In a break from the normal routine, Mat brings you a day-by-day guide to some of the best movies showing on UK free-to-air TV over the Christmas period. In addition to our daily pick we’re also listing all the other movies showing each day that we think are worth watching, and you can click on many of those movie names to access a short review from our MovieViews database.
Sylvester Stallone’s most famous role sees him play Rocky Balboa, a small-time Philadelphia boxer whose life is going nowhere until he gets a once in a lifetime shot at the World Heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. Later films would focus on the in-ring action and make the character a typical American hero, but the first film is more of a drama as we see Rocky building a relationship with shy pet store clerk Adrian and his will to make something better of himself. With the classic training montage scenes and accompanied by Bill Conti’s iconic score, Rocky is a fantastic, sometimes sad but ultimately uplifting story that won three Oscars from ten nominations.
Kindergarten Cop (1990), Film4, 16:35
Highlander (1986), Horror, 21:00
Money Monster (2016), GREAT! Movies, 23:05
RED (2010), Film4, 23:15
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The team responsible for TV show Spaced made their big screen debut with this delightful Brit-rom-zom-com. Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, who along with best mate Ed (Nick Frost) must deal with the challenges of keeping his girlfriend happy, trying to get on with his stepfather and surviving a Zombie apocalypse. As all good Brits would, he heads to the safest location he can think of – the Pub! With quintessentially British humour, plenty of pop culture nods and dozens of memorable scenes, Shaun of the Dead is an absolute joy, which helped propel both stars and director Edgar Wright to international success. If you’re a fan of horror then there’s ample gore in this film, and if you’re not then the comedy is sure to entertain you, making this a treat for everyone.
Shrek (2001), ITV, 13:45
Love Actually (2003), ITV2, 21:00
Meet the Parents (2000), Channel 5, 22:00
Die Hard (1988)
Channel 4, Saturday 13th, 23:15
The argument over whether it’s really a Christmas movie will rage on forever, but few would dispute that it’s the best action movie ever made. Die Hard reinvented the genre with Bruce Willis as John McClane, an unassuming guy with none of Stallone or Schwarzenegger’s physical presence, who just happens to be the only man that can save a group of hostages – including his wife – from a band of armed robbers that have taken over an L.A. skyscraper. As good as Willis is, the late Alan Rickman steals the show as chief antagonist Hans Gruber, proving that villains can be just as charming and intelligent as heroes. With witty dialogue that is as outstanding as the explosive action sequences and a story filled with tension and excitement, over thirty years on few films have come close to matching Die Hard’s perfect blend.
Alpha (2018), Film4, 11:00
School of Rock (2003), ITV2, 16:05
The Untouchables (1987)
Loosely based on real events, Kevin Costner stars as Eliot Ness, who teams up with a group of incorruptible agents in an attempt to bring down mob boss Al Capone in Prohibition-era Chicago. Stylishly shot and packed with action scenes, the film was responsible for making Costner an A-list movie star and Sean Connery received an Oscar for his supporting role as one of Ness’s team. With Robert De Niro playing Capone and a solid turn from Andy Garcia too, the acting talent can’t be faulted and when you add in the thrill-packed story and Ennio Morricone’s award-winning score, this is a blockbuster in every sense of the word.
Rocky IV (1985), ITV4, 21:00
True Lies (1996), 5Star, 21:00
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), Film4, 21:00
Back to the Future (1985)
In all honesty you should never need to watch the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown on Freeview TV because everyone should own a copy of this film! If you don’t, then once you’ve finished hanging your head in shame, tune in to watch one of the greatest films of all time, a perfect blend of Sci-Fi, adventure, comedy and 80’s coolness, with a superb story and fantastic performances from everyone involved. Not to mention the magnificent soundtrack, spectacular visual effects and thrilling action sequences. In case you hadn’t worked it out, it’s quite good. A perfect family Christmas and a timeless classic – pun intended!
The Terminator (1985), 5Star, 00:00 (Thursday night)
Galaxy Quest (1999), ITV4, 12:30
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Channel 4, 14:00
Chicken Run (2000)
Aardman Animations first full-length film, Chicken Run took the charm and overt Britishness of the company’s short films and combined them with a thrilling action-adventure story to create the most successful stop-motion animated film of all time. A cast including some of Britain’s finest actors teamed up with Mel Gibson as a group of chickens that plan to escape from their farm before they end up in their owner’s new pie-making machine. Drawing heavily on classic films, most notably The Great Escape but with nods to the likes of Star Wars and The Shawshank Redemption, the film is an enjoyable breath of fresh air in the world of CGI, and an amazing technical achievement.
Love Actually (2003), ITV, 22:40
Independence Day (1996), Film4, 18:10
E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Grab the tissue box and settle in for Spielberg’s wonderful story of a peaceful interstellar botanist that is accidentally left behind by his spaceship, and welcomed into American suburbia by a boy in need of a friend. Inspired by the director’s experiences following the divorce of his parents, the entire film is strongly focussed on childhood, from the convincing performances of young Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore to the many shots filmed from a child’s perspective, and culminating in the scenes that put a BMX on every boy’s Christmas list. Funny, thrilling, and frequently heart-wrenching, helped in no small part by John Williams’ Oscar-winning score, E.T. is a one-of-a-kind fairy tale that will remind you how great it was to be a child.
In Bruges (2007), Film4, 01:45 (Saturday night)
Crocodile Dundee (1986), Channel 4, 16:00
The Goonies (1985), 5Star, 18:45
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018), Film4, 21:00
The Thing (1982), Horror, 21:00
A film that really needs no introduction, Ghostbusters tells the story of a trio of University professors whose investigations into the paranormal are cut short when their research budget is cut. Having recently had their first experience with a supernatural entity, they sink all their remaining money into setting up a company to trap and contain ghosts. This fortuitously coincides with the arrival of an ancient demigod whose presence attracts an unprecedented number of spirits to New York City, with our heroes the only thing standing between them and the end of the world. Some of the special effects look dated now but this film was never really about them, as a brilliantly-written story with some of the finest comedic talent of the era make for one of the most iconic of all 80s movies and a pop culture sensation that endures to this day.
Die Hard (1988), ITV4, 21:00
Isle of Dogs (2018), Film4, 23:15
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Channel 5, 17:10
When uptight executive Neal Page’s flight home for Thanksgiving is cancelled due to bad weather, he reluctantly teams up with annoying salesman Del Griffith for a three day road trip to Chicago. Along the way they experience a number of hilarious mishaps as Neal’s initial hatred of his companion eventually softens into a grudging respect. John Hughes finally moved away from teen comedy with this film, which is regarded as one of his finest thanks to the brilliant comedic performances from Steve Martin and John Candy. It’s not quite a Christmas movie but the snowy environment and eventual happy ending still make it an excellent choice for the festive season.
We Bought a Zoo (2011), Film4, 15:25
Misery (199), Channel 4, 23:15
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
GREAT! Movies, 18:55
I’m sure this film has inspired thousands of schoolkids to play truant over the years, but I’d guarantee that none of them had as much fun as Ferris and his friends on their day off! John Hughes’ movie is odd in that very little actually happens. Some kids skip school and go to the city, no significant relationships are formed or broken, no cataclysmic events occur, and nobody gets into serious trouble. The reason it is so enjoyable is because these kids get to live the dream of everyone who fancies a day off (school or work) and do things that we’d never dare to. The characters are likeable and there are some fantastic lines and scenes that have become legendary. It’s a great feelgood movie simply because there’s nothing to hate about it – even the School Principal out to catch them provides fun moments – and that makes it a pretty unique achievement.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011), Film4, 02:10 (Tuesday night)
Big Hero 6 (2014), BBC1, 10:40
The Terminal (2004), GREAT! Movies, 21:00
Hot Fuzz (2007), ITV, 22:20
In the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley, the sole human survivor of the first film. Awoken from hypersleep half a century on, her warnings about the vicious xenomorph are not taken seriously until contact is lost with the colony now established on the planet from the first film. She joins up with a team of hardened space marines to go and investigate, and they soon discover that the aliens have been rather busy. Director James Cameron eschews much of the first film’s tension in favour of all-out action, with some tremendously exciting sequences, making this a very different film from its predecessor but one that is equally as good, if not better.
The Jungle Book (2016), BBC1, 15:35
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Channel 4, 18:45
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), GREAT! Movies, 21:00
Ready Player One (2018), BBC1, 22:35
Hell or High Water (2016), Film4, 23:50
New Year’s Eve
Escape from New York (1981)
John Carpenter’s second of five collaborations with Kurt Russell resulted in the creation of one of action cinema’s coolest characters, Snake Plissken. The eye-patch wearing anti-hero is about to be imprisoned in the City of New York, which has been sealed off in a dystopian future and used to house the worst of the world’s criminals. Fate intervenes however when the President’s plane crashes in the city and Snake is sent in to rescue him. Gritty and violent action sequences follow, along with interactions with the city’s diverse and dangerous residents, not least Isaac Hayes as the extravagant Duke of New York. With Carpenter’s trademark visual style and electronic score, thrilling set-pieces and solid acting from much of the cast, this is one of the finest examples of the genre.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Channel 4, 18:45
Star Trek (2009), Film4, 18:35