6) The Apartment (1960)
This Academy-Award winning film is directed by Billy Wilder and co-written by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. It is a somewhat unconventional love-story, featuring emotional manipulation, corporate exploitation and suicide – making it almost a darker version of It’s A Wonderful Life.
Ambitious Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) curries favour with his bosses by allowing four of them use of his apartment when cheating on their wives – despite the fact that it ruins his reputation with his neighbours. When the senior boss, Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) discovers the scam, he demands the same privilege on an exclusive basis, starting that night, in exchange for Bud’s longed-for promotion. Unbeknownst to Bud, the woman Sheldrake intends to take to the apartment is Fran – for whom Bud has been harbouring romantic feelings.
The company holds its popular Christmas party and during the drunken festivities, Fran discovers the Sheldrake is a serial philanderer, and Bud discovers that Fran is the woman Sheldrake has been liaising with. Bud returns to his apartment and discovers that Fran has taken an overdose in his bed – leading to 48 hours of helping her to recover in secret.
As Sheldrake gets his comeuppance from his long-suffering wife, Bud finally stands up to his bullying bosses and opts to change his life. Eventually seeing through Sheldrake’s lies, Fran realizes that Bud is the man she wants to be with, and races to his side.
With such a heart-warming, rousing and romantic end, The Apartment easily warrants a place on any festive watchlist. The idea of these two characters taking such an unconventional route to each other, and to contentment, is comparable to the route we each take throughout the year – ending at the Christmas period, where we can take stock, take a deep breath and appreciate where we find ourselves.