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Festive felonies: the Christmas classics on the wrong side of the law

Whether it’s a timeless classic or a modern favourite, everyone has their go to festive flick when Christmas comes around.

While most have a heart-warming happy ending, a surprising number of laws are broken along the way, which could have landed the characters some serious jail time in real life. Here, Aruna Verma, Programme Director at The University of Law, along with solicitor Céline Winham, explore the worst law breakers from the festive silver screen.

Jingle All the Way

Coming in as the worst offender, this family favourite follows Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as he desperately tries to get his hand on a Turbo Man doll for his son.

It’s hard to know where to begin as the offences quickly stack up in this film. From grievous bodily harm and even attempted murder as parents brawl trying to get their hands on the coveted doll, to major driving offences, criminal damage and theft.

There are also multiple cases of fraud, including one store doubling the price of the doll, and knock-off versions of the doll being sold in a shady warehouse.

Home Alone

The whole premise of this classic is based around burglars, so it’s no surprise it ranks highly when it comes to lawbreaking.

Of course, there are several counts of burglary and attempted burglary. However, Joe Pesci’s character would also be found guilty of impersonating a police officer early on in the film before the chaos ensues later on.

Kevin himself isn’t entirely innocent, as he could easily be found guilty of shoplifting a toothbrush as he gets to grips with living alone. Surprisingly, Kevin’s traps set against the burglars could most likely be defended under “household defence”. This defence generally says if an attack takes place in your house and you are defending yourself or your property, you can use force that is disproportionate but not grossly disproportionate.

A similar thing can be said for the friendly neighbour who attacks the burglars with a shovel at the end of the film. As this was done to defend Kevin, it’s unlikely he would face criminal charges.


While getting to grips with life outside of the North Pole, Buddy the Elf in fact ends up breaking a lot of laws along the way – and some that could land him some serious jail time.

Throughout the film we see several counts of potential public disturbance, such as running around the revolving door early on in the film. While it’s a low-key crime, as it’s on private property the elf could easily face legal action for this.

The crimes soon ramp up as Buddy takes on the role of department store elf, sleeping in the store overnight. This could easily constitute trespassing, fraud and even burglary.

Finally, in one scene we see Buddy the Elf take a peek over a toilet cubicle. It’s all done in innocent humour of course, but in the real-world Buddy would be up against the Sexual Offences Act.

Aruna continued: “These films are all good fun of course, and we’d hope that none of these crimes would take place in real life all in the name of Christmas. Try watching them through and eat a mince pie each time a crime is committed – you'll soon realise how many times the law is broken in each one.”

To find out how many laws are broken in other Christmas classics like The Grinch and A Christmas Carol, visit: