Christmas movies to bring back childhood wonder

Elisabetta Pulcini talks us through the films that remind us of the magic of our childhood Christmases

Elisabetta Pulcini
12th December 2019
It is inevitable. Once you grow up, Christmas loses that magic. You are no longer excited to get up in the morning, and find gifts under the tree. The decorations appear tacky and played out. Yet some movies can still delight and recreate that wonderful feeling of trepidation and joy, while at the same time delivering a compelling story reflective of what our own unrealistic expectations have made of this holiday.  

Home Alone (1990)

In Home Alone, Kevin McCallister goes through a rollercoaster of extreme situations, which serve to deliver emotions with the same intensity they are felt throughout childhood. The 8 year-old goes from being rejected and neglected by its own family, to then being embraced and admired. From being afraid in his own home, to ruthlessly protecting it. From being left alone on Christmas, to reuniting with his mother. This movie captivates children with well-made action stunts and relatable stars, and delight adults by transporting them back to a time where everything is an adventure, and all the fixes to your life are simple and effective.

Elf (2003)

The premise of Elf could have easily proposed a cynical look on the holiday. In fact, while Buddy charms with his unconditional love of Christmas, the world around him is set up in opposition to him and, to an extent, the viewer expects to see the cheerful protagonist getting crushed by reality. After all, the image of a full grown man in an elf costume might appear somewhat grotesque, in the hands of less capable creators. However, not for a moment is this movie anything but uplifting and good natured. The viewer, overwhelmed by Will Ferrell hilarious interpretation, finds themselves inspired, with a new hopeful outlook on the world. 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is probably the more realistic out of these movies. This is fitting to the way Christmas is experienced during adulthood. The expectations the patriarch of the family, Clark Griswold, has for each aspect of the holiday mirror our own, and are exactly what end up making Christmas such a disappointment for most adults. However, the movie takes the protagonist through a journey of discovering the Christmas spirit in the most unexpected ways. This helps the viewer to recognize the dysfunctions and disappointments of this season, while at the same time make light of them. The movie lifts the exhausting burden of having to have a perfect Christmas, and simply focuses on having a good time.   

Edward Sissorhands (1990)

Maybe an unconventional pick, Edward Scissorhands definitely deserves a mention. The imagery of snow, the delicate soundtrack and the masterful performances contribute to creating this wonderfully dark fairy tale. While never sacrificing its identity, the melancholic message touches on the values we have come to associate with Christmas. This movie should appeal to anyone hoping for a white, but quiet Christmas.  

Although Christmas was undeniably born as a commercial holiday, these movies help us find what we have come to expect out of it, whether it is magic, realization, or simply fun.

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AUTHOR: Elisabetta Pulcini
Film Editor 19/20 and Law (LLB) graduate. An Italian passionate about journalism and the law: always up for a debate. @ElisabettaPul

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