3 film stills from Home Alone, Birdman and Little Women. Left: A young boy (Kevin McCallister) sits on an armchair in a living room decorated for Christmas in 1990. Middle: A man stands in a store, surrounded by bright, multi-coloured Christmas lights hanging all around him. Right: A dining room in the 19th century that is decorated for Christmas. Four sisters standing by a dining table piled with festive baked goods and candles.
(Source, L-R: Julio Macat/Twentieth Century Fox; Emmanuel Lubezki/New Regency Productions; Yorick Le Saux/Columbia Pictures)

One of the main reasons I love watching holiday films is the chance to take in all the beautiful — and yes, often aspirational — festive decor. After all, the best seasonal cinema understands how to offer a glowing, nostalgia-dipped spectacle. So when it comes to your own winter decorating, why try to rewrite the wheel? Let these seven (mostly) festive films fill you with glittering inspiration for decking your own halls this December.

Home Alone

A young boy (Kevin McCallister) sits on an armchair in a living room decorated for Christmas in 1990. A Christmas tree is in the corner, stockings and a wreath are hung above the fireplace.
(Source: Julio Macat/Twentieth Century Fox)

When it comes to perennial holiday rewatches, it’s tough to beat the big-budget Christmas mayhem of Home Alone. Part of what makes this film an all-timer is the memorable set decoration by Eve Cauley. 

Speaking with Hunker, Cauley revealed that the traditional palette of the McCallister house was inspired, in part, by artist Norman Rockwell’s Americana Christmas portraits. If your family loves this movie as much as I do, consider adopting Rockwell’s timeless use of red, green and gold for your own space. Folding this retro colour combo into your pillowcases, throw blankets and table linens will bring a toasty wave of Christmas magic to the proceedings.

Little Women

A dining room in the 19th century that is decorated for Christmas. Four sisters standing by a dining table piled with festive baked goods and candles.
(Source: Yorick Le Saux/Columbia Pictures)

While it may not be a holiday film proper, Greta Gerwig’s unmissable 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s literary classic Little Women features some of the most beautiful Christmastime decor from recent memory, thanks to the work of production designer Jess Gonchor.

Flirt with 19th century decorum by filling your home with fresh fruit and greenery, forgoing plastic decorations and perhaps even replacing your indoor string lights with a scattering of lifelike flameless candles. Don’t forget to take inspiration from the March family’s table settings as well — a selection of fancy pastries is key to completing the scene. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas 

A still from an animated film. A skeleton dressed as Santa hands a present to a small child in front of a fireplace mantel in a living room tinged with blue. A colourful Christmas tree is lit in the corner of the room.
(Source: Pete Kozachik/Touchstone Pictures)

The winter holidays are great and all, but if you’re anything like me, you wish it were still Halloween. This December, why not take a note from The Nightmare Before Christmas rule book with some spooky twists on tradition? 

Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s stop-motion classic has surgically linked Christmas and Halloween, so it’s an ideal pick to turn to for an alternative festive theme. A black synthetic tree decorated with white ornaments could instantly turn your halls into a German Expressionist nightmare. And what’s more magical for a goth kid than that?

The Holiday

A woman reading a book sits on a beige armchair next to a fireplace with a fire in it. A Christmas tree is in the corner behind the chair and a small dog is sitting in a basket next to her.
(Source: Dean Cundey/Columbia Pictures)

Nancy Meyers is known for being the queen of heartwarming romantic comedies, having delivered comforting classics such as It’s Complicated and Something’s Gotta Give. But the filmmaker arguably reached the height of cosiness with her 2006 December staple The Holiday and its secret-weapon setting: the Rosehill Cottage. Stationed in the romantic English countryside, this idyllic stone cottage is the perfect tucked away fantasy for any city-dweller desperate to clear their head. 

Let the easy, romantic wonder of The Holiday inspire you to go simple with your holiday decor this year. All you really need to turn your space into a comfy British cottage is a pile of warm blankets. Drape yourself in enough chintz and paisley, and it’ll feel just like you’re next to a roaring fire.

A Christmas Prince

A woman in a floor-length blue gown stands at the top of a grand staircase. The bannisters are decorated with green garlands with red and gold ornaments in them. Garlands and strings of Christmas lights hang on the wall behind her.
(Source: Viorel Sergovici/Netflix)

While the Hallmark and Lifetime channels still have a firm hold on the subgenre of holiday movies that revel in schlock, Netflix upped their game in 2017 with the release of silly new classic A Christmas Prince. Concerning an aspiring journalist turned fish out of water queen of Aldovia, this film serves up a royal holiday celebration like no other. 

If you’d like to take your cues from this fictional nation’s design book and go full European castle this year, fill your home with thrifted gold accents and adorn your staircase or mantel with lush, red velvet ribbons from the dollar store. Oh, and don’t forget to find the biggest tree you can possibly fit in your space — it’ll make the Aldovians proud. 

Birdman

A man stands in a store, surrounded by bright, multi-coloured Christmas lights hanging all around him.
(Source: Emmanuel Lubezki/New Regency Productions)

2014 Academy Award darling Birdman is anything but a holiday film. But the mind-melting philosophical drama makes this list because of a scene in which Michael Keaton’s character, Riggan Thomson, visits a liquor store in downtown Manhattan. Featuring stunning camerawork from cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the shots are dripping in bright, eclectic Christmas lights. 

Take inspiration from this scene to transform a special corner of your space with waterfalls of assorted twinkle lights — and only twinkle lights. From strings of red chili peppers to traditional glittering whites, layer them on to create your own unforgettable installation.

A Charlie Brown Christmas 

A still from an animated film. A young boy (Charlie Brown) stands outside in the snow putting a single red ornament on a sparse Christmas tree. A dog house behind him is decorated for Christmas.
(Source: Lee Mendelson Film Productions)

Nothing gives off sad Yuletide vibes quite like the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, with its unmistakable soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio delivering the perfect balance of melancholy and joy. If you love this timeless staple, consider going a step further and allowing the title character’s ennui to set the stage for your holiday decor. 

Whether your grocery store sells the mini kind or you have a more DIY way of doing things, it’s easy to source your own Charlie Brown–style Christmas tree. So why not give a pouty guy a warm home and a single red ornament to hang out with this year? Of course, if you’d prefer to avoid the mess of the real thing, you could always go with an official Peanuts branded one


Josh Korngut is a writer and filmmaker based in Toronto, Canada. He’s also the managing editor of Dread Central, a web publication which covers all things horror. Check out his podcast Development Hell wherever you listen, and say hi to him on socials via @joshkorngut.


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