia captain with guarding a kidnapped American doctor. Dream-like and hallucinogenic at points, it has an extraordinary soundtrack by British electronic musician and composer Mica Levi. Well worth staying up late for.

December 29, Film 4 (1.50am)


Adapted from Peter Quilter’s West End play and the recipient of an Oscar for its star, Renee Zellweger, this 2019 biopic centres on the trials and tribulations of the ageing Judy Garland as she blows into London for a series of concerts in 1968. It features songs such as Over The Rainbow and among a fine British supporting cast are Jessie Buckley and Rufus Sewell, playing Garland’s third husband, Sidney Luft.

December 30, BBC Two (9pm)


One of the best sci-fi films of the 2010s, and certainly one of the most moving, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Ted Chiang’s novella stars Amy Adams (pictured below) as a linguist called in to help communicate with one of a number of alien entities which have plonked themselves down at various locations on Earth. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker also star: the eight Oscar nominations tell you everything else you need to know. A wonderful film, well worth seeking out.

December 30, More4 (10.15pm)

The Herald:

Time Bandits

How well does Terry Gilliam’s fantastical 1981 comedy stand up? Well enough for an enjoyable afternoon in front of the telly. Craig Warnock stars as 11-year-old schoolboy Kevin, who finds himself whisked through time with a bunch of dwarves led by David Rappaport and having a series of adventures with (among others) Sean Connery’s King Agamemnon and John Cleese’s super-posh Robin Hood.

December 31, Film 4 (1.45pm)

When Harry Met Sally

Directed Rob Reiner and scripted by romantic comedy great Nora Ephron, this evergreen classic stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as (when we first meet them) recent college graduates who share a drive from Chicago to New York and signally fail to hit it off. More chance encounters follow, they become friends and then – well, wouldn’t you just know it? There’s the fake-orgasm-in-the-diner scene to look forward to of course and a heart-warming New Year’s Eve finale which, funnily enough, should just about coincide with our own clocks hitting midnight.

December 31, BBC Four (10.40pm)

Escape From New York

John Carpenter’s cult 1981 sci-fi is the perfect antidote to any New Year’s Eve cheer you might be feeling: violent, silly and utterly brilliant from start to finish it’s an always welcome addition to the late night schedules. The plot: it’s 1997, the US president’s plane has gone down in New York, now a fenced-off prison where the law of the jungle presides. So the authorities send for jailbird Snake Plissken and make him an offer he literally can’t refuse: go in and find him. Kurt Russell is Snake, Donald Pleasence is the Prez and also in the cast are Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, soul legend Isaac Hayes and Ernest Borgnine. Enjoy!

December 31, Film 4 (11.35pm)

Red Notice

Just the thing for the evening after the night before, this fun-but-brainless crime caper has its tongue firmly in its cheek from start to finish. Dwayne Johnson stars as FBI profiler John Hartley while Ryan Reynolds is Nolan Booth, the audacious, fast-talking art thief he sets out to capture. Standing between them is the figure of The Bishop (Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, pictured below, having the time of her life), the only global art thief who’s more audacious than Booth. Who will finally lay their hands on Cleopatra’s eggs, the prize-to-end-all-prizes?

Streaming now on Netflix

The Herald:


Tom Hardy stars as dark and conflicted superhero Venom in this 2018 Marvel romp from Gangster Squad director Ruben Fleischer. The plot involves extra-terrestrial life forms which infect their host and often kill them, though when Hardy’s investigative reporter Eddie Brock is infected he becomes, well, superhuman. Michelle Williams plays Brock’s lawyer girlfriend, Riz Ahmed an unscrupulous businessman seeking to profit from the life-forms.

January 1, Film 4 (9pm)

The Lost Daughter

Based on Elena Ferante’s novel, this psychological thriller stars Olivia Colman and marks the directorial debut of actor Maggie Gyllenhaal. Colman is Leda Caruso, a middle-aged divorcee holidaying on her own but who becomes obsessed with a loud, extended family vacationing nearby, and in particular with young mother Nina and her daughter. Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard and Jessie Buckley also star.

Streaming from December 31 on Netflix