The festive season is upon us! For film fans such as you or I that means the chance to revel in the cozy warmth of our most beloved Christmas movies. Whether it’s a preferred version of a well-loved tale (The Muppet Christmas Carol), a family-friendly laugh fest (still The Muppet Christmas Carol), or a barnstorming sing-a-long (again… The Muppet Christmas Carol), as the evenings draw in so too are we drawn to screens both big and small.

Everyone has their favourites (you can probably guess mine…), but films which warm the heart don’t always rake it in at the box office. The reverse is true too, with Paul Feig’s charming but paper-thin Last Christmas doing extremely well with festive audiences while barely troubling anyone’s Top Ten movies of the year.

The merry folks over at Betway have taken a look to see what makes a successful Christmas movie, and the results are very interesting. Home Alone (and its city-set sequel) naturally are leading the way, nestled among a very surprising pair of Grinch movies. Will Ferrell’s Elf seems to rule social media the moment December rolls around and makes the list just below Richard Curtis’s Love Actually. A neat surprise is the almost forgotten While You Were Sleeping, an early rom-com vehicle for Sandra Bullock. It’s not a sterling film, but its heart is in the right place.

The full list, and further details are below, with the not-unexpected findings that Christmas films are mainly well served by the fantasy and romantic genres. Unless it’s Die-Hard (which IS obviously a Christmas Movie…)

Take a look.


The BBC’s film critic Nicholas Barber gives his opinion on what the findings tell us.

“I thought Last Christmas was painful to watch but the poster’s pretty good, it’s got a good title, it’s got these good-looking young people who are laughing and have nice Christmassy clothes on with snow and twinkly lights. So I can imagine wanting to go and see it.

These obviously do work, this is still a genre where you can spend not that much and do well. Love Actually cemented the idea that you could put a romantic comedy out at Christmas and absolutely make a mint.

If I was a British film producer I’d definitely be making them.”

There are films which have long been part and neatly-wrapped parcel of the Christmas season. While many films which are now revered classics had terrible first reviews, some were beloved from the start. One of these is my other seasonal favourite, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Not only is Jimmy Stewart outrageously charming he seems effortlessly convincing when plunging to the depths of despair. Combined with Capra’s cinematic magic it became a hit instantly, with The Hollywood Reporter’s Jack D. Grant (who was clearly sponsored by the word ‘Wonderful’) being enraptured. He wrote:

It’s a Wonderful Life is a wonderful title for a motion picture about which practically everyone who sees it will agree that it’s wonderful entertainment. 

And that’s exactly what you want when you snuggle up by the fire and disappear into your favourite Christmas film (The Muppet Christmas Carol).