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10 great films to watch on TV over Christmas

Family classics (and post-bedtime treats) to make a date with

By Time Out Film

Christmas is upon us. Not a normal Christmas, sure, but still a great chance to sit down with a glass of something warming and an overladen plate and watch some old – and new – films. Yes, you probably have Netflix, but there’s still something joyfully communal about dusting off the remote (it’s under the dog) and tuning in to terrestrial TV. Here are ten movies to pencil in over the next fortnight.

It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s not Christmas without a viewing of Frank Capra’s hardy perennial. We could probably all use a visit from Clarence, depressed bank manager George’s (Jimmy Stewart) guardian angel, this year but curling up with this feel-bad-then-feel-good classic is definitely the next best thing.
Channel 4, Dec 24, 2.35pm. 

Paddington 2
‘The Godfather II’ of CG bear capers, this is one of those sequels that actually improves on the (already rather special) original. A lot of that is down to Hugh Grant as deliriously OTT luvvie Phoenix Buchanan, a magnificently self-regarding villain and bane of our furry hero’s life. Scraps, mishaps and marmalade sandwiches.
BBC One, Dec 24, 4.15pm.

Ghost Stories
Not remotely a Christmas movie, this underrated Brit horror is still tailor-made for late on Christmas Eve when the kids are asleep and you’re in the mood for something spooky. A canny translation of the stage play, it follows supernatural skeptic Philip Goodman (Andy Nyman) into a triptych of skin-pricking twilight zones.
BBC Two, Dec 24, 12.15am.

There are Pixars aplenty on telly over Christmas – look out for ‘Brave’ on Boxing Day and the incomparable ‘Inside Out’ on December 28 – but this celebration of music and family ancestry, shot through with vibrant Mexican cultural touchstones, looks like a perfect pick for Christmas Day afternoon.
BBC One, Dec 25, 3.10pm.

La La Land
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling reprise their ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ chemistry with added songs, dancing and shimmering LA romance in a musical that will never not lift your spirits (unless you’re a staunch jazz purist, perhaps). Take a trip from Tier 4 to the City of Stars.
BBC Two, Dec 25, 10.10pm.

No one is calling Christopher Nolan’s ticking-clock thriller a festive movie but it is a very, very good one and perfect for some Boxing Day counter-progamming. If you’re on the lookout for more classic war films, ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ has you covered (Channel 5, Dec 29, 12.10pm).
BBC One, Dec 26, 9.05pm.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
This cheery Brit comedy will transport you to hotter, distant, marigold-er climes for a couple of hours. With a cast boasting Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton, it’s basically ‘The Avengers’ with a bus pass. 
Channel 5, Dec 28, 8pm.

North by Northwest
You may need something light after all that festive over-indulgence, so try this fizzy Hitchcock thriller in which Cary Grant’s unwitting ad exec tries to socially distance himself from a sinister spy conspiracy all the way from New York to Mount Rushmore. The electricity generated with Eva Marie Saint’s mysterious blonde could keep your Christmas tree lights twinkling until June.
BBC Two, Dec 30, 2.50pm.

Dirty Dancing
Even Baby and Johnny would have struggled to have the time of their lives in 2020, but they manage extremely well in 1963 in this enduring celebration of teenage romance, rebellion and improbable upper-body strength. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey await you.
Channel 5, Dec 30, 6pm.

The Greatest Showman
Just when you’ve finally dislodged those poppy earworms from the first time around, Hugh Jackman’s insanely catchy PT Barnum musical is back to surgically re-implant them in your brain. Resistance is futile. 
Channel 4, Jan 1, 5.30pm.

The 50 best Christmas movies to watch.

Christmas shows you can stream from London’s best theatres.


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