All the best Christmas TV and films on Prime, Netflix and UK TV this year

Christmas TV Guide 2016: The best TV shows and Christmas films for kids and all the family on Amazon Prime, Netflix, Now TV, Sky, BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

Christmas is upon us, and who wants to spend all that time enjoying the company of family and friends when there’s a load of shows and films to watch?

Aside from the various bingeable offerings on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Now TV, the terrestrial channels tend to up their game around the festive season too. In other words, there’s a lot of stuff to watch, which is why we’ve put together this list of the best Christmas films and TV shows.

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Our picks include films and TV shows on Netflix, Prime and traditional TV, some great Christmas films for kids and a few left field options that may (or may not) pay off.

So, seasonal streamers, abandon your family to their Christmas dinner, leave nana muttering to herself in the other room, and settle in for some serious festive binging.

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Streaming Picks

Here are the best films and shows you’ll find on the major streaming services, including family favourites and some less well-known suggestions.

Arthur Christmas

arthur christmas

Where to watch: Netflix

What is it? This heart-warming animated movie sees British veterans Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy team up with James McAvoy to bring Santa and his family to life. McAvoy voices Santa’s son Arthur, who embarks on an urgent mission to deliver a gift to Gwen, a little girl in Cornwall. With Santa already out wedging himself into chimneys around the world, can Arthur and old St. Nick’s father get the present to Gwen before she wakes up on Christmas day?

Any good?
One Netflixer certainly wasn’t impressed with this family-friendly tale, surmising that this film ‘features a contemptible Santa’. But then another announces: “I laughed out loud seven times”. That’s seven, people! It’s certainly not the traditional depiction of the North Pole and Santa’s workshop you’re used to, but worth a go nonetheless.

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Nativity!

nativity

Where to watch: Netflix

What is it? Another British entry on our list, Nativity! is a partially improvised comedy that stars Martin Freeman as primary school teacher Paul Maddens. Paul has been asked to produce his school’s nativity play, and in an attempt to outdo a rival school, claims that his Hollywood producer ex-girlfriend, Jennifer, is coming to see the show, and may even turn it into a film. Unfortunately, he and Jennifer haven’t spoken in years, and, well you can imagine the hijinks that ensue. It’s also got Alan Carr, but you should still watch it.

Any good? As one Netflix viewer raves: “What a sweet piece! I just adore Martin Freeman.” We’re not sure whether the ‘sweet piece’ in question is the film or Mr Freeman himself, but either way, you’re clearly getting your fill of sweetness with this Brit-flick.

Mariah Carey’s Merriest Christmas

mariah

Where to watch: Netflix

What is it? If there’s one thing Christmas is missing, it’s more Mariah Carey. Can’t get enough of her festive melisma being pumped through every speaker in every store throughout the land? Well, now you can stream MC direct to your TV screen. We haven’t seen this Christmas special, but there’s probably a lot of singing, and apparently it involves a celebrity reading of The Night Before Christmas.

Any good? Sure, why not… on second thoughts, really? Well, it’ll either be surprisingly good or worse than you can imagine, so you can’t lose either way.

Home Alone

Home Alone

Where to watch: Netflix

What is it? If you don’t know, you should probably be banned from Christmas.

Any good? Well, it goes without saying that Christmas isn’t quite Christmas unless you watch Kevin McCallister’s first go round with the Wet Bandits. Is it absurd? Yes. Is it essentially a depiction of serious child neglect? Yes. Does any of that make you not want to watch it? Of course not. Unfortunately, if you want to watch Kevin take on the Wet Bandits in New York, you’ll have to pay to Watch Home Alone 2 on either Amazon Prime Video or Now TV. That 14-day Now TV free trial might just come in handy at this point…

Jingle All The Way

jingle all the way

Where to watch: Netflix

What is it? It’s not quite the unimpeachable classic that is Home Alone, but Arnie’s struggle to get a ‘Turbo Man’ toy for his son holds a special place the hearts of all those who watched the comedic mayhem unfold as children. It’s also got Phil Hartman as Arnie’s smarmy neighbour, which just adds to the overall charm of this mid-90s classic.

Any good? If you watched it as a kid, you’ll enjoy revisiting it. If you’re a kid now, you’ll love it. If you’re an adult, you’ll cringe at Arnie’s attempt at acting.

Die Hard

Die Hard

Where to watch: Netflix

What is it? Not your traditional Christmas heart-warmer, but a classic nonetheless, Die Hard is essential viewing, even if you’re one of those millennials that missed the whole Die Hard thing. Look, you don’t need us to tell you why this is awesome, just make sure you find some time to watch Willis do his thing.

Any good? …it’s Die Hard.

Black Adder’s Christmas Carol

Black Adder

Where to watch: Netflix

What is it? If you work in an office with anyone over 30, you’ve probably overheard numerous gleeful conversations about why ‘Black Adder is bloody brilliant’. For anyone younger, Rowan Atkinson’s finest hour was the triumph that was Mr. Bean, and that’s the end of it. But why not use this Christmas to find out what all your slightly-balding co-workers are raving about and stream a bit of Black Adder’s Christmas Carol?

Any good? Well, it’s time to find out, isn’t it!

Black Mirror – White Christmas

Black Mirror

Where to watch: Netflix, All4

What is it? Black Mirror found new ways to unsettle us all with its recent third season, but there’s a whole load of weirdness to uncover with the first and second seasons. And at the end of the second, Brooker and co. managed to wangle Jon Hamm to star in the Christmas special, White Christmas. This one is on Netflix, but can also be viewed for free on Channel 4’s All4 service. So head over to that site if you’re yet to sign up to Netflix (you antiquated weirdo).

Any good? The critics loved this instalment in the Black Mirror series, with its dark reminder of the pitfalls of becoming enamoured with our digital world and its various devices. If that sounds like your idea of the perfect Christmas, this one’s for you.

The Polar Express

polar express

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

What is it? What did Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis go on to do after producing that 1985 classic? Well there was the high point of Forest Gump and that time he helped produce House of Wax, but following that blemish on an otherwise pretty spotless record, Zemeckis brought us all Tom Hanks in digital form with The Polar Express. Along with computerised Hanks, this one features a little boy and a magical train that travels to the North Pole. And there’s no wax involved at all!

Any good? Considered a must-watch at Christmas by many, The Polar Express is guaranteed to get you in a festive mood, especially if you’ve just made things weird by making the family watch the Black Mirror Christmas episode.

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Paid streaming picks

Unfortunately, some of the best Christmas films aren’t available to stream with a Netflix or Prime subscription, and you’ll have to shell out to watch any of the following titles. Now TV is offering a free 14-day trial but if you want to watch via Amazon, you’ll have to rent or buy the following titles from its online video service.

Elf

elf

Where to watch: Amazon Video, Now TV

What is it? There’s some debate about whether this one edges out Home Alone for the title of best Christmas film, but there’s always time to watch both, and also Home Alone is clearly better. But Elf is a close second, with Will Ferrell as the charmingly naive titular character creating all kinds of heart-warming chaos in New York. Not quite as heart-warming as the chaos caused by Kevin McCallister in the clearly superior Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, but pretty good.

Any good? It’s one of the best!

The Grinch

Grinch

Where to watch: Amazon Video, Now TV

What is it? Another standout entry on the list that the streaming elves are going to make you pay for this year, The Grinch is beloved by many, and usually finds its way into most of our festive screening schedules. Jim Carrey takes the title role in this live-action version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and his brand of physical comedy is perfectly at home in this charming tale.

Any good? It’s The Grinch for goodness sake – of course it’s good! Now go pay Amazon or Sky for a bit of Christmas cheer.

The Santa Clause

TimAllenSantaClause

Where to watch: Amazon Video, Now TV

What is it? Tim Allen. An American legend. When he’s not improving his home, he’s playing Santa Clause, and now he’s on Now TV and Amazon Prime Video in that very role. You know the drill, Tim kills Santa, only to become the new St. Nick. It sounds pretty dark but it’s all very family-friendly, we promise.

Any good? Yes, it’s bordering on Christmas classic territory, but it ain’t quite on the level of Elf or (the superior) Home Alone, or even this next entry…

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

lampoon christmas

Where to watch: Amazon Video, Now TV

What is it? This one is a bit more popular in the US, but it’s got that 80s charm that seems to suit Christmas so well. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) attempts to ensure he and his family have a wonderful traditional Christmas, but beginning with his infamous tree troubles, things don’t quite go to plan.

Any good? Whether you’re stateside or not, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has everything you want from a Christmas film.

It’s a Wonderful Life

wonderful life

Where to watch: Amazon Video, Now TV

What is it? Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, imminent suicide. It’s a Wonderful Life is a real Christmas classic that, for many will forever tower above the likes of Elf and Home Alone as the ultimate festive film. George Bailey (Stewart) is shown how life in his community would be different had he never been born, shepherded through this alternate reality by his guardian angel (Henry Travers). Of course, Bailey decides to postpone the whole suicide thing, otherwise this would be put a bit of a downer on the festive season.

Any good? It’s life-affirming message is just what you need this end of the year, so settle in with the family for this one.

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Terrestrial TV picks

For those yet to get into the whole streaming thing, and there must be a few of you, here are some of the highlights from the terrestrial Christmas schedule.

The Snowman

snowman

Where to watch: Christmas Day, Channel 4, 11.50am

What is it? It’s the Raymond Briggs classic that everyone remembers, about a snowman that steals a little boy. It’s on every year, and this time around ain’t no different. Channel 4 is showing The Snowman at 11.50am on Christmas Day, so make sure to tune in just to add a festive atmosphere to proceedings while you pretend to like the presents your family got you.

Any good? It’s a magical adventure that everyone’s seen a million times but which still manages to charm.

Frozen

Frozen

Where to watch: BBC One, Christmas Day, 3.10pm

What is it? For a minute there, we forgot what that bloody song Frozen unleashed upon the world was called, but now we’ve remembered it was ‘Let It Go’ and now you’ve got it in your head again. You’re welcome. The BBC wants to help ensure you’re never rid of that particular ear worm, and is showing the animated hit on Christmas Day itself.

Any good? If you’re not sick of it yet, Frozen is just as good as any of the great animated offerings from Disney.

Jonathan Creek

jonathan creek

Where to watch: BBC One, Wednesday, December 28, 9pm

What is it? Once Christmas is all over, you can use the time between Boxing Day and the new year to catch up with Alan Davies as Jonathan Creek. Yes, the amateur detective is back to help you bid 2016 adieu. This time, he’s brought Warwick Davies along for a 90-minute Christmas special which will involve Creek solving yet another locked-room style mystery.

Any good? If you enjoyed the dry humour and often ingenious mysteries from the original series, this special shouldn’t disappoint – especially as original writer David Renwick penned the whole thing.

Ethel and Ernest

ethel ernest

Where to watch: BBC One, Wednesday, December 28, 7.30pm

What is it? Hoping to capture some of the Raymond Briggs magic that made The Snowman so timeless, The BBC will broadcast the story of Briggs’ parents in animated form. It’s sure to bring a tear to many an eye following the seasonal festivities, and stars Jim Broadbent as milkman Ernest and Brenda Blethyn as his wife Ethel.

Any good? Well it hasn’t aired yet, but it looks quite promising.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

bear hunt

Where to watch: Channel 4, Christmas Eve, 7.30pm

What is it? Looking for something to set the tone this Christmas Eve? Channel 4 has just the thing. We’re Going On a Bear Hunt is an animated adaptation of Michael Rosen’s beloved children’s tale. A family made up of Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max, the baby and Rufus the dog head out on a bear hunt to save grandma. Doesn’t make a lot of sense when you put it like that, but Channel 4’s drafted in the team behind The Snowman to animate this one, so it should bring a hefty helping of nostalgia along with it.

Any good? It’s looking good…

Trigger Happy Christmas Special

trigger happy

Where to watch: Channel 4, Christmas Eve, 11pm

What is it? The long-awaited return of Dom Joly should add some late-night humour to your Christmas Eve. Joly’s bringing several characters back for this one, and the ‘big mobile man’ is said to have fully entered the digital age with a new smartphone that will no doubt provide even more opportunities for hilarious disruption.

Any good? If there’s anything a year like 2016 needs, it’s a dose of Trigger Happy’s irreverent comedy to lighten the mood.

Sherlock

Sherlock

Where to watch: BBC One, New Year’s Day (time to be confirmed)

What is it? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are heading back to our screens as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, and you can look forward to them popping up on New Year’s Day. There’s no confirmed time yet so you’ll just have to sit in front of the TV all day and wait for it to appear. Or you could Google it closer to the time. Whatever works.

Any good? Let’s hope Cumberbatch helps to start 2017 on a positive note.

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What will you be watching this Christmas? Let us know your festive faves in the comments below.

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