Screen Rant’s Favorite Christmas Movies

Published 10 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!

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  1. My top 5 would be these

    1.)It’s A Wonderful Life
    2.)Christmas vacation
    3.)Die Hard
    4.)Home Alone 1 & 2
    5.)Jingle all the way

  2. Gremlins!

  3. We watch a number of the “classics” that have been named, but also White Christmas, the schmaltzy Irving Berlin 1942 offering … despite the cheeziness, it’s still charming, for lack of a better word.

  4. Diehard
    Rare Exports
    christmas vacation
    Muppet Christmas Carol
    Home Alone

    no particular order

  5. the Ref

    Die hard

    a nightmare before christmas

    gremlins

    It’s a wonderful life

  6. 1. Its a Wonderful Life
    2. A Christmas Story
    3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Cartoon)
    4. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
    5. Frost the Snowman

  7. Elf
    Christmas Story
    Santa Claus The Movie

    I love the Just Friends mention too!

  8. First merry xmas,
    I wish “A year without a santa claus”, Elf, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

  9. 1.lethal weapon
    2.die hard
    3.trading places
    4.gremlins
    5.die hard 2

  10. Here is a Christmas Movie List I been watching each year:

    1. Home Alone Part 1, 2, 3 (Didn’t care for Part 3)
    2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Remake)
    3. Alvin and the Chipmunks
    4. The Santa Claus Part 1, 2, 3
    5. The Elf
    6. Disney’s A Christmas Carol (Just watched it my 2nd time on DVD)
    7. Fred Claus
    8. Ernest Saves Christmas
    9. A Christmas Story
    10. Prancer

  11. 1. Trading Places
    2. Christmas Vacation
    3. A Christmas Story
    4. Uncle Buck
    5. Home Alone

  12. “People who know” don’t even mention the 1951 Scrooge with Alastair Sim ? It was unfortunate when It’s a Wonderful Life gradually replaced that masterpiece as the standard Chritmas Eve fare.

    • Thanks for mentioning (finally) my favorite Christmas movie, too. Alistair Sim is unrivaled as Scrooge, and it is the film version which is the most faithful to the book, too.

      • You’re very welcome, Nora. The 1951 Scrooge is BY FAR the best film version of A Christmas Carol, one of the greatest Christmas stories. Sim’s role of a lifetime, the scariest and most convincing Marley’s ghost, the definitive Fezziwig, etc. The gloomy, ominous music as Scrooge makes his way home thru the mist early in the film sets the tone.

        It was a Christmas Eve staple for Americans from the 50′s into the 80′s, then gradually dropped out of sight. I’ve heard film “experts” put Scrooged on their top 5 or 10 list and not mention this Scrooge, unbelievable.

    • I did in my post. It’s a great movie that’s sadly forgotten!

  13. 1. Christmas Vacation
    2. Elf
    3. A Christmas Story
    4. The Santa Clause 1,2,&3 (even though 2 was bad and 3 was God awful)and no I didn’t misspell Claus the film does a play on words because the card he pulls out of Santa’s pocket when Santa falls of the roof is called “the Santa Clause”.
    5. Die Hard

  14. Mickey’s Christmas Carol
    Scrooge (1951 film) (haven’t seen this on TV in decades)
    The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree (same with this one)
    The Muppet Christmas Carol
    The Snowman (rarely gets airplay on the TV)

    • The 1951 Scrooge was on TCM the week before Christmas. I used to see it with my parents and brothers and sisters every Christmas Eve. Now I hadn’t seen it for many years, and enjoyed it greatly. It’s not just a great Christmas movie, it’s a great movie.

      • Thank you.
        I did not know it came on that early.

  15. Not a single comment for Love Actually????
    That tops my list, easily!

  16. BEST ANIMATED CHRISTMAS SPECIAL EVER: A Wish for Wings that Work = Opus & Bill
    Traditional Story: George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol
    Contemporary: Love, Actually
    THE CLASSIC animation: The original Grinch/Rudolf/Charlie Brown/Frosty, preferably back to back
    Classic B&W: It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th St.

  17. Home Alone, because it offers a warm memory of a family sitting around watching it as some of them are no longer around.

    Scrooged, simply for the line, “The ***** hit me with a toaster!”.

    Also, no one has mentioned ‘Trading Places’. Do we not class this as a Christmas movie? Okay, I suppose there is no message like the others mentioned, but a large proportion of it features scenes during the festive period.

    Merry Christmas, SR. A lovely site with excellent contributors and an intelligent, knowledge collection of readers and posters.

  18. 1)Home Alone 1
    2)How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Ron Howard’s)
    3)Elf
    4)Gremlins
    5)Deck the Halls

  19. 1. Its a Wonderfil Life
    2. Miracle on 34th Street
    3. A Christmas Story
    4. A Chrismas Carol
    5. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
    6. Frosty the Snowman
    7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    8. Christmas Vacation
    9. The Santa Movie
    10. Scrooged

    • 11. A Charlie Brown Christmas

  20. Merry Christmas Everyone.

    • Merry Christmas!

  21. Beauty & the Beast Enchanted Christmas

  22. Every e year, my family gets together to spend Christmas together. My old man, my sister, and I watch It’s A Wonderful Life together every Christmas Eve Night.

    • Doing that right now. :)

  23. On such a list there has to be “Mixed Nuts” with Steve Martin! :-D

  24. A Christmas Story(watching it right now as a matter of fact)
    NL’s Christmas Vacation
    Charlie Brown Christmas
    the Santa Clause
    Home Alone

  25. 1) White Christmas
    2) Christmas Vacation
    3) Elf
    4) Home Alone 1 and 2(Refuse to watch 3,4 and 5)
    5) Its a Wonderful Life

  26. My fav Christmas movies is the 1951 Christmas Carol with Alister Sim, Albert Finney Christmas Carol, Surviving Christmas and Die Hard

    • Love your first two choices, I talked about the 1951 Scrooge with Alistair Sim above. For decades it was the standard late Christmas Eve movie.

  27. I’m glad to see not too many posters raving about A Christmas story. I’ve always wondered why this movie was so revered. I don’t find it funny, but even more so, I don’t find it to be a very pleasant movie. It almost borders on depressing for me. No one’s really likeable, and you just don’t get that “feel good” effect from it. I get nostalgia value too, and maybe because I didn’t see this movie until I was older it didn’t have the same effect for me as it has for many. Just weird because a agree on most movies or can at least meet half way but A Christmas Story is just a horrible, horrible movie to me.

  28. My favorite Christmas movie is “The Polar Express.” Every time I watch that movie I just smile and feel like a kid again.

    However, the best movie of the winter season imo is “The Irony of Fate or Enjoy Your Bath!” Not sure if you guys have seen it but if not definitely check it out; it’s a Soviet classic.

  29. My favorite Christmas movies I ever watch are:

    Home Alone Part 1 & 2
    Ernest Saves Christmas
    Miracle on 34th Street
    Scrooged
    Muppet Christmas Carol
    Prancer