Christmas TV schedule: The biggest and best films to watch this festive period

Chris Edwards
There’s something for everyone on TV this Christmas.
There’s something for everyone on TV this Christmas.

Deciding what films to watch at Christmas is almost as important as cooking the dinner and opening presents. Oh, and spending time with your family, obviously. So it can be mildly frustrating when you miss your favourite movies over the festive period.

Luckily for you, however, we’ve put together this schedule of the best and biggest films that’ll be airing on TV right up until New Year’s Day, including major premieres for the likes of The Greatest Showman and The Jungle Book.

Saturday, December 22

The Grand Budapest Hotel – 11.20pm (Film4)

Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated masterpiece should be watched at any given opportunity. It boasts a brilliant, comical performance from Ralph Fiennes, who leads an all-star cast of Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan and Edward Norton.

Sunday, December 23

Yes, Elf will be on this Christmas
Yes, Elf will be on this Christmas

Elf – 4.55pm (ITV2)

Outrageously, there was a year when Elf wasn’t on terrestrial TV or even available to stream over the festive period, but that’s not the case this time. This year, you’ll be able to watch arguably the most popular modern Christmas film on ITV and all of the major streaming platforms.

Casino Royale 9pm (ITV)

Daniel Craig stars in his first outing as 007, taking on weepy-eyed villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) in a game of high-stakes poker.

Up – 3.25pm (BBC1)

Pixar’s emotional animation sees an elderly man embark on a magical journey to South America after tying thousands of balloons to his house to make it float.

Monday, Christmas Eve

The original Mary Poppins will be aired in celebration of the sequel
The original Mary Poppins will be aired in celebration of the sequel

The Grinch – 12.55pm (ITV)

This live-action adaptation of Dr Seuss’ beloved tale sees Jim Carrey undergo a terrifying yet brilliant transformation to play the grumpy green Grinch who decides to ruin Christmas for everyone in Whoville – with the help of his reluctant dog Max.

Zootropolis2.55pm (BBC1)

One of Disney’s strongest efforts in recent years, Zootropolis imagines a world run by animals, in which an enthusiastic bunny (Ginnifer Goodwin) moves to the city to become a cop. A long the way, she forms an unlikely partnership with a con-artist fox (Jason Bateman).

Mary Poppins – 5pm (BBC1)

To celebrate the release of Mary Poppins Returns, the BBC is airing the original film starring Julie Andrews as the magical nanny who descends on London to bring two neglected children closer to their father.

Tuesday, Christmas Day

The Greatest Showman is getting a special screening on Sky One
The Greatest Showman is getting a special screening on Sky One

The Jungle Book – 3.10pm (BBC1)

Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book is the BBC’s big premiere over the Christmas period. Directed by Jon Favreau, the film picked up an Oscar for its visual effects, with literally everything you see in the film being computer-generated. Apart from Mowgli. He’s real.

The Muppets Christmas Carol – 4pm (Channel 4)

You’re simply not doing Christmas right if you don’t watch The Muppets’ retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, starring Michael Caine as the miserable Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Greatest Showman – 6.45pm (Sky One)

Undoubtedly the most talked about film of the year, The Greatest Showman will be given a special screening on Christmas Day. The record-breaking musical starring Hugh Jackman as ringmaster P.T. Barnum is usually exclusive to Sky Cinema customers.

Wednesday, Boxing Day

You can watch Love Actually for the millionth time on Boxing Day
You can watch Love Actually for the millionth time on Boxing Day

Saving Mr Banks – 2.30pm (BBC2)

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star in this true story recounting how Walt Disney purchased the rights of Mary Poppins from its stubborn author P.L. Travers.

Mrs Doubtfire – 5.45pm (Channel 4)

Robin Williams stars as a father desperate to spend time with his children after being divorced by his wife. Going to extraordinary lengths, he disguises himself as a thoroughly convincing older woman and persuades his ex-wife to hire him as a nanny. Bit scary in hindsight.

Love Actually – 10.20pm (ITV)

You’ve seen it 50 times already, but that probably isn’t going to stop you watching it again. The much-loved rom-com, which somehow tells about a million separate narratives without becoming a total mess, is truly a modern Christmas great.

Thursday, December 27

The apes go ape in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The apes go ape in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists – 9.25am (BBC1)

From the creators of Wallace and Gromit comes a, quite frankly, underrated pirate adventure with, er, scientists. National treasure Hugh Grant lends his voice to brilliantly named protagonist Pirate Captain.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – 6.55pm (Film4)

In this reboot of the enduring franchise, scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) attempts to develop a cure Alzheimer’s, but is forced to quit after his work is deemed a failure. However, he continues his experiments on infant chimpanzee Caesar (motion-captured by Andy Serkis) who, along with all the other apes, soon starts to exude potentially threatening levels of intelligence.

Friday, December 28

Wreck-It Ralph – 4.10pm (BBC1)

Fed up of always being the bad guy, arcade game character Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Riley) sets out on an epic journey – with glitching racer friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) – to prove himself a hero. But he accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy who threatens every game in the arcade.

Saturday, December 29

Paul Rudd stars in Marvel’s Ant-Man

Ant-Man – 7.50pm (BBC1)

Scale things down a bit with Marvel’s tiniest superhero Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd as a master thief who dons a special shrinking suit that also gives him super strength and the ability to control an army of ants. With his newfound abilities, he must stop a power-hungry scientist who intends to use the same technology as a weapon.

Sunday, December 30

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, starring Daisy Ridley and John Boyega
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, starring Daisy Ridley and John Boyega

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – 8pm (ITV)

Thanks to a new Star Wars film being released in cinemas almost every December now, it’s hard not to associate the biggest movie franchise of all time with Christmas. So why not take the opportunity to relive the first adventure of a new generation of characters? Join Rey, Finn, Poe as they take on the evil First Order.

Paddington – 5.40pm (Channel 4)

Everyone knows that Paddington 2 is the best film ever made, but its predecessor is still a perfect family film to enjoy whilst tucking into whatever Christmas nibbles remain. If the turkey’s run out by this point, a marmalade sandwich will suffice

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – 10:30pm (BBC 2)

After premiering at London Film Festival earlier this year to overwhelmingly positive reviews, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead makes its television debut (confusingly) on New Year’s Eve Eve, and will remain on iPlayer for a year. From Ben Wheatley, the director of Kill List, Sightseers, and Free Fire, this low-key comedy drama starring Neil Maskell and Charles Dance that’s set to become a cult festive favourite.

Monday, New Year’s Eve

Big Hero 6 – 2.40pm (BBC1)

Yet another unadulterated banger from Disney, featuring one of the most likeable (and merchandisable) characters in recent years – Baymax, a massive bag of air that doubles up as an ultimate fighting machine.

Home Alone – 4.50pm (Film4)

Another essential watch over the holiday period, Home Alone stars Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, a bratty 8-year-old who is told to sleep in the attic after misbehaving. When his family accidentally leave for the airport without him the next day, he is delighted to have the entire house to himself. However, things soon take a sinister turn as two burglars repeatedly attempt to rob the family residence, leaving Kevin to protect it.

Tuesday, New Year’s Day

Disney Pixar’s Inside Out
Disney Pixar’s Inside Out

Inside Out – 5pm (BBC1)

Pixar’s multi-award-winning animation explores the mind of a young girl who’s uprooted from her life in San Francisco, sending her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – into total disarray.

The Revenant – 10pm (BBC2)

A rather intense way to start the new year, but if there’s one thing that’ll convince that the next 12 months aren’t going to be so bad, it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning performance as a man who gets brutally mauled by a bear and then drags himself through the snow and mud to avenge the death of his son. Yeah, top that.

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