Christmas movies are a log running tradition around here. We watch several Christmas movies throughout the month of December. In fact I have watched so many that I feel comfortable naming the top 25 best Christmas movies of all time. Here they are:
1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
It’s no “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34st Street” to be sure. But Christmas Vacation holds its own as an often-irreverent, progressively hilarious comedy where Chevy Chase—as Clark Griswold—consistently trips over himself whilst trying to cater to a house full of relatives staying over for Christmas. No such list as this one would ever be complete without Christmas Vacation!
2. Elf (2003)
In this one-off Christmas flick, Will Ferrell plays ‘Buddy’, a human raised as an elf in the North Pole. Upon discovering that he has a ‘human’ father, Buddy stumbles on down to New York to find him. Walter, a privileged book publisher, is less than welcoming and even more skeptical (whether he is really his son) of Buddy. He gradually learns the truth, however, and warms up to his long-lost, adult son and welcomes Buddy into the family.
3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Clarence is an angel sent to prevent a distraught businessman (George Bailey) from ending his life. Bailey, an entrepreneur, is about to be accused of embezzlement from his bank; he realizes his fate if he is convicted–jail and the collapse of his hard-earned business. Clarence helps him to realize that killing himself due to his Earthly problems is not the solution–helpfully showing Bailey how his family and others close to him would actually suffer should he not exist.
4. A Christmas Story (1983)
Set in the 1940s, Peter Billingsley plays the Red Ryder BB gun-lusting Ralphie. His big ambition is to convince everyone (including a, frankly, creepy mall-Santa) that this BB gun is what he truly wants and somehow deserves. Along the way, though, he encounters several life lesson-like encounters with the likes of his parents, teachers, bullies, and even the creepy Santa.
5. A Christmas Carol (1938)
One of the first films about the book by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol chronicles what happens when Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited from three ghosts: past, present and future. Each shows Scrooge the error of his ways in the past, present, and in the future–as well as the cold, resultant consequences–leaving him a changed, more appreciative-of-life person.
6. Scrooged (1988)
A more contemporary (and somewhat darker) A Christmas Carol, Scrooged featured Bill Murray as a greedy, heartless executive who gets visits from, basically, the same three ghosts as in the original story. Each take him on a pretty nightmarish journey into what was, what is, and what might be if he does not change his ways.
7. Home Alone (1990)
Kevin McAllister plays a spoiled, rotten little kid who’s forgotten at home when his family flies out of town. While young Kevin has the giant house all to himself, he soon realizes that he’s got a big problem: two bumbling burglers who’ll stop at nothing to get inside. Being a savvy little boy, Kevin rigs the entire house to physically (and hilariously) punish the stooge-like crooks as they rampage through his house.
9. Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)
Just before the St. Louis World’s Fair in the dawn of the twentieth-century , the four Smith daughters–including Judy Garland from the iconic The Wizard of Oz–learn valuable, often not-so-easy lessons about love and life as they learn that they must move to New York, where their father has landed a job.
10. The Santa Clause (1994)
Tim Allen, a toy executive, scares a man climbing down his chimney on Christmas Eve. Little did he know, but that man was Santa Clause. And now he’s dead. Thus, Allen then finds himself magically recruited to take on the role of Santa Clause.
11. Joyeux Noel (2006)
It was 1914; World War I–the bloodiest, most savage and largest war up until then, was spreading like wildfire. Yet on Christmas Eve, many on the Western Front called for an unofficially-sanctioned truce where rank-and-file soldiers would peacefully assemble in this ‘No Man’s Land’ to take pause from the carnage and bloodshed that abounded and to temporarily unite. In specific, the movie portrays how members from rival French, German and Scottish squadrons participated at this unlikely gathering of foes, each of them realizing the consequences of treason if caught.
12. The Family Stone (2005)
The Family Stone is one of the best Christmas movies to come out in the last ten years. The story is about a large family that comes home for the holidays. The family has some big personalities and this creates an entertaining and fun holiday. The family gatherings are at times uncomfortable and weird. This movie is an emotional roller coaster you will laugh till you cry. This is a must see. We watch it every year at our house.
13. Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard isn’t really a Christmas movie in the “Christmasty” sense; rather, one that takes place on Christmas Eve. Terrorists, at the beck of Hans Gruber, hijack an office Christmas party in a highrise building. Now it’s up to John McClane (Bruce Willis) to outsmart the terrorists and save the hostages, especially his wife who’s among them.
14. Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)
Always a Christmas favorite, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Calkin) portrays an 8-year old who was previously forgotten at home when his family went on vacation. This time,Kevin mistakenly boards the wrong plane, one headed for New York City instead of the one going Europe that his family is on. And whilst Kevin lives it up at the prestigious New York Palace Hotel, the stooge-like thugs Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are hot on his tail again–ultimately, yet again, to their demise.
15. Love Actually (2003)
Love Actually is one of those flicks that’s actually best to watch around Christmas! Multiple story lines make for a very engaging experience for anyone watching it. From the awkward porn star love affair, to the bumbling Colin Firth (who clumsily tries to woo a women who doesn’t even speak English), to the heartbreaking stories of Emma Thompson and Laura Linney, there’s something here for practically everyone.
16. The Polar Express (2004)
This beautifully-rendered, story book-inspired CGI movie details the story of a special train that picks up children skeptical of Santa Claus. The Polar Express–in Hogwarts Express-esque fashion–whisks them to the North Pole to witness Santa for themselves just before he departs to make deliveries on Christmas.
17. The Bishop’s Wife (1942)
18. The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)
The Muppets Christmas Carol–starring the Muppets and Michael Cain–is another take on the classic story by Dickens of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who receives visits from three ghosts. Collectively, these ghosts convince Scrooge to renounce his grumpy, unforgiving ways and to appreciate life and everyone in it.
19. Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Another highly classic Christmas-y movie classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas tells a story about the Whos and a miserly, Christmas-hating Grinch. When the Grinch hatches a plan to steal all of the townspeople’s presents, decorations, and food and begins to execute it, he’s in for quite a surprise and real attitude adjustment.
20. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Steve Martin, an uptight executive, and John Candy, a shower curtain ring salesman, portray two travelers just trying to make it home for Thanksgiving. But nothing goes to plan, and as the perfect strangers with very contrasting personalities (think “The Odd Couple”) get tangled up with one another, chaos and hilarity ensue.
21. The Ref (1994)
A burglar (Dennis Leary as Gus) takes a couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis as Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur) hostage on Christmas Eve. What the thief gets is a lot less loot and a whole lot more family dysfunction, complaining, and infighting.
22. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
This animated flick combines elements of Halloween and Christmas (thus, also a great Halloween movie), making for a highly eccentric, entertaining story. Jack Skellington grew wary of the same-old, annual events leading up to Halloweentown in his town. So, he decides to leave and stumbles upon Christmastown. In sort of Grinch-like fashion, Jack attempts to ‘steal’ Christmas. But because Jack doesn’t quite understand how Christmas works, he’s in for a rude awakening by the locals.
23. Bad Santa (2003)
Yes, “Bad Santa” takes place around Christmas and, yes, Billy Bob Thornton (Willie) plays a mall Santa–but make no mistake, while hilarity abounds in this flick, it’s definitely no family movie. Willie and Marcus, an odd, naughty-mouth duo of thieves, get jobs as Santa Clause and an elf; the pair then waits until Christmas Eve to rob the various stores–doing and saying all sorts of naughty things all the way.
24. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Regardless that ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ debuted as a made-for-TV flick, that never stopped it from becoming one of the most watched Christmas classics of the past 50 years. It’s the Christmas season, and as the big holiday approaches, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed and just can’t pin down why. After Lucy asks/suggests, Brown agrees to help direct the school nativity play; however, he still finds it increasingly hard to overcome the blues, especially with the other children running amok. Ultimately, though, Charlie Brown decorates his little tree (a real one, rejecting all the fake and unwieldy ones) and inspires a memorable singing of ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’.