Rolling back the years to when I was seven years old, one of the most anticipated parts of Christmas for me was the TV schedule. The publication of the Christmas issues of the Radio Times and TV Times were more important to me than hunting down my presents hidden in, not so hard to find, places such as the top of my mum’s wardrobe. My mum really did get me the best presents at Christmas, lots of little but well considered gifts and then the blockbuster finale such as the below Millennium Falcon.
Movies, especially blockbuster movies when I was a child were a massive treat. Renting videos from the corner shop on a weekend always filled me with massive excitement; I was definitely the shop owner’s number one customer and he always reserved a copy of the latest releases for me. My elder brother and I would have movie marathon days where we would rent four or five films and watch them back-to-back. As my elder brother has five years on me, this meant I had access to films which I would be denied over the counter, and so my love for horror films was born. One marathon day from over 25 years ago was The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead II, Hellraiser and The Exorcist 2. How could anyone forget seeing Hellrasier for the first time? Big brother, I am very grateful for that experience.
So, with this background, it is easy to understand why the Christmas TV schedule was so important to me. Just like most children of the 80s, who religiously, every Sunday had fingers poised on their tape-to-tape (fully loaded with TDK D90s) radio recorder to record the UK top 40 chart, I would do the same with films as they were shown on TV.
Imagine the floor with my jaw firmly on it when the Radio Times Christmas cover announced with the largest font size possible: “800 movies, reviewed and rated”! Joy was followed swiftly by panic at the realisation I had four blank JVC cassettes left. The films that made the final cut were: Patriot Games, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a James Bond film (can’t remember which) and Indecent Proposal. However, these are nowhere near worthy of my top five Christmas movies. To be clear, my top five Christmas movies do not have to feature reindeer, snow, the North Pole etc, they are just films that I remember seeing for the first time on TV at Christmas and that I would happily sit and watch any time, again and again. So, in no particular order, here they are:
Probably the best action movie ever made and arguably the best screen villain performance of all time from Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber. “The circuits that cannot be cut are cut automatically in response to a terrorist incident. You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the F.B.I.”
I had a few arguments with my mum over the years with regards to the TV being on, on Christmas Day. It really was a no no, apart from the Queen at 3pm of course, and Top of the Pops was also permitted if Cliff was number one. However, even my mum budged for me to sit and watch The Empire Strikes Back.
I struggle to think of a film that has a better opening 15 minutes than Raiders of the Lost Ark: drama, tension, big ass spiders, spikes, skeletons, a golden idol, poison darts, a whip that saves Indi from falling into a very dark pit and of course a huge rolling rock. Actually, there is no better opening to a film; can’t be.
Trading Places (1983) Director John Landis. Stars Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Denholm Elliott, Jamie Lee Curtis and can you spot a very young Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring from Breaking Bad)
Trading Places is in my top five as I remember very well being given a secondhand Sony TV as my main Christmas present to put in my bedroom. I loved this TV; I loved the fact I had to move not only the ariel around the room but the actual TV set as well to get any kind of decent picture.
Trading Places was the first film I watched on this special TV, and I think it was on late Christmas Day. Some brilliant performances and the fall (low point of Louis Winthorpe III dressed as Santa and eating a side of salmon he stole while getting it tangled in his beard) then rise again of Dan Aykroyd is classic fairytale telling at its best.
The first film I ever saw at the cinema, I was very excited for it to be on at Christmas. I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered it at the flicks. It was better 🙂 The fantasy of meeting an alien, a coming-of-age film and riding your bike into the night sky… what more do I need to say?
What makes your top five?