Our Santas’ Favourite Christmas Films

Stills from The Grinch, Home Alone and Elf

A recent poll may have put It’s A Wonderful Life top of the festive film charts but our Secret Santas have decided that it’s a more recent Christmas classic that tops the charts. Entertainment journalist Maria Realf takes a look…

Along with the turkey, tinsel and tree, Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without a festive film (or five). Whether you’re a hopeless romantic, action addict or traditionalist, there’s something to suit everyone – but what to watch first? To help you decide, Action For Children polled more than 5,000 people to find our fave Christmas flicks of all time.

Leading the way like Rudolph – with 15% of the votes – is 2003 comedy Elf. Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, a human raised by elves who returns to New York in search of his real dad. With sackloads of silliness and Santa banter, this one should have you ho‐ho‐hoing your winter socks off (if not, there’s still time to ask Father Christmas for a sense of humour).

And the laughs keep on coming, with Chris Columbus’s hilarious Home Alone nabbing the second spot (11%). When eight‐year‐old Kevin is accidentally left behind after his family jet off on hols, he finds himself having to defend the fort against a pair of would‐be burglars. Expect chaos, cunning and a standout turn from a young Macaulay Culkin.

Stealing into third place is The Grinch (7%), whose mean, green ways have proved perennially popular come Christmas. Ron Howard’s 2000 live‐action adaptation starring Jim Carrey has long been a festive favourite, but this year also brings a new animated treat to the table, with Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the cantankerous title character.

In fourth is an all‐time Christmas classic: Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life may be more than 70 years old, but its enduring appeal shows no sign of waning (5%). And hot on its heels – a mere 3 votes behind – is my personal festive indulgence of choice, Love Actually (also 5%). All‐star cast? Check. Cheesy Christmas songs? Check. Best end‐of‐term concert ever? Check, check and triple check.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, family‐friendly films dominate the list, with The Polar ExpressMiracle on 34th Street and Santa Claus: The Movie adding a sprinkling of magic to spots six through to eight (Nativity and Arthur Christmas round out the most popular picks). But some voters were keen to think outside the gift box, with alternatives such as Die Hard and Gremlins also earning nominations (though the lone wolf who voted for the Tesco advert perhaps needs to get to the cinema more…).

With previous heavyweights such as Frozen and The Snowman both failing to make the top ten (you’re either humming ‘Let It Go’ or ‘Walking In The Air’ now, aren’t you?), audiences may be busy discovering new favourites over the festive break. Contenders include The Greatest Showman – which broke the UK digital download record earlier this year – and Mary Poppins Returns, which flies into cinemas, umbrella in hand, later this week. Whether they’ll still be wowing audiences in five, ten or 70 years time remains to be seen, but they’re bound to keep kids (both big and little!) entertained this winter.

So sit back, relax and whatever you end up watching (or rewatching), I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a film‐filled New Year…

Maria Realf is author of The One, published by HarperImpulse, available now at