The best films on TV this Christmas, from Paddington to Star Wars

The best films on TV this Christmas, from Paddington to Star Wars
(Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/20th Century Fox)

One of the many joys of Christmas is the glut of blockbuster films that come crashing onto televisions screens, and with high-profile premieres and festive favourites rubbing shoulders, there’s always something on the box to keep us entertained.

This year, animation fans are in for a treat, but there’s impressive documentaries, comedies, Christmas horrors and heartwarming family fun too.

We’ve rounded up all of the films showing on the main Freeview channels (and some streaming platforms) across the festive period, and highlighted some of the best.

15 December

the big short
The Big Short – BBC2, 9pm (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

December 15 sees a big premiere in the form of Adam McKay’s Oscar winning comedy-drama The Big Short (BBC2, 9pm) based on the true story of Wall Street hotshot Micheal Burry, who predicts the recession of 2008, and attempts to profit from it.

Elsewhere, ITV continue their run of the Star Wars saga with series highlight The Empire Strikes Back (6.40pm), Channel 4 get us into the Christmas spirit with the original Miracle on 34th Street (3.10pm) and a premier of 2016’s all-female reboot of Ghostbusters (9pm), while ITV2 presents a Jim Carrey double bill of Yes Man (5.45pm) and The Mask (7.55pm).

Swallows and Amazons (BBC Two, 5pm)
2012 (Channel 5, 6.30pm)
Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason (ITVBe, 9pm)
Now You See Me 2 (Film4, 9pm)
Tremors (ITV4, 11.05pm)
Jaws III (ITV, 11.35pm)
Mercury Rising (Film4, 11.35pm)
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (BBC Two, 11.45pm)
Ender’s Game (Channel 4, 11.45pm)

16 December

Brooklyn – BBC2, 8pm (Photo: Lionsgate)

Saoirse Ronan stars in charming romantic drama Brooklyn (BBC2, 8pm), and her portrayal of a young Irish woman who sets out for a bold new life in ’50s America saw her nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.

Elsewhere, festive ogre romp Shrek Forever After (BBC1, 3.10pm) will keep the kids entertained, or you could opt for the Arnie Christmas classic Jingle All the Way (Channel 4, 3.40pm), or modern festive favourite Elf (ITV, 6pm) instead.

The Day After Tomorrow (Channel 4, 5.45pm)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (ITV2, 5.50pm)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Film4, 6.55pm)
Armageddon (Channel 5, 9pm)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (ITV4, 9pm)
Shooter (Film4, 9pm)
Point Break (BBC One, 11.30pm)
Transporter 3 (Film4, 11.30pm)
The Adjustment Bureau (ITV4, 11.50pm)

17 December

eye in the sky
Eye in the Sky – Film4, 9pm (Photo: Universal Pictures)

The late Alan Rickman brings some clout to Eye in the Sky (Film4, 9pm), the Iraq war thriller starring Helen Mirren, while Jim Carrey’s The Grinch (ITV2, 6.55pm) will give the kids something gloriously silly to get stuck into.

Ride Along 2 (Film4, 7.05pm)
Rambo III (ITV4, 9pm)
On Deadly Ground (ITV4, 11.05pm)
Red (Film4, 11.05pm)

18 December

Love Actually – ITV2, 9pm (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Love Actually (ITV2, 9pm) is now a bonafide Christmas classic, while those longing for something a little more action packed should check out Die Hard with a Vengeance (BBC One, 10.45pm).

The Madness of King George (Film4, 6.50pm)
Red 2 (Film4, 9pm)
The Adjustment Bureau (ITV4, 11.05pm)

19 December

The Fast and the Furious (ITV2, 9pm) provides some vehicular-based thrills and spills, while Exodus: Gods and Kings (Film4, 9pm) presents a Biblical epic from Ridley Scott (albeit one of mixed fortunes).

Toy Story (BBC1, 4pm)
About Time (Film4, 6.30pm)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (ITV4, 9pm)
Mariah Carey’s A Christmas Melody (Channel 5, 11.05pm)
The Specialist (ITV4, 11.50pm)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Film4, 11.55pm)

20 December

As we approach the weekend before Christmas and traditional school plays are performed across the country, there couldn’t be a better time to take in Martin Freeman comedy Nativity! (BBC2, 5.50pm).

Elsewhere, Jaws (ITV4, 9pm) and Tremors (ITV4, 11.40pm) provide some throwback monster movie fun.

Toy Story 2 (BBC1, 3.45pm)
The Perfect Catch (Film4, 4.40pm)
Regarding Henry (Film4, 6.50pm)
Shooter (Film4, 9pm)
The Bishop’s Wife (BBC4, 10pm)

21 December

The Inbetweeners Movie – Channel 4, 11pm (Photo: Film4)

There’s cringe-comedy greatness in the shape of The Inbetweeners Movie (Channel 4, 11pm), sweet festive rom-com The Holiday (ITV, 10.45pm) and a superhero epic in Captain America: the First Avenger (Film4, 9pm).

Toy Story 3 (BBC1, 3.35pm)
All Creatures Great and Small (BBC2, 12pm)
One Fine Day (Film4, 4.45pm)
Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason (ITVBe, 9pm)
Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows (ITV2, 9pm)
Taken 2 (E4, 9pm)
Under Siege (ITV4, 9pm)
The Mechanic (ITV4, 11.10pm)
The Witch (Film4, 11.25pm)

22 December

The Lone Ranger – BBC2, 7.15pm (Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The weekend before Christmas brings us a number of big films.

BBC2 have action-packed western The Lone Ranger (7.15pm), while ITV will be finishing up the original trilogy of Star Wars films with Return of the Jedi (6.30pm).

Pitch Perfect 2 (9pm) is Channel 4’s big film, while 2016 anmation Sing and Trainspotting sequel T2 make their debuts on Netflix.

Bridge to Terabithia (Channel 4, 8.45am)
The Muppets (BBC2, 10am)
12 Days if Giving (Channel 5, 10.50am)
Cars 2 (BBC2, 11.35am)
Hachi: a Dog’s Tale (Channel 4, 12pm)
Wedding Wonderland (Channel 5, 12.45pm)
Penguins of Madagascar (BBC1, 1.40pm)
Father of the Bride (Channel 4, 1.45pm)
Kung Fu Panda (BBC1, 3pm)
Finding Neverland (BBC2, 4.25pm)
Mariah Carey’s A Christmas Melody (Channel 5, 5.20pm)
“Crocodile” Dundee (Channel 4, 6.10pm)
Mamma Mia! (ITVBe, 6.50pm)
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Film4, 6.55pm)
Uncle Buck (ITV2, 7.05pm)
A Million Ways to Die in the West (E4, 9pm)
Hitman: Agent 47 (Film4, 9pm)
Iron Man (ITV2, 9pm)
Hell or High Water (Film4, 10.50pm)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (ITV2, 11.05pm)
East Is East (Channel 4, 11.10pm)
Jaws the Revenge (ITV, 11.25pm)
The Sapphires (BBC2, 11.40pm)

23 December

Pixar classic Up (BBC1, 3.25pm) is sure to get the poignant and feel-good tears flowing, before BBC2 takes things even more fantastical with Tim Burton’s live-action Alice in Wonderland (5.20pm).

ITV brings us Daniel Craig’s debut outing as Bond in Casino Royale (9pm), while Channel 4 gives us a chance to catch up on the first two instalments of the Men in Black series with the 1997 original (4.30pm) and first sequel, Men in Black 2 (6.20pm).

BBC4 are screening 80s pop-doc Bros: after the Screaming Stops (10pm), while cult festive horror Krampus gets its premiere on Channel 5 (11pm).

The Rugrats Movie (Channel 4, 6.55am)
Mr Peabody & Sherman (BBC1, 10.15am)
Twelfth Night (BBC2, 1.10pm)
A Christmas Carol (BBC1, 1.30pm)
A Snow White Christmas (Channel 5, 3pm)
A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (Channel 5, 4.50pm)
Exodus: Gods and Kings (Film4, 6.05pm)
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (Channel 5, 6.40pm)
The Grinch (ITV2, 7pm)
Breaking Dawn Part Two (E4, 9pm)
The Holiday (ITV2, 9pm)
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Film4, 9pm)
The Mechanic (ITV4, 9pm)
Far from the Madding Crowd (BBC2, 10pm)
Saw (ITV4, 10.50pm)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Film4, 11.20pm)

Christmas Eve

Zootropolis – BBC1, 2.55pm (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The first of the holiday season’s premieres hits on Christmas Eve in the form of animation Zootropolis (BBC1, 2.55pm), while firm festive favourites like Miracle on 34th Street (Channel 4, 6pm) and Gremlins (ITV, 9.30pm) are also on the schedules.

Channel 5 have their hands on a premiere in the form of Seth Rogen Christmas comedy The Night Before (11pm), while the Oscar-nominated animation The Breadwinner debuts on Amazon Prime.

Rugrats in Paris: the Movie (Channel 4, 6.40am)
Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings (BBC2, 7.15am)
Those Magnificent Men in The Flying Machines (BBC2, 9.25am)
SPYkids 4: All the Time in the World (Channel 4, 10am)
Shaun the Sheep Movie (BBC1, 10.10am)
Oklahoma! (Channel 5, 10.45am)
A Christmas Carol (Channel 4, 11.45am)
The Grinch (ITV, 12.55pm)
Romeo & Juliet (BBC2, 1pm)
Monsters University (BBC1, 1.20pm)
The King and I (Channel 5, 1.30pm)
We Bought a Zoo (Channel 4, 1.45pm)
Santa Claus (ITV, 3.25pm)
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (Channel 5, 4.20pm)
Jingle all the Way (Film4, 4.55pm)
Mary Poppins (BBC1, 5pm)
Kelly’s Heroes (ITV4, 6.10pm)
Knight and Day (Film4, 6.50pm)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (E4, 7pm)
The Lego Movie (ITV2, 7.05pm)
Fast & Furious 7 (ITV2, 9pm)
Kingsman: the Secret Service (Film4, 9pm)
Under Siege (ITV4, 9pm)
The Lady in the Van (BBC2, 10pm)
Rush Hour (ITV4, 11.10pm)

Christmas Day

The Good Dinosaur – BBC1, 1.30pm (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The big day itself sees a couple of high-profile Disney premieres.

The first is underrated Pixar gem The Good Dinosaur (BBC1, 1.30pm), which is followed – after the Queen’s speech – by the critically acclaimed live-action reimagining of The Jungle Book (BBC1, 3.10pm).

Channel 4, meanwhile, serves up Christmas classic The Muppet Christmas Carol (4pm).

Postman Pat: the Movie (Channel 4, 6.10am)
Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast (BBC2, 6.25am)
Rise of the Guardians (BBC2, 7.30am)
Rugrats Go Wild (Channel 4, 8.05am)
Jack Frost (ITV, 10.20am)
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (Channel 5, 10.45am)
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (BBC1, 11am)
Guys and Dolls (BBC2, 12.45pm)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Channel 5, 1.05pm)
Arthur Christmas (Channel 4, 1.45pm)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Channel 5, 3.10pm)
Monsters, Inc (ITV, 4.10pm)
The Spiderwick Chronicles (Film4, 4.45pm)
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Channel 4, 5.40pm)
Pride & Prejudice (More4, 5.40pm)
Captain America: the First Avenger (Film4, 6.35pm)
Mirror Mirror (E4, 7.10pm)
Carry On Camping (ITV3, 7.30pm)
Jurassic World (ITV2, 7.45pm)
Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Film4, 9pm)
Carry On Up the Khyber (ITV3, 9.15pm)
The Devil Wears Prada (E4, 9.15pm)
Gladiator (More4, 9.15pm)
The Duchess (BBC2, 10.15pm)
Carry On Girls (ITV3, 11pm)
The Silence of the Lambs (ITV4, 11.20pm)
Bridget Jones’ Diary (ITV, 11.30pm)
Confetti (BBC2, 11.55pm)

Boxing Day

The BFG – BBC1, 5.40pm (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The BBC continue to deliver big-named animated and CGI premieres on Boxing Day, so enjoy your cold cuts with the musical Trolls (BBC1, 3.50pm) and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (BBC1, 5.40pm).

Elsewhere, there’s more Bond with Quantum of Solace (ITV, 8pm), while Channel 4 have Robin Williams favourite Mrs Doubtfire (5.45pm).

Strange Magic (BBC1, 9am)
Short Circuit (Channel 4, 9.20am)
The Princess and the Frog (BBC1, 10.30pm)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (BBC1, 1.25pm)
The Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn (BBC2, 7.45am)
Free Willy 3: the Rescue (ITV, 9.25am)
The Young Victoria (BBC2, 10.20pm)
The Witches (ITV, 11.05am)
Small Soldiers (Channel 4, 11.20am)
The Dirty Dozen (Channel 5, 11.25am)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Channel 4, 1.25pm)
A Bridge Too Far (Channel 5, 2.20pm)
Saving Mr Banks (BBC2, 2.30pm)
Non-Stop (Film4, 6.55pm)
Where Eagles Dare (ITV4, 6.55pm)
Uncle Buck (ITV2, 7pm)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (More4, 8pm)
Life of Pi (E4, 8pm)
Bridesmaids (ITV2, 9pm)
Lucy (Film4, 9pm)
Dirty Dancing (Channel 5, 10pm)
Jaws (ITV4, 10pm)
Daddy’s Home (Film4, 10.40pm)
The Green Mile (Channel 4, 11pm)

27 December

Kung Fu Panda 3 – BBC1, 4.20pm (Image: 20th Century Fox)

Though the post-Christmas, pre-New Year film lull is beginning to kick in, the BBC still has another big premiere up its sleeve in Kung Fu Panda 3 (BBC1, 4.20pm), the final instalment of the Jack Black-starring animated franchise.

ITV continue their run of Bonds with Skyfall (8pm), while Bruce Willis is back in Die Hard reboot, Die Hard 4.0 (Film4, 9pm).

Dunston Checks In (Channel 4, 9.20am)
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (BBC1, 9.25am)
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (BBC1, 10.50am)
Congo (Channel 4, 11am)
K-9 (ITV, 11.20am)
The Hundred-Foot Journey (Channel 5, 11.55am)
Ever After: A Cinderella Story (Channel 4, 1.10pm)
The Desert Fox (BBC2, 1.30pm)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (BBC1, 1.30pm)
Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War (Channel 5, 2.20pm)
The Heroes of Telemark (BBC2, 2.55pm)
From Time to Time (Channel 5, 4.35pm)
Dr Dolittle 2 (Film4, 5.05pm)
The Golden Compass (ITV2, 6.40pm)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Film4, 6.55pm)
Cannonball Run II (ITV4, 7.45pm)
Pitch Perfect (ITV2, 9pm)
American Gangster (ITV4, 10pm)
Meet the Fockers (BBC1, 10.25pm)

28 December

Wreck-It Ralph (BBC1, 4.10pm) brings animated fun and video game references galore to a flagging, post-Christmas crowd, while feel-good ski-jumping comedy biopic Eddie the Eagle (Channel 4, 8pm) is sure to raise spirits as we head towards the New Year.

Short Circuit 2 (Channel 4, 6am)
Turbo (BBC1, 9am)
The Cowboys (Channel 5, 9.15pm)
A League of Their Own (Channel 4, 9.45am)
Kindergarten Cop (ITV, 10.25pm)
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (BBC1, 10.25pm)
The Alamo (Channel 5, 11.55pm)
Mother’s Day (Channel 4, 12.15pm)
Emma (BBC2, 12.30pm)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (BBC1, 1.15pm)
Brideshead Revisited (BBC2, 2.25pm)
Sunshine on Leith (Channel 4, 2.35pm)
Rio Lobo (Channel 5, 3.15pm)
Iron Man 2 (ITV2, 6.25pm)
Bend It like Beckham (Film4, 6.45pm)
A Million Ways to Die in the West (E4, 9pm)
Babylon AD (Film4, 9pm)
Last Vegas (More4, 9pm)
Mamma Mia! (ITVBe, 9pm)
Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows (ITV2, 9pm)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (ITV2, 9pm)
Nerve (Film4, 10.45pm)
Gladiator (More4, 11.10pm)
Quartet (BBC2, 11.10pm)
Rush Hour 2 (ITV2, 11.50pm)

29 December

ant man
Ant-Man – BBC1, 7.50pm (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Another big premiere for 2018, as recent Marvel superhero caper Ant-Man (BBC1, 7.50pm) comes to terrestrial TV for the first time.

Comedy sequel Anchorman 2: the Legend Continues (Channel 4, 9pm) is also on hand, while things get a little more sombre in Philomena (BBC2, 9pm), the second part of a Judie Dench double-bill which starts with this year’s delightful anecdote swap, Nothing Like a Dame (BBC2, 7.40pm).

Bean (Channel 5, 9.45am)
Bill (BBC2, 10.30am)
Groundhog Day (Channel 5, 11.35pm)
The Mummy (ITV, 12.05pm)
Baby’s Day Out (Channel 4, 12.15pm)
Dunkirk (BBC2, 1pm)
Chicken Run (BBC1, 1.15pm)
Ghostbusters II (Channel 5, 1.35pm)
Hugo (Channel 4, 2.10pm)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (BBC1, 2.35pm)
Eragon (Film4, 4.40pm)
Apollo 13 (ITV4, 6.15pm)
Knight and Day (Film4, 6.50pm)
Mirror Mirror (E4, 6.55pm)
Minions (ITV2, 7.10pm)
Fast & Furious 7 (ITV2, 9pm)
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Film4, 9pm)
Rush Hour 2 (ITV4, 9pm)
X-Men – The Last Stand (E4. 9pm)
Saw (ITV4, 10.50pm)
The Inbetweeners 2 (Channel 4, 11.20pm)

30 December

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – ITV, 8pm (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

ITV finish off their run of the Star Wars saga with the terrestrial TV debut of Episode VII: The Force Awakens (ITV, 8pm).

If space opera is not your thing, Paddington (Channel 4, 5.40pm) tells a new whimsically entertaining version of the young bear from Peru, while Denzel Washington’s award-winning drama Fences comes to Netflix.

Bolt (BBC1, 9.20am)
The BFG (BBC1, 10.45am)
The Mummy Returns (ITV, 11.25am)
Young Winston (BBC2, 12.15pm)
Two by Two (Channel 4, 1.45pm)
Cinderella (BBC1, 2.25pm)
ET the Extra-Terrestrial (Channel 5, 2.40pm)
Edward Scissorhands (Channel 4, 3.30pm)
Morning Glory (Film4, 3.45pm)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (BBC1, 4.05pm)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Channel 5, 5pm)
Porridge (BBC2, 5.30pm)
Jurassic World (ITV2, 5.40pm)
A Beautiful Mind (Film4, 6.05pm)
The Beast Exotic Marigold Hotel (More4, 7pm)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (E4, 7pm)
The Heroes of Telemark (BBC4, 8pm)
Rock of Ages (ITV2, 8pm)
Kingsman: the Secret Service (Film4, 9pm)
The Silence of the Lambs (ITV4, 10pm)
The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey (ITV, 10.50pm)
What Women Want (Channel 5, 11.05pm)

New Year’s Eve

Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie – BBC1, 9pm (Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

One final big premiere to see out 2018 comes in the form of Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie (BBC1, 9pm), a big-screen take on the popular 90s sitcom.

Elsewhere, there’s the most recent James Bond outing in Spectre (ITV, 8pm), the terrestrial TV premiere of 2015’s live-action Peter Pan movie, Pan (Channel 5, 5.45pm), and a holiday season classic in Home Alone (Film4, 4.50pm).

Planes (BBC1, 9am)
The Croods (BBC1, 10.20pm)
Flash Gordon (Channel 4, 11.10am)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (ITV, 11.45am)
What Women Want (Channel 5, 11.45am)
Death on the Nile (BBC2, 12.50pm)
Vice Versa (Channel 4, 1.20pm)
Dirty Dancing (Channel 5, 2.15pm)
Big Hero 6 (BBC1, 2.40pm)
Evil Under the Sun (BBC2, 3.10pm)
The Dam Busters (Channel 4, 3.20pm)
Maleficent (BBC1, 4.15pm)
New Year’s Eve (ITV2, 6.40pm)
X-Men (Film4, 6.55pm)
“Crocodile” Dundee II (Channel 4, 7pm)
Ethel & Ernest (BBC2, 7.30pm)
Cannonball Run II (ITV4, 7.50pm)
Les Miserables (More4, 8pm)
Bridesmaids (ITV2, 9pm)
The Inbetweeners Movie (E4, 9pm)
Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Film4, 9pm)
American Gangster (ITV4, 10pm)
Back to the Future (Film4, 11.35pm)

New Year’s Day

The Revenant – BBC2, 10pm (Photo: 20th Century Fox)

2019 kicks off with two big premieres on the BBC: Pixar’s moving Inside Out (BBC1, 5pm), and the Oscar-winning tale of Leonardo DiCaprio’s fight for survival in The Revenant (BBC2, 10pm).

There’s another premiere with action movie The Finest Hours (BBC2, 5pm) which sees Chris Pine mount a daring sea rescue, and BBC4 screens Oasis documentary Supersonic (10pm).

Thomas and Friends: Big World! Big Adventures: the Movie (Channel 5, 7.15am)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Channel 4, 8.10am)
Planes: Fire and Rescue (BBC1, 9am)
ET the Extra-Terrestrial (Channel 5, 9.15am)
The Muppet Movie (Channel 4, 10am)
Home (BBC1, 10.15am)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Channel 4, 11.30am)
The Railway Children (BBC1, 1pm)
Splash (Channel 4, 1.25pm)
Monkey Kingdom (BBC2, 1.30pm)
Oliver! (Channel 5, 2.25pm)
The Eagle Has Landed (BBC 2, 2.50pm)
Turner & Hooch (Channel 4, 3.40pm)
The Jungle Book (BBC1, 3.45pm)
Minions (ITV2, 6.15pm)
Snow White and the Huntsman (Film4, 6.25pm)
Where Eagles Dares (ITV4, 6.50pm)
Titanic (E4, 7pm)
Iron Man 2 (ITV2, 8pm)
Bad Boys (Dave, 9pm)
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – the Touring Years (More4, 9pm)
Bridge of Spies (Film4, 9pm)
Full Metal Jacket (ITV4, 10pm)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (BBC1, 10.55pm)

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