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8 classic movies to watch over the holidays

Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel in Elf

Make some hot chocolate and grab a blanket: it’s time to get cozy and watch these festive favorites. By OLIVE WAKEFIELD


Elf 2003

Plot: After discovering that he’s actually a human, Buddy the Elf ventures from Lapland to New York City to track down his real father, Walter. But the six-foot man in an elf costume isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms…

Cast: Zooey Deschanel as Jovie, the object of Buddy’s affections, James Caan as his exasperated dad and comic genius Will Ferrell as Buddy make a stellar trio.

Mistletoe moment: Jovie’s coy, “You missed”, when Buddy plants a first festive kiss on her cheek.

Did you know? Before his career took off, Will Ferrell worked as a ‘mall Santa’ for five weeks, passing out candy canes in Pasadena, and drew on his experiences for the role.

Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually

Love Actually 2003

Plot: A web of saccharine storylines that all end up in one big Christmas love-in.

Cast: Who isn’t in this film? Expect appearances from Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Andrew Lincoln, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Bill Nighy.

Mistletoe moment: It’s got to be Mark (Lincoln) professing his love for the unattainable Juliet (Knightley), with a flashcard saying, “To me, you are perfect”.

Did you know? Emma Thompson filmed the heart-wrenching ‘crying to Joni Mitchell’ scene 12 times in a row. Writer/director Richard Curtis later revealed that the entire scene was unscripted, and only called for the character to “[put] on the record, and [let] the emotion show”. When asked to comment on her emotional portrayal, Thompson noted: “I’ve had so much bloody practice at crying in a bedroom and then having to go out and be cheerful, gathering up the pieces of my heart and putting them in a drawer.”

The Holiday 2006

Plot: When two heartbroken souls (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) trade their homes in the snowy English countryside and sunny LA, a number of surprising life lessons follow…

Cast: Jude Law and Jack Black join Diaz and Winslet to complete this all-star line-up.

Mistletoe moment: Any of the heart-warming scenes between Iris (Winslet) and her elderly neighbor, Old Hollywood screenwriter Arthur, played by beloved late actor Eli Wallach.

Did you know? The film was written specifically with the four lead actors in mind.

It’s A Wonderful Life 1946

Plot: George Bailey is a man on the brink of suicide on Christmas Eve. His guardian angel appears to stage an intervention, showing him what would have happened if he hadn’t been born.

Cast: James Stewart as Bailey, Donna Reed as his childhood sweetheart-turned-wife Mary, and Henry Travers as the angel, Clarence Odbody.

Mistletoe moment: When James Stewart realizes his huge mistake and begs to be reunited with his family. Grab the tissues.

Did you know? While it’s hard to imagine the holidays without this classic now, it initially bombed at the box office, putting its director Frank Capra in over half a million dollars of debt. Capra, who didn’t even think of the film as a festive tale when creating it, later said of its success: “It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen… I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I'm proud, but it’s the kid who did the work.”

Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands 1990

Plot: All-American girl Kim falls for Edward, the neighborhood outcast with hazardous hands, in this tale of forbidden love.

Cast: Baby-faced Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.

Mistletoe moment: Kim in that white dress, twirling with joy as Edward’s ice-sculpting scissors create falling snow around her.

Did you know? The movie’s screenwriter, Caroline Thompson, based the titular character on her beloved dog, who had passed away six years earlier – according to her, Depp wasn’t entirely sure how to play Edward until she told him about her eager, loving, clever pet.

Miracle on 34th Street 1994

Plot: An elderly man named Kris Kringle starts work as a department-store Santa Claus, winning over the hearts of his customers and boosting sales. But when he insists that he actually is Father Christmas, the store’s disgruntled rivals set out to ruin his reputation.

Cast: This Christmas favorite has been remade several times but this version is a standout, uniting the late, great Richard Attenborough with a super-cute, seven-year-old Mara Wilson as Susan, the little girl who has lost faith in Santa.

Mistletoe moment: The look on Susan’s face when all of her Christmas wishes finally come true.

Did you know? In the scene where Kris Kringle communicates with a deaf child, the young actress, Samantha Krieger, didn’t know that Attenborough would be using sign language. Her look of surprise, which appears in the film, is genuine.

Scrooged 1988

Plot: Successful but miserly TV executive Frank Cross is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to show him the error of his ways in this modern version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Cast: Bill Murray as Frank – that’s enough for us.

Mistletoe moment: That iconic ending where an absolved Frank leads the crowd in a grand singalong of Put a Little Love in Your Heart.

Did you know? If you can’t get enough Murray, you’re in luck: all three of his brothers make cameos in the film.

Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson in Miracle on 34th Street
Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone

Home Alone 1990

Plot: Every kid’s dream, really. Forgotten at home by his vacationing family, Kevin McCallister is left to his own devices, but two burglars threaten to disturb his fun.

Cast: Macaulay Culkin in his breakout role, alongside Catherine O’Hara as his long-suffering mom, and Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as the scheming burglars.

Mistletoe moment: The smile on Kevin’s face when his family walk through the door on Christmas Day.

Did you know? The McCallister’s house in Illinois is now a major tourist attraction – you can even show up for a guided tour.

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