At Christmas time, everybody loves to rewatch the same few festive classics they’ve been watching for years on end. Of all the Christmas movies that we all sit round the fireplace to watch, there are some standout moments that stay long in the memory, beyond the festive season. So, here are my picks for the top 5 best scenes in Christmas movies.
5. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town – Elf (2003)
We start with a rather personal choice, because while Elf is already a beloved Christmas classic, it’s more known for its hilarious comedy than its emotional weight.
However, if there’s one thing that really stands out to me about Elf, then it’s the delightfully heartwarming finale, as Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) does all he can to help a stranded Santa Claus in Central Park on Christmas Eve, while his family and friends partake in a rousing communal rendition of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town that reignites the Christmas spirit necessary to get Santa’s sleigh moving once again.
Okay, it sounds horribly cheesy put like that, however the scene is my ultimate guilty pleasure when it comes to showing the true magic of Christmas on the big screen. A great modern carol, a wonderful festive atmosphere, and all the Christmas spirit you can imagine, it’s a scene that always touches me like few others, often even moving me to tears with its immense positivity.
Read a full review of Elf here.
4. Ho Ho Ho – Die Hard (1988)
Yes, I’m one of those people. Die Hard IS a Christmas movie, but not only that, it’s one of the best action thrillers of all time – featuring some of the most memorable movie moments of the last few decades.
While the film is filled to the brim with endlessly quotable lines and heart-pounding action, there’s nothing that sums up the movie’s brilliant maverick persona better than this scene, where terrorist mastermind Hans Gruber, thinking he has taken full control of the building, is met with a fantastically tongue-in-cheek threat from a certain John McClane, ‘Now I Have A Machine Gun, Ho Ho Ho’, written on the body of a dead henchman.
For all the big-budget action that Die Hard is well known for, the film really stands out because of the character of John McClane, light years away from a typical Hollywood action hero, but instead a tired, irritated and sarcastic policeman who gets caught up in the chaos at Nakatomi Plaza, and there’s no moment in the movie that sums that personality up better than this.
Read a full review of Die Hard here.
3. Finale – It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s A Wonderful Life is the enduring Christmas movie, delighting generations across the world for over 70 years, with its heartfelt and moving message about family and self-confidence that still holds undoubted relevance to this day.
While a deeply kind man, Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey feels that his life is not worth living, and on the verge of ending his own life, he is met by an angel who shows him the value of his life, and what would happen if he weren’t around. It’s a story that’s pretty much the stuff of legends now, but with that cross between real-world emotional drama and fairytale-esque imagination, It’s A Wonderful Life has a certain element of Christmas magic that few others can ever hope to achieve.
And that’s all wonderfully brought together in the film’s finale, as Bailey returns to normality after having experienced what the world would be like if he never existed, taking an emotional embrace with his family, and as he’s reminded by his guardian angel that ‘no man is a failure who has friends’, the film concludes with a stirring rendition of Auld Lang Syne, a beautiful ending to a truly beautiful Christmas classic.
Read a full review of It’s A Wonderful Life here.
2. Keep The Change, Ya Filthy Animal – Home Alone (1992)
If there’s a real fan favourite in the festive genre nowadays, it has to be Home Alone, a staple piece of nostalgia for all things 1990s, but all the more thanks to its many, many hilarious moments, as young Kevin McCallister wards off two clumsy robbers with all manner of contraptions and tricks around his house.
If there’s one of Kevin’s tricks that stands out more than any, however, it has to be his ingenious deployment of a VHS of an old gangster movie called ‘Angels With Filthy Souls’. As burglars Harry and Marv approach the McCallisters’ back door, Kevin perfectly times the video tape to scare the robbers away, as the movie’s gunshot sounds terrify the boy’s adversaries.
And if that wasn’t ingenious enough for you, Kevin hilariously mimes the on-screen character’s after-the-shot quip: ‘Keep the change, ya filthy animal’, brilliantly embodying the audacity and charisma that his young character is so well loved for.
Read a full review of Home Alone here.
1. The Christmas Truce – Joyeux Noël (2005)
You’re likely to have heard of all the films on this list so far, however Christian Carion’s Joyeux Noël has never hit the worldwide fame of some of the big Hollywood Christmas classics.
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2005, the movie tells the story of the legendary Christmas Truce of 1914, as soldiers from opposing sides of the trenches dropped their weapons and engaged in festive celebrations together, despite the intensity of the war between them at that point.
You’ll likely know the story of the Christmas Truce, but you’ve never seen it portrayed in such stunning fashion on the big screen. In Joyeux Noël, a German soldier sings Christmas carols to his fellow countryman in his trench, only to hear the noise of a bagpipe playing along to his music from the British trenches. Stunned by this symbol of friendship, he then continues his song for all those around to hear, eventually walking out of the trench and into no-man’s-land as he beautifully serenades the surrounding soldiers with powerful carols.
Lots of movies talk about the ‘true meaning of Christmas’, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that hits the nail on the head quite so much as Joyeux Noël, emphasising the power and meaning of the holiday to so many, and providing a deeply moving portrayal of what happens when people come together, overcoming even the greatest, most vicious divides to celebrate Christmas, and that’s what makes it the best scene in a Christmas movie ever for me.
Read a full review of Joyeux Noël here.