Christmas time is here, and what better way to get into the holiday spirit than to throw on a classic Christmas flick? While plenty of notable Christmas films are out there, quite a few have killer screenplays and are worth analyzing if you’re an aspiring writer.
As a result, below will feature five of the best English-speaking Christmas-themed screenplays. We’ll discuss why these films are notable, what to look for writing-wise, and the basic logline from the film. You’ve probably seen most of these films already, but ensure you do if you haven’t already.
Still from 'The Holdovers (2023)'. Photo credit: Variety
A cranky history teacher at a remote prep school must remain on campus over the holidays with a troubled student with nowhere to go.
Although not necessarily a classic, I can see The Holdovers gaining the label within the coming years. The world-building in The Holdovers is remarkable, embracing a captivating 1970s aesthetic that exudes charm and appeal.
Despite potential criticisms labeling The Holdovers as cliché or reminiscent of a Hallmark movie, its emotional impact, stellar performances, and concluding moments create an increasingly rare cinematic experience.
While numerous narratives explore makeshift families undergoing transformative experiences, The Holdovers distinguishes itself with a contemporary and refreshing perspective on the well-trodden theme. I can’t recommend it enough.
An eight-year-old troublemaker, mistakenly left home alone, must defend his home against a pair of burglars on Christmas Eve.
Who hasn’t seen Home Alone? The film is a staple of the 1990s, and rightfully so. It’s funny, moves quickly, and has countless iconic lines and scenes, making it a fan-favorite in the Christmas movie world.
Writing-wise, the film explores how a child is forced to mature and shoulder the responsibilities of adulthood. Over time, he comes to a profound realization of his gratitude and love for his family, even amidst their frequent bickering.
Much of it centers around the profound themes of misplaced blame and guilt as Kevin grapples with believing he was responsible for making his family disappear. Many writers can learn from the film, especially how to craft a story with such a broad appeal.
A New York City police officer tries to save his estranged wife and several others taken hostage by terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
Listen, you’ve probably witnessed countless memes over the year pleading their case on how Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Now that we’ve established it is, we can talk about how brilliant it is writing-wise, even for having the action genre attached to it.
That’s not to say action movies can’t have good writing; it’s just a general stereotype that’s a commonality in the movie world. Regardless, Die Hard is a great film for many reasons. First, rather than be a nonstop action bender, it builds with plenty of relatable characters with flaws.
John McClane arrives in Los Angeles hoping to reconcile with his ex-wife, Holly, and that increases the stakes of what ends up happening tenfold. When the characters are more profound and aren’t caricatures of themselves, it heightens the cinematic experience and makes us care more about these characters' decisions.
Whether it’s the notable Yippee Ki-Yay scene or the contemporary internet sensation of making Die Hard a Christmas movie, who doesn’t love Die Hard? I’d argue that even non-action fans will enjoy the film to a certain degree.
Depressed at the commercialism he sees around him, Charlie Brown tries to find a deeper meaning to Christmas.
You can’t write about a holiday-oriented film list without including a Charlie Brown movie. While not as notable as It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas has the charm, appeal, and ease of watch that makes these films unique.
While it may not be a riveting tale filled with adventures and suspense, this cartoon short is a delightful and heartwarming story that conveys a meaningful message about Christmas, transcending the commercial aspects of the holiday.
An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated business person by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.
Regarding classic titles, It’s a Wonderful Life has name recognition that not many films have. The film is a great writing lesson about having a central theme and supporting themes to enhance your story and create a memorable lesson that’ll live on for years.
The film imparts a powerful message of courage and sacrifice for the greater good. George Bailey, a man with grand aspirations for the world, consistently sets aside his desires to prioritize the town's well-being. Furthermore, it highlights the significance of every individual life and is a particular movie in many ways.