With no shortage of snow-filled, not to mention sugar-coated, festive films to choose from in the countdown to Christmas, it got us thinking about some of the lessons we can learn from them, in life and in work. Christmas is big business after all! So pop your feet up, grab a mince pie or two and enjoy this light-hearted look back through some of our festive favourites. 

Just like the ones we used to know

In White Christmas, former soldiers turned entertainers Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby travel to Vermont where they discover their much-loved former commanding officer General Waverly is running a failing country inn.

white christmas

Recognising how much the general is suffering, Kaye and Crosby plan to use their ‘star power’ to create a buzz around the inn and brighten the general’s fortunes. Lessons learned: share your success, don’t forget those who helped you on the way up, and use your influence for good.

The ghosts of Christmas

Scrooged, a modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, sees Bill Murray’s Frank Cross is a hard-nosed, ruthless, career-obsessed and heartless TV executive.


In an attempt to win the Christmas TV ratings war, he plans to force his staff to work over Christmas, producing a live TV version of A Christmas Carol. Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan, and Cross is forced to do some serious soul searching along the way.

The lesson here is that sacrificing personal relationships may help get people get to the top, but it can be miserable and lonely when you get there. So while working hard is important, be careful not to let your relationships with family, friends and colleagues suffer.

Every time a bell rings

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey spends his life in service to everyone around him, sacrificing his own desires for the benefit of his family, friends and community.

its a wonderful life

Although he feels like he has achieved nothing with his life, when Clarence the angel shows him the world without him in it, he realises how much he has helped build the success of an entire town, with a long history of seemingly small contributions. And when George needs help himself, the good he has done comes back to him tenfold, as the whole town rallies to his aid in one of the most joyously tear-jerking finales in cinema.

So learn from George – don’t lose sight of the big picture, don’t belittle your own accomplishments, help others when you can – and when you need them, they’ll have your back.

Don’t have work nightmares

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is an animation classic.

the nightmare before Christmas

Pumpkin King Jack Skellington is getting bored with his job in Halloween Town. Until he stumbles on Christmas Town, that is, and decides it’s time for a change. So he tries to persuade his town to put on Christmas instead of Halloween, capturing Santa into the bargain.

Lessons from this alternative Christmas film are: people can seem highly resistant to change but often it’s because, for a long time, they’ve been given a limited, collective view of what it is to do ‘good’. People generally will only help lead change once they have sampled the benefits. To get them to try something new, you have to be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort, present a coherent roadmap for people to follow, be resilient and relentlessly lead by example. Jus’ like ole Jack Skellington, who got there in the end!

Arnie does Christmas

In Jingle All The Way, overworked Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) tries to make amends for missing out on numerous family events by getting his hands on a much coveted Turbo Man action figure for his son.

jingle all the way

It turns out Christmas Eve, however, is not the best time to get things done. The shops are crowded, everyone is panicking, the roads are gridlocked and shortcuts to success end up costing him precious time. 

The moral here would seem to be try to maintain a healthy work-life balance, plan ahead and prioritise when you know you’re going to be really busy, be kind to animals and maybe shop online.

Rolling in the deep

It may not be the first film you think of when compiling a list of festive favourites, but The Poseidon Adventure makes our list because this classic disaster movie is set on New Year’s Eve.

As the SS Poseidon sets out on its final cruise before being retired, it’s hit by a freak wave and things turn upside down, quite literally, as the water spills in and the boat capsizes. A battle for survival ensues, with the action focused on a disparate band of passengers, led by Gene Hackman in his role as Reverend Scott.

Managing ambiguity, high stakes decision-making, a bold and evolving strategy, influence, and teamwork that makes the best use of individual skills and strengths are what sees the (spoiler alert!) eventual survivors through. It also proves that Christmas trees can be functional as well as decorative (who knew?!). The film’s sequel, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, was a box office flop. Providing one final management lesson: past performance is no guarantee of future success.