Some annual cinematic Christmas faves have already fallen by the wayside as we continue our search for the Ultimate Christmas Movie. Jack Skellington’s headed back to Halloween Town and Charlie Brown, well, he never can catch a break. Now we’ve got two modern animated holiday hits, Arthur Christmas and Klaus, going head to head in Round 5. Then we head back in time to watch two very different adaptations of Charles Dickens’ tale of that old festive grump, Scrooge, square off in Round 6.
So don’t Bah or be a Humbug. Put on your kerchief or cap, forgo that long winter’s nap, scroll down, and vote for your top picks in our next two cinematic battles:
Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation hit it out of the park with their first collaboration, the delightful Arthur Christmas. The film tells the story of the Claus family—yes, THAT Claus family—and in particular, their well-meaning but klutzy youngest son (voiced by James McAvoy). Technology hasn’t passed the Clauses or the North Pole by and between a command centre that rivals NASA’s Mission Control and a high-tech ship that would seem more at home in the MCU than at Christmas HQ, Santa’s yearly deliveries have become a well-oiled and collaborative success.
But technology has a tendency to bug out just when you need it most and, in the case of Arthur Christmas, one year the system mistakenly leaves one child without a present. While those in charge—namely Arthur’s older and more capable brother Steve (Hugh Laurie)—don’t think it much of an issue, Arthur disagrees and sets off with his eccentric grandfather (Bill Nighy), a runaway Scottish elf (Ashley Jensen), and eight willing but inept reindeer, to save one little girl’s Christmas.
With an A-list voice cast (McAvoy, Laurie, Jensen, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Michael Palin, and Laura Linney), a clever take on the logistics and history of Santa Claus, and a heartfelt enthusiasm for the season, Arthur Christmas is a rare thing—a modern Christmas hit destined for classic status. – Emma Badame
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rightfully nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Klaus is a modern holiday classic. In telling the tale of Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), the spoiled son of a postmaster who is sent to a remote town to establish a successful post office, the film skillfully deconstructs the myth of Santa Clause while simultaneously reinforcing it. Operating under the guise of a more realistic portrayal, the film manages to capture a sense of childlike wonder which is essential to any memorable holiday film. Even if you take away the Christmas trope there is still an engaging tale of friendship that flows throughout the film. One is genuinely interested in the plight of Jesper and Klaus, a gruff carpenter with a gift for making toys, which allows the film’s heartwarming ending to truly resonate. Klaus is a film that should be in everyone’s holiday viewing rotation. – Courtney Small
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Voting ends December 4 at 11:59 EST.
A Christmas Carol (1951)
While Dicken’s festive fantasy has seen a sizable number of cinematic adaptations, Brian Desmond-Hurst’s 1951 interpretation is far and away the best of the lot. The film doesn’t try to improve on or embellish the 1843 novella much, but rather sticks to the basics and gives movie audiences Victorian London and the well-known tale of wealthy Humbug Ebenezer Scrooge in effective shades of black and white. From the moment the narration begins and we learn that “Old Marley was as dead as a doornail”, the film feels appropriately sombre and downright, well, Dickensian.
The prolific author’s most famous miser has been played by a host of talented actors including Reginald Owen, Albert Finney, George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, Michael Caine, and Jim Carrey, but no one has ever embodied the role like Scottish thesp Alastair Sim. In other hands, Scrooge’s arc of redemption—from unfeeling cynic to giddy benefactor—can seem a bit cliched and rote, but we believe Sim every step of the way. The unfettered, infectious joy he conveys upon discovering his gift of a second chance is enchanting and so effective, it’s enough to make even the iciest of hearts melt. While A Christmas Carol’s star rightly gets the lion’s share of praise, Sim has ample help from a stellar supporting cast, with particularly memorable performances from Michael Hordern as Marley’s Ghost and Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Dilber, the charwoman.
Richard Addinsell’s atmospheric score, filled with homages to the season and to the era, provides practically the perfect accompaniment from beginning to end. A Christmas Carol (or Scrooge as it was titled in the UK) doesn’t overstay its welcome either, running a crisp 87 minutes, making it the perfect choice for a cozy winter’s night screening. By the time Marley, the Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future, Tiny Tim, and the rest have come and gone, you’ll find yourself filled to the brim with festive cheer with not a Humbug in sight. – EB
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Scrooged is peak Bill Murray. In this modern retelling of A Christmas Carol, Murray gets to be wacky and deliver outrageous lines with deadpan charm. Despite its mean-spiritedness, Scrooged brings the holiday laughs which still feel fresh over 30 years after its release and, if anything, Murray’s cold-hearted yuppie broadcast executive only feels more real in this era. Underneath the brash exterior, Scrooged has a tender heart bolstered by a string of A-list ‘80s cameos and an unsurprisingly hilarious turn from Carol Kane as the Ghost Of Christmas Present. While it might feel messy and mean at times, Richard Donner’s movie has a well-earned place as a Christmas classic. – Rachel West
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Voting ends December 4 at 11:59 EST.
The elimination showdown runs from December 1 until the 23, with the Ultimate Christmas Movie being unveiled on Christmas Eve! You can vote here, on Twitter, or on Instagram. Find out if your favourites are in the running below, then tune in tomorrow for two new face offs…