Top 25 Christmas Movies of All Time
Make your list and check it, at least once. Twice seems to be overkill this time of year. What are the 25 greatest Christmas movies of all time? Since it’s the season to be jolly, we’re going to make it easy for everyone and give away our own list!
25. Die Hard (1988)
Okay. It’s a Christmas movie and we put it on the list. But we’re not going to watch it and think of Christmas. We’re going to think of Bruce Willis, action, explosions and sequels. It’s on the list, but just barely. Official Trailer
24. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
A surprisingly sweet tale of Ernest P. Worrell, the bumbling man with good intentions, as he sets off to find Santa. The humor is better than you’d expect, albeit still in an Ernest P. Worrell sort of way. Noelle Parker is good as Harmony, a runaway teenage girl, who through the help of Santa and Ernest, finds her way to a new outlook on life. Ya’ Know-what-I-mean, Vern? Watch it here
23. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Is it a Christmas movie, or a Halloween movie?
Regardless, it’s an animated story of spirit and weird fun. Danny Elfman voices Jack Skellington’s singing voice. Chris Sarandon voices his not-singing-voice, while Catherine O’Hara, Paul Reubens, William Hickey and Ken Page lend voices to this classic Tim Burton film.
22. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
A story of getting by with what we need, rather than our wants.
This movie is another story of faith through despair as Cary Grant plays Dudley the angel to David Niven’s Bishop Henry Brougham. Loretta Young plays the bishop’s wife. The idea of a huge cathedral is the desire of Brougham’s mind, but God has other things in store. Watch trailer here
21. Babes in Toyland (1934)
Few comedy duos are able to play off of each other as well as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, who play Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee, in this goofy tale of fantasy and nursery rhymes. The pair borrow money from their boss to pay off the mortgage on Little Bo Peep’s shoe, but the evil Barnaby is not impressed. Just a funny, light comedy of mess-ups and make-ups. Watch it here
20. The Santa Clause (1994)
Making a unique story out of Santa’s folklore is more difficult than you think. Tim Allen’s take on the jolly elf is funny and almost a “Mrs. Doubtfire” type of story, only more Christmas-y. Accidentally killing Santa on Christmas Eve, Allen becomes Santa himself. A shallow back story of the family, a divorce and the disagreements with the ex and her new husband is covered for by the fun in the performance of Allen as he finds his new jolly attitude.
19. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)
Rankin and Bass have a few hits on this chart, this one is the origin story of the jolly elf. Fred Astaire narrates, Mickey Rooney plays Kris Kringle, Keenan Wynn is the Winter Warlock and Paul Frees is the Burgermeister. Frees was in countless cartoons from our youth, including “Krazy Kat,” “Mr. Magoo,” “Top Cat” and the unmistakable voice of Boris Badenov from “Rock and his Friends, among many others.
18. Babes in Toyland (1961)
Combine the simple elegance of Annette Funicello, the magic of Walt Disney’s live action in the early sixties, Ray Bolger from “The Wizard of Oz,” Ed Wynn, Tommy Sands, Tommy Kirk and Ed Wynn, along with a Christmas story, you’ve got a recipe for a classic. This movie has a good mix of comedy and fantasy, with a family approach.
17. Scrooged (1988)
Bill Murray in a modern (for 1988) tale of excess and greed as Frank Cross, the television executive. Cross is a selfish grump, planning his own adaptation of the Dickens story, but doesn’t know the true meaning behind the spirit, until he lives it himself.
The redemption of this Scrooge is funny and dramatic, with Karen Allen, John Forsythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwait, Robert Mitchum, Carol Kane, Jamie Farr, Robert Goblet, Mabel King and David Johansen rounding out the star-studded cast.
16. Gremlins (1984)
Unlike a lot of magical Christmas moments, Gremlins shows us that it’s not always the thought that counts, when it comes to gifts. The tiny green terrors in this Chris Columbus story, starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton (and the great addition of Corey Feldman) are wild and mean. Gizmo is adorable and cute, but not all pets come with a 10 year protection plan! Make sure not to feed yours after midnight.
15. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The Dickens story will be on this chart numerous times, but this one is a fun one. Michael Caine plays Scrooge, surrounded by Muppets on a cold Christmas eve. The miser finds redemption, while music and nostalgia add a great deal of support, along with the great direction of Brian Henson.
14. Holiday Inn (1942)
Perhaps its charm is lost on a generation unaware of the grace of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, but for most of us, this love story of an attempt to win the affections of Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds).
Singing and dancing at an inn, only open during the holidays, is an amazing opportunity to see and hear some of Irving Berlin’s numbers while taking in the unmatchable dance routines of Astaire.
13. Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Rankin/Bass have a way with magic. There’s little question that their story of a living snowman with a magic hat, helping a little girl escape a greedy magician, is a fine addition to the animated short films that made our list. The unmistakable voice of Jimmy Durante narrating this film, along with Jackie Vernon’s Frosty, are credits to an already great story.
12. Home Alone (1990)
John Hughes and Chris Columbus do a bang-up job of showing what life was like for big families before smart phones. Macaulay Culkin plays Kevin McCallister, a kid lost in the mix of his family’s vacation at Christmas. He has to overcome burglars (Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci), somehow still celebrate the season and await the return of his family.
11. A Christmas Carol (1984)
George C. Scott’s incredibly strong portrayal of the miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge is darker than most, because he embodies the part in a way that others didn’t. He brings originality to the character, for the first time in many years.
A made-for-TV version of the Charles Dickens classic, Scott’s mean, nasty character nearly send chills down your spine, as he is a heartless, calloused man who transforms, by way of ghostly visits, into a caring and giving soul.
10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Chevy Chase’s Griswold family is preparing for the holidays, unaware that Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his family will be dropping by. Clark’s holiday bonus isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, the Christmas lights fail, the extended family arrive to make life miserable, all tied up in a bow under a ruined Christmas tree, together making this classic story of misunderstanding and chaos a favorite.
9. Elf (2003)
Will Ferrell’s over-the-top performance and character, with a story of an oversized elf/human who goes off to find his real dad (James Caan) in Manhattan is a sweet story of identity and adventure.
The humor is annoying at times, on purpose, to give Ferrell room to show Buddy the Elf has been away from the harsh reality of humanity for far too long. Bob Newhart is a gem as the elf who initially found Buddy and named him and Ed Asner’s Santa is one of our favorites. John Favreau directs this fun movie.
8. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Sometimes, we all feel like misfits and failures, wondering what our roll in life actually is. Rudolph, the Rankin/Bass Productions stop-motion creations are given life by Paul Soles as Hermey, Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman (with some incredibly memorable renditions of songs) and Billy Mae Richards as Rudolph. The story is a masterpiece of animation, with some funny moments, telling the story of acceptance.
7. White Christmas (1954)
Musicals are sometimes hard to accept, as they can drag on and on with dance routines during a war, or songs just as a character’s about to bite the dust. White Christmas is an odd contraption for that reason, but the combination of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney take a sappy story, with a dedication to a Major General at Christmas time, to bring to put on a performance that makes the long wait worth it.
6. Scrooge (1951)
There are many tellings and retellings of the story of Scrooge. This is the account that all others must live up to. Alastair Sim is the bitter, disgruntled and uncaring character of Scrooge, Fezziwig’s business partner. The change in the character is well done, as we begin to care for Mr. Scrooge and his welfare just as he begins to care for that of others. The Cratchet family, Jacob Marley and the rest of the characters are all memorable, visibly stirring, with a story that adds to Scrooge’s misery. We go from hate to love in a matter of an hour, as Dickens himself would be joyous of this adaptation.
5. A Christmas Story (1983)
Director Bob Clark brings Jean Shepherd’s novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” to an audience willing to watch it multiple times in a row every year. Darren McGavin may not be our ‘old man’ but he’s a dad we can all relate to! Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) was the Hershey’s Syrup kid in the commercials, for those of us who grew up in the seventies and eighties.
His ability to play the part of Ralphie as the geeky, uncool kid most of us were, is what makes this movie special. It’s an American original, although, if you ask the old man, he’d say it must be Italian!
4. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
Television movies are usually the weaker counterpart to their big brothers at the studios, but the magic that Dr. Seuss and Irv Spector created in a 26 minute animated flick can’t be recreated, because it has already been perfected. Boris Karloff’s narration of nonsensical words and names is proof, sometimes it’s how you say it and not what you say. The story is rich with magic and creativity, characters and species of creature only seen in the imagination, but the story of compassion and generosity overcoming the mean ol’ Grinch is one we need to hear, year after year.
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Who says it takes an hour-and-a-half to tell a great story? Charles M. Schulz made a classic animated story that has endured longer than any of its kind. It’s rebroadcast every year and keeps the spirit of the season alive with honesty and the story of the lovable loser, Charlie Brown. The budget was a mere $150,000 and the runtime is less than 30 minutes, but being able to tell the story of the first Christmas year after year, along with the little Christmas tree that nobody else wanted, is a priceless gesture of good will toward men.
2. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
This movie sets the bar for dramatic storytelling, when it comes to redemption. A little comedy, a lot of drama and a back-story played out through the eyes of George Bailey — a man who must rediscover his worth. Bailey is perfectly given life by Jimmy Stewart.
Director Frank Capra’s movie was not readily received by critics at the time, but who cares? They were wrong and an angel probably visited them to let them see what life would be like without this film! Donna Reed, Henry Travers and Lionel Barrymore join Stewart in this incredible cast.
1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
This film is the conscience of Christmas. The very embodiment of the season’s ideals of believing in something you can’t necessarily see, but you can see evidence of its existence all around you.
Edmund Gwenn is Kris Kringle, the jolly ol’ soul, complete with white beard (not the detachable kind). Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood are a no-nonsense family who learn the truth behind the magic of this special time of year through the Kringle’s patience with the faithless pair. The mix of wit, comedy, emotional sentiment and drama brings charm that no family should be without. A story so good, the movie’s remakes are even worth watching!