There’s more to Christmas than It’s A Wonderful Life, Die Hard and Home Alone

Forget the obvious seasonal movie classics, Graeme Virtue says it's time to freshen up the Christmas canon with a few easily overlooked festive gems

We can all agree it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But when it comes to the movies that get dusted off in December for audiences in search of seasonal cheer, it increasingly feels like we’re experiencing a yule logjam. This week sees the umpteenth cinema run-out for It’s A Wonderful Life, a reliable cockle-warmer that is now 72 years old, while modern favourites Die Hard and Home Alone have also recently been given the rerelease treatment. Surely it’s time to cast the net a little wider? The must be some other films – apart from the dreaded Nativity franchise – that deserve some time in the snowy spotlight? Here are a few suggestions to update the Christmas canon.

Anna And The Apocalypse (2018)

Good news! There’s a potential future Christmas cult classic that is still in cinemas right now. Anna And The Apocalypse is the frosty zombie musical you didn’t even realise you wanted, a scrappy but spirited combination of Night Of The Living Dead and The Greatest Showman that manages to combine upbeat songs with desperate survival as a likeable bunch of schoolies wrestle with both the walking dead and teenage angst before the December break. Among the mostly incapable adults, Paul Kaye puts in a wicked performance as self-loathing deputy head Mr Savage.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Screenwriter-turned-director Shane Black has always had a thing about the holidays: his breakthrough script for Lethal Weapon is set during a typically snow-free December in Los Angeles, while The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang also use the festive season as an atmospheric backdrop for his trademark motormouth action. In Iron Man 3 – perhaps the last Marvel movie to bear a distinctive director’s stamp – Black strips flippant playboy Tony Stark of both his physical and emotional armour, stranding him in a snowy small town at Christmas until he rediscovers his mojo.

The Bourne Identity (2001)

Does he know it’s Christmas-time at all? In this lickety-split thriller, Matt Damon is an amnesiac secret agent who is so determined to find out whether he’s been naughty or nice that he remains oblivious to the fact that everyone else is in a festive mood, despite there being snow everywhere as he is pursued by shadowy forces across Europe. Even when Bourne does come across a Christmas tree in a French country safehouse, he’s more interested in intuiting where the owner might have stashed a shotgun. (Spoiler: he’s mostly been naughty.)

Just Friends (2005)

Ryan Reynolds is now a proper Hollywood power player, confident enough to enter the crowded Christmas market with a PG version of Deadpool 2 given a festive makeover and retitled Once Upon A Deadpool. But back in 2005, he was just another handsome but overly sarcastic actor trying to make rom-coms great again. In the slapstick but enjoyably heartfelt Just Friends, RyRey plays a sculpted, ladykilling music exec who unexpectedly crash-lands back in his hometown for the holidays, a place where everyone – even his childhood crush Amy Smart – remembers him as a chubby kid with a fanatical love of boybands.

The Package (1989)

Gene Hackman may have rocked a Santa outfit as a hard-boiled undercover cop in The French Connection but The Package is definitely his greatest Christmas movie: a dad-friendly Cold War thriller that, sadly, has nothing to do with unwrapping presents. The titular package is self-amused assassin Tommy Lee Jones, a US black ops agent who has the visiting Russian president in his sights. In this gritty caper, he slips away from the custody of Hackman’s dogged master sergeant to feather a sniper’s nest in a jolly Peace On Earth display in snowy Chicago.

Rocky IV (1985)

How To Train Your Drago: with the current hype surrounding Creed II – where young Adonis Creed faces off with Viktor Drago, son of the towering Russian fighter who killed his father in the ring – it’s easy to forget that Rocky IV is actually a Christmas movie, perhaps because an unsanctioned 15-round boxing match in the Soviet Union staged on December 25 doesn’t exactly scream “goodwill to all men”. Still, Sylvester Stallone’s DIY snowbound training regime remains an inspiration for anyone looking to get fit in January.

The rerelease of It’s A Wonderful Life is in cinemas from December 13