Ten favourite films for Christmas

Ten favourite films for Christmas

My blogs of late have been pretty serious and somewhat heavy, so I would like this last blog in the lead up to Christmas to be non-political, non-religious and non-ideological and tending toward the light side if possible, given even the most stoic among us can do with a little cheering up. In it, I name my ten favourite films of all time; films I might watch while in relaxation mode. I will give a short description (adapted from Wikipedia) and say why I like the film.

  1. Life of a King
  2. Sophie Scholl: the Final Days
  3. Chariots of Fire
  4. Dead Poets Society
  5. It’s a Wonderful Life
  6. The Shawshank Redemption
  7. Doctor No
  8. Lord of the Rings
  9. Casablanca
  10. The Hunt for Red October

If your favourite movie is not included in my list, please add it and say what you like about it in the comments below.

Life of a King is a film that tells the true story of Eugene Brown, an ex-convict who starts the Big Chair Chess Club for disadvantaged inner-city youths in Washington. This resonates for me due to my love for chess and some of the lessons chess teaches, as well as the clever way that aspects of chess is used as a metaphor on life, such as the need to protect the king (i.e. you and I) and it is all about winning the end game, and how one can inspire folk to greatness, including among the least likely, that is well brought out in the film.

Sophie Scholl: the Final Days is a 2005 German historical drama film. It is about the last days in the life of Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old member of the anti-Nazi non-violent student resistance group the White Rose, part of the German Resistance movement. She was found guilty of high treason by the People’s Court and executed the same day, 22 February 1943. While there is a solemn and sad ending, I take heart that doing the right thing, as did Sophie, even against all the odds, will always pay off in the long run. It also shows there are unlikely heroes we can be encouraged by.

Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical sports drama film. It is based on the true story of two British athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell: a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. What I love about the film is it is good wholesome family viewing without the cringe factor one sometimes finds. I found it a charming, captivating, inspirational movie that superbly brings out the character and back story of these two gold medal winners.

Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American drama film starring Robin Williams. Set in 1959 at the fictional elite conservative Vermont boarding school Welton Academy, it tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. It is a reminder that life is to be felt and for living, something poetry teaches us. It reinforces the notion that education should be more than utilitarian and passing exams etc. While there was tragedy and injustice at the end and a salutary reminder such teaching is not appreciated in certain quarters, I found the film to be inspirational.

It’s a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas fantasy drama film staring James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his personal dreams to help others in his community, whose suicide attempt on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows George how he has touched the lives of others and how different life would be for his wife Mary and his community if he had not been born. I never fail to be touched by this film and moved by its profound insights.

Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film. It tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne, who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murders of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the following two decades, he befriends a fellow prisoner, contraband smuggler Ellis “Red” Redding, and becomes instrumental in a money-laundering operation led by the prison warden Samuel Norton. It is a cracking good story with unexpected twists and turns with the “it all works out for the good” ending, in spite of everything, one tends to love.  

Doctor No is a 1962 spy based on the 1958 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. In the film, James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow British agent. The trail leads him to the underground base of Dr. No, who is plotting to disrupt an early American space launch from Cape Canaveral with a radio beam weapon. This was the first of a series of James Bond films still being produced. While gratuitous sex and violence is not to be recommended for good Christian folk, the plot is exciting, as are the gadgets, stunts, humour and audacity Bond fans now expect. As a youth, James Bond was the sort of hero I wanted to emulate.

Lord of the Rings is a series of three epic fantasy adventure films based on the three-part novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are subtitled The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). Set in the fictional world of Middle-earth, the films follow the hobbit Frodo Baggins as he and the Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, to ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron. Not as good as the book but exciting stuff nevertheless, and while evil looks as it will win, good triumphs in the end – I would love to have nine straight hours to watch the films and enjoy the great story it tells.

Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film. Filmed and set during World War II, it focuses on an American expatriate (Bogart) who must choose between his love for a woman (Bergman) or helping her and her husband (Henreid), a Czech resistance leader, escape from the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Germans. A brilliant film that touches on many aspects of human experience besides the romantic. Many of the lines and scenes I love and can even recall by heart – this film with its fitting finale enthralls and moves me whenever I watch it.

The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 American submarine spy thriller film starring Sean Connery (the only actor to appear in more than one of my selections). The story is set during the late Cold War era and involves a rogue Soviet naval captain who wishes to defect to the United States with his officers and the Soviet Navy’s newest and most advanced ballistic missile submarine. A CIA analyst correctly deduces his motive and must prove his theory to the U.S. Navy before a violent confrontation between the Soviet and the American navies spirals out of control. It tells an exciting and gripping story!

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