• Chris Mads

Christmas Film Advent Calendar

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

There are 24 days until Christmas - and we are going to be digging out a slice of festive film goodness every day.

But these are not just your standard heavy hitters, oh no, we are going in search of saccharine sensations and Christmas cringes.

Each film will be given a Christmas Tree rating to reflects its festive value.

So, what will we find?


Starring: Vanessa Hudgens

Christmas Card Synopsis: A cynical American high school teacher meets an out-of-time 14th century knight who is on a quest for love before Christmas Eve.

Christmas Cracker: [watching TV]

“It’s a livestream of the Tower of London”

“That’s an extraordinary number of prisoners”

High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens makes what will probably not be her last appearance on this list, in what is essentially a kock-off of Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan's Kate & Leopold. Poldark's Josh Whitehouse is the time-travelling Sir Cole (not 'circle'). He has been blinked from 1300s Norwich (which is all snow-kissed trees) to modern-day America, where he sweeps Hudgens' cyncial-in-love teacher off her feet. Christmas Cliché's abound, from magic wishes to children who are better judges of character than the adults. This is an easy one to unwrap; you can see where it is going from the outset and it gets there with little trouble.

Verdict: 🎄🎄🎄

2. Christmas at The Plaza

Starring: Elizabeth Henstridge, Ryan Paevey, Bruce Davison

Christmas Card Synopsis: A historian hired to document the history of New York's Plaza hotel discovers there is more to the holiday than the facts with the help of a Christmas decorator.

Christmas Cracker: [Investigating why Christmas lights aren't working]

"The primary conductive system isn't acheiving maximum wattage polarity due to an oxygen breach"

"I'm sorry?"

"Someone pulled out the plug."

This film is packed with all the charm and goodness you want from a festive flick, but wraps it in a story which manages to keep you engaged from beginning to end. While you can see the mandatory happy ending coming from a mile off, it manages to throw in some charming twists along the way. Henstridge (with a slightly iffy American accent) and Paevey have more sparkle than many leading duos and they happily share the spotlight with their co-star - Christmas itself. Added bonus points for using actual, recognisable Christmas songs.

Verdict: 🎄🎄🎄🎄

3. Baking Christmas

Starring: Kahlilah Joi, Leigh-Ann Rose, Arnell Powell, Aloma Wright

Christmas Card Synopsis: After a mother decides to retires and sell her bakery, three siblings come home to see who will take over. As they compete for the prize, they discover there is more at stake than the family business.

Christmas Cracker: [Smoke pours out of the oven]

"Is that one of your Michelin-starred dishes?"

This family-heavy baking drama is long on sugar and cast members. It features the usual 'bring the family home for Christmas' central motif, and each sibling is given their own storyline so no one is reduced to a supporting role. This does mean that none of them get much time to develop, but the story and central message are so sweet that it really doesn't matter.

Verdict: 🎄🎄

4. Noelle

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Shirley MacLaine, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Bill Hader

Christmas Card Synopsis: When Noelle Kringle’s brother disappears days before he is due to take over as Santa, she sets out to find him. Along the way, she discovers there is more to Christmas than delivering presents.

Christmas Cracker: “No one wants you sliding into their fireplace all crying and weeping.”

This Disney Christmas film is very much a vehicle for Anna Kendrick and she is delightful and hilarious as the naive Noelle - indeed, she is almost so likeable that her redemption arc is a little lost until the end. Nevertheless, this delivers a huge does of feel-good festive fun. The story is pacey and self-aware and filled with brilliant characters. Like any Disney film, it delivers a couple of laughs for the grown-ups and the odd emotional twist - along with the cutest baby reindeer ever. As perfect as a peppermint hot chocolate.

Verdict: 🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

5. I'll Be Home For Christmas

Starring: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Jessica Biel

Christmas Card Synopsis: Spoiled chancer Jake is only heading back home for Christmas so he can gtethis dad's vintage Porsche, but when he wakes up in the desert with nothing but a Santa suit, he goes on a journey which reveals the true holiday spirit.

Christmas Cracker: "Package people, do not unwrap yourselves!"

While some films, like a fine wine, get better with age, this one is more of a Christmas turkey. The 90s frat-boy schtick doesn't quite land anymore and the overall effect of the film is a little bit soulless as a result. It is coming-of-age nonsense, with a hefty dose of slapstick and Christmas silliness, but don't think too much while you're watching it.

Verdict: 🎄

6. 48 Christmas Wishes

Starring: Madeline Leon, Clara Kushnir, Liam MacDonald, Ethan Yang

Christmas Card Synopsis: When a trio of junior elves destroy of all of a town's Christmas wishes, they set off to find them out in person. But, on arrival, they find a family who need more than presents to make their wishes come true.

Christmas Cracker: "Mighty Mistletoe, look at all those humans."

Putting children at the heart of Christmas film imbues it with a certain sense of charm, but only if they can tell the story. This one gets stuck between magical nonsense and human emotion and both get a bit lost in the dodgy script and acting. The premise promises harmless fun, but ends up just being fairly harmless. Terrible, but not really in the best way.

Verdict: 🎄

7. Angela's Christmas

Starring: Malachay McCourt, Ruth Negga, Lucy O'Connell

Christmas Card Synopsis: Young Angela is worried that Baby Jesus will be cold in his manger on Christmas Eve, but her efforts to warm him up do not go to plan.

Christmas Cracker: "Well then, I guess we'll have to lock you up for stealing the Baby Jesus."

This is a beautifully made short, which follows the adventures of a little girl in Ireland in the early 1900s. Unlike many on this list it is not long on laughs, outpourings of love or sparkles of magic, but watch closely and you will find all three contained within. Very sweet, if not that jolly.

Verdict: 🎄🎄🎄

8. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Cahterine O'Hara

Christmas Card Synopsis: The king of Hallowe'en town feels something is missing from his life, but when he falls in love with Christmas the stage is set for a disaster which could end the holiday all together.

Christmas Cracker: "Since I am dead, I can take off my head to recite Shakesperean quotations."

From the mind of Tim Burton comes a film unlike any festive flick you have ever seen before. The songs are incredibly catchy and the story is populated with charming, amusing and odd-ball characters, who serve up a Christmas story like none you have ever seen before,

Verdict: 🎄🎄🎄🎄

9. Four Christmases