A list of best period drama movies for Christmas. Costume dramas that take place around or celebrate the Christmas holiday. Timeless classics, all-time Christmas favorite films, period television Christmas specials, older movies, top family friendly and Christian faith-based movies, that take place during the Early and Middle Ages, the Georgian era, Victorian era, Edwardian era, First World War, Interwar, Second World War, and beyond. Period dramas filmed in England, UK and other countries set in that time period that are safe for children to watch, with family values. Made for television, historical dramas, old-fashioned romantic comedies, feel good films, traditional movies based on classic books and literature. More to come!

For the lists of the best period dramas and recommended documentaries in additional eras, wander over to: What To Watch: The Period Films List

Please note that all of the lists have multiple pages. 

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A Child's Christmas in Wales (1987)

Made for television from the Dylan Thomas classic, the film concerns a traditional Christmas in Wales around the turn of the 20th century (probably late Edwardian era), told by a grandfather to his grandson in flashbacks as a story in a more modern day setting. Adapted from poem by the same name by Dylan Thomas (1914 - 1953), the movie has been aired on PBS.

The story is an anecdotal retelling of a Christmas from the view of a young child and is a romanticised version of Christmases past, portraying a nostalgic and simpler time. It is one of Thomas's most popular works. Filmed on location in Montgomery, Wales and includes some older Welsh carols like "On To Bethlehem Town" and "All Through the Night," this is a sweet, funny period film that is suitable for the whole whole family and has become a Christmas tradition to many.

It’s a faithful yet playful adaptation of Thomas’ work, a narrative poem conceived as a radio play, and the film is at once appropriately sentimental about Christmases past and tartly realistic about the Christmas depicted in the film’s present. It stands in contrast to so much Christmas entertainment that is either gloppy or pious; Elliott, as both narrator and lead actor, provides a vinegary crispness to the role of nostalgic grandfather. - Entertainment Weekly

"Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea." - A Child's Christmas in Wales

"For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens." - A Child's Christmas in Wales

Starring Denholm Elliott, Mathonwy Reeves.

A Christmas Carol (1938)

In one haunted evening, embittered old miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who has soured on the world and his fellowman, learns the true spirit of Christmas from three ghostly visitors. After moving visions of long-dead happiness, of past and present remorse and a fearful glimpse into the future, Scrooge receives the chance to change his life for the better on Christmas morning.

Crotchety miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen) hates Christmas and mistreats his long-suffering employee, devoted family man Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart). But a visit from the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley (Leo G. Carroll) and three Christmas spirits (Lionel Braham, Ann Rutherford, D'Arcy Corrigan) might convince him to change his ways and become more kindhearted. This adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic became a holiday staple for decades.

For a generation of radio fans, Lionel Barrymore was the definitive Ebeneezer Scrooge. Alas, Barrymore was crippled by arthritis by the time MGM got around to filming Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in 1938, so the Scrooge role went to contract player Reginald Owen - who, though hardly in the Barrymore league, does a splendid job. Hugo Butler's screenplay must make some adjustments from the source material. The Ghost of Christmas Past, for example, is played not by a robust middle-aged man but by a beautiful young woman (Ann Rutherford). Impeccably cast, the film includes such reliable character players as Leo G. Carroll (Marley's Ghost), Barry McKay (Scrooge's nephew Fred) and Gene and Kathleen Lockhart (Bob and Mrs. Cratchit). The Lockhart's teenaged daughter June makes her screen debut as one of the Cratchit children, while Terry Kilburn is a fine, non-sentimental Tiny Tim. Commendably short for a major production (69 minutes), MGM's Christmas Carol is one of the best adaptations of the oft-filmed Dickens Yuletide classic, and definitely on equal footing with the more famous 1951 Alastair Sim version.

Starring Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Terry Kilburn, Barry MacKay.

A Christmas Carol (1984)

Christmas elicits nothing more than "Bah, humbug!" from Ebenezer Scrooge (Scott), a miser whose sole pursuit of financial success has left him a bitter and lonely old man. But a Christmas Eve visit from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future ultimately teaches him to open his heart to the spirit of Christmas and to the joys of friends and family. The costume drama is a striking adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1843 classic story.

One of the most striking images in the book, and in this television adaptation, occurs when the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to see the homeless masses living on the streets and suddenly reveals two scrawny waifs huddled in a fear that is both pathetic and menacing. Their names are Ignorance and Want. This crucial aspect of the always heartwarming ''Christmas Carol'' has been preserved eloquently for television. Filmed in the English town of Shrewsbury, on the Welsh border, the production beautifully evokes a sense of period and place, washed in misty pastel colorings. Care has obviously been taken. The story is clearly in good hands. - New York Times

Starring George C. Scott, David Warner, Susannah York, Anthony Walters, Frank Finlay.

Note: TNT's made for television A Christmas Carol (1999) starring Patrick Stewart, Joel Grey, Richard Grant received lukewarm reviews, as did Hallmark's holiday TV-movie (based on the Broadway version) A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004) starring Kelsey Grammar, but might be worth a watch for anyone wanting to take in multiple adaptations of the story. For another early adaptation, see A Christmas Carol (1954) which features Fredric March (The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit) as Ebenezer Scrooge and Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) as Jacob Marley. Reportedly, this version is great family entertainment and is sure to help capture the spirit of Christmas. For fun, there is also The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) set in a Victorian Muppetland of sorts.

A Christmas Carol / Scrooge (1951)

Crotchety Victorian businessman Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) has no use for festivity, even at Christmas. After resentfully allowing timid clerk Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) to have the holiday to spend with his loving wife (Hermione Baddeley) and family, Scrooge is swept into a nightmare. The ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), appears, warning that Ebenezer will be visited by three more spirits who will show the coldhearted man the error of his parsimonious behavior.

Alastair Sim's tour-de-force performance as the ultimate miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, has almost single-handedly made this beloved version of Charles Dickens' story into one of the best-loved Christmas films of all time. Some of Britain's best filmmakers united behind Sim, who was joined by a delightful cast of accomplished and acclaimed English actors; creating what many today believe to be the best and most faithful production of Dickens' immortal tale. Cranky and curmudgeonly Scrooge learns the error of his unkind ways and is taught the true meaning of the holidays when he is visited by the ghost of his late business partner and the spirits of Christmas past, present and future. A British holiday classic.

Widely considered to be the definitive of the many film versions of Charles Dickens' classic novel is this 1951 British adaptation, starring Alastair Sim (entitled "Scrooge" in its U.K. release). Sim plays Ebenezer Scrooge, a London miser who, despite his wealth, refuses to make charitable contributions and treats his sole employee, Bob Cratchit, as an indentured servant. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley, who was as selfish as Scrooge in life and has been condemned to an eternity of wandering the Earth in shackles. Marley informs Scrooge that he's to receive a trio of spirits that night who will take him on a journey through Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come. As Scrooge encounters each apparition, he is taken on a tour of his life and realizes what a wretch he is, transformed by greed from an idealistic youth into an embittered ogre. Infused with a new, cheery outlook, Scrooge sets about earning his redemption. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

Starring Alastair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Jack Warner, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley.

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story is a Christmas classic on DVD that tells the story of nine-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsley). In the movie, Ralphie wants only one thing: a Red Ryder Range 200-Shot BB gun. When he mentions it at the dinner table, his mother's immediate reaction is that he'll put his eye out. He then decides it's the perfect theme for a report for his teacher, but her reaction is like his mother's. He fantasizes about what it would be like to be Red Ryder and catch the bad guys. When the big day arrives he gets lots of presents under the tree including a lovely gift from his aunt that his mother just adores. But what about the BB gun?

Director Bob Clark's charming, touching, and very funny adaptation of humorist Jean Shepherd's nostalgic, autobiographical Yuletide novel, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, remains essential holiday family viewing. Narrated by a man (Shepherd) recalling his childhood, the film looks back at the compulsive efforts of 7-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) as he tries every means possible to acquire his dream Christmas gift--a Daisy-brand Red Ryder repeating BB carbine with a compass mounted in the stock. Problem is, he lives in a Norman Rockwell-esque Midwestern town in the 1940s, where his parents, teachers, and even Santa Claus all warn Ralphie that "he'll shoot his eye out." Episodic in nature and seen entirely through the eyes of a child, the film offers a wonderful look at the day-to-day eccentricities that grew out of this conservative period. More interestingly, it cleverly captures childhood urgency, where even the most trivial fantasies or objects become immediate life-or-death necessities. While countless family Christmas movies serve up clichéd situations suffocating with preachy sermons, Clark's acute eye for detail and odd mixture of warmth, satire, and quirky humor are the reasons why so many viewers have rediscovered this after it initially bombed in the theaters. Sentimental without being syrupy, it's a true rarity: a holiday movie that adults and children can enjoy equally, for completely different reasons and regardless of the season. --Dave McCoy

Starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz.

Note: The Orphan Annie radio decoder pin that Ralphie receives is the 1940 "Speedomatic" model, indicating that the movie takes place in December, 1940. Different decoder badges were made each year from 1935-1940. By 1941, the decoders were made of paper.

A Christmas Wish / The Great Rupert (1950)

A heartwarming holiday classic about a family who is down on their luck at Christmas time. Shortly before Christmas, they move into an apartment where Rupert the squirrel lives in the attic rafters and acts as the family's guardian angel not only saving Christmas, but changing their lives forever. Enlivened with an unforgettable love story between Terry Moore (Mighty Joe Young) and Tom Drake (Meet Me in St. Louis). Rupert the Squirrel (created using George Pal's Academy Award winning animation) will charm young and old alike. Jimmy Durante shines when he sings well-loved Christmas carols in the evocative voice that made him one of America's recording legends.

“A Christmas Wish” is an old-fashioned, heartwarming story featuring the antics and singing of the talented Jimmy Durante. The plot involves the Amendola family trio, entertainers of the circus, made up of Papa Louie (Durante), Mama (Queenie Smith), and daughter Rosalinda (Terry Moore), who rent an old, dilapidated house. The landlord’s son, Peter Dingle (Tom Drake), takes a liking to Rosalinda and she to him. The Amendolas have been out of work for some time, but when Peter’s father begins storing his savings behind a wall, little does he know that a squirrel that is hiding there gets rid of it through a hole in the ceiling. The result is that, while Mama Amendola prays for new shoes for Rosalinda, the money literally falls from the ceiling! So, every week on Thursday, at the same time, she sits and prays again, and Mr. Dingle keeps making the Amendolas’ dreams come true! In the end, the story is all tied up like a neat Christmas bow. If you enjoy watching scenes of an old-fashioned Christmas, along with music and some romance, “A Christmas Wish” is the movie for you. We are happy to award it our Dove Family Approved Seal. If you have ever had a Christmas wish, this movie will inspire you to keep on wishing and believe that dreams do come true. - Dove

Starring Jimmy Durante, Terry Moore, Tom Drake, Frank Cady, Queenie Smith.

A Little Princess (1986)

Alone in a new country, wealthy Sara Crewe tries to settle in and make friends at boarding school. But when she learns that she'll never see her beloved father gain, her life is turned upside down. Transformed from princess to pauper, she must swap dancing lessons and luxury for hard work and a room in the attic. Will she find that kindness and genorosity are all the riches she truly needs? Pivotal scenes take place at Christmastime and emphasize the importance of generosity.

The family-friendly mini-series is based upon the novel, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Produced by London Weekend television and shown on PBS / Wonderworks.

Starring Maureen Lipman, Amelia Shankley, Miriam Margolyes, Annette Badland, Natalie Abbott.

Note: The 1986 version is accepted as the most faithful adaptation of the book, partly because A Little Princess (1995) shifts the place to New York and the time period to 1914 just before the outbreak of World War I and makes a more fairytale ending. There is also a The Little Princess (1939) starring Shirley Temple, which also shifts the ending though it is set in Victorian England.

All Mine to Give (1957)

Set around Christmas in 1850's Wisconsin. In this fact-based drama set in the 1850s, the Eunsons move from Scotland to the American Midwest, where they live happily and run a successful business -- until the untimely deaths of both the father (Cameron Mitchell) and the mother (Glynis Johns) of the family. Now orphaned, the six Eunson kids must fend for themselves. Robbie (Rex Thompson), the oldest, does his best to care for his siblings while he searches for foster parents kind enough to accept such a large family into their home.

You'll have to keep wringing out your handkerchief during this heartwarming tale of an oldest child's efforts to find his baby siblings homes on Christmas Day after the death of his widowed mom. An intelligent, talented cast saves what could have been a hopelessly schmaltzy tearjerker. - TV Guide

Winter comes, and Mamie, exhausted, contracts typhoid fever. Robbie takes charge of the household, but several days before Christmas, Mamie calls him to her side and asks him to find good homes for the children. After praising her son for having truly been the man of the house, Mamie dies. During her funeral, the haughty Mrs. Runyon loudly asks what the villagers are to do with six orphans. Robbie asks that the children be allowed to spend Christmas together before being sent to the state orphanage, and Dr. Delbert consents to the request. - Turner Classic Movies

Starring Glynis Johns, Cameron Mitchell, Rex Thompson, Patty McCormack, Ernest Truex.

Note: One year before its American release, the film was distributed in Great Britain under the title The Day They Gave Babies Away. This may be too sad for many for Christmas viewing, but for some this is a heartfelt film with family values that gets top billing.

A Midnight Clear (1992)

In the winter of 1944 at Christmastime, American soldiers led by Will Knott (Ethan Hawke) are assigned to capture a small squad of German soldiers posted in France's Ardennes forest. Tired of war, the Americans have already lost half their division and discover that their German enemy is equally unwilling to fight. With Jewish soldier Stan Shutzer (Arye Gross) interpreting, the Germans and Americans agree on a plan that will let the former surrender without violence -- but then, tragedy strikes. Not suitable for children.

"A Midnight Clear" recalls the often told story about a Christmas Eve in the trenches during World War I. At midnight, so the story goes, Allied and German soldiers met in the middle of no man's land to sing carols and toast each other's health. "A Midnight Clear" expresses something of the same longing, but without the greeting-card sentiment. - New York Times

We can see at once that this is a war movie - we know from the costumes it is World War II - but somehow the film is able to suggest some hidden purpose, and we know it will not simply tell a war story. It is Christmas season of 1944, late in the war. Germany has obviously lost. One of the Americans speculates that perhaps the Germans intend to surrender to them. There are other hints: Christmas carols drifting on the wind. A snowball fight. Eventually it becomes clear that the Germans - as young and inexperienced as the Americans - want to give up the fight. And here the story again stops following the usual war movie lines, and takes its own way. - Roger Ebert

The performances are uniformly excellent as the film moves inexorably towards bloody confrontation and spiritual reckoning. - Time Out

Sensitive, bright and supremely moral...shows how courage itself can be a kind of insanity. - LA Times

A movie to seek out and treasure. - Time Magazine

Starring Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Arye Gross.

Note: The film is a screen adaptation of William Wharton's 1982 novel of war remembered as "surreal muddle." This one is not for everyone: expect adult themes, strong language, violence and disturbing images in this tragic film about the humanity of the soldiers, on both sides, and the complexities of war.

An American Christmas Carol (1979)

It is Christmas Eve 1933, and the townspeople of Concord, NH are trying to hold onto their holiday spirit in the face of the Great Depression. But old Mr. Benedict Slade (Henry Winkler) is ruining what hope they have left by mercilessly repossessing their prized goods. Alone in his apartment, Slade is visited by three ghosts--Christmas Past, Present and Future--who take him on a fantastic journey through time that will show him the tragic consequences of his actions if he doesn't mend his ways forever. A unique retelling of Charles Dickens' beloved A Christmas Carol. Lensed in Canada, this made-for-TV film premiered the week before Christmas of 1979.

Starring Henry Winkler, Dorian Harewood, David Wayne, Chris Wiggins, Cec Linder.

Note: The make-up is bad and the story takes some odd turns but some might find this worth a watch out of interest as another adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and for those who like Winkler.

An Avonlea Christmas / Happy Christmas, Miss King (1998)

The award-winning cast of "Road to Avonlea" returns for this touching King Family reunion. As they prepare for their traditional Christmas dinner, their gathering is marred by the news that one of their youngest members, Felix, is missing in action on the battlefields of Europe. To make matters worse, the indomitable Hetty King collapses with an unexpected health emergency. An Avonlea Christmas is an uplifting drama that reinforces the power of family love in times of crisis.

As World War I rages in Europe, the citizens of Avonlea prepare for their annual Christmas festivities. Hetty King, always ready and willing to do her part for king and country, is planning a Christmas concert with the schoolchildren to raise funds for the war effort. Janet King however, whose son Felix King is away fighting in the trenches, would prefer to forget about the war altogether.

Starring Jackie Burroughs, Mag Ruffman, Zachary Bennett, Gema Zamprogna, Lally Cadeau.

Note: Shown on the Hallmark Channel, Happy Christmas, Miss King (titled An Avonlea Christmas on later DVD releases), is a Road to Avonlea made for television reunion movie. An Avonlea Christmas was filmed a couple of years after the Road to Avonlea sets had been taken down which made it necessary to find a way of recreating Avonlea. Existing establishing shots from the Road to Avonlea series were used to set up each scene and give the show a familiar “Avonlea” look. Portions of the interiors of Rose Cottage and the King house were rebuilt from scratch. From the producers of Anne of Green Gables.

And the Edwardian era, family-friendly Anne of Green Gables features a Christmas ball (to which Anne wears the famed blue puffy sleeved dress) and plenty of festive snow and a sleigh ride: "Megan Follows, Tony Award winner Colleen Dewhurst and Academy Award nominee Richard Farnsworth give unparalleled performances in the critically acclaimed motion picture based on the internationally best selling novel. Filmed amidst the spectacular scenery of Prince Edward Island, Canada, this Emmy Award winning production follows the provocative life drama of orphan Anne Shirley from her struggles as an adolescent to her triumphs as a young woman. A delicate epic full of wit, style and emotional power."

Rated PG

An Old Fashioned Christmas (2010)

When an English aristocrat and her Granddaughter, Tilly, visit relatives in Ireland for the Christmas holidays, they find that the family has become impoverished and is looking to try and marry their son, Cameron, to Tilly to save their legacy. However, what the Grandmother has failed to relay is that Tilly is engaged already. So, it's up to Irish luck to help Tilly fall in love with Cameron. But what happens when Tilly's fiancé arrives to surprise her for Christmas?

It's December 1870, and we pick up on the adventures of Mathilda "Tilly" Bassett and her rich grandmother Isabella, having toured some of Europe's cultural centers and are now arriving in Dublin for a month-long stay. Tilly's inner struggle is between being a society woman in-the-making and the Yankee farm girl that are her roots. Isabella's mission is to expose Tilly to the world of letters; that's why she's bringing her to Dublin, to meet Ireland's poet laureate, the Earl of Shannon. But there's a saying throughout Ireland: "If you want to make God laugh, try making plans." "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" is the next chronicle in the saga that began with esteemed American novelist Louisa May Alcott's short story, An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving.

Starring Jacqueline Bisset, Catherine Steadman, Robert O'Mahoney, Marion O'Dwyer, Kristopher Turner.

Note: This doesn't appear to be available as a Region 1 DVD. An Old Fashioned Christmas is a made-for-cable television movie. Originally aired on the Hallmark Channel, it is a sequel to the Victorian era costume drama An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (with a different actress playing Tilly). The castle in An Old Fashioned Christmas is Knappogue Castle in County Clare, Ireland. Willow and Thatch's movie review for An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving is here.

Babes in Toyland (1961)

Mary Contrary (Annette) is set to marry Tom Piper (Tommy Sands) when he is kidnapped by Roderigo (Gene Sheldon) and Gonzorgo (Henry Calvin), two goons working for the evil Barnaby (Ray Bolger). Barnaby wants to marry Mary for her inheritance. Instead of killing Tom as instructed, Roderigo and Gonzorgo sell him to Gypsies, which allows Tom to rescue Mary. Soon afterward, they all stumble upon Toyland, where the Toymaker and his assistant Grumio are preparing for Christmas.

Walt Disney's packaging of Victor Herbert's indestructible operetta is a glittering color and song and dance-filled bauble artfully designed for the tastes of the sub-teen set. "Toyland" should be a Christmas joy to every moppet everywhere. - New York Times

Starring Ray Bolger, Tommy Kirk, Annette Funicello, Tommy Sands, Ann Jilliann.

Note: This was the first live-action musical that Disney Studios produced.

Bachelor Mother (1939)

Unemployed Polly Parrish (Ginger Rogers) impulsively picks up a baby left at orphanage doors at Christmas. Everyone assumes the foundling is hers, including Polly's playboy ex-boss (David Niven), who offers her a job if she'll live up to her maternal duties. A paycheck would be handy, so Polly complies. Then the boss's tycoon dad (Charles Coburn) assumes the infant is his secret grandson...and things really spin out of control. Buoyed by Rogers' irresistibly endearing performance, Bachelor Mother is one of those rarities, a brilliantly cast comedy where everything - plot, pacing and dialogue (thanks to Garson Kanin's savvy direction and Norman Krasna's witty script) - is exactly, hilariously right. Set during the Christmas - New Year season.

Ginger plays Polly Parrish, temporary Christmas help at Merlin & Son's department store. Charles Coburn is J. B. Merlin and David Niven is his footloose son David. Ginger is given her pink slip along with the other Christmas help and upon leaving the store comes across an old woman leaving a small baby on the steps of an orphanage. Ginger of course picks the baby up as the door opens and from here on in everyone assumes it's hers!

One of the season's gayest shows....the players are capital. Miss Rogers is demonstrating again that she is one of the screen's most knowing comediennes. Mr. Niven, as her perplexed overseer and baby-feeding adviser; Charles Coburn as the pontifical grandfather (by adoption); Ernest Truex as the man from the foundling home; Frank Albertson as the fellow employe and Ferike Boros as the landlady—all are perfect in their way. So out of the nowhere, like Polly's baby, a merry comedy has come tripping, all new and brightly shining and full of the most unexpected nonsense. -New York Times

A true classic. I have watched this movie every year around the holidays since I can remember. It is innocent enough for children yet entertaining for adults. - Amazon reviewer

Starring Ginger Rogers, David Niven, Charles Coburn.

Note: This 1930s film was remade as a musical in the Bundle Of Joy (1956): When Bundle of Joy premiered in 1956, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher were the cutest young marrieds in Hollywood, the obvious choice to headline the musical remake of one of the great comedies of the '30s, Bachelor Mother. As the Prince Charming of the piece, Fisher proves that as an actor, he is a pretty good crooner. But Reynolds is warmly appealing in the role originated by Ginger Rogers, playing a salesgirl who picks up a foundling, is mistaken for its unwed mother and must keep up the charade - baby and all - to keep her job.

Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

A modern-day witch likes her neighbor but despises his fiancee, so she enchants him to love her instead... only to fall in love with him for real.

During the Christmas holiday season, Greenwich Village witch Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak), a free spirit with a penchant for going barefoot, has been unlucky in love and restless in life. She admires from afar her neighbor, publisher Shep Henderson (James Stewart), who one day walks into her gallery of African art to use the telephone (after Gillian's aunt Elsa Lanchester put a spell on his phone). When she learns he is about to marry an old college enemy of hers, Merle Kittridge, Gillian takes revenge by casting a love spell on Shep, and she eventually falls for him herself. She must make a choice, as witches who fall in love lose their supernatural powers.

Starring Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester, Kim Novak, James Stewart, Janice Rule.

Note: This is not a traditional Christmas film, though the movie whited opened on Christmas 1958 does feature wintery street scenes of New York and "Jingle Bells" is used to set the Christmas tone of the initial action.

Beyond Christmas / Beyond Tomorrow (1940)

George Vale Melton (Harry Carey), Allan Chadwick (C. Aubrey Smith) and Michael O'Brien (Charles Winninger) are rich but lonely, so they invite a pair of strangers, schoolteacher Jean Lawrence (Jean Parker) and cowboy James Houston (Richard Carlson) to their house for dinner on Christmas Eve. Both James and Jean seem to hit it off, but the next day the three old men are killed in a plane crash. Now ghosts, the three work from the afterworld to make sure the young couple stays together. A latter-day Christmas Carol, told with tenderness and warmth.

Beyond Christmas is a rare holiday treasure. This is the uplifting story of three elderly gentlemen who become the guardian angels of a kind couple they met at Christmastime. Before proceeding to Heaven, the spirits work behind the scenes to ensure that the couple's love will endure forever. Filled with heart and soul, this charming 1940 holiday classic is perfect for the Christmas season -- and beyond. This is a beautifully colorized version of this heartwarming holiday film.

Sensitive little drama of three wealthy men sharing Christmas with down-and-out Carlson and Parker, who fall in love. - Turner Classic Movies

This is one of the most wonderful and unusual movies ever produced by Hollywood. Three elderly men make friends of a lonely young man and woman who fall in love and become engaged. The three men die drastically in a plane crash, but become spiritual guides for this young couple as ghosts. The young man becomes a success as a singer, and soon lets success get to his head and ignores the girl he was going to marry. The young man gets shot and dies. The elderly ghost asks God to give the young man a second chance to live, to make amends with his true love, which God grants. As you can tell, this is not a typical Hollywood movie. It deals with heaven, hell, and purgatory without mentioning the words. It's a very entertaining, sometimes humorous, and moving movie. This movie isn't for everybody, but this movie has a deep spiritual meaning that will touch many. - David Erhardt

Starring Harry Carey, Charles Winninger, Aubrey Smith.

Bush Christmas (1947)

Four children...Two horse thieves...One amazing adventure! Saddle up and get ready to ride on a daredevil rescue mission that's a holiday delight! For four children in a small outback town, it's the last day of school and the first day of the Christmas season! So when they spy a pair of strangers hiding among the trees, they're too busy dreaming about the presents under their own tree to notice anything suspicious. But later that night, while the family is asleep, someone steals their father's prized horses. And to make matters worse, Dad's so upset that he decides to cancel the holiday altogether! But there's one thing the thieves didn't count on: these kids aren't about to let anyone steal their Christmas joy! Now with their saddlebags stocked full of hilarious tricks and traps,the amateur detectives head for the hills determined to catch the bad guys, bring back the horses and save the spirit of the season! Hit the trail for "humor, action and comedy" (The Film Daily) in this yuletide adventure that'll make every day seem like Christmas!

Starring Chips Rafferty, John Fernside, Helen Grieve, Nicky Yardley, Stan Tolhurst.

Note: This is an odd kind of film - not very Christmasy at all and it is dated, especially in attitude toward the Aborigines, though the role of the girl is nice in that she makes for a strong and brave leader. It is listed here as there aren't many Australian Christmas period films, and may be of interest to some. Nicole Kidman's first feature film role was in the 1983 remake of the 1947 film. Bush Christmas (1983) also known as Prince and the Great Race is another Australian Christmas drama film but the setting is more modern. Both are based on a novel by Ralph Smart and Mary Cathcart Borer.

Call the Midwife Christmas Specials (2012 - 2017) BBC

Christmas Special 2012: The midwives of London's Nonnatus House deliver more babies and drama during the festive period, in this Christmas special; based on the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth. Christmas is coming and the midwives of Nonnatus House are busier than ever. When an abandoned baby is discovered on the steps of the convent, the whole community rallies around to try and trace the mother. Meanwhile, Jenny Lee finds herself drawn into the mystery surrounding elderly local woman Mrs. Jenkins and Chummy is determined to stage an unforgettable nativity play.

Christmas Special 2013: In Poplar, Christmas 1958 is not just about the opening of presents, but also about the closing of deep wounds. Wartime trials are relived - and a new enemy confronted - before peace and love are restored.

Christmas Special 2014: Rehearsals are underway for the Christmas Concert. Chummy is enlisted to help run a poorly managed mother and baby home and succeeds in bringing some festive joy to the residents. Cynthia is drawn into a case concerning two former residents of a mental hospital who have been left to fend for themselves. There is but one question in all of their hearts - what will 1960 bring?

Christmas Special 2015: Festive cheer is in plentiful supply as Poplar readies itself for Christmas. But it's a difficult time of year for grieving mother Iris; bringing back memories of her long departed baby daughter. As the community pull together to prepare for the televised carol concert, Nonnatus is rocked when Sister Monica Joan goes missing.

Christmas Special 2016: Nonnatus House receives an SOS from a tiny mission hospital on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Understaffed, underfunded, and with a poor water supply, struggling Hope Clinic is faced with closure. Can our much loved medics and midwives make a difference to the people whose lives depend upon its work?

Christmas Special 2017: Coming soon!

About the series: Adapted by Heidi Thomas from the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth, this drama series is a moving, funny, colorful look at midwifery and family in 1950s East End London. It follows newly qualified midwife Jenny, who joins an eccentric, lovable community of nuns who are nurses at Nonnatus House. Jenny is surprised to find herself at a convent -- she thought she was being sent to a small private hospital -- and is initially daunted by her surroundings, most notably the formidable Sister Evangelina and the unconventional Sister Monica Joan. But Jenny gradually begins to find her way and develops incredible friendships among the nurses, as they are drawn into the lives and homes of the women and families they treat.

Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Judy Parfitt, Jessica Raine, Jenny Agutter, Joanne Matthews, Monsay Whitney, Micky Baker, Miranda Hart, Helen George, Bryony Hannah, Lizzie Hopley, Ami Metcalf, Cliff Parisi, Sheila Reid, Pam Ferris, Jake Bailey, Max Macmillan, Ben Caplan, Laura Main, Stephen McGann.

Christmas at Downton Abbey (2011)

Christmas 1919. Downton Abbey is hosting a lavish Christmas party, yet despite being the season of goodwill, tensions are rife and Bates' arrest has cast a shadow over the festivities. Will he be a condemned man or will he be found innocent in time to dance with his new wife at the annual servants' ball? Mary has to consider her future with Sir Richard Carlisle following a contretemps at the shooting party and Violet has concerns about Rosamund, whose new suitor - the dashing but raffish Lord Hepworth - is not all he seems.

The holiday is a mostly happy one—everyone is concerned about incarcerated Mr. Bates, and duly mopey Anna, but not enough to call off the present-giving, the feasting, and the games. Downstairs, games mean popping crackers, wearing paper crowns...The Servants’ Ball, with a lovely orchestra and plenty of spiked punch. Thomas waltzes with the Dowager Countess, Matthew says “Crikey!” and pregames his dance with O’Brien... Vanity Fair

Starring Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern.

Note: Christmas at Downton Abbey is Episode 9 of Series 2 of the acclaimed costume drama.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

A food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas.

Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan star in Christmas in Connecticut (1945), a romantic comedy set during the holidays at wartime. Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a columnist for "Smart Housekeeping," THE magazine for aspiring homemakers. Every month she details her domestic triumphs from the idyllic setting of her farm in Connecticut. Touted as the "greatest cook in the country," she seems to have it all - a beautiful home, a happy husband, an adorable baby and of course, plenty of livestock. Elizabeth Lane is a role model to millions of readers who turn to her every month for guidance and inspiration.

One such reader is wartime hero, Jefferson Jones, played by Morgan. Lost at sea for many days without food, he dreams of elaborate meals such as those described in Lane's column. As a promotional stunt for the magazine, the publisher arranges for Jones to spend the holidays at Lane's farm. Sydney Greenstreet, more commonly associated with films noir than light comedies, plays the role of publishing magnate, Alexander Yardley. Yardley is so enthused with the idea of a war hero coming "home" for the holidays that he decides to join the festivities on the farm. The only hitch is that there is no actual farm, house, husband, child or livestock, for that matter. All of the material in Lane's monthly column comes from one place - her imagination. And of course, it is this same source that she must draw upon in order to continue the elaborate charade without losing her job. - Turner Classic Movies

Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, S.Z. Sakall.

Christmas Oranges (2012)

In the 1900s the children living in the Irongates Orphanage devise a plan to make Rose happy on Christmas after she is punished.

In a town not so far away and a time not so long ago, baby Rose was left at Greenwoods Orphanage, where Mrs. Hartley (Nancy Stafford) and the children under her care become the young child’s family. But when tragedy strikes Rose (Bailee Johnson) loses the only home she has ever known and is abruptly shipped to Irongates — a place that seems as cold and cruel as her previous home was kind. The strict headmaster, Mr. Crampton (Edward Herrmann), immediately seems to dislike Rose — and makes sure all children are punished for any infractions of his rules. When she learns that every Christmas Mr. Crampton’s generous brother gives an orange to each child, Rose waits in eager anticipation. She’s sure it must be the most delicious treat in the world. However, on Christmas morning, Rose is devastated when she learns Mr. Crampton is punishing her again. But Christmas is a time of miracles. Share a slice of Christmas sweetened with friendship in this poignant Christmas story based on a classic holiday tale.

A beautiful Christmas film with a timeless message. Lovingly crafted, well-acted, and told with warmth and tenderness. - Meridian Magazine

Endearing from beginning to end! - LDS Living Magazine

Starring Edward Herrmann, Nancy Stafford, Bailee Johnson.

Note: This is a family friendly Christian faith -based film, awarded the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal for all ages.

Christmas Past - Vintage Holiday Films (1901 - 1925)

A collection of nine enchanting silent films, A Christmas Past offers a nostalgic peek into the Yuletide pleasures of the early 1900s. Evoking the Victorian charm of Currier and Ives prints, these picturesque comedies and tender dramas were produced as cinematic Christmas cards offered to moviegoers of the silent era. Included in this collection of archival rarities, most of which were produced at Thomas Edison's studios, are the 1910 version of Dicken's immortal A Christmas Carol, a heartwarming melodrama by D.W. Griffith (A Trap For Santa), as well as the first screen version of Clement Moore's 1822 poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The films have been digitally mastered from original 35mm elements and are accompanied by a wistful new score by Al Kryszak-performed on a variety of instruments including harp, violin and Christmas handbells - which beautifully enhances the delicate shadings of each of these rare and fascinating treasures.

Films: A Holiday Pageant At Home (1901) A Winter Straw Ride (1906) A Trap For Santa (1909) A Christmas Accident (1912) The Adventure Of The Wrong Santa Claus (1914) Santa Claus Vs. Cupid (1915) Santa Claus (1925) A Christmas Carol (1910) The Night Before Christmas (1905)

Christmas doesn't come any more old-fashioned than in this inspired collection of vintage holiday films from the silent era. Amidst the melodramas (D.W. Griffith's 1909 "A Trap for Santa Claus") and comedies (the "amateur" detective lark "The Adventure of the Wrong Santa Claus") are some delicious Christmas treats. The 1925 "Santa Claus" combines magical images of Santa's workshop elves with thrilling documentary footage of icy Alaskan landscapes and herds of wild arctic creatures, and the 1910 "A Christmas Carol" condenses the Dickens classic into 10 minutes by layering all the ghosts and memories into one brief but visually imaginative scene. The delightful "A Winter Straw Ride" (1906) transforms into a snowball free-for-all to celebrate the giddy antics of adults reverting to childhood innocence. Al Kryszak's new, melancholy score for strings and harp is often lovely but out of place amidst the cheer and holiday celebration of the films. --Sean Axmaker

Starring Marc McDermott, Charles Ogle, William Bechtel, Viola Dana, Carey Lee.

Note: These are not period dramas in the way we think of them now, but these silent Christmas themed short films that were originally made by the Edison Company between 1901 and 1925 and the earlier ones were among the first Christmas dramas. Made during the Edwardian, the First World War and Interwar eras.

Christmas Story / Joulutarina (2007)

This Finnish-language period fantasy (dubbed in English) tells the story of the altruistic giver St. Nicholas, the man who became Santa Claus in myth and legend - and whose life, shown here childhood on, radiates with messages of selflessness and friendship.

Many years ago, in Lapland, a boy named Nikolas is orphaned when his family are killed in an accident. The heads of the families in the village meet to decide his future and, as life in the arctic is difficult, it is decided that as no one family could care for him permanently, they would raise him communally, with each family taking him for one year and then moving him on to the next. Grateful, Nikolas begins whittling toys out of wood as a gift which, each Christmas, he leaves for the family that cared for him. It becomes a tradition from then, with Nikolas never forgets the children of those families that received him each year. When a blight hits the village, and none of the families can afford to take him in for the next year, he is taken in by grumpy hermit Iisakki as his carpenter's apprentice. Iisakki works him hard but Nikolas is clever and quick to learn, and Iisakki gradually grows to love Nikolas as his own son. Nikolas begins to live more and more for the spirit of Christmas with each passing year and it becomes his life and as he grows old he becomes the figure known as Santa Claus.

Dove family approved.

Starring Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Otto Gustavsson and Jonas Rinne.

Note: It is unclear what era this is set in, the press kit says "hundreds of years ago" so perhaps in the 1600s or 1700s but maybe earlier; if anyone knows please drop a line - till then, this is listed as Tudor / Stuart era. Filmed in Levi and Utsjoki, Laplan.

Come To The Stable (1949)

A heartwarming family film concerning the exploits of two French nuns who come to America, setting up operations in a local stable, in order to raise money for a children's hospital.

A Christmastime TV perennial, Come to the Stable is the gentle saga of two French nuns (Celeste Holm with accent, Loretta Young without) who come to America in hopes of raising funds for a children's hospital. Travelling to a small New England town presciently named Bethlehem, the nuns befriend eccentric painter Elsa Lanchester, who allows them to use her studio (actually a stable) for their base of operations. Utterly ingenuous when it comes to American mores and customs (they tear up a parking ticket, assuming it to be an advertisement), the sisters raise money in a variety of amusing fashions. One of their "agents" is outwardly tough gambler Thomas Gomez, who gives them the land they need and a cash contribution, to the astonishment of his equally raffish pals (who also kick in). And towards the end, the nuns even play a little professional tennis to raise money. Careful not to overwhelm the viewer with sentiment and religiosity, Come to the Stable (based on a story by Clare Booth Luce) is ideal holiday film fare.

Sweet, pious entertainment of a sort that “they don't make like that anymore.” - Decent Films Guide

Starring Loretta Young, Celeste Holm, Hugh Marlowe, Elsa Lanchester, Thomas Gomez.

Cranford: Return to Cranford (2009) BBC

Set in 1844, Return to Cranford is the two-part Christmas special of the costume drama Cranford, a BBC television adaptation of the book by the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell and broadcast by PBS as part of its Masterpiece Theatre series. Part 1 of Return to Cranford begins in August, Part 2 begins in October and closes on a snowy Christmas when the ladies of Cranford celebrate with games, songs, and heart-warming stories.

Change is racing towards the small, close-knit village of Cranford like a steam train — quite literally. As the railroad continues to encroach at the edge of town, Cranford strives to open to new realities, from surprising romances to unexpected losses and even waltzing! Matty Jenkyns (Judi Dench), Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton), Mrs. Forrester (Julia McKenzie) and Mrs. Jamieson (Barbara Flynn) are back with other distinguished residents of Cranford, along with one well-outfitted and mischievous cow. When a shocking event seemingly derails Cranford from its innocence, can a bit of magic and faith in enduring friendships save the day? Based on the stories of Victorian-era writer Elizabeth Gaskell, Return to Cranford also features Tom Hiddleston (Wallander) and Tim Curry.

The two-part saga Return to Cranford opens to a struggling Cranford, a traditional English village that in autumn 1844 is airing the conflicts that accompany progress. Miss Matty Jenkyns (Judi Dench), after having closed her business in the last series, is happily babysitting the child of her maid, Martha (Claudie Blakley). This gives the ladies in town something to gossip about, as does every other small event in this chatty group. The same women populate this new Cranford--the snooty Miss Jamieson (Barbara Flynn), nosy Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton), Miss Forrester (Julia McKenzie), Peggy (Jodie Whittaker), and Erminia (Michelle Dockery)--while a few new men added into the mix creates options for love intereststhroughout. In Part One, Peggy, visiting her dead father's grave, bumps into William Baxton (Tom Hiddleston), a young and dapper gentleman who becomes a central character in Cranford's growing divide between those who want a railroad coming through town and those who don't. While politics are sorted, scenes alternate between heated public debates and intimate domestic exchanges to make Return to Cranford as charming as the first incarnations of this historical drama. The emphasis on the ways the women in town navigate thorny social situations remains primary in Return to Cranford. Babies are born and the elderly pass away while the ladies busily decide what to make of it all. While Part One focuses on catch-up, showing where each crone stands on the latest current events, Part Twoattempts more to challenge outmoded cultural values such as elitism andto show how the community members toughen up to become a courageous bunch. Unfortunately, Miss Matty discovers that solidarity is hard to come by in this small village, and Part Two is as much about a town falling apart as it is about ways to heal sore feelings and a violated landscape.Ultimately, life marches on in this pleasurably fictionalized glimpse into England's past.

It is very much a holiday pudding...chockablock with Victoriana -- gorse-strewn landscapes, chaste and thwarted love, faded dance cards, death by childbirth, pesky class issues and of course, all those frilly bonnets...the sets are lovely, and the acting so fine that you find yourself wondering if there is any narrative bog that Dench, Staunton and their colleagues cannot illuminate with splendid bits of humor and humanity, even under 5 pounds of lace and ribbon.- L.A. Times

Starring Judi Dench, Francesca Annis, Jonathan Pryce, Imelda Staunton, Tim Curry.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Note: Episode Three of Cranford, set in 1842 also has some Christmas scenes. You may also be interested in the costume drama Victoria & Albert (2001) in which the royal family celebrates Christmas: "While still in her teens, Victoria (Victoria Hamilton) becomes the queen of England after her uncle, King William IV (Peter Ustinov), dies. Breaking free of the overbearing influence of her mother (Penelope Wilton), Queen Victoria gradually comes into her own as a ruler. Falling for her first cousin, Albert (Jonathan Firth), Victoria marries the handsome prince, but he struggles with his lack of authority. Eventually, Albert is given more duties, which only helps Victoria's decades-long reign."


4 Comments on Best Period Dramas: Christmas Classics

  1. Kelly Goshorn
    November 30, 2016 at 9:02 am (2 years ago)

    What a lovely site! I feel I have found a great treasure!

  2. Darlene
    July 19, 2017 at 1:46 pm (2 years ago)

    This site is such a find! I am so very well pleased to have stumbled,(if one can stumble on the internet), upon this! Thank you so much for all the research and effort! Well done indeed!

    • Willow and Thatch
      Willow and Thatch
      July 19, 2017 at 2:16 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you so much, and welcome!

  3. Jenn
    December 9, 2017 at 2:41 am (1 year ago)

    Don’t forget “Meet Me In St. Louis” because who can go one Christmas without Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”??? (Also, A Miracle On 34th Street and A Wonderful Life)