BRITISH XMAS FILMS AND POPULAR CHRISTMAS TO WATCH OVER THE FESTIVE SEASON
With its beautiful countryside and vibrant cities, the UK makes a prime destination for any tourist, and any movie buff. Over the years, it’s been the setting for tons of iconic films, and thanks to its reputation for cold weather, plenty of these are festive.
There may not be as many Christmas movies set in the UK as there are in America, but it still has an impressive —and magical—library of festive stories. Christmas movies set in the UK cover a range of genres, from romantic comedies to fantasy tales, in both live-action and animation. No matter the style, though, they’re sure to entertain and delight.
The Snowman (1982)
Stream on Amazon Prime Video
A staple on British television every Christmas, The Snowman tells the story of a young boy, James, whose snowman comes to life and takes him to visit Santa Claus.
The entire film is wordless, save for the musical performance of “Walking in the Air” – The Snowman‘s haunting-but-beautiful festive tune that serves as its most enduring legacy. Visually, however, the highlight is definitely the flight over the English landscape, as James and the Snowman witness landmarks such as the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Palace Pier.
Last Christmas (2019)
Stream on FuboTV
Released in 2019, Last Christmas is heavily inspired by the song of the same name by British boyband Wham! The influence of the song is very literal, as the movie’s plot takes directly from the song’s lyrics. It follows Kate (Emilia Clarke), who had a heart transplant last Christmas. Throughout the movie, she falls for Tom (Henry Golding), who, in the movie’s late twist, is revealed to be the ghost of the man who gave the heart to her.
For the most part, Last Christmas is very sweet, even though the plot twist made for an unwelcome conclusion for some. However, the real star of the movie is definitely London, as Covent Garden and the city’s twinkling fairy lights bring an element of magic to the movie that would otherwise be missing.
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Stream on HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu
Technically, Arthur Christmas is set in the North Pole — for the most part. When Arthur (James McAvoy), Santa’s youngest son, realizes a child named Gwen has been left out of the Christmas preparations, he makes it his mission to trek to Cornwall in England in order to deliver her present.
From the Christmas jumpers to the elves, Arthur Christmas is a very charming story, that focuses on the whole of Santa’s family, including some of the most powerful versions of Santa Claus seen onscreen. When Arthur does finally get to Cornwall and deliver Gwen’s gift, he arrives in a village far snowier than any area of England has ever looked at Christmas. It might be a romanticized version of the English countryside, but it’s the white Christmas every Brit wishes they’d experience for real.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Stream on HBO Max
There are many scenes that make Harry Potter a perfect Christmas movie, but the first entry in the Harry Potter series is perhaps the most Christmas-focused of them all. While the festive sequence lasts less than ten minutes, it’s one of the most endearing in the entire movie and echoes The Sorcerer’s Stone’s wider themes of wonder and magic.
From the music and many decorations to the warm and cozy Great Hall—not to mention the fact that Harry receives proper gifts for the first time in his life—Christmas at Hogwarts is idyllic. Furthermore, the snowy Scottish landscapes add to the experience, making the castle seem all the more inviting.
About A Boy (2002)
Rent or buy on Amazon Video and Apple iTunes
While About A Boy isn’t strictly a Christmas movie, it is set at Christmastime. Will (Hugh Grant) attends single-parent meetings to woo women, but his secret is soon discovered by Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a troubled 12-year-old boy. The two gradually become friends, with Will helping Marcus with his studies while Marcus teaches Will the importance of responsibility.
All of this is against the backdrop of a London Christmas. It’s dark at times—especially with the plot line of Marcus’ mother’s depression—but ultimately uplifting.
Not currently available to stream
There’s a lot to love about Nativity! The musical-comedy sees teacher Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) scrambling to put on a blockbuster school nativity—a festive play about the story of Christmas—after lying to a friend that it was going to be attended by a Hollywood producer.
Freeman is as affable as ever as Paul and, as much of the film is improvised, there are plenty of genuinely warm, charming moments from the child actors. While Coventry in England isn’t often the setting of many movies, it’s part of what makes the story so realistic and relatable. Unsurprisingly, the movie’s success later led to a number of sequels.
A Christmas Carol (2009)
Stream on Disney+
There have been many movie adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol over the years, including one from Disney in 2009, an animated rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge’s story which starred Jim Carrey as the voice of Scrooge.
One of the best Christmas movies on Disney+, the 2009 A Christmas Carol is set in London, and while the movie received some criticism for its animation style, it renders Victorian London in hyperrealistic—and extremely festive—detail.
Love Actually (2003)
Stream on Peacock Premium
Though it generates strong opinions—both positive and negative—from viewers Love Actually is a Christmas classic. Beginning five weeks before Christmas, the movie explores various aspects of love through ten very different relationship dynamics.
Some of the relationships presented are more questionable than others, but the movie remains beloved by many. Saccharine or uncomfortable as some of Love Actually’s storylines may be, it’s near-impossible not to get sucked into director Richard Curtis’ magical recreation of London in the run-up to Christmas.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Stream on Disney+
Though it takes an unusual approach to its source material, many fans consider The Muppet Christmas Carol to be one of the best Christmas movies of all time. The Dickens adaptation is a clever take on a classic tale, with Michael Caine as Scrooge, surrounded by Muppets characters.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the world the Muppets are inhabiting in the movie is in fact Victorian England. However, it is just as atmospheric—if not more so—than any non-Muppet period movie. Highlights of the film include Kermit’s moving rendition of “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas” in a snowy London street and the iconic scene of Scrooge throwing his window open.
The Holiday (2006)
Stream on TNT and TBS
England isn’t only the setting for much of The Holiday, it’s also half of the plot. When both Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and Iris (Kate Winslet) run into roadblocks in their romantic lives, they decide to swap homes. Amanda flees to Iris’ snowy Surrey cottage, while Iris takes Amanda’s Los Angeles home.
Freezing cold though it may be, it’s the English half of the movie that serves the strongest festive vibes. Amanda’s love story with Graham (Jude Law) is very compelling, and the snowy Surrey landscape is the picture-perfect embodiment of what the perfect White Christmas would look like in the countryside.
It’s the most wonderful time of year again. Whether you like to get started on watching Christmas films the moment 1 Nov. strikes, or you usually wait until December, Netflix has a plethora of options to keep you occupied all season long. In 2022, the streamer has added some very exciting projects to make this the merriest and brightest year yet.
There’s Lindsay Lohan’s “Falling For Christmas,” a romantic comedy with lots of high jinks. Freddie Prinze Jr., meanwhile, stars in the new film “Christmas With You.”There’s also animated fare for the whole family, like “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol,” plus hordes of hidden gems you definitely don’t want to miss. Whether you want to revisit a beloved classic like “White Christmas” or check out iconic Netflix originals like “The Princess Switch,” there’s something on the streamer that you’ll absolutely love.
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