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I’m dreaming of a Black Christmas…film list

Whether you’re looking for your festive reality to be mirrored or you want some romantic escapism, there’s a Black festive movie for you.

22 Dec 2022

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A cast jam-packed with Black Hollywood’s favourite aunties and uncles, a big table full of seasoned soul food, and a cousin who is either being cheated on or doing the cheating, Black Christmas films are an unmissable messy festive genre. They might not always dominate the box office, but for a lot of people the themes of love, loss, and a big ole family reunion are very relatable. The luxury – and rarity –of seeing a fictional dysfunctional family overcome years of generational trauma to enjoy a good plate full of food, honour the spirit of baby Jesus, and bask in Black glory is a Christmas miracle that we are all trying to replicate.

So, in the spirit of mac ‘n’ cheese and collard greens, here are six of the best Black Christmas movies to watch this holiday season.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Released during lockdown, Netflix’s first black-led Christmas film, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, certainly lived up to its hype. Reminding us that “the strength of family and the power of possibility” are real, the musical is a sweet amalgamation of hope and warmth. Jingle Jangle follows Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker), a popular toy maker and shop owner, whose life is turned upside down after his book of ideas is stolen by his assistant Gustafon (Keegan-Michael Key of Key & Peele fame).

Thirty years later, his granddaughter (Madalen Mills) comes to visit for Christmas, ultimately helping rebuild his passion for creating toys again. This film takes you on a journey from start to finish: I cried, I laughed and I even did the Gwara Gwara dance at one point. 

Boxing Day (2021)

I’ll be honest with you: at first, I wasn’t sure if this was going to make the list, but after careful consideration, there’s no way I could miss off the UK’s first Black Christmas rom-com. Making his directorial debut with Boxing Day, Aml Ameen (who played Trife in Kidulthood) plays a British author living in the United States looking to return to the UK for the holidays to introduce his fiancée Lisa (Aja Naomi King) to his British Caribbean family. Of course, nothing about this was ever going to be easy, as the couple’s relationship is tested when his popstar ex-girlfriend Gigi (Leigh-Anne Pinnock) turns up.

The film is 109 minutes of taking the safest creative route. While that means it isn’t a critic’s favourite, it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes simplicity is key. Boxing Day has a ’cuddle up with bae while you both drink Baileys at Christmas’ feel, and delivers on all the rom-com beats. The pursuit of love, the impact of a childhood sweetheart all mixed with British Caribbean culture.

This Christmas (2007)

This Christmas is a strong favourite among Black households because it makes you feel better about your own dysfunction. The film follows the Whitfields as they return to their family home to celebrate Christmas together four years after leaving. This Christmas is coated with mild moments of laughter, from Lisa (Regina King) beating her good-for-nothing cheating husband Malcolm (Laz Alonso) with a belt, to the introduction of Claude’s (Columbus Short) white wife – which adds nothing to the storyline.

Unfortunately, it’s obvious from early on that the star of the show is a baby Chris Brown – pre-tattoos and domestic violence . Michael ‘Baby’ finds his voice both within the family and onstage, performing a fantastic rendition of Donny Hathaway’s 1970 hit song ‘This Christmas’. The only ick for me throughout  is Idris Elba’s Southern American accent (I almost broke out in hives). Other than that, the film is a cult classic.

The Best Man Holiday (2013)

There’s no denying that The Best Man Holiday is pretty much the Black version of Love Actually, especially with the way each friendship intertwines during the Christmas period. Written and directed by Malcolm D. Lee, the sequel to the 1999 film The Best Man sees the gang reunite for the holiday season after 15 years apart. Though this time around the tone of the film is more emotional. Offering a slower pace to the plot, The Best Man Holiday puts love, physical fights and the unfortunate passing of Mia, who succumbs to terminal cancer, at the forefront of the friends’ reunion.

All the original cast members — Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Monica Calhoun, and Melissa De Sousa — return to close the last chapter of a fantastic franchise together at Christmas. This film hit me personally – I lost my dad to cancer and needed my closest friends around me for comfort. 

Last Holiday (2006)

Loosely based on the 1950s film of the same name, Last Holiday isn’t your typical Christmas film, and honestly, that’s OK. Queen Latifah plays Georgia, a New Orleans saleswoman who is told she has a terminal brain tumour and only a few weeks to live. She quits her job and sets her sights on spending her supposed last moments travelling to Europe for a luxurious vacation. The man she happens to have a major crush on, played by LL Cool J, realises he actually feels the same way, so jets off to confess his affection for her.

The film isn’t bad, but it also isn’t great. So why is it on the list then, you ask? Well, for starters, Latifah’s character doesn’t live up to any of the stereotypes that plus-size Black women normally do in Hollywood films. The part that seemed most digestible to me was the moment Black love took centre stage, and, because it’s Hollywood, that happened at the end of the movie.

There’s no doubt that Latifah can light up any screen she appears on, and of course, LL Cool J is delicious to look at, but overall the storyline is a dud. In addition, none of the supporting characters create a moment that amuses or even takes advantage of the warmth and entertainment that the protagonists provide. Still, it’s a classic piece of Black cinema, and any time a plus-size queen gets her hunk of a king, it’s a win-win for me.

Almost Christmas (2016)

Almost Christmas follows Walter Meyers (Danny Glover), a retired widower who invites his four adult children back to the family home for Christmas one year after the death of their mother. From his youngest daughter Rachel (Gabrielle Union) fighting financial woes to his son Evan (Jessie Usher) struggling with a pill addiction, the family assembles in a bid to settle their problems and enjoy Christmas.

Of course, things don’t go as planned, because why would they? And when characters like Jasmine portrayed by Keri Hilson, whose sole purpose in this film is to be a messy side chick (I love that for her), start an affair with Lonnie while working at the supermarket, the film only gets better. 

I’ll be honest: the first 59 minutes are completely skippable as the drama doesn’t really kick off until Jasmine turns up for Christmas dinner. It’s not the most exciting Christmas film you’ll see this season, but it might set the mood for you to settle your own differences and spark accountability before tucking into your own turkey.