The next 'Last Christmas': Six festive songs that should be made into movies

Ahead of the release of 'Last Christmas', here are the tear-jerkers ripe for the big screen over the holidays

Elvis Presley's 'Blue Christmas' would make a suitably sombre film
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Think of Christmas songs, and the first thing that comes to mind is probably a feeling of overwhelming optimism – of cheesy sleigh bells and cloying children's choirs serenading impatient shoppers in supermarket queues; of an artificially conjured escapism so surface-deep it hurts.

Not the case with Wham!'s Last Christmas (1984), a heartfelt plea from a jilted lover still reeling from an open wound. "My God," asserts the singer, "I thought you were someone to rely on." 

It's become an anthem for anyone spending a Christmas alone, who didn't quite plan it that way. Like the very best pop music, Last Christmas feels both profoundly knowing and loaded with pathos, yet simultaneously redemptive and uplifting, walking a line between mindful reflection and mindless release.

That bittersweet taste – those breathing, frail human layers – is surely why George Michael's Yuletide offering has endured for 35 years without prompting the same kind of allergic reaction that accompanies hearing, say, Slade or Band Aid's festive staples. It's why more than 100 artists have covered it. Don't believe us? There's a Spotify playlist to prove it, featuring artists Gwen Stefani, Good Charlotte, Olly Murs, Aloe Blacc, Taylor Swift, the Manic Street Preachers, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jimmy Eat World and Crazy Frog to name a few.

Three years after his death, on Christmas Day, 2016, Last Christmas remains especially beloved in Michael's home country, the UK, where it held fort as the most-played festive tune for the first 15 years of this century. Perhaps it was only inevitable that the four-and-a-half-minute song would one day find itself the inspiration behind a 103-minute film – naturally, set in London.

A feelgood seasonal romcom starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, early hype that Last Christmas would prove "the next Love Actually" has since given way to daggers-out reviews – The Guardian critic Benjamin Lee's observation that it's "a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift that's filled with rotten turkey leftovers" might be our favourite. We're holding out judgement until the UAE release tomorrow, but the movie got us thinking about our other favourite sad Christmas songs – there's more than you might think – and if they, too, could be ripe for a festive movie makeover.

'I’ll Be Home for Christmas' – Bing Crosby (1943)

Is this classic tear-jerker the father of the sad-by-stealth Christmas song? Perhaps. Now an established piano-side sing-along, I'll Be Home for Christmas was originally written for Bing Crosby in 1943 as a way for him to honour soldiers stationed overseas during the holidayseason – evidenced in the easily overlooked couplet: "I'll be home for Christmas / If only in my dreams".

The song was later covered by artists from Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley to Kelly Clarkson and Michael Bublé – losing perhaps a little more ambiguity every time.

Is it worth a movie? Jingle-bell-yes.

'The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot' – Nat King Cole (1953)

A natural, masterful emoter whatever the material, Nat King Cole's place in Christmastime folklore is assured by his many recordings of The Christmas Song (the one that goes "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire …") – a lyric he tackled in 1946, twice, then again in 1953 and 1961 (the final orchestral version is probably the one you know).

However, Cole’s true weepy standard came with this sad story of a fatherless child who didn’t make Father Christmas’s list, originally recorded by Vera Lynn in 1937.

Is it worth a movie? Perhaps not, we’ve got The Grinch already.

'Blue Christmas' – Elvis Presley (1957)

First recorded by country singer Doye O'Dell in 1948, but cemented in the popular imagination by Elvis Presley's cover, Blue Christmas first appeared on the record Elvis' Christmas Album, which was released in 1957, and proved so enduring it was later pressed as a single in 1964, and again in 1965.

Its melody is simple and sombre, but Presley's stark production and moaning / wailing vocal exertions make this desolate portrait of a lonely Yuletide enduringly bleak.

Is it worth a movie? Since the King remains immensely bankable six decades later, where do we sign?

'Another Lonely Christmas' – Prince (1984)

Somehow buried amid the restless creative tumult that was Prince's mid-1980s output, the B-side to Purple Rain single I Would Die 4 U contained a typical work of bubbling melodramatic musical exorcism, which also just happens to be one of the saddest Christmas songs in existence. In an apparently entirely fictional tale, a distraught Purple One mourns a lover who died on Christmas Day seven years earlier.

“Your father said it was pneumonia / Your mother said it was stress / But the doctor said you were dead / I say it’s senseless.” Ouch.

Is it worth a movie? More like an opera.

'Stay Another Day' – East 17 (1994)

Back when East 17 were a legitimate rival to Take That – rather than the group who played Christmas-themed gigs at a Dubai Irish pub in 2011 and 2012 – East 17 played a major part in legitimising the role of boy bands with this, the Serious Artistic Statement of their first ballad and only UK No 1.

Death is a recurring trope for Christmas weepies, with the story Stay Another Day co-written by band member Tony Mortimer about his brother, Ollie, who took his own life. The inclusion of Christmas bells felt cheap in hindsight.

Is it worth a movie? Only with the most sensitive director at the helm.

'Christmas Will Break Your Heart' – LCD Soundsystem (2015)

After calling time on his era-defining electro-punk outfit in 2011, the sleigh bells that introduced this surprise release on December 24, 2015, were a sign of a lucrative comeback.

We'd love to deplore such emotionally manipulative careerism, but the truth is, Christmas Will Break Your Heart is kind of great. Channelling the same relatable interior dialogue that made New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down a refrain for anyone having a bad day in Manhattan, this is a moment for those who smugly find themselves above the rigmarole of mistletoe and gift-giving.

Is it worth a movie? If shot handheld, in black and white.