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The best movies to watch for free this Christmas

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Paddington 2 (Credit: StudioCanal)

You don't need to shell out on pricey (or numerous) streaming subscriptions to get some quality movies on telly over the festive period.

Terrestrial and Freeview channels have got plenty of decent post-Christmas lunch fare, perfect for avoiding talking about the election and/or Brexit.

Read more: Paul Feig says people are always sniffy about Christmas films

So let’s take a look at the offering for the week surrounding Christmas and make a pick for the best movie to watch each day, while you’re trying to digest all of the turkey and selection box chocolate you’ll inevitably consume.

Christmas Eve

How the Grinch Stole Christmas - 12.40, ITV

Toy Story 3 - 1.25pm, BBC One

Death on the Nile – 1.45pm, BBC Two

Elf - 5.15pm, ITV

Beauty and the Beast - 5.30pm, BBC One

Home Alone - 17.30, Channel 4

Unforgiven - 10pm, ITV4

Elf (Credit: New Line)

Pick of the Day — Elf

Yes, Unforgiven is the definitive modern Western and Toy Story 3 is a guaranteed tear-jerker, but there’s no better way to prepare for the big day than with Jon Favreau’s Elf. Will Ferrell is at his screeching manchild best in the role of Buddy the Elf, who travels from his adopted North Pole home to New York City in order to connect with his biological father (James Caan).

This is a movie bursting with charm and memorable dialogue, as well as the spectacle of Ferrell eating more syrup than any human being has ever consumed. It’s a modern festive classic and there’s a reason we recently crowned it the best Christmas movie of the 21st century.

Christmas Day

Rise of the Guardians – 7.15am, BBC Two

Ice Age - 10.40am, Channel 4

Moana - 12.45pm, BBC One

Back to the Future - 2.35pm, Channel 4

Finding Dory - 3.10pm, BBC One

Oliver! - 3.10pm, Channel 5

Spartacus - 4.10pm, ITV4

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York - 4.55pm, Channel 4

How to Train Your Dragon - 6pm, E4

Jurassic World - 8pm, ITV 2

Slumdog Millionaire - 1am, Channel 4

Moana. (Credit: Disney)

Pick of the Day — Moana

It might be Frozen that became a phenomenon and spawned a sequel, but Moana stands as one of the better achievements of Disney’s recent hot streak. By focusing on a female person of colour as its lead, it walked a different path to other animated musicals and immediately gave young audiences a new hero to get behind.

Auli'i Cravalho is terrific as the ocean-loving title character, who teams with Dwayne Johnson’s musclebound demigod to return a missing object to an angry goddess. The songbook too is all killer, as proven by the fact it has two tracks in the list of most streamed Disney songs on Spotify.

Boxing Day

The Good Dinosaur – 9am, BBC One

Wreck-It Ralph - 10.25am, BBC One

The Jungle Book (2016) - 3.45pm, BBC One

Ratatouille - 5pm, Channel 5

Cool Runnings - 5.15pm, Channel 5

Jurassic Park - 6.25pm, ITV 2

The Simpsons Movie - 7.15pm, E4

Skyfall - 8.30pm, ITV

Paddington 2 - 7.20pm, BBC One

Florence Foster Jenkins - 11pm, BBC Two

The Wolf of Wall Street - 11.05pm, Channel 4

'Paddington 2'. (Credit: Studiocanal)

Pick of the Day — Paddington 2

Boxing Day is pretty much built for slobbing around in front of the telly, and there’s no film better to do that to than Paddington 2. It sees the titular bear — voiced adorably by Ben Whishaw — framed for the theft of a rare pop-up book by Hugh Grant’s villainous theatre actor Phoenix Buchanan. Soon, he’s making marmalade sandwiches in prison with Brendan Gleeson.

Paddington 2 is an emotionally rich and frequently hilarious adventure, helped along by Whishaw’s soulful vocal performance. It’s the perfect movie to unite a divided Britain and one that culminates with such an emotional gut punch that everyone will be crying on to their plate of leftovers. Even Hugh Grant says it’s the best film he’s ever done.

December 27

Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1.25pm, BBC One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - 8pm, ITV2

Ant Man - 11pm, BBC One

Raiders of the Lost Ark (Credit: Universal)

Pick of the Day — Raiders of the Lost Ark

Simply put, the first Indiana Jones movie is completely untouchable. It’s Harrison Ford vs. the Nazis as they both hunt for the legendary Ark of the Covenant. The action scenes have been homaged by dozens of films, the character is a straight-up icon and there’s no denying the crowd-pleasing thrills of the story. It’s another guaranteed hit for the whole family.

December 28

Inside Out - 3pm, BBC One

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - 8.30pm, ITV

Mamma Mia! - 8pm, Channel 5

'Inside Out'. (Credit: Pixar)

Pick of the Day — Inside Out

Perhaps the crowning achievement of Pixar’s output away from the Toy Story franchise, Pete Docter’s ingenious story takes a look at what makes a young girl tick by depicting the inside of her head as a control room operated by five emotions. When her family moves across the country, this sends her emotions haywire and shifts her personality forever.

Docter’s themes are hefty, but his storytelling is as light as a feather. The likes of Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling give the emotions real... well, emotion... and then there’s Bing Bong. Just need to go and cry about that one all over again.

December 29

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 1.50pm, BBC One

Monsters University - 3.50pm, BBC One

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - 11.40pm, BBC Two

'Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa'. (Credit: Studiocanal)

Pick of the Day — Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Steve Coogan will next be seen in cinemas as a very unpleasant billionaire in Greed, but he’s on far more tolerable ground as his most famous creation in Alpha Papa. It follows a hostage crisis at North Norfolk Digital, which sees Alan turn into a negotiator in a life-and-death situation.

Coogan is on top form, working from a script co-written by him, Patridge co-creator Armando Iannucci and three other writers. It’s silly, fast-paced and, most of all, very funny indeed. It’s on pretty late at night, though, so it’s one to set the recorder for.

December 30

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit - 10.15am, BBC One

Edward Scissorhands - 12.20pm, Channel 4

Shrek 2 - 3.20pm, BBC One

Iron Man 3 - 23.35pm, BBC One

'Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit'. (Credit: Aardman)

Pick of the Day — Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

There’s some real competition here, but Aardman is one of the most consistent companies working in family-friendly filmmaking. Curse of the Were-Rabbit saw the studio’s most iconic creations expand to feature-length with a story in which they are pest control agents dealing with the threat posed to competitive veg growers by a giant rabbit.

This has everything we’ve come to expect from the best of Aardman. It’s cine-literate, warm, full of slapstick and packed with puns — Peter Kay delivers a gag about arson that deserves to go down in wordplay history. This is must-watch stuff.

New Year’s Eve

The Queen - 12.45pm, ITV

Paddington 2 - 1.30pm, BBC One

Shrek the Third – 3.10pm, BBC One

Spectre - 8.00pm, ITV

Billy Elliot - 9.00pm, BBC Two

Point Break - 2.00am, BBC One

'Spectre'. (Credit: Sony)

Pick of the Day — Spectre

As tempting as it is to just say Paddington 2 again, this seems like a great time to revisit the last James Bond outing. No Time to Die is on the horizon as one of the most exciting films of next year and so it’s worth watching this for a refresher ahead of Daniel Craig’s James Bond swansong.

The film sees Bond become embroiled in the machinations of the eponymous criminal organisation and its leader, played by Christoph Waltz with an explicit nod to classic Bond. He’s back for the new one, along with Léa Seydoux’s Dr Madeleine Swann.

New Year’s Day

Shaun the Sheep Movie - 9.30am, BBC One

The Wizard of Oz - 10.15am, ITV3

The Book of Life - 12.40pm, E4

The Magnificent Seven (1960) - 2.25pm, BBC Two

Jumanji - 3.35pm, Channel 5

Mission: Impossible - Fallout - 9pm, Channel 4

Bridget Jones' Diary – 9pm, Channel 5

Pulp Fiction - 9.40pm, Dave

The Hangover - 10.35pm, ITV

'Mission: Impossible - Fallout'. (Credit: Paramount)

Pick of the Day — Mission: Impossible — Fallout

Just like Boxing Day, this is a period to be spent on the sofa nursing a hangover, a food baby or both. As such, there’s a terrific collection of classics on show and certainly The Wizard of Oz, The Magnificent Seven and Pulp Fiction remain very rewarding experiences. However, there’s little substitute for Tom Cruise dangling out of an aircraft and so it has to be Mission: Impossible — Fallout.

Cruise is set to return to another of his most iconic roles in next year’s Top Gun: Maverick, but he’s at the peak of his powers here in Ethan Hunt’s most thrilling adventure. After an early blunder, Hunt and his team must retrieve stolen plutonium before a terrorist group can use it. The stunts are incredible, Cruise is on top form and the third act is as good as big screen, practical spectacle gets.