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As exam week is approaching, so is the holiday season, which means cold, darkness, but hopefully also free time. I watch movies every week, but I get especially excited when I get to watch them with my family during this season. I am guilty of watching super cliché Christmassy movies, but I do know these are just feel-good movies and that not everyone appreciates the holidays. However, you should never skip a good movie session while under your blankets with a cup of coffee or tea. So here is my selection filled with classics, clichés but also not so known movies which hopefully will provide you something new and fun to watch.

1. The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola 

The pure definition of old but gold. For those who love stories around the Italian mafia, but also for those who don’t. 

The Godfather is the first movie of a trilogy based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name. Puzo joined Coppola to write a screenplay that would originate one of the most iconic movies in a variety of aspects. The movie transcended the gangster genre with its meaningful storytelling and character development of the Corleone family members. And additionally, one cannot ignore its memorable score and dialogues. 

It is classified, by me, as suitable for the holidays for the one fact that it has a scene set during Christmas, but ultimately because one of its largest themes is family. 

Even if you are not the biggest film buff, you should watch this at least once in your life, so why not this holiday season?

2. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), directed by Vincente Minnelli

I bet you have never seen this one. Truth be told, it was a classic at the time, yet I only discovered this after watching the movie Sex And The City (Carrie watches it during New Year’s Eve). It is a musical set during Christmas time, and then again around a family and the state of feeling at home. Besides having numerous great songs, it also has the incredible Judy Garland as the protagonist!

3. The Holiday (2006), directed by Nancy Meyers

Did someone say cliché? I did, and gladly! This is a romantic film that follows the lives of two women who decide to swap houses during the holiday season since they both recently ended their relationships. I will not tell more; I can just promise an endearing story that will make you laugh and maybe cry. This one is mainly about love, not just romantic, but within a family and a job as well. With Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz as protagonists and Hans Zimmer behind the score, you owe this movie a chance! A chance to relax and let your guard down.

4. Home Alone (1990), directed by Chris Columbus

Just thought I should also include one that you have already watched as a reminder to re-watch it this year! What else can I say except that it is a holiday classic? Tired of this one? Watch the second one!

5. Little Women (2019), directed by Greta Gerwig

This is the seventh adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name, and as someone who has watched four out of these seven (the versions of 1933, 1949, 1994 and 2019 – couldn’t bother to finish the 2018 version!), I can tell you that if you must pick one, go with this recent one. As The Godfather is a classic for cinema, Little Women is a classic for literature. These two works of art share a family theme and the fact that they are not heavily focused on Christmas – at least from my perspective. Little Women is a drama suitable for all ages, with an amazing cast and a palette of colours and wardrobe to die for. If you are looking for something not as cliché but still heart-warming, this is my pick!

6. The Sound of Music (1965), directed by Robert Wise

Musical haters, don’t hate me. What is the holiday season without some songs? This is the second and last musical I’ll include.

This movie is included in this list because where I come from, they show it on television every year during the holidays, and after some research, I came to the conclusion that this is also a tradition in the US and in the UK. If it is not on your list, it should be. Set in 1938, in Salzburg, The Sound of Music introduces the Von Trapp family within music and historical drama. If you are not left with a huge desire to visit Austria afterwards, well… good for you!

7. Klaus (2019), directed by Sergio Pablos

People like to say the holidays are about children and providing them a magical time. What are the holidays without animated movies? Truthfully, anyone, regardless of age, can enjoy what a breath of fresh air this movie’s style of animation is. It is beautiful to look at and it makes you feel hugged as a Christmas movie should. Even if the plot is not the most complex and is a bit childish, it is a wholesome movie that reminds you of the importance of being kind.

8. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), directed by Peter Jackson

Fans of fantasy I’ve got you covered! Usually, Harry Potter makes the cut for all of these lists, but I assume you’ve already binge-watched the entire saga this year, so I leave here the obvious alternative: The Lord of the Rings. There is nothing like embarking on a magical journey among trustful companions through breath-taking scenery. 

9. Love Actually (2003), directed by Richard Curtis

I think I did a good job staying away from clichés, but I couldn’t help myself from mentioning the BEST holiday movie ever (this is a total impartial statement, obviously). What else can we ask from a holiday movie but multiple stories of ordinary people that are somehow related or connected to each other? By including so many different characters, the lessons and perspectives we get to see are numerous and therefore we can always find relatability somewhere, either if we are a prime minister or a gift-wrapper. Out of this list, this might be the movie with the most extensive well-known cast. On top of this, the soundtrack and screenplay are divine – funny and sweet at the same time. Love Actually goes full-on Christmassy and touchy on the feelings!

If that didn’t convince you, I will leave here my favourite quote:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

Prime Minister in Love Actually

10. Arthur Christmas (2011), directed by Sarah Smith

There is not a strong reason for Arthur Christmas to be here. I just felt that animation and simplicity were missing from the list. A movie that can take you on an adventure and not ask too much of you – just that you have a good time. A movie to watch by yourself, with kids or with the family, Arthur Christmas launches the idea of Santa being based on a hereditary monarchy. The characters are not one-dimensional and the worldbuilding is complex and creative which allows for anyone to enjoy it.

These were my personal picks for this season, I hope you found something different that makes your free time during these holidays more cheerful!

Ana Leandro

Helsinki '22

Student of Politics and Communication with a huge passion for film and travelling.
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