There are a lot of Christmas movies these days, and the list is growing each year. How do you decide which are worth your time and which you can script? Below are the movies that are generally regarded as the best of the best. For your convenience they are separated into categories. If you watch them all you have enough to see a different one each day from Thanksgiving until Christmas!
A Charlie Brown Christmas
This animated classic by Charles M. Schultz hardly needs an introduction. The “lovable loser” Charlie Brown seeks to understand what Christmas is all about. He is convinced his friends are missing the main point. His “psychiatrist” friend, Lucy suggests he find Christmas spirit by getting involved in the Christmas play.
The Polar Express
Billy is a boy who longs to believe in Santa Claus, the elves and the North Pole. However, his family all tell him that all of that is just a myth. But then, on Christmas Eve, the Polar Express arrives at his home – a train that takes children to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus himself in person. The train’s conductor (Tom Hanks), along with the other children, help turn Billy’s crisis of faith into a journey of self-discovery and new hope.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Regarded as one of the best versions of this Charles Dickens book, the Muppet Christmas Carol is a wonderful spin on a familiar story. With Michael Caine in the role of Scrooge, and all of your favorite muppets filling out the rest of the cast, you are sure to enjoy every minute of this modernized classic.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
This movie was based on the song by the same name and features Burl Ives as the narrator. Along with Rudolph are many other well-known characters including Herbie the elf (who wants to be a dentist), Cornelius the prospector and the Abominable Snowbeast.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Based on the book by Dr. Seuss, the animated version of this story was narrated by Boris Karloff and the theme song was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft. It is a wonderful story of an unhappy character, the Grinch, who attempts to steal Christmas from “Who’s down in Whoville”, but ends up learning the true meaning of Christmas.
A couple others
- The Nightmare before Christmas
- Frosty the Snowman
White Christmas is based in the post World War II heyday of big stage/screen musicals. Big-time producers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis plan to spend a week in the winter playground of Vermont. Unbeknownst to them, they end up arriving at the inn where their former general is the down-on-his-luck landlord. Together with their friends, the sister-act of Betty and Judy, they concoct a plan to help their commanding officer by relocating their stage show to the inn in order to draw in the crowds to fill the inn. This classic musical features a number of Irving Berlin songs and the star-studded cast of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney.
It’s a Wonderful Life
One of the most famous and beloved of all Christmas movies, this is director Frank Capra’s classic about George Bailey (James Stewart), a man who has given so much he seems to never end up with anything for himself. George endures crisis after crisis on behalf of his fellow Bedford Falls citizens to protect them from the wiles of Potter. Convince he is a failure in life, George considers suicide. To prevent him taking a drastic step heaven sends Clarence the angel to show him the truth about his “Wonderful Life”.
The Bishop’s Wife
Carey Grant plays an angel named Dudley who is sent to help Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) reevaluate his priorities. Dudley seems to have a positive effect on everyone he meets, except the bishop that is. The longer Dudley stays around the angrier Henry becomes until everything comes to a head.
Not exclusively an Christmas movie, Holiday Inn is a precursor to White Christmas and stars Bing Crosby, along with Fred Astaire. Jim Hardy (Crosby) decides to retire from the hectic hustle-and-bustle of big city show biz. He buys an inn and decides to turn it into a “holiday inn” – an inn that is only open to the public on holidays throughout the year. It is appropriately considered a Christmas movie, however, as the story begins and ends on Christmas Eve, and Irving Berlin’s famous song “White Christmas” debuted in the movie.
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is one of the most well-known and beloved of Christmas movies. Set in 1940s Indiana, we follow the story of young Ralphie Parker who wants just one thing for Christmas – a Red Ryder BB Gun. But he faces an uphill battle as his mother, his teacher, and even Santa Claus himself all tell him he will “shoot his eye out”.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo pair up once again for another movie in the National Lampoons Vacation series, this time at their home where they intend to host the big family Christmas celebration for the first time. Chase as Clark W. Griswold trips, falls, crashes, smashes, stubs his way through the season and endures a dysfunctional family celebration that includes brother-in-law Eddie (Randy Quaid). Warning: If you have only seen the television version of this movie you may be surprised to learn that there is quite a bit of swearing in the original version. If you plan to watch it with your younger kids you may want to wait until it airs on tv.
Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) is not actually an elf. But he was raised by elves, and thought he was an elf until recently. In actuality he was a baby in an orphanage who managed to hide in Santa’s bag on Christmas Eve and ended up in the North Pole where he was adopted by a childless elf. When, in adulthood, he learns the truth of his past he sets out on a journey to find his real father – a hardened businessman who is on the naughty list!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A modernized and live-action version of the Dr. Seuss classic was made in 2000 starring Jim Carrey as the title character. Taylor Momsen steals many of her scenes as Cindy Lou Who.
Christmas with the Kranks
Luther and Nora Krank (played by Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) decide to “skip Christmas” when their daughter graduates from college and goes to Peru with the Peace Corps. However, they find that persuading their neighbors to accept their decision is a lot harder than expected. Based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas, the movie version did not get the greatest critical reviews, but is more popular among ordinary viewers.
Movies about Santa
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
This miracle of a movie qualifies as a classic, but is in this category since it features Santa Claus as the main character. The story begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, where a stand-in is found to replace a drunk Santa who is supposed to be featured in the parade. The bearded old gentleman is so well liked in the role that the store hires him to be their Santa throughout the holiday season. He creates quite a stir, both in the store and in the parade director, Maureen O’Hara’s home, when he declares himself to be Kris Kringle, the real Santa Claus.
The Santa Clause
Tim Allen dons the “red suit” and becomes Santa Claus in this clever and charming take on the Santa story. Filled with heart-warming humor and holiday cheer this movie has a high degree of “rewatchability”. The movie was so successful that it produced two sequels (so far!)
Santa Claus is coming to Town
An animated stop-motion classic that tells the story of the origin of Santa Claus, from baby to adulthood, this movie is sure to delight all ages. A new-born baby is lost while being taken to an orphanage and winds up on the doorstep of a family of elf toy-makers with the surname Kringle. He is raised by the elves and taught how to make toys and spread love and cheer. He faces many obstacles on his journey to becoming Santa Claus, but with the help of his friends the reformed Winter Warlock and Miss Jessica he begins dropping down chimneys, putting presents in stockings and eventually flees to the North Pole. Santa/Kris is voiced marvelously by Mickey Rooney and the movie is narrated by Fred Astaire.
The Year without a Santa Claus
Mickey Rooney once again plays Santa Claus, this time in his older age when he is sick, tired and frustrated by the lack of belief in him. He decides to take a year off, but Mrs. Claus hatches a plot convince Santa that he is not so forgotten as he was led to believe.
The Nativity Story
The story of the nativity is told in dramatic fashion in this 2006 movie. Follow the arduous journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to give birth to baby Jesus. The three wise men provide some humor along the way.
Nester the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
This is an animated story about a young donkey that faces hardship and loss, but chosen to be the donkey who bears Mary on her journey to Bethlehem to give birth to the baby Jesus. Young children will need some tissues to get through this one as it is a tear-jerker.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
You might not have thought of this as a Christmas story. Indeed the plot rather follows the Easter story. Never the less the tale begins in a land that is cursed by never ending winter, and the sign that the curse is broken is that Father Christmas is allowed to “break through” and deliver presents.
A Christmas Carol (1951)
The 1951 version of a Christmas Carol is regarded by many as the best one. Although the “Christmas story” is not told the movie takes place over Christmas and bears many Christian themes, foremost being the redemption of Ebeneezer Scrooge.
The Star of Christmas
This is a Veggie Tales story about two competing Christmas pageants taking place on the same night in London.
Non-Christmas Christmas Movies
None of these movies have much to do with Christmas. However, they all take place during Christmas, and they are a lot of fun to boot! Warning: These may not all be appropriate for children.
- Lethal Weapon
- A buddy flick, with two cops (Mel Gibson and Danny Glover) working together to solve crimes
- Home Alone
- A boy is left home alone during the Christmas season and has to defend himself and the house form burglars
- Die Hard
- John McClain (Bruce Willis) is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He plays a cop who gets caught up in a terrorist plot to hold a skyscraper hostage.
- Trading Places
- A stock broker and a street urchin are forced to trade places in this movie starring Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy
- The Family Man
- An "It's a Wonderful Life"-like plot, Nicholas Cage plays Jack Campbell, a man who gave up love many years ago for a high-paying job with a brokerage firm. He is given the chance to see what his life would've been like had he stayed with the girl instead.
- Batman Returns
- Batman (Michael Keaton) does battle against the Penguin (Danny Devito), Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and evil businessman Max Schreck (Christopher Walken).
Phew, that's a lot of movies! If you have a favorite that didn't make the list please add it below in the comments!