The holiday season is upon us again. The retail industry has been in full swing for weeks, eagerly awaiting its busiest time of the year. We’ve got Christmas cards planned and ready, the work Christmas party is promising to be gossip-worthy in the aftermath, and decorations are being pulled out of storage in the garage and dusted off.

In among all of this will be the traditional Christmas movie viewing. Films are now an important part of Christmas tradition, and it might be time to carefully plan your festive feature-length treats.

White Christmas (1954): It would be a bit remiss to start a Christmas list without mentioning what, to me, is the classic Christmas movie. It isn’t just the dulcet tones of Bing, or the comedy of Danny Kaye. It’s the way that everything about this movie has become a part of the Christmas tradition, and it’s now thought of as compulsory Christmas viewing in my presence.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): There have been plenty of retellings of the Charles Dickens classic, but in many ways I find this to be the best. It’s loyal to the original Dickens material, is something that all the family can enjoy, and hey, it involves Muppets. What’s not to like? Michael Caine as Scrooge, and The Great Gonzo as Dickens himself, are particular highlights.

Die Hard (1998): Maybe one for after the kids go to bed, but I can’t listen to the song Let it Snow without thinking of John McClaine pitted against Hans Gruber in Nakatomi Towers. Enjoy your nice, normal Christmas, by watching someone yearning for a nice, normal Christmas.

Gremlins (1984): Part way between a family comedy and a light horror movie, Gremlins will succeed in giving you a creepy Christmas. Watch the Gremlins cause mayhem, complete with a disturbing story of how Billy’s girlfriend’s father died during the festive season. There’s something great about this movie that could only have come out of the ’80s — I fear that if there’s ever another Gremlins movie, 3D Gremlins won’t hold the same charm over their rubber predecessors.

Christmas Vacation (1989): Considered a modern Christmas classic, Christmas Vacation is a comedy about the normal man (albeit Chevy Chase) trying to have a “a good old-fashioned family Christmas” (maybe a bit like Die Hard in that respect). Chevy was at the height of his career here; it should be the staple comedy Christmas viewing.

Love Actually (2003): This British comedy manages to mix comedy, romance, drama and a brilliant cast of actors into a great Christmas movie. There’s something for everyone in this movie, and yet I unavoidably feel the need to leave the room once Mariah Carey’s effort at Christmas music begins.

Honourable mentions: Home Alone (if you can stomach Macaulay Culkin and the Road Runner-style injuries), Miracle On 34th Street (any version, although Richard Attenborough nailed the Santa Claus role) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (Tim Burton’s mind must be a scary place …).

Matt Smith teaches journalism at La Trobe University, and blogs at The End of the Spectrum