A selection of films for all moods that are worth catching, or setting the video for, over the Christmas break.
Saturday 22 December
GOOD WILL HUNTING (9.25pm, BBC2). Matt Damon is the disturbed working class kid who is also a genius. Robin Williams is the psychologist who helps him (but don’t let that put you off).
THE BIRDS (11.45pm, ITV). Hitchcock’s classic thriller, starring Tippi Hendren, Rob Taylor and some very nasty crows.
Sunday 23 December
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1.40pm, C4). Peter O’Toole plays T E Lawrence, organising Arab armies to fight the Ottoman Turks, only to find himself and the Arabs betrayed by Britain.
OTHELLO (9pm, ITV). Shakespeare’s classic tragedy is updated to a modern police station in a city stirring with racial tension and unrest. Christopher Eccleston and Eamonn Walker star as two police officers, one white, one black, competing for promotion.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2.35am, ITV). George C Scott is a brilliantly loathsome Ebenezer Scrooge in this particularly dark and sinister version of Dickens’s classic.
PORTRAIT OF A LADY (8.15pm, C4). Henry James’s novel comes to the screen. This lavish version stars Nicole Kidman. It describes the trials and tribulations of a woman seeking freedom and independence in Europe around 1900.
MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL (9pm, C5).This is a great film that tells a story of murder and tangled gay relationships in the US Deep South.
Thursday 27 December
THE MASK OF ZORRO (8pm, BBC1). Old fashioned swashbuckler with Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas hamming it up while taking on dastardly Don Monterro in 19th century California.
THELMA AND LOUISE (12.15am, ITV). Classic road movie, with Geena Davies and Susan Sarandon breaking free, doing it for themselves and heading for a memorable climax.
Friday 28 December
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (12.55pm, BBC2). The greatest film version of this Dickens classic about justice, revenge and social class. Directed by David Lean and starring John Mills and Alec Guinness.
JAWS (10.55pm, BBC1). Just when you thought it was safe to get another helping of Christmas pudding…
VERTIGO (11.25pm, ITV). Hitchcock’s brilliant portrayal of deception and obsession.
Saturday 29 December
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (12.15pm, BBC2). Sunny and funny film of Shakespeare’s comedy. THE ENGLISH PATIENT (9pm, BBC2). Epic film, showered with Oscars, which tells a story of love amidst the horrors of the Second World War.
Sunday 30 December
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (2.05pm, BBC2). Spellbinding romantic drama set against the background of the Russian Revolution.
THE TRUMAN SHOW (9pm, BBC1). Jim Carrey discovers that he is the unwitting star of a docusoap. Great satire on the modern obsession with celebrity and consumerism.
New Year’s Eve
THE WICKER MAN (11.40pm, C4). An ageing copper is sent to a remote Scottish coast, where the locals turn out to have very strange habits.
New Year’s Day
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (9.30pm, BBC1). This historical drama was a huge hit at the cinema. It’s enjoyable froth-perfect for those feeling a little fragile.
MISSISSIPPI BURNING (11.55pm, ITV). Three black civil rights activists were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. This film is based on a fictional account of the ensuing investigation. It is a brilliant account of the vicious racism of the US.
TOY STORY (4.40pm, BBC1). Brilliantly animated story about being true to yourself and loyal to others. First appearance of Buzz Lightyear.
CHARLIE STRAPP AND FROGGY BALL (2.45am, C5). Set the video on Christmas Day to catch this anti-capitalist tale. A grasshopper and his pals unite to stop a giant corporation taking over the planet (well, their forest).
JUMANJI (2.55pm, BBC1). The discovery of a board game hurls children back into a scary past.
ANTZ (5.15pm, BBC1). A great cartoon about worker ants rebelling, and worker and soldier ant unity (honest!).
New Year’s Eve
MATILDA (2.50pm, BBC1). A girl takes revenge on a bullying teacher in this adaptation of a Roald Dahl story.
Film director Pedro Almodovar has some of his films screened over the holiday period. His films express the sexual and social experimentation in Spain’s post-Franco era.
Thursday 27 December
LIVE FLESH (12.35am, C4).
Monday 30 December
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (10.35pm, C4). THE FLOWER OF MY SECRET (12.30am, C4).
New Year’s Eve
WOMEN ON THE EDGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (1.35am, C4).
Some recent films now out on video or DVD may be a good alternative to some of the dross clogging up the Christmas schedules.
THIRTEEN DAYS. Tense thriller about the dangerous days of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
TRAFFIC. Hollywood version of the US war on drugs.
THE TAILOR OF PANAMA. Pierce Brosnan stars in this effective version of John Le Carré’s classic spy thriller.
OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? Coen brothers’ weird and wonderful film based on Homer’s Odyssey.
CHOCOLAT. Something sugar sweet for Christmas. Joanne Harris’s best seller turned into a hit film.
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