Screen Rant’s Favorite Christmas Movies

Published 7 months ago by This is a list post.

favorite christmas movies

It's Christmas time once again and many, many films and TV shows have been created to commemorate the holiday, so we thought we'd share some of our favorites with you. Yes, we posted this last year, but we're republishing this for new readers who weren't around then. :) Some of these are traditional and others are modern takes (or completely different twists) on the season. It's difficult to narrow favorites down to one (or two, or three) film(s) that really speak to each of us this time of year - but we've managed to whittle things down to keep this fairly brief for you. So read on to see what each of us here on the Screen Rant team consider the films that define the holiday season. :)

Vic Holtreman: (Owner, Screen Rant)

Miracle on 34th Street "I'd have to say that in a showdown between the original Miracle on 34th St. and It's a Wonderful Life, the latter takes the crown for me. It's the one movie that I think embodies the spirit of Christmas better than any other. While "Miracle" is a wonderful story as well, "Life" keeps me riveted no matter how many times I've seen it and I *always* choke up at the end. Every time. I think a runner-up might be A Christmas Story because it really takes me back to my childhood in many ways. If I were to pick a modern day favorite, I'd have to say it's Jon Favreau's Elf."

Kofi Outlaw: (Editor-in-Chief)

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. (1966) "The Christmas movie that takes me back to childhood. I always identified with the Grinch - except for the ending. Never forgave old Grinchy for going soft on me like that." Runner Up: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) Honorable Mention: Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer" (1964 - stop-motion animated version)

Rob Keyes: (Editor, Public Relations)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Raindeer "By far my most favorite Christmas movie is Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer from 1964." "The stop motion animated TV special about the story of Rudolph and his... birth defect is something I watched every year as a child and something that I never got bored of." "It was charming, funny, emotional and the abominable snowman really did freak me out."

Ben Kendrick: (Managing Editor)

The Nightmare Before Christmas "While it might not not represent the most traditional Christmas movie experience, I'm still a huge fan of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas - and watch it every year during the the holidays. Other film-fans might love seeing New York decked-out in holiday cheer or hand-drawn animated Christmas adventures but I'll never forget the memorable character designs and intriguing "be yourself" message of Jack Skellington." "That said, anyone who has never seen The Star Wars Holiday Special is also missing out - as Chewbacca's son, Lumpy, simultaneously epitomized and destroyed my childhood dreams."

Anthony Ocasio: (TV Editor)

The Muppets Christmas The Muppets Christmas Carol Runner Up: Santa's SlayThe Year Without A Santa ClausWhile You Were Sleeping "Since the age of 8, my philosophy has been that anything could be made better with the addition of Muppets. Since I doubt there's ever going to be a Muppets Ghostbusters, this faithful retelling of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol will have to do. Not only does this wonderful film affirm my childhood notions, but the songs are so good that they remain on my MP3 player all year 'round (just don't tell anyone -- I've got a manly persona to protect)."

Sandy Schaefer: (Day News Editor)

A Charlie Brown Christmas "There are so many Christmas movies that I love (It's A Wonderful LifeThe Nightmare Before ChristmasThe Muppet Christmas Carol, to name a few) that picking my favorite one is pretty difficult. However, there are two short Yuletide cartoons that I always remember to watch each holiday season." "One is The Snowman, the 1982 adaptation of Raymond Brigg's picture book. It's virtually wordless (save for the live-action prologue and the song 'Walking in the Air'), features beautiful hand-drawn animation, a fun story - and, frankly, if you don't get a little choked up while watching the end, then you may secretly be a rock." "The other short is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I just love the cartoony style, simple morals, and the "adult humor" (here, that's actually a good thing). Plus, Vince Guaraldi's jazz score is awesome."

Ben Moore: (Editor)

Mickey's Christmas Carol "Not a single Christmas goes by that I don't watch National Lampoon's Christmas VacationDie HardScroogedLove ActuallyThe Grinch Who Stole Christmas (1966), The Snowman, and so forth. But more than any of those films, Mickey's Christmas Carol -- starring Scrooge McDuck as the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge -- fills me with the sort of whimsy and warmth that I enjoyed as a child on Christmas Eve."

Andrew Dyce: (Writer)

Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation
"Without question, the one movie I will not only force relatives or friends to watch come Christmas, but end up quoting throughout the entire season is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. More than any other, it has come to include just about every feeling the holiday season brings: nostalgia, warmth, stress, joy, and the horrors of distant relatives."
"As the years go by, I find I can relate to Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) more and more, meaning the film always has something new to offer. But it never fails to remind me that even the most disastrous holidays can be saved by friends and family."

Hannah Shaw-Williams: (Writer)

Olivia Hussey in Black Christmas "What says "Christmas" more effectively than perverted phone calls and brutal murder? While probably not the kind of movie that you should settle in to watch with grandma, Black Christmas is one of the first great slasher movies and laid the groundwork for better-known horror franchises like Halloween." "I watch Black Christmas every year when the holidays roll around, regardless of whether or not I can convince anyone to watch it with me. It might not be the most cheerful of Christmas movies, but even the jolliest of days deserves a few good scares."

Robert Yaniz Jr: (Writer)

Will Ferrell in Elf "There are a number of childhood favorites – from animated classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Bill Murray’s Scrooged – that I could list here. However, I’ll go with Jon Favreau’s 2003 comedy Elf, as it’s one of the only recent films to truly become a holiday tradition." "Anchored by Will Ferrell’s earnest performance, Elf manages to perfectly balance the style and optimism of the old-school Rankin/Bass productions (like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) with a more modern sensibility. Even better, it’s infinitely re-watchable, insanely quotable (“You sit on a throne of lies.”) and possesses that rare ability to evoke the inner child from even the most cynical soul."

Paul Young: (Writer)

Laurel & Hardy in 'Babes in Toyland' "I'm going to reach way back to the the Golden Age of Films with my choice - the 1934 version of Babes in Toyland starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Disney released a successful remake in 1961 starring Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands and while I thoroughly enjoy that version nothing can hold a candle to the wonderful film director Hal Roach gave the world. The movie is often forgotten because of the 1961 version but to me it is one great Christmas movie." "The movie isn't chock full of lots of Christmas references but it is still a film I enjoy watching each Christmas season. Hopefully when my children get old enough to appreciate classic black and white films Phineas and Ferb reign supreme right now - I can get them to watch this Babes in Toyland with me."

Kyle Hembree: (Writer)

During the late '80s, my parents made great use of their newly acquired VCR to create "mix-tapes" of cartoon episodes, clandestinely copied movies, and event television. My favorite of these VHS treasure troves was composed only of Christmas specials – the crown jewel of which was the utterly demented Rankin-Bass production The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.  The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus traces the career of the jolly elf as he's raised by fairies, taught by an immortal named The Great Ak, and (despite his good intentions) causes a battle between light and darkness. For a televised Christmas special, it's pretty heavy stuff.  All I knew at the time was that combining the legend of Santa Claus with monsters, magic, and high fantasy was awesome. I watched that movie so many times as a kid that it more or less wore out the tape it was recorded on. For that alone, this weird, half-forgotten artifact maintains a special place during the holiday season. "During the late '80s, my parents made great use of their newly acquired VCR to create "mix-tapes" of cartoon episodes, clandestinely copied movies, and event television. My favorite of these VHS treasure troves was composed only of Christmas specials – the crown jewel of which was the utterly demented Rankin-Bass production The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus." "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus traces the career of the jolly elf as he's raised by fairies, taught by an immortal named The Great Ak, and (despite his good intentions) causes a battle between light and darkness. For a televised Christmas special, it's pretty heavy stuff. All I knew at the time was that combining the legend of Santa Claus with monsters, magic, and high fantasy was awesome. I watched that movie so many times as a kid that it more or less wore out the tape it was recorded on. For that alone, this weird, half-forgotten artifact maintains a special place during the holiday season."

Anthony Taormina: (Writer)

Jingle All the Way My favorite Christmas movie as a kid was Jingle All the Way. Yes, I know, it's extremely silly, but there was something about the quest to obtain the most popular toy on Christmas Eve that I really loved. Maybe that's because I know my parents did such a thing on occasion, or maybe it's because I was so entranced by the thought of getting my own Turbo Man figure. Whatever the case, Jingle All the Way is a movie I can't help but watch anytime it's on during the holidays. As far as my favorite adult Christmas movie that would have to be Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It's not a particularly Christmas-y movie, but it's set around the holidays just like all of Shane Black's films. It's also hilarious.

Kevin Yeoman: (Writer)

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in Billy Wilder's The Apartment 1960 "Like Die Hard, this one technically isn't a Christmas movie, but the narrative of Billy Wilder's 1960 classic, The Apartment, winds its way through the Christmas holiday and on into New Year's Eve with an equal measure of sardonic wit and clever melancholy, effectively rendering those watching grateful for everything they have. No mere romantic comedy, the film eschews sentimentality for a depiction of how, after the holiday parties and workplace gatherings are over, some are left with no particular place to go. In the case of Jack Lemmon's upwardly mobile office drone, C.C. Baxter, he spends Christmas Eve in a seedy bar, only to find Shirley MacLaine's lovely, but despondent, Miss Kubelik attempting the unthinkable, when he finally returns to his 'empty' apartment." "Yes, there's a mordant streak running through this critique of corporate culture and the lonely plight of the wage earner – which still feels incredibly relevant – but The Apartment adroitly balances that with a brilliant tenderness that's made all the more poignant by the film's holiday setting, and Miss Kubelik's strangely affectionate last line, telling Baxter to 'shut up and deal.'"

Andrew Crump: (Writer)

Gremlins Christmas Carolling "Joe Dante's boisterous little horror-comedy romp, Gremlins, might be better qualified as an anti-Christmas movie. For just shy of two hours, this film takes all the wind out of the holiday's sails, shredding seasonal traditions and symbols - from caroling to Santa Claus - with the glee usually reserved for unwrapping one's presents." "But Gremlins captures the Yuletide spirit in its own ways; after all, the whole thing starts off with the giving of a gift, and what kid wouldn't want an awesome Mogwai for a pet? (Though as Billy Peltzer's ordeal proves, it isn't always the thought that counts.) Ho, ho, Gizmo!"

Jason Tabrys: (Writer)

Bill Murray in Scrooged "The holiday season means that my Die Hard DVD will get a spin and I'll stumble upon White Christmas and find myself glamoured by Danny Kaye's song and dance skills at some point, but nothing tops Bill Murray at Christmas." "Truth is, Scrooged and the caustic Frank Cross suit my slightly bah-humbug-y spirit, but every year without fail, I always have more holiday cheer after watching Murray go through Charles Dickens’ guilt gauntlet." "Does this tradition keep my three ghosts at bay? I hope so."

Rob Frappier: (Writer)

It's a Wonderful Life 1) It's a Wonderful Life 2) Die Hard 3) A Christmas Story "For me, the awesomeness of Die Hard and the hilariousness of A Christmas Story just can't match up with the sheer joy I get from watching It's a Wonderful Life. Does any movie deliver such a rich and emotionally satisfying ending? We can all empathize with George Bailey. He's basically a good and decent man, but life has a way of wearing on you. Between his responsibilities to the savings and loan, his family, and the town, no one can blame him for losing hope and falling into depression. By the time Clarence the angel swoops in to save George from suicide (and 'earn his wings'), we're right there on the bridge with him. When George finally sees what the world would be like without him, he (and we) learn just how one man really can make a difference in the world. It's a truly inspirational film and one of my favorite Christmas traditions."

What are your favorites?

favorite christmas movies So there's our list of timeless Christmas favorites - Which are your favorites that you find yourself watching year after year? Oh, and... Merry Christmas!

125 Comments

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  1. I didn’t realize how much of Christmas Vacation was cut/altered by the networks when playing it. Zowie! Going to have to break out the DVD for sure. Thanks for your comments, Haggislaw!

  2. I saw an ad for one I know I’d missed called, “Surviving Christmas”. Anyone seen this one/care to enlighten me?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252028/

  3. have to echo the sentiments for…

    The year without a Santa Claus, still love that Rankin/Bass Heat Miser/Cold Miser thang. Kinda scary how much of a hold those old stop action things had on my generation. I watch them every year and the wife and I had these goofy grins on our faces singing the songs like “One foot in front of the other” and “first toymaker to the king”.

    the While You Were Sleeping was a good call too, don’t know if Bullock has ever been more engaging and Pullman more of a regular guy. Really great cast.

    Now if you’ll forgive me, Zuzu left her petals all over the carpet and the cats have gotten into them.

  4. I am a big fan of The Night They Saved Christmas. It stars Art Carney and Jacklyn Smith. I reccomend it to everyone.

  5. 1) Charlie Brown Christmas. I never go through a holiday season without watching it.

    2) Muppet Christmas Carol because everything is better with the Muppets.

    3) Die Hard because it’s awesome.

    Honorable mention goes to ItsJustSomeRandomGuy’s “Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas” video.

  6. 1. A charlie brown christmas (I’ve watched it 5 times this month)
    2. Rudolph the red nose reindeer (love the stop motion)
    3. Santa clause is coming to town (another stop motion)
    4. Elf
    5. Home alone (only the first one)
    6. Jingle all the way
    7.the santa clause
    8. Its a wonderful life
    9.

  7. Holy moly there are comments from a year ago… anywho….

    Our local TV station from small town Ontario, Canada journeyed to Seneca Falls this week (west of Syracuse, New York)reporting that this little town was the inspiration for the look and feel of Bedford Falls. Particularly the bridge and changing the original story the film is based on to reflect a real life suicide attempt. A woman jumped from the Seneca Falls bridge in 1917 and a man jumped in after her. She survived. He did not. The year before It’s a Wonderful Life was released Capra stayed in the town. The real-life actresses who played Janie and Zuzu show up every year in December for the town’s festival celebrating it’s connection to Hollywood history. Seeing them interviewed by our small time news anchor was surreal.

    • Yeah i know! I was like wth who took my name i never commented lol

  8. My favorite Christmas movie is Home Alone Part 1 & 2, since I was growing up

  9. Batman Returns……(crickets chirp)….I don’t care. I count it as a Christmas movie.

  10. Last year I saw Disney’s A Christmas Carol on Netflix and it was good to watch.

  11. A Cosmic Christmas.

  12. testing testing

    • Sorry about that. I keep getting the SPAM error trying to respond to 7-9-0. Just wanted to see if I could still post.

      BTW, my favorite Christmas movies: Scrooged and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

  13. The Snowman has to be by far my favorite Christmas movie. The animation which mimics that of a watercolor/pastel painting partnered with an incredible score and narrated by David Bowie, makes this film unforgettable. My childhood wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for this movie. If you have never seen it, be an adult or child, it’s quite the visual treat.

  14. Of course I have to watch all the Rankin/Bass specials (Rudolph, Year Without a Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, etc.) which are the most essential.

    I LOVE the obscure ones (Die Hard, Batman Returns, Gremlins), much to the lament of my cliche, conformist friends.

    I only ever watch The Grinch nowadays to hear the song.

    The Polar Express isn’t that bad and actually passes as a traditional Christmas Special in my book.

    As Arnold’s Biggest fan, I think Jingle All the Way is a necessity.

    We can never forget the reason for the season, which makes The Nativity Story another essential.

    And of course, what Christmas is complete without A Christmas Story?

    But my all time favorite has to be A Christmas Carol. Any of ‘em! George C. Scott’s is probably the one that nails it the most.

  15. 1) Christmas Vacation (without question)

    2) Elf

    3) A Christmas Story

    Merry Christmas SR, thanks for providing us all with the best movie news website around.

    • Thanks, Timothy – we work hard at it… and LOVE IT! :D

      Vic

  16. The great holiday classic JINGLE ALL THE WAY!!!!

  17. easy call here…scrooged for sure…bill murray is hilarious. Runner up? the muppets chrismas carol

  18. christmas top ten, 10-5 listed as comes to my head, but rest are in order.

    10)just friends
    9)home alone 2
    8)the ref
    7)the santa clause 3
    6)miracle on 34th street, old one
    5)ernest saves christmas
    4)scrooged
    3)lethal weapon 1
    2)rudoplh the red nosed reindeer
    1)die hard

    • I love “Just Friends.” Excellent addition to any Christmas movie list.

  19. Patrick Stewart’s version of A Christmas Carol.

  20. My new favorite Christmas movie is “Cooper’s Christmas.” This little known gem is absolutely hysterical and is one of the most quote worthy movies I’ve seen in year. Warning though – it’s not for kids. It’s rude, crude and just plain funny. Still on Netflix instant streaming if you want to check it out.

  21. One of my favorites is 1982′s Christmas Comes to Pac-Land.
    Video games and Christmas together!
    If you’ve never seen it, it airs tonight at seven on Boomerang.

  22. Yeah, my wife and I watched the ’61 Babes in Toyland last week. Utter crap. That movie isn’t for Christmas at all. 1. They don’t even get to Toyland until over half way thru the movie. 2. He’s a toymaker, not Santa. 3. It’s Toyland, not the North Pole. 4. It’s October. The ONLY thing even REMOTELY Christmas about that movie is the snow in the final scene.
    Blech.

    I’ll take Die Hard (Now I have a machine gun! Ho Ho Ho), Lethal Weapon and Muppet Christmas Carol. With aside of A Christmas Story (Oh, Fudge!) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas for dessert.

    A Christmas movie feast for all!

  23. I think My favorite christmas movies are Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon.

  24. elf…

  25. Christmas Vacation is not only the best Christmas movie, but one of the greatest movies, period. Just like the Jelly of the Month club, it’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year. “That it is, Edward, that it is.”

  26. no home alone on the list? =/

    • vlad,

      If it makes you feel better, it’s one of my wife’s favorites – and we DO watch it every year.

      Vic

  27. DIE HARD!!!

  28. Love your list and wouldn’t change a thing. However I’d like to just add Home Alone as number 11, a movie we, as a family watch every Christmas.
    Merry Christmas and a very Happy New year to all the Screen Rant Staff xxx

  29. Over the last couple of years I have really grown to love “Fred Clause” it has heart, family, and a twelve step program scene that kills me every time i see it.

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