The days are getting shorter and Christmas is right around the corner. It’s time to snuggle up on the couch with some popcorn, hot chocolate, and great movies to get you in the holiday mood. Sleigh rides and carol singing are lots of fun, but sometimes, you might want to feel merry and bright without also feeling cold! So pull up a comfy chair and a big blanket, and settle in to some Christmas classics guaranteed to cure any Grinch-like tendencies…
Now that The Night Before is in theaters, officially kicking off the holiday movie season, let’s take a look at some other Christmas classics. Here is Screen Rant’s list of the 12 Best Christmas Movies of All Time.
There are so many incredible Christmas movies with a bit of an adult bent to them, but for this one we are looking for pure winter magic: no holiday horror, drunk Santas or drug comedies. Movies set at Christmas time that don’t have Christmas as a major focus are also excluded (sorry, Die Hard!). Finally, we’ve left out animated films, and while all of these are family-friendly, they aren’t specifically made for children.
A Christmas Carol/Scrooge (1938, 1951, 1999, 2009, and many more)
Dicken’s tale of England’s most famous grump has been re-made for the holidays multiple times; whether you can’t imagine Christmas without it or if you’re sick and tired of Tiny Tim, it’s an absolute classic. Everyone has their personal favorite, but some of the best known adaptations include the 1938 version (A Christmas Carol) made in the golden age of Hollywood, the TV movie starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge (1999), and the most recent version, starring Jim Carrey from 2009 (also called A Christmas Carol).
However, it’s the 1951 film Scrooge that is often considered the definitive adaptation, and with good reason. Alastair Sim is the perfect Ebenezer to take us through a lifetime of Christmasses and remind us all that redemption is always possible on Christmas Day.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This adaptation of A Christmas Carol is so special that it deserves an entry all to itself. Combining the classic tale with these beloved puppets, this film sees Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang up against Michael Caine as Scrooge.
There are plenty of songs (that you probably know by heart), hilarious quips from favorite characters and nods to the audience that make this production truly unique and special. Seeing Kermit and Miss Piggy together again will have long-time fans sighing with nostalgia, and even family members who rarely watched The Muppet Show will appreciate this cute and colorful take on the classic.
Another movie inspired by A Christmas Carol is this ‘80s classic starring Bill Murray as the bitter and selfish TV executive in need of a lesson in kindness. Murray manages to make everything he does incredible, and Scrooged is no exception.
Funny, poignant, and giving us a modern(ish) take on Dickens’ classic novel, this is a fantastic twist for everyone to enjoy. Although much of this is now a little out of date, the film is still full of timeless humor and amazing shots of New York at Christmas time, and is an amazing way to introduce kids and teens to Dicken’s story.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Another Christmas classic, this black and white film from the Golden Age of Hollywood is guaranteed to give you the warm and fuzzies. The story of George Bailey (James Stewart) begins and ends on Christmas Eve, when an angel comes to Earth to help him find his way and show him the incredible difference that every life makes to the world.
Henry Travers as Clarence (the angel) is the perfect comedy relief to balance out the darker moments in the film (and there are some very dark moments!), winning our hearts as we root for George to realize what his life is worth, and Clarence to earn his wings. Fair warning – if you let your kids watch this, you may be listening to them ring every bell they see for the next month!
A Christmas Story (1983)
One for your inner child, this story of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his burning need to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas will remind you of the days when a single gift might make or break your Christmas morning.
Forget about the wrapping paper that doesn’t look right, the Turkey that might not have defrosted all the way, the snow that needs shoveling, and all those adult responsibilities that come at this time of year, and relax into a silly story of a boy and his dream toy. His imagination sequences are perfect examples of what it was to daydream, and that lamp most definitely is the ugliest lamp you’ll ever see, and this is the perfect choice for the whole family.
Love Actually (2003)
When you can’t decide which kind of Christmas movie to watch, just watch them all at once! This collection of interwoven stories about love at Christmas time brings together friends, family, new loves, married couples and missed chances into a beautiful collection that is the cinematic version of a big warm hug. Set in London over the six weeks leading up to Christmas, this is an emotional rollercoaster ride, balancing happy and funny love stories with moments of heart-wrenching sorrow.
While some tales are a little ridiculous or a little less kid-friendly, it’s all part of the holiday fun (or the result of some bribes from the Wisconsin tourist board!). A perfect film for couples, this should do a solid job of reminding you that love is actually all around…
This hilarious slapstick comedy starring Will Ferrell has spawned generations of memes that still do the rounds every December, and is guaranteed to have you rolling on the floor with laughter. Ferrell is perfect as Buddy, a boy raised as an elf at the North Pole and now on a journey into the human world to find his father.
Buddy may be completely over the top at times, but his naiveté is utterly charming. Seeing his completely unfettered joy and excitement over the holiday season will remind you not to get too jaded at this time of year. After all, Santa’s coming!
Home Alone (1990)
A Christmas must-watch for anyone who was a kid in the ‘90s, the story of an adorable 8-year-old taking out two of the most inept burglars in the world stays funny no matter how often you watch it. Full of slapstick gags and Macaulay Culkin adorably smacking his hands on his cheeks, Home Alone may be completely unrealistic, but it’s full of Christmas magic, and that’s everything it needs to be.
If you can’t get enough of Kevin McCallister (Culkin), the film spawned a sequel two years later (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York) which has the same combination of physical comedy and Christmassy ambiance. Perfect.
Holiday Inn (1942)
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little Bing Crosby, so add him to your watch list with this classic romantic comedy musical. Crosby stars alongside Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds in this classic love triangle, complete with singing and dancing as they compete for a woman’s love.
This endearing film is worth it for the song and dance numbers alone (who could compare to the combination of Crosby and Astaire?), but is also an endearing and comforting classic for fans of old Hollywood. Cheer for Jim (Crosby), despite his plotting, and love to hate showbiz cad Ted (Astaire) in a movie that guarantees a happy ending – just what you need on a cold winter’s night.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994)
Whether you watch the black and white original or the ‘90s remake, Miracle on 34th Street is a perfect choice to bring out the hopeful child in you for Christmas. The charming story of a child who believes in Santa no matter what those silly grown-ups say, Dorey Walker’s (Maureen O’Hara/Mara Wilson) hope and determination will have you looking to the sky with just a little childlike wonder come Christmas Eve.
There are enough poignant moments to make sure that it’s not too saccharine, and an adult romance just to make sure there isn’t a single heartstring left untugged. A perfect ‘90s rom-com (or ‘40s classic!) for the holiday season.
The Santa Clause (1994)
Another Christmas classic from the ‘90s, The Santa Clause is remembered for its lighthearted humor and slapstick gags. Many people seem to forget the relatively dark backstory; Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) accidentally kills Santa on Christmas Eve, and has to take his place as the jolly gift-giver.
Murderous premise aside, there are plenty of simple gags and hilarious misunderstandings to enjoy. So many, in fact, that the film spawned two sequels: The Santa Clause 2 (2002) where Calvin has to find a Mrs Clause to hang on to his position at the North Pole, and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006) where he faces off against Jack Frost (Martin Short).
White Christmas (1954)
This romantic musical comedy from the ’50s may lay it on a little thick at times, but what else is Christmas for? Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen star in this showbiz tale of new love and crossed wires, as two producers attempt to help their old army General during the holidays.
Expect lots of old-school romance and gentle Crosby crooning as we wait for the snow to fall and bring the title to life. If this combination of classic Christmas tunes, over-the-top Santa-style costumes and happy endings for everyone doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, nothing will!
Did we miss any of your favorite Christmas movies? Let us know in the comments!