For many, the release of the highly-anticipated John Lewis Christmas advert marks the official beginning of the festive season.
This hotly anticipated moment has become a festive touchpoint, synonymous with both yuletide and the retail giant.
The John Lewis campaigns are typically tear-jerking and heart-warming in equal measure, but the offerings are big business.
The release of the adverts have become such a cultural event that most people will likely be able to recall which short film is their favourite. This year, the retailer has given the British public an early Christmas present by releasing its festive advert, titled “Unexpected Guest”, around two weeks earlier than usual.
The two-minute film sees a young boy discover an alien who crash landed in the woods, and introduces her to the Christmas traditions we know and love so well.
Whether you have a particular affinity for Monty the Penguin or shed tears when you were introduced to the Man on the Moon, here is The Independent‘s ranking of all the John Lewis Christmas adverts.
15. From Me To You (2008)
Before the John Lewis adverts became such a firm fixture in the Christmas calendar, this simple 2008 offering focused primarily on the art of present giving, with very little emotional impact.
The short film depicts a variety of individuals paired with their ideal presents, from a coffee machine to a chemistry set and even hairdryer for a long-haired dog.
For those who sometimes struggle to find the perfect gift for their loved ones, the adverts sign-off message – “If you know the person, you’ll find the present” – may leave them feeling even more perplexed than they were before.
The advert is set to a cover of The Beatles song “From Me To You”, which was recorded by Matt Spinner, a member of the John Lewis IT department, and the retailer’s music society.
14. Shadows (2007)
John Lewis’ first Christmas advert, which draws comparisons with the lamp sequence opening of every Pixar film, shows a group of people of people creating a shadow on a wall by stacking a variety of different objects.
The end product is an image of a woman walking her dog, with the tagline: “Whoever you’re looking for this Christmas.”
Set to the classical tune “Morning Serenade” from Romeo and Juliet, we appreciate the sentiment behind the advert, which highlights the power of imagination.
However, it fails to pack the same emotional punch of the adverts that followed.
13. Sweet Child O’ Mine (2009)
This decade-old advert provides us with a reminder of what it is like to feel the joy of Christmas as a child.
The short film depicts various children opening gifts that would typically be given to adults, such as a laptop, coffee machine and a handbag, with the tagline: “Remember how Christmas used to feel? Give someone that feeling.”
The advert was the first John Lewis Christmas campaign to be created by agency adam&eveDDB (formerly Adam & Eve), and is set to a cover of the Guns N’Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, performed by Taken By Trees.
While the advert is still primarily focused on material gifts, it definitely paved the way for John Lewis’ future sentimental campaigns.
12. Moz the Monster (2017)
The 2017 John Lewis Christmas advert debunked the myth that children must be fearful of the monster under the bed, as a child develops a close bond with a friendly imaginary monster Moz who takes refuge in his room.
The campaign demonstrates the purity of childhood friendship, set to the a cover of the Beatles song “Golden Slumbers” by band Elbow.
While the short film may not have been the retailer’s most emotional festive advert, it did strike a chord with all those who may be able to relate to creating imaginary friends and having adventures as children when it was past their bedtime.
11. The Boy and the Piano (2018)
The firm’s 2018 offering featured its first celebrity star, courtesy of Sir Elton John.
The three-minute film depicts a retrospective of the performer's life and career, culminating with a four-year-old Elton unwrapping his first ever piano, a gift from his grandmother at Christmas.
Set to his performance of “Your Song”, his major 1971 breakthrough hit, the advert provides a stirring insight into the potential after-effects the perfect gift can have on the trajectory of a person’s life.
However, considering the fact that the advert was followed by a biopic about the musician’s life and a world tour, the clear PR ulterior motive made it feel slightly disingenuous.
10. Buster the Boxer (2016)
John Lewis’ 2016 advert took a break from the sadder campaigns of preceding years, featuring the comedic story of Buster the Boxer.
Set to Randy Crawford’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away”, performed by electronic trio Vaults, the short film relays the excitement Buster feels about finally having a chance to try out his family’s trampoline, having watched foxes, a badger, squirrels and a hedgehog go on it before him.
Whilst some people missed the annual sob-worthy ads, others applauded the department store for taking a more light-hearted approach.
We were among the latter, glad for some cheery comic relief at Christmas.
9. A Tribute to the Givers (2010)
It’s hard to watch this advert without thinking about how joyous it can be to give presents you know your friends and family will love.
Ellie Goulding’s cover of Sir Elton’s “Your Song” provided the soundtrack for the advert, which shows people preparing their gifts – including a mechanic attempting to wrap a teapot at work and a man struggling to wrap a pair of candlesticks – in the lead-up to the big day.
You can’t help but smile when you watch those starring in the advert evidently trying their best to ensure their loved ones have the best Christmas possible.
8. Excitable Edgar (2019)
In 2019, John Lewis partnered with Waitrose for the first time to create a Christmas campaign, which follows accident-prone dragon Excitable Edgar as he attempts to join in Christmas festivities.
As is implied by the name, Edgar becomes easily excited whenever he sees anything remotely festive, but finds it difficult to control his fire-breathing abilities, resulting in him literally sparking chaos in his village.
His friend, Ava, is determined to make Edgar feel included, presenting him with a Christmas pudding that he sets alight for his neighbours, much to their delight.
The advert was highly praised online, with one person describing it as “one of John Lewis’ better ads for sure”.
We couldn’t help but fall in love with Edgar’s sweet enthusiasm and warm-hearted nature.
7. Give a Little Love (2020)
For 2020, John Lewis and Partners opted for something different to its usual blockbuster-style campaign.
In line with the mood created by the coronavirus pandemic, the advert was more low key than normal and centred around the simple act of kindness. The theme, “Give a little love”, was inspired by the kindness shown by the British public during the pandemic.
Created in partnership with Waitrose, the campaign marks the first time that the two retailers have launched a joint Christmas advert with a philanthropic purpose. They have selected two charities, FareShare, which helps those facing food poverty, and Home-Start, which supports parents in need, with the intention of raising £4million for both through merchandise sales and more.
The two-minute film begins with a young boy and girl in a snowy village, looking up at the boy’s football stuck in a tree. In a bid to help, the girl opens her umbrella, which soon turns into a ginormous red heart that she flings at the tree, nudging the football loose. The heart is then passed between a series of animated scenes featuring an array of characters and animals.
We love the underlying message of this ad: that you don’t need to donate money in order to do something charitable. As the pandemic rages on, it’s a message we could all do with being reminded of.
6. Unexpected Guest (2021)
The 2021 Christmas advert features a young boy named Nathan who discovers an alien, Skye, who crash-lands in the woods near his home. They become fast friends, with Nathan introducing Skye to all the Christmas traditions he knows and loves, including lighting up a Christmas tree, sneaking her a mince pie from his dinner table, and witnessing the first flakes of snow falling from the sky.
The heart-rending story comes nearly two weeks earlier than their previous adverts, as the retailer revealed that searches for Christmas-related products on its website increased by 50 per cent on this time last year. It taps into all the small things about Christmas that so many missed out on in 2020, when the UK was under lockdown and Christmas gatherings all over the country were cancelled.
As Nathan and Skye’s friendship blossoms, we are reminded of the magic of witnessing Christmas for the first time. It is bittersweet when Skye eventually fixes her space ship and has to return to her home planet, and it’s impossible not to feel emotional as she leaves Nathan with a kiss on his cheek and flies away to the lyrics: “We’ll always be together, together in electric dreams.”
The heart-rending cover of “Together in Electric Dreams”, originally by Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey, is sung by up-and-coming British artist Lola Young.
5. The Man on the Moon (2015)
The 2015 John Lewis campaign highlighted the prevalence of elderly loneliness at Christmas, showing a old man living on the moon developing a friendship with a young girl on Earth.
According to Age UK, almost a million older people feel lonelier during the festive period, two fifths of whom have been widowed.
Not only did the John Lewis advert show friendship can transcend generations, but it also raised awareness of an important issue experienced by a large portion of the population.
Set to a cover of Oasis’ “Half The World Away” by Norwegian artist Aurora, the campaign undeniably packs an emotional punch.
4. The Bear and the Hare (2013)
Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” accompanied an animated tale of a bear that had never seen Christmas, as the animal settled in its cave to hibernate every year.
Emboldened by the thought that this just will not do, the bear’s friend, the hare, leaves a gift at the entrance of the cave – an alarm clock, which wakes the bear up on the morning of Christmas.
The artistry of this advert is highly admirable, and not surprising considering it was created by the animators behind Disney’s 1994 film The Lion King.
The bear's face when he catches a glimpse of the decorated Christmas tree for the first time is enough to send shivers down your spine and remind you of the joy of the festive period.
3. Monty the Penguin (2014)
Who doesn’t love a good love story at Christmas? (See Love Actually and The Holiday for reference).
The tale of Monty the Penguin is one that captured the nation’s hearts in 2014, featuring a cover of John Lennon’s “Real Love” by Tom Odell.
The advert follows the close friendship of Monty and a young boy, who decides to find a female penguin for his pal at Christmas.
The big reveal at the end of the advert – that Monty is in fact a stuffed toy – does little to reduce the heart of the story.
2. The Journey (2012)
No journey was more daring than the one made by the snowman in John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas advert, as he strives to be reunited with his love.
Set to a goosebump-inducing rendition of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “The Power Of Love”, covered by Gabrielle Aplin, the short film follows the snowman as he travels through forests, blizzards and mountainous terrains.
The advert ends with the snowman giving his partner a pair of gloves, with the tagline: “Give a little more love this Christmas.”
In our opinion, the campaign truly does demonstrate the power of love, regardless of the fact that it’s done with snowpeople. This is how present-giving should be done!
1. The Long Wait (2011)
John Lewis' 2011 festive advert, “The Long Wait”, was an absolute game-changer for Christmas advertising, raising the stakes for years to come.
The short film depicts a young boy anxiously waiting for Christmas to arrive, impatiently eating the chocolates in his advent calendar and watching the clock as the minutes, hours and days pass by.
While one may assume his impatience is due to his desire to receive lots of gifts, it is revealed at the end of the advert that his greatest wish is to give his own messily-wrapped present to his parents.
Set to Slow Moving Millie’s cover of “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths, the advert ends with the tagline: “For gifts you can’t wait to give.”
The message of the campaign never fails to make us feel choked up, and is one that should always be remembered at Christmas time.