Ranking John Lewis Christmas adverts by their level of emotional blackmail

You won’t be able to get through this without crying

Last night, was the moment we’d all been waiting for arrived – John Lewis released their 2018 Christmas advert. In the two minute video, we see Elton John’s journey through the years and it’s emotional to say the least.

It’s a good advert – and yet it’s left a great many people confused and disappointed. Why? Well, apparently it’s just not… sad enough and people think Elton John’s career has nothing to do with Christmas.

Surely you’ve noticed it. Every John Lewis advert is nothing more than a cynical ploy to make you feel bad at Christmas, a juddering money machine created to hoover up your cash and your tears in kind. For half a decade now, they’ve been using emotional blackmail to shift mittens and mugs – and our tender hearts can’t take it anymore.

But which, of all of them, is the most psychologically abusive John Lewis advert of all time? Here’s a look back at six years of festive subterfuge, from sad snowmen to lonely penguins to that poor old man up there on the moon.

The Long Wait, 2011

The Long Wait wasn’t the first John Lewis Christmas advert, but it’s definitely the first one you remember.

After all, it has all the hallmarks you’ve come to know and love: the mellow cover a popular song; the quintessentially British nuclear family whiling away the Christmas holidays in a charming semi-detached house; the fast-cut passage of time which is in no way done to showcase as many children’s clothing options as possible.

Still, the premise is charming, and only slightly impinged by the fact that the kid looks like he’s waiting to kill his parents in their sleep. Seriously, don’t open this box. There’s a human head in it.


How mellow was the mellow song cover?

If you’re trying to make a song mellow, don’t try and out-mellow The Smiths. You’ll lose.

Emotional blackmail rating

This sort of falls in the middle of the scale. After all, it’s not flat-out tearjerker like some of them, but it’s expecting us to believe that kids A) are that good at tying decorative ribbons and B) aren’t generally ungrateful shits who only think about themselves.

The Journey, 2012

I’ll admit it, this is my lowkey favourite. In the snowman’s weary pilgrimage from countryside cottage to regional high street, we’re given an unflinching glimpse at the lengths those in love will go to for… gloves? He was walking to get gloves?

How mellow was the mellow song cover?

Never have an advert and its soundtrack blended so seamlessly. Gabrielle Aplin’s rendition of The Power of Love is haunting, and almost enough to make you not question how and why this rickety hovel in the arse end of nowhere is so stylishly decked out with John Lewis homewares.

Emotional blackmail rating

High. I mean, this whole thing could have been avoided. Look at how these kids are dressed, and tell me there wasn’t already a tasteful hat/scarf/mittens combo inside their glorious show home.


The Bear and the Hare, 2013

In a brief and boring foray into animation, the bear and the hare takes us into the woods and expects us to believe a brown bear could befriend a host of anthropomorphic woodland creatures without tearing them all limb from limb in a savage, bloody massacre.

How mellow was the mellow song cover?

In an artists-we’d-tried-to-forget-about mashup which no-one asked for, here’s Lily Allen covering Keane. You probably downloaded this song off iTunes at the time, didn’t you, you wet fucking flannel.

Emotional blackmail rating

Is this all that heartwarming? All we see is an animal that needs to hibernate to live being bullied out of his God-given right by an emotionally abusive hare with an alarm clock.


Although that alarm clock is quite lovely. Does anyone know where I can buy it?

Monty the Penguin, 2014

In many ways, Monty the Penguin shared a lot of similarities with the 2011 advert – both feature a little boy and his heartwarming story, both feature more outfit changes than you could shake a John Lewis pyjama set at, and both have a gut-punch twist ending that’ll hit you right in the tear ducts.

It also carries on the trend of creating unnervingly psychotic child characters, with 2011’s present-tinkering social outcast replaced here by a stuffed-toy befriending mute who has a similar resemblance to the serial killer seven-year-old from Looper.


How mellow was the mellow song cover?

Put it this way, the CGI penguin would have seemed a hell of a lot trippier if they’d used the original.

Emotional blackmail rating

Medium to low. Come on, you’d have to be a monster for this to not make you smile.

Man on the Moon, 2015


How mellow was the mellow song cover?


Emotional blackmail rating


Buster the Boxer, 2016

Here it is, the John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016. Look at this adorable dog. Sweet, sweet Buster. Oh God, he’s going to die at the end isn’t he? Will it be the foxes? Are the foxes going to eat him? I’m tearing up already.

How mellow was the mellow song cover?

It’s so mellow and emotional. The perfect song, some might say, for the heartbreaking story of the loss of a cherished family pet. Or the story of a dog arduously buying and wrapping a present for its master. Or something of that ilk.

Emotional blackmail rating

Wait, what? No tears? That wasn’t sad at all. It was actually a little bit funny. Yet again John Lewis have toyed with our emotions, and now I’m going to have to spend the day sobbing into my Buster the Boxer Dog Plush Soft Toy.


Only £15.00 from John Lewis.

#MozTheMonster, 2017

Seven million pounds were spent, and the whole nation waited for this year’s advert to be extra tear-jerking. And when it arrived, people were disappointed they didn’t cry more.

But the 2017 advert is still emotional af because somehow I’m sitting here typing in floods of tears. OH GOD IT’S SO SAD.

It doesn’t matter how late-stage capitalism it all is – it’s heartbreaking because it’s true! Everyone grows up!!!

How mellow was the mellow song cover?

Elbow’s cover of Golden Slumbers, originally from The Beatles 1969 Abbey Road album was emotional and fit the storyline of the advert perfectly.

Emotional blackmail rating

Medium. It wasn’t full-on “old people being abandoned at Christmas”, but it still managed to make your throat wobble.

#EltonJohnLewis, 2018

At first you’re thinking, what on earth has this advert got to do with Christmas? It’s just Elton John playing on a piano through the years. But then you get it. His mum bought him a piano for Christmas when he was little. And without that one present, he probably wouldn’t have graced the world with his incredible talent. Oh wait, here come the tears.

How mellow was the mellow song cover?

It’s obviously a classic tear-jerker. You can put Your Song over anything and it will become emotional.

Emotional blackmail rating

Sure, it made me want to spend £899 on an electric piano and buy my family amazing, meaningful presents at John Lewis. But it didn’t make me feel guilty of neglecting the elderly.