Best Christmas Movies Ever

New Line

While there are so many great holiday movies to choose from, including tons that turn formulas upside down or otherwise offer an alternative to conventional holiday cheer, we’ve assembled a semi-definitive collection of bona fide, beloved Christmas classics to make sure you add to your annual and permanent watchlist -- that is, at least until someone comes along and adds another masterpiece to the canon.


25. 'Jingle All the Way' (1996)

25 jingle all the way 1996

20th Century Fox

No Christmas movie list would be complete without at least one entry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Brian Levine’s film delivers and then some: Arnold plays a workaholic dad who endures a gauntlet of abuse while trying to obtain a prized Christmas gift for his son, the future Dark Lord of the Sith.

Jingle All the Way

Jingle All the Way

"Two dads, one toy, no prisoners."
60
PG1 hr 29 minNov 22nd, 1996


24. 'The Polar Express' (2004)

24 the polar express 2004

Warner Bros

No matter where you come down on the “creepy or cute” debate over this film’s CGI characters, Robert Zemeckis’ first animated holiday film has a surprisingly tender and important message for audiences of all ages as a young boy goes on an odyssey to prove that he can hold onto his Christmas spirit in the face of too many reasons not to believe.

The Polar Express

"This holiday season... believe."
67
G1 hr 40 minNov 10th, 2004


23. 'The Night Before' (2015)

23 the night before 2015

Sony Pictures

As quite possibly the only Jewish-themed Christmas movie (at least on this list), Jonathan Levine’s story of three friends (Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie) searching for the ultimate Christmas party offers tons of laughs but also some surprisingly mature messages, all anchored by an unexpectedly delightful turn by Michael Shannon as the trio’s would-be guardian angel.

The Night Before

"Their past, present and future. All in one night."
61
R1 hr 41 minNov 20th, 2015


22. 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' (1964)

22 rudolph the red nosed reindeer 1964

CBS Entertainment

Having run every year on television since 1964, “Rudolph” is the longest-running Christmas special in history. But Rankin/ Bass’ stop-motion adventure is full both of anachronistic, oddball charms and timeless lessons, as Burl Ives supplies a musical backdrop that make Rudolph’s search for friends - and eventually, self-acceptance - such an enduring story.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

"You might even say it glows!"
73
G52 minDec 6th, 1964


21. 'The Shop Around the Corner' (1940)

21 the shop around the corner 1940

MGM

Before this story got turned into “You’ve Got Mail”’s unlikely romance between a book chain executive and the proprietor of a mom and pop bookstore, Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan played two bickering gift shop employees who fall in love after unknowingly becoming each other’s pen pal.


20. 'Holiday Inn' (1942)

20 holiday inn 1942

Paramount

The music of Irving Berlin drives this musical about singer Jim Hardy (Fred Astaire) and dancer Ted Hanover (Bing Crosby) who compete for the hand of Linda (Marjorie Reynolds), a talented and comely performer while Jim tries to transform his farm into a concert venue open - you guessed it - only on holidays.

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn

71
NR1 hr 41 minAug 4th, 1942


19. 'Muppet Christmas Carol' (1992)

19 muppet christmas carol 1992

Walt Disney Studios

This “Christmas Carol” adaptation has largely been reduced by the internet to a meme of its Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) dancing along with one of Jim Henson’s human-sized puppets, but the film remains one of the most magical - and emotional - versions of the story ever told, thanks to a Bob Cratchit, played by Kermit the Frog, who irresistibly embodies the everyman everyone loves.


18. 'The Santa Clause' (1994)

18 the santa clause 1994

Walt Disney Studios

Tim Allen’s 1990s hot streak continued with this story of a man who inadvertently inherits the mantle of Santa Claus and must adjust - and adjust his wardrobe - to accommodate the demands of one of the world’s most important jobs.

The Santa Clause

The Santa Clause

"What if your dad was Santa Claus?"
64
PG1 hr 37 minNov 11th, 1994


17. 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' (1965)

17 a charlie brown christmas 1965

CBS Entertainment

This would make the list on the strength of Vince Guaraldi’s music alone, but this animated special qualifies as Charles Schulz’ magnum opus, as his beleaguered title character tries to find the true meaning of Christmas in a landscape marred by rampant commercialism.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!"
77
G25 minDec 9th, 1965


16. 'Miracle on 34th Street' (1994)

16 miracle on 34th street 1994

20th Century Fox

Fresh from his stint in “Jurassic Park,” Richard Attenborough plays a different kind of dreamer - this time, the one and only Kris Kringle, whom a little girl (Mara Wilson) and a lawyer (Dylan McDermott) try to prove is the real thing in a world full of disbelievers.

Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street

"If you really believe, anything can happen."
67
PG1 hr 54 minNov 18th, 1994


15. 'Love Actually' (2003)

15 love actually 2003

Universal Studios

Richard Curtis’ enchanting tapestry of relationships in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas continues to inspire debates about exactly how healthy the behavior some of its cast of characters are, but that’s sort of the point of the movie itself: what we all want, what we’re pursuing, and at what cost all connects through love, even if in some cases that means the fractured relationship between a husband (Alan Rickman) and wife (Emma Thompson), and others, the recognition of a soul mate in a long-suffering tour manager (Gregor Fisher) and his unpredictable rock-star client (Bill Nighy).

Love Actually

"Love actually is all around."
71
R2 hr 15 minNov 7th, 2003


14. 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' (1966)

14 how the grinch stole christmas 1966

CBS Entertainment

At 26 minutes and using only hand-drawn animation, this television special might lack some of the pizazz of the live-action and computer-animated versions that followed. But its adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ classic children’s book gets all of the details the most right, and features the immortal Boris Karloff as narrator, lending the character’s journey from crank to Christmas superfan a theatrical elegance that’s never been matched.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

"You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch"
75
G26 minDec 18th, 1966


13. 'Gremlins' (1984)

13 gremlins 1984

Warner Bros. Pictures

Joe Dante created this mischievous romp about a mysterious little creature and the trouble caused when his owner (Zach Galligan) fails to obey the very simple and strict rules for taking care of him. Featuring a cavalcade of manic, menacing, oddball creatures and plenty of Dante’s own impish creativity, it’s a highly unconventional holiday film that has earned its place in the canon.

Gremlins

Gremlins

"Don't get him wet, keep him out of bright light, and never NEVER feed him after midnight."
71
PG1 hr 46 minJun 7th, 1984


12. 'Scrooged' (1988)

12 scrooged 1988

Paramount

There have been a lot of great versions of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” but Bill Murray makes his version of Scrooge one of the wildest, this time a television executive who loses his way in a cutthroat industry and gets visited by three ghosts unafraid to beat him (literally) into a Christmas morning epiphany.

Scrooged

Scrooged

"The spirits will move you in odd and hysterical ways."
68
PG-131 hr 41 minNov 22nd, 1988


11. 'Arthur Christmas' (2011)

11 arthur christmas 2011

Sony Pictures

If the movies teach us anything it’s that Santa has a lot of family members - but this might be the first time he not only has kids, but a father of his own. In this delightful animated film, Santa’s son and old, OLD Saint Nick team up to deliver a lost gift to a young girl in time for Christmas.

Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas

"Ever wonder how 2 Billion presents get delivered all in 1 night?"
67
PG1 hr 37 minNov 23rd, 2011


10. 'Bad Santa' (2003)

10 bad santa 2003

New Line

Terry Zwigoff’s midnight-black comedy offers a rejoinder to the notion that Christmas stories must be cheerful and bright, as alcoholic safe-cracker Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) eats, drinks, sh*ts and f*cks his way through the holiday season, holing up in the house of an outcast kid name Thurman who think he’s the real article as his partner Marcus tries to keep him in check (and sober enough to complete their annual Christmas Eve heist).

Bad Santa

"He doesn't care if you're naughty or nice."
65
R1 hr 32 minNov 26th, 2003


9. 'Miracle on 34th Street' (1947)

9 miracle on 34th street 1947

20th Century Fox

The best holiday stories are those that remind you what it was like to be a kid - or at least that there’s some magic in the world - and this one is no exception: when a man dressed as Santa Claus and claiming to be him gets institutionalized, a young lawyer sets out to prove that he’s the real thing.

Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street

"If you really believe, anything can happen."
67
PG1 hr 54 minNov 18th, 1994


8. 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' (1993)

8 the nightmare before christmas 1993

Walt Disney Studios

Tim Burton combines the best of two holidays with this stop-motion animated film about Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman), an authority on all things Halloween who decides to turn his macabre creativity loose on Santa’s favorite day of the year.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas

"This is Halloween, everybody make a scene!"
78
PG1 hr 16 minOct 9th, 1993


7. 'Elf' (2003)

7 elf 2003

New Line

Jon Favreau’s comedic chops balance perfectly with Will Farrell’s wholesome, silly enthusiasm in this endlessly entertaining story of a human raised at the North Pole who treks to civilization and reconnect with his father, a cynical workaholic book publisher played to perfection by James Caan.

Elf

"This holiday, discover your inner elf."
67
PG1 hr 37 minOct 9th, 2003


6. 'Home Alone' (1990)

6 home alone 1990

20th Century Fox

John Hughes transitioned into decidedly more family-friendly territory with this script about a kid who gets left behind while the rest of his family heads out for their Christmas vacation. Macaulay Culkin became a star overnight as the precocious preteen who fends off burglars and holiday loneliness in Chris Columbus’ monster hit film.

Home Alone

"A family comedy without the family."
73
PG1 hr 43 minNov 16th, 1990


5. 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' (1989)

5 national lampoons christmas vacation 1989

Warner

Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo come clashing back together as Clark Griswold and his loving, long-suffering wife Ellen, this time trying to survive the holiday season that much like every other Clark family gathering seems destined for disaster.


4. 'White Christmas' (1954)

4 white christmas 1954

Paramount

This second of two Bing Crosby-driven entries follows a song-and-dance duo who organize a concert to support their former commanding officer at his failing Vermont inn, in the process falling for a pair of singing sisters.

White Christmas

White Christmas

"Joyous entertainment for every season, any year!!!!"
72
NR2 hrOct 14th, 1954


3. 'A Christmas Story' (1983)

3 a christmas story 1983

WB

Bob Clark’s adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” skillfully pays tribute to a bygone era of childhood fantasy and hilariously exposes the simple truth that it never really existed. Peter Billingsley is so good as the kid who wants nothing as much as a Red Ryder BB gun and will engage in any and all subterfuge to obtain one - and protect it even after his parents’ worst fears come true.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

"Peace, Harmony, Comfort and Joy... Maybe Next Year."
73
PG1 hr 33 minNov 18th, 1983


2. 'Die Hard' (1988)

2 die hard 1988

20th Century Fox

Before John McClane became a superhero and Bruce Willis descended into vain cynicism, his performance in this iconic original installment oozed with everyman charm as the New York cop loses his shoes, battles a skyscraper full of terrorists, and tries to make peace with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia).

Die Hard

Die Hard

"Forty Stories. Twelve Terrorists. One Cop."
77
R2 hr 11 minJul 22nd, 1988


1. 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946)

1 its a wonderful life 1946

Paramount

Frank Capra’s 1946 film initially achieved ubiquitousness by virtue of endless syndicated showings on television, but it became a classic on the strength of its story - a portrait of sacrifice and generosity - as well as a performance by Jimmy Stewart that utilized both his fragile desperation and scrappy determination.

It's a Wonderful Life

"It's a wonderful laugh! It's a wonderful love!"
83
PG2 hr 10 minJan 7th, 1947

Watch the Made In Hollywood interview with Jimmy Hawkins (“Tommy”) and Karolyn Grimes (“Zuzu”) for the 75th anniversary of 'It’s a Wonderful Life.'

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