This past fall, I was marveling over how many books I’d read since moving to London that took place at least in part in London itself or England—a “marvel” because I wasn’t choosing them intentionally. London is just that kind of hub. So that had inspired me to compile my UK reading list for Halloween two months ago. I was thinking this week that I ought to now write up a Christmas version, but I don’t know if it’s the nostalgia of Christmas specials on TV or Christmas music playing in the background that I just can’t seem to think past the audiovisual Christmas stories . Hence, I’m running with a Christmas movie list instead.
My challenge here, however, is that chancing on British Christmas films is not as naturally reoccurring as British books. In fact, the more Irving Berlin I hear and Vince-Vaughn-as-Santa’s-brother I see, the more it dawns on me how much Christmas media is dominated by the States. I say that without a drip of arrogance, mind you. It’s merely an observation, and in scouring the internet to pull up more titles to offer here, I found discussion boards by Brits commenting on the same. It’s not that they’re not out there, they’re just apparently not widely enough known for an American expat in London to pick up on after only a couple Christmases here…so I would love for any UK locals that chance on this post to kindly add to list! Belinda, my British blogger friend, any ideas?
A Christmas Carol – Well, pick a version, any version of this infinitely retold tale—most recently by Disney—but remember they all stem from London’s own Charles Dickens. Personally, my favorite version is The Muppet Christmas Carol because I’m a huge dork and will never cease laughing and slapping my knee at the way Gonzo says Dickens’s original line, “And to Tiny Tim, who did not die…” (*hee*…excuse me…*slap!*…there, it passed). Yet it seems the version held most dear at large is the UK’s 1951 Scrooge, starring Alastair Sim in the title role. Ah, I do remember watching that one as a kid…
The Holly and the Ivy – I have not seen this one, but hear it’s underrated. In this 1952 film, an English minister and his family who have toiled through WWII are reunited at Christmas.
Love Actually – This one needs no introduction…this modern London Christmas tale took the US by storm as much as the UK.
The Holiday – This one offers a 50/50 split, ideal for the expat. American woman and British woman swap respective US and UK homes for the holidays. American woman falls in love with British man, and British woman falls in love with American man. There ya have it. It’s cute.
Nativity! – Haven’t seen this yet. Released last year, it’s a comedy about two British schools competing over which has the best nativity play.
The Bishop’s Wife – Yes, an American film, BUT with a stellar British cast (David Niven, Cary Grant, Gladys Cooper, and Elsa Lancaster), so this classic favorite of mine has always felt British to me…In any case, an angel answers a bishop’s prayer, teaching the bishop himself a lesson in what matters most in life.
Joyeux Noel – Okay, so it doesn’t take place in London and isn’t even British, but in the international spirit of things, I’m throwing it in. Scottish (see, there’s a little UK in it), French, and German troops peacefully unite on Christmas Eve amidst WWI.
Don’t Open Till Christmas – I should be ashamed including this, yet some evil force compels me…In this 1984 horror film, Scotland Yard seeks a killer who is murdering Santa Clauses all over London. *titter*
And if you think these last three were stretches (what did I tell you?!), wait for it…
Now for a few that aren’t even Christmas films, but incorporate the holiday enough to make for entertaining viewing this season:
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Part of the Witch’s curse over Narnia is that it experience eternal winter but never Christmas (Father Christmas himself also makes an appearance). The Pevensie children who rescue the land originally hail from London, and real-life series author C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and lived much of his adult life in Oxford, England.
Bridget Jones’s Diary – This is the movie that taught Americans that “sweaters” are called “jumpers” thanks to Colin Firth’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer garb.
Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone – ’tis heart-warming indeed to see Harry get to open real Christmas gifts for the first time at Hogwarts.
Huh. So considering several of the above are based on books, guess this could qualify as a reading list after all . Either way, snuggle up with a hot toddy and a movie/book in your London apartment to bask in the good cheer (unless you’ve chosen to watch Don’t Open Till Christmas…). And if you can’t spot any London locations in those, get off your keester and explore the real deals!