As the Christmas weekend is upon us, I like to spend time rewatching Christmas movies: the old classics and family favorites. In more recent years, I have also added Hallmark Christmas movies to the rotation. But even those can’t hold a candle to many of the movies on this list, at least for me. So, what is this list you may ask? A list of 25 movies that you should spend time watching over Christmas, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re not, that’s cool too, whatever floats your boats.
While I may love some of these movies more than others, just like other people, I tried to be fair with my descriptions. They are all worth watching as each one represents an element of Christmas and the holiday season, each in their own way…
Without further ado, 25 movies to watch for Christmas!
1. White Christmas (1954)
Vermont at Christmas, a charming inn, and songs sung by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen. What more needs to be said? It’s a classic and quite possibly my number one favorite Christmas movie (and number one favorite Christmas song, especially as sung by Bing Crosby). I’ve loved Bing Crosby christmas songs long before I first saw this movie, but once I had seen it, it quickly became a must watch every year. And since moving to Arizona, I can certainly relate to… “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…”
2. Muppets’ Christmas Carol (1992)
“It’s in the singing of a street corner choir, it’s going home and getting warm by the fire. It’s true, wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.” Michael Caine (as Scrooge) and a host of everyone’s favorite muppets retell the Charles Dickens classic tale of A Christmas Carol. This was my favorite Christmas movie until White Christmas. But if I’m truly honest, both movies are tied for first. I have every song in the movie memorized by heart. And this is my favorite Jim Henson Production that wasn’t directed by Jim Henson, but by his son Brian, as Jim passed away during pre-production of this movie. My favorite Jim Henson movie is of course Labyrinth, followed closely by The Dark Crystal, but I digress as neither of those are Christmas movies.
3. The Holiday (2006)
The honor of one of the best romantic Christmas movies goes to The Holiday. In what other movie can you find romance amidst the Santa Ana winds or the snow flocked fields of Surrey? This movie stars Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Eli Wallach, as two budding romantic couples and one adorable old man. And speaking of the adorable old man, he offers up one of my favorite lines in the movie, “Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you’re behaving like the best friend.” I can certainly appreciate when your life can be put into such simple terms, and ever since I first heard it, I have strived to be the leading lady of my own life. I also strive to watch this movie every year, and spoiler alert: I already have.
4. Last Holiday (2006)
In the same year as The Holiday, another romantic comedy Christmas movie premiered, starring Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Alicia Witt, and Gerard Depardieu. This movie is about taking life altering news and not letting it keep you from going on a trip that allows you to live life to the fullest. This movie quickly became one of my favorite movies to watch for Christmas (and one of my mom’s favorites as well). It has such a great blend of humor, love, discovery, sadness and surprise.
5. Elf (2003)
What do you get when you combine Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner and Mary Steenburgen? You get a really fun Christmas movie about a human who grew up at the North Pole as an elf and goes on an adventure to find his real family. A great time for the whole family, and don’t forget, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
6. This Christmas (2007)
10 years before the world knew Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor and Luther in the acclaimed BBC show of the same name, he was Quentin Whitfield in This Christmas. This movie is all about a family trying to come together for Christmas despite a variety of obstacles. You really get the feeling of how important the support of a loving family can be.
7. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964
)No Christmas movie list would be complete without the classic animated Christmas tales from Rankin and Bass. These are the movies that filled my childhood with happiness and joy. Starting with everyone’s favorite red-nosed reindeer, Rudolph! Before Rudy was leading Santa’s sleigh on the screen, he had a successful song based off an equally successful poem from the 1930s. Rudolph has taught generations of children that it’s ok to be different and that everyone has a special way that they can be important.
8. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970)
Just like Rudolph, this cartoon was based off the song of the same name, also from the 1930s. In this timeless tale, children can learn all about the origin story of the big-man-in-red himself, Santa Claus. Certain aspects of the story are taken from the tales and legends of Saint Nicholas aka Sinterklaas aka Nikolaus aka Santa Claus, as he was known across Europe and later in America. So, if you need to brush up on your Santa facts, this is the movie for you.
9. The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)
Out of the Rankin and Bass classics, this one has to be my favorite. It introduced some of my favorite characters: Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Each of whom have great theme songs. Plus, I have always considered this movie to have a unique take on a Santa Claus involved Christmas story. What happens when Santa decides to take the year off?
10. Frosty the Snowman (1969)
What do you get when you combine a magical top hat with a snowman? A talking jolly snowman named Frosty. He takes a group of kids on an exciting parade through their town and teaches them that even though their snowy fun will melt away eventually, they only need wait until next year to have wintery fun again. This is the perfect follow up to a fun-filled day building snowmen. Warm yours hands around a warm cup of cocoa or cider and wish Frosty a “Happy Birthday!”
11. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Based on a marvelous Dr. Seuss tale, this movie should put you in the Christmas spirit without fail. And with the voice of the Grinch and the narration by Boris Karloff, I dare anyone to find a reason to scoff. But we must not forget, this movie also spawned a hit song by Thurl Ravenscroft to complete the set. Whether you are a Grinch or a Cindy Lou Who, this movie is bound to have something for you!
12. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
I know, I already have a version of The Christmas Carol on here (there may also be another one further down on the list), but I am of the mindset that you can’t have enough versions of a great classic story. Also, this is Disney’s Mickey Mouse that we’re talking about here, not to mention a bunch of his Disney pals. Including, everyone’s favorite miserly duck, Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge. Could you have a more fitting casting than that? I am also aware, that Scrooge is named after that very same Dickens’ character, I just thought “the casting” line was funny. Anyway, this was an important animation for Mickey. At the time, this had been the first original theatrical release of a Mickey Mouse movie in over 30 years. It was also the last animated film to have Clarence Nash, who voiced Donald Duck, the only remaining original voice actor having outlived Walt Disney and Pinto Colvig (Goofy). I heartily nominate this Academy award nominee to be added to your Christmas watch list. Go on and know it better man!
13. Snow Queen (1957)
“Here comes the Snow Queen, her majesty in white…” and here comes a Han Christian Andersen classic for you, in a visual format. This 1957 classic is one that was introduced to me by my mother, who grew up watching it as a child. You may have seen a more recent (albeit loose) adaptation that hit theaters in 2013, a little film by the name of Frozen. For those that may not know, Hans Christian Andersen was also the same author of The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Suit, and many more stories. Stories many of which Disney has adapted into films, and similar to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, Disney made them much more kid friendly. The Snow Queen is a tale of a girl who loses her childhood sweetheart to a cold but beautiful queen of the ice and snow. You follow the girl on an adventure across Northern Europe, from Denmark to the far northern reaches of Scandinavia, as she avoids a witch’s grasp, bandits, a prince’s dungeon and the icy powers of the Snow Queen herself. It is definitely not your conventional animated Christmas movie and I think that’s what I’ve always loved about it. So if you’re up for something unique, check this one out.
14. Love Actually (2003)
People either love this movie, or hate this movie, and always for different reasons I’ve found. I’m in the love it camp. It’s amazing cast and unconventional plot points had me sold from the first time I saw it. Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, and the late Alan Rickman. It has romance, humor, sadness, family, London, and a great rendition of All I Want for Christmas. That is all I will say, and I will let you all make up your own minds.
15. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Before I get fists shaken at me for not going with the 1947 version, let me just say this. I love the original and I enjoy watching it. I would include it as well if I could, but then I would have 26 movies and America doesn’t believe in a second Christmas day as the Europeans do (or Boxing Day for my Canadian friends). So I chose the remake because it was the first version that I saw as a child and because I was a big fan of Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park and Mara Wilson from Mrs. Doubtfire. The remake is also a bit easier to get a hold of to watch than the original, especially if you feel like watching it in the original black and white instead of the remastered color version. But I do highly recommend everyone seek out the original, it has a great cast as well: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood.
16. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
I think everyone in their lifetime has either had a neighbor like or known someone like Clark Griswold. They go all out with their decorations and want everything to be perfect for Christmas. I love Christmas, and Winter is my favorite time of year, but even I have my limits when it comes to decorations. It’s a lot of work to put up decorations and not to mention the energy bill tends to spike a bit this time of year (although not nearly as much as running the AC during an Arizonan summer). So, when I want to see a crazy display of lights, I go no further than the TV in my living room and I reacquaint myself with the Griswolds and their Christmas shenanigans.
17. The Santa Clause (1994)
This movie taught us all a valuable lesson, do not scare Santa while he is on your roof. Otherwise, you wind up accidentally killing Santa and having to take over his job. Luckily for the rest of us, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) found that out the hard way and made his handy guide for us all. Ok, clearly I’m kidding, except for the premise of this movie. I remember watching this movie as a kid and while there have been a few sequels, none of them can top the original. I really liked this movie, but I was also a Tim Allen fan, as my parents used to watch a lot of Home Improvement. And of course, what 90s kid doesn’t know Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. So for nostalgia’s sake, grunt a big Tim “the Toolman” Taylor “roh roh roh” before settling down to watch this fun Christmas comedy. Don’t worry, you won’t need to go to infinity and beyond.
18. Gremlins (1984)
It’s recommended to never get your kids a pet for Christmas unless you’re absolutely sure that your kids are willing to take care of said pet, or you’re prepared to take care of the pet when they don’t. No movie hammers home more the importance of proper pet care than this one. Three simple rules: No water, no bright light, and no feeding after midnight. The consequences of not following these rules were nothing short of disastrous for one small town plagued by gremlins. Billy, his girlfriend Kate, and little adorable Gizmo, must work together to save themselves and the town from these ugly and dangerous creatures.
19. Scrooged (1988)
Remember before when I said there was at least one more version of The Christmas Carol on this list? Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane and more…bring this modernized telling of the tale to life. Scrooge is a miserly TV executive named Frank Cross, who gave up on love with Claire and needs a visit from those three ghosts we know so well to get him back on track. I remember when I was younger, the elevator scene with the Ghost of Christmas Future always scared me and I would cover my eyes or turn away. I didn’t know exactly what it looked like until I was older. So if that part still creeps you out, don’t worry, it is a brief scene and is worth it in order to enjoy this great Bill Murray flick.
20. Jack Frost (1998)
Michael Keaton as a talking snowman. Need I say more? Of course, I am going to say more about this movie, because it’s one that I really enjoy and think doesn’t get enough credit. I’ve been a fan of Michael Keaton since Beetlejuice and Batman, so naturally, I was a fan of this film. While it’s just his voice coming out of a snowman, for the majority of the movie, the snowman does resemble Keaton and his mannerisms. If you’ve never seen it, give Keaton’s combination of Jack Frost and Frosty the Snowman a chance.
21. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
For the longest time, I did not realize there were other Ernest P. Worrell movies and that there was actually an entire franchise. Not until I discovered Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid and Ernest Goes to School. Of them all, Ernest Saves Christmas has remained my favorite, but Ernest Scared Stupid is a close second. We had this on VHS and I watched it often as a kid. In this movie, and all the others, Jim Varney plays Ernest P. Worrell. Ernest is a buffoon and a redneck with a raspy voice, that gets himself into trouble but always manages to work things out. And in the case of this movie, manages to help save Christmas. If you’re at all interested in finding out what happens when you cross a clumsy redneck with Christmas, then this is the movie for you. “KnowhutImean?”
22. Home Alone (1990)
This movie starred Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, the kid who gave parents in the 90s cause to think twice about leaving their kids alone at home, for fear of them destroying the house with booby traps to defend against burglars. This movie spawned a myriad of quotable lines, and an entire franchise. While Culkin only did two films, the original and it’s sequel, there are apparently three more that noone has ever heard of. But I wouldn’t bother with those, just stick with the original. So, grab some popcorn “ya filthy animals” and enjoy watching a kid destroy a couple of criminals.
23. Jingle All the Way (1996)
After he was the Terminator and after he fought predators in the jungle, Arnold Schwarzenegger got to find out what it was like to be Turbo Man. In this Christmas comedy, a dad (Schwarzenegger) tries everything he can to get his son one of the hottest toys on the market. Even to such lengths at picking fights with a postal worker out for the same thing, played by comedian Sinbad. If you enjoy comedic Arnold as much as Action Arnold, like I do, then sit back and relax. “It’s Turbo time!”
24. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Now, I will be completely honest. I can’t recall if I’ve actually seen It’s a Wonderful Life. I think I have, or maybe just a portion of it? But I have gone through life hearing about the movie and it’s plot every Christmas for years, from other Christmas movies and other people. It’s touted as one of the top classic Christmas movies, and is a must watch in many households for the Christmas season. So, I thought I had better include it in the list, lest I be shunned. I will make it priority to watch the film all the way through.
25. A Christmas Story (1983
)So we come to the last film on the list. This also is considered a must watch for Christmas by a lot of people. Unlike the Jimmy Stewart staple, I have seen this movie, once, and honestly that was enough for me. It’s not a bad movie but it’s just not one I feel I have to watch every year necessarily. But, other people love it and I can appreciate what people love about it, so that’s enough to include it on this list. It does have some great moments and I do like that it is based on the partially real-life writings of an author (Jean Shepherd). Anyway, if you love this movie, let me know why and it may help to convince me. So enjoy watching the wintry exploits of little Ralphie, but be careful, “you might shoot your eye out kid.”
You can’t watch all of these movies on Christmas, there might be enough time to watch them all over the entire Christmas weekend, if you’re snowed in. But hopefully this list gives an idea to those who don’t know where to start. And hopefully some of these become your favorites to watch every year, as some have become mine. But remember, who you watch these movies with is really more important than which ones are favorites or the best ones to watch for Christmas. Spending time with family or those you care about is the important thing and these movies just help to provide entertainment and a way to make cherished family memories this holiday season.
So with that…Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year everyone!