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The best animated Christmas films

BY Jamie Flook

19th Dec 2022 Film & TV

The best animated Christmas films

From The Snowman and The Nightmare Before Christmas to Klaus and The Polar Express, there's a rich history of filling and fun animated festive films

If someone bought you a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas, you’d probably have a lot of questions. If they then started turning up with turtle doves, French hens and actual swans, you’d have to say something wouldn’t you? Maybe something like, “Thanks, Auntie Irene, but honestly next year socks would be fine.”

Yes, it’s that time of year again when people go mad for Brussels sprouts, Twiglets and satsumas. If you get Christmas off work then you might be thinking about what films you’d like to watch. It’s a time of year that has inspired lots of great filmmaking and to give you some inspiration, here are our top picks for some of the very best animated Christmas films.

Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas gif holding reindeer head in Christmas jumper

What if Santa Claus was not just one person but a hereditary title meaning that different people would inherit the job in much the same way that kings, queens and many actors do? In this light-hearted tale James McAvoy plays Arthur, the son of the current Santa and the boy who is charged with saving the day, after Santa loses a present for one child during his night of deliveries. It’s nicely done and well worth a watch.

The Snowman

Based on the book written by the recently deceased Raymond Briggs, The Snowman is a classic of the genre. A little boy builds a snowman that eventually comes to life and together they embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Aside from being a great story, the film is notable for the powerful song "Walking in The Air", sung by choirboy Peter Auty.

Father Christmas

Considering the target audience, with its liberal use of the word "blooming", Father Christmas is a slightly riskier film than its predecessor The Snowman but it’s all the funnier for it. This is another film based on works by Raymond Briggs and set in the same universe as The Snowman, showing us what Father Christmas gets up to the rest of the year when he’s not on duty. Mel Smith does some of his best work here, bringing Santa down to Earth with just a hint of grumpiness but enough warmth that children will both laugh at him and love him in equal measure.

"Mel Smith does some of his best work here, bringing Santa down to Earth with just a hint of grumpiness"

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack Skellington wearing Santa costume in A Nightmare Before Christmas

From the mind of Tim Burton comes a skeleton named Jack who lives in creepy old Halloween Town. Jack Skellington stumbles upon Christmas Town and decides he’d quite like to export Christmas to Halloween Town, but he goes about it the wrong way. Directed by Henry Selick, the stop motion animation on display here gives us world-building that is both gothic and colourful, stunningly combining Christmas and Halloween.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas gives us world-building that is both gothic and colourful"

Klaus

There is something about redemption at Christmas that resonates with people. Klaus is a toymaker living in a remote town where everybody hates each other and kindness is uncool, until a new postman called Jesper turns up and strikes up a partnership with Klaus that might just save the town from itself. Klaus is a funny imagining of the back story for Santa Claus with the title character being played by J K Simmons, who had actually been a mall Santa in real life as a young man!

The Polar Express

Director Robert Zemeckis has provided us with some of the greatest films of the past 40 years and The Polar Express is right up there amongst his very best productions. A young boy climbs aboard a mysterious magical train heading for the North Pole. Tom Hanks plays numerous parts in a visually beautiful, motion-capture CGI film that keeps you guessing as to what is coming next.

"Robert Zemeckis has made some of the greatest films and The Polar Express is right up there amongst his very best"

A Garfield Christmas

Garfield emerges from the top of the Christmas tree in A Garfield Christmas

There will be some that say this is not technically a film, being as it is a TV special, but then there are those who say the Earth is flat and that pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza. Jon takes Garfield and Odie to the countryside to spend Christmas on his family’s farm. It’s hilarious and heart-warming, with one of the most memorable characters being Jon’s grandma, who acts younger than her years and is a formidable opponent for anyone.

Here’s ho, ho, hoping you have a great Christmas!

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