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What Makes A Christmas Movie?



Will Ferrell Elf image
New Line Cinema

With Christmas right around the corner, it’s Christmas-Movie-Marathon season. With staples like It’s a Wonderful Life to comedies like Elf, it’s a time to gather your friends and family, drink hot chocolate, and enjoy a good movie. But what makes a movie a Christmas movie? How does a movie have any staying power as a good Christmas movie?


A good Christmas movie has to be nostalgic. Sometimes, this means that the movie just has to be old. It’s A Wonderful Life was not a hit when it first came out in 1947. In fact, the film didn’t reach popularity until the 70s. Other movies like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Charlie Brown, and a Christmas Story fit this bill as well. You’ll notice too that a lot of beloved Christmas movies take place in the 90s, like The Santa Clause and Home Alone, which hits on the nostalgia of millennials. Most of these movies weren’t set out to be nostalgic when they came out, but they have the staying power to be nostalgic now.

Furthermore, most Christmas movies are about reconnecting with your inner child. Good Christmas movies should make you feel like a kid again.

A little sad

It seems counterintuitive to Christmas Cheer, but a good Christmas movie has to be a little bit sad. The best Christmas movies have a moment where everything feels lost. The Santa Clause opens drearily and deals with rough divorce. A Wonderful Life touches on suicide. Rudolph gets bullied. Even if the stakes are low or for children, there has to be a low moment in the film to make the higher moments better. If the film can make you sad, it has a greater potential for a more triumphant payout at the end.


It has to hit the Christmas aesthetic just right. A good thing to add to your Christmas movie is a John Williams score. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone feels like a Christmas movie because of the John Williams score. It needs to feel like a classic Christmas and must feel timeless. iPhones date a film and often makes it feel less like a Christmas movie (see that nostalgia point again). Too much modern technology somehow sucks some of the magic from it.

How much is too much Christmas?

It obviously has to be Christmassy, but not too much. If the movie feels like it’s hitting you over the head with Christmas, you’ve overshot how many candy canes you need. A good Christmas movie uses Christmas as a tool or a setting but is not ultimately about Christmas. Yes, Elf is about someone who grew up as one of Santa’s elves, but it’s about someone trying to reconnect to their real father. Home Alone takes place during Christmas, but it’s about a kid defending his house from robbers while his mother tries to get home to him. Christmas is a major element, but it is not the element. The plot can’t just be “Christmas.” There has to be more to it than that.

It has to be a good movie

This feels obvious, but it’s true. A good Christmas movie has to be a good movie first. It needs to be able to stand alone outside of Christmas. If the only thing a movie has going for it is that it’s Christmassy, it’s a bad movie and won’t become a classic. Even if the Christmas stuff is not as prominent, if the movie is good, it will have the staying power to become a classic.


What makes a movie a classic might not be what you think. It has to run on TV. If a television network decides it’s a Christmas movie and plays it around Christmas, it’s a Christmas movie. It’s A Wonderful Life only became a classic when it started playing around Christmastime on TV. Not a Christmas movie, but The Wizard of Oz became popular when it was released on television. In the era of streaming, this is going to be seeing which movies the streaming services push around Christmas and which ones tend to get watched over and over again. That being said, it’s going to be harder for movies to become “classics” without the TV boost.

Wrapping up (get it Ho Ho Ho)

What makes a good Christmas movie is pretty simple. It must be nostalgic, emotionally driven, and aesthetically pleasing. While also getting watched over and over again. The great Christmas movies are simple, comforting, and make you feel like a kid again.

That’s our list of what makes a Christmas movie. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out nine famous actors who have played Father Christmas HERE.

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Movie News

9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies



Wayne's World image
Paramount Pictures

There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.

1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)

Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.

2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.

3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)

You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.

4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.

5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)

Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.

6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)

I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.

7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)

This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.

8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)

We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.

9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.

That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.

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