Christmas movies are the Stilton of the seasonal cheeseboard. They’re big and smelly but it wouldn’t be Christmas without a slice of their sentiment. Our familiarity with them  builds a wonderful sense of continuity. Like  Christmas itself, you know what to expect. And if the Christmas that lies ahead may not be all that you hoped,  or you are feeling low or lost or wishing you were anywhere else, they are a wonderful distraction.

 Here are’s top five mincemeat-flavoured cinema treats  

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life: the incomparable James Stewart plays a man who tries to kill himself on Christmas Eve and is rescued by a curmudgeonly angel. Motto: Count your blessings

  2. Home Alone: Macaulay Culkin as an eight-year old accidentally left behind when family goes to Paris for Christmas. Motto: Count your children

  3. Elf: Silly, funny comedy starring Will Ferrell. Motto: Doesn’t need a higher meaning.

  4. Muppet Christmas Carol: Tells the story of Dickens’ Christmas with squishy-faced puppets. Motto: Be of good cheer.

  5. Love, Actually: Totally cheesy, but also nicely British tale of Richard Curtis types at Christmastime. Emma Thompson as betrayed wife gets us every time. Motto: Come prepared – Kleenex may be necessary.

If you've seen them all and can’t think of a worse list, comment below with your favourite(s). And pass the chocolates while you’re up …