The holiday season in Australia might look a little different to the snow-covered landscapes we often see in Christmas-themed movies, but many Aussies will be gathering the family in front of the TV and enjoying a classic festive film or two at this time of year – along with some slightly less “Christmassy” fare, perhaps.
Christmas movies are synonymous with nostalgia and tradition, comforting and entertaining us in equal measure while exploring universal themes such as love, family, and forgiveness. From the tear-inducing life lessons of It’s a Wonderful Life to the wacky hi-jinks of Elf, we return to these holiday staples again and again each year.
But as a new study from Preply reveals, Australians don’t always opt for tradition when it comes to their Yuletide viewing habits – using Google search data to discover the most popular Christmas films down under, the language and culture experts discovered a somewhat controversial title as being this year’s go-to festive movie. Want to find out which Christmas movies made the top 30? Read on to find out.
What are Australia’s most popular holiday movies?
The study of the most popular Christmas films uncovered a mix of Yuletide tastes among Australians, with revered festive classics alongside some less traditional festive-themed movies and hidden gems. Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Perhaps controversially, the study revealed the 2019 DC superhero adventure Shazam! to be the nation’s favourite festive film! Is it even a Christmas movie?
- The universally popular Elf came in second, with other traditionally festive fare like Deck the Halls and Nativity also breaking the top 10.
- However, some “gold-standard” Christmas movies, such as Home Alone, Love Actually, and It’s a Wonderful Life, didn’t even make the top 10.
- Some more hair-raising movies like Gremlins and Krampus are also popular among Australians, showing we’re not immune to a festive scare or two.
- Yuletide “hidden gems” such as Silent Night, Just Friends, and The Family Man were surprisingly popular, featuring ahead of some more recognised classics.
Is Shazam! a Christmas film?
The superhero movie starring Zachary Levi – which spawned a less popular sequel in 2023 – ranks as the number one “Christmas movie” in Australia according to the study (also amassing 4 million views on TikTok), but should this tale of a fostered boy discovering his super-powered alter-ego even count?
Whether you think so or not, Shazam! is at least set around Christmas, with a third-act battle that takes place at a Christmas carnival, and the movie’s director David F. Sandberg insists that it feels like a Christmas movie to him: “It’s about family, and finding your family… and Christmas is very much a family holiday,” Sandberg insisted in an interview.
What are the most popular Christmas movies by region?
Breaking the study down by regional search volume, it’s interesting to find that Shazam! doesn’t feature among the favourites of any Australian states or territories. In fact, the data throws up a real mixed sackful of festive films.
Queensland and Tasmania like a festive fright, for example, with Better Watch Out and Krampus being their respective faves, while in New South Wales they prefer the more wholesome Nativity. In South Australia, they’re more likely to opt for that real family favourite, Elf.
What makes a good Christmas movie?
With Shazam! somewhat controversially being crowned the most popular Christmas movie in Australia, we’re reminded of the continual debate about what counts as a Christmas film and what doesn’t. Is Die Hard a Christmas film, for example, just because it happens to be set at Christmas eve? The same could be asked about Batman Returns or Gremlins.
But it’s often the emotional resonance a film has with its audience that determines if it can be considered a “Christmas” film, instead of whether it features traditional festive staples like snow, twinkling lights, and people dressed in garish sweaters. Themes like hope, forgiveness, and family are present in many of the films we watch around the holidays.
These films are treasured across many cultures around the world, sparking nostalgia and encouraging time spent with family and loved ones. For those who find this time of year difficult due to loneliness or stress, movies can also offer a release that might make the world feel a little lighter for a couple of hours.
So, as you get ready to usher in the holiday season, which movies will be gracing your TV set this year? Will you opt for the traditional festive fare of Elf, Home Alone, or Love Actually, or might you choose something a little bit different and escape to a world of lycra-clad, super-powered heroes?
Preply’s study used an IMDb seed list of the 100 most popular Christmas films, analysing their Australia-based search volume using the keyword research tool Ahrefs.
The 30 movies with the highest search volume were selected and analysed, using Google Trends data to reveal which Christmas movies were the most popular in each region.
Image: Zachary Levi in Shazam! – courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.