Tired of watching the snow slowly float past your window as you stuff your face with gingerbread men? Badly in need some Hollywood-style Christmas cheer to liven up your holidays? Well, here’s our gift to you! We’ve scanned thousands of hours of movie footage (not really) to narrow down your holiday viewing decisions to just the (in our humble opinion) Ultimate Christmas Movie List!
BTW, if you’re looking for some more specialized movie ideas like, say for your kids, or maybe some of those old black and whites, check out our other awesome movie lists here:
Anyway, let’s get down to the list; here they are in no particular order:
20. The Santa Clause (1994)
Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa and becomes legally obligated to take his job. While unwilling at first, he (literally) ‘grows’ into it. This excellent review aside, don’t bother with the sequels…
19. The Apartment (1960)
Here’s the one movie on this list I guarantee you didn’t snuggle up with your family to watch every Christmas. The Apartment is all about extramarital affairs, drinking problems, suicide and unbearable urban loneliness, but it’s also one of Billy Wilder’s funniest, and best, movies. If you and your siblings are grown-up and no one has kids to entertain yet, please, please watch this movie, and find yourself filled with a different kind of Christmas cheer.
18. ‘Scrooged’ (1988)
Bill Murray is TV executive Frank Cross, every bit as crotchety as Mr. Scrooge himself. While producing a decidedly family-unfriendly version of A Christmas Carol itself, he’s abused and amused by modern versions of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
17. The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
In The Bells of St. Mary’s Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) is sent to St. Mary’s to revitalize the school, which is financially unstable. He immediately finds himself at odds with Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), a strict woman with decided views on the best way to educate children. But there is a bigger battle looming over the school. The skinflint Horace P. Bogardus is trying to have the school condemned. The story of the miracle that saved the school was nominated for 8 Oscars in 1946.
16. ‘Home Alone’ (1990)
Macaulay Culkin is an 8-year-old kid who, left (literally) to his own devices in an empty house on Christmas Eve, treats burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern to a parade of punishment as excruciatingly painful to watch as it is hilarious.
15. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Whether you are talking about the most recent version starring Jim Carey or the original 1966 animated classic is the only version that does justice to Dr. Seuss. In it, the Grinch (a non-human Scrooge) tries to ruin Christmas for the Whos in Whoville by stealing their presents, trees, and holiday treats. Of course, the Grinch has a change of heart and finds love and friendship with the Whos.
14. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
The diverting tale of Cary Grant come to earth as an angel, to help a beleaguered bishop who’s trying to build a cathedral and has lost his true vision. With lovely Loretta Young as the bishop’s wife and David Niven as her harried husband, Grant makes for an urbane, well-dressed heavenly visitor who finds himself tempted by earthly joys, and the bishop’s wife. Don’t miss the hilarious figure skating scene where the skating doubles look nothing like the actors.
13. ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ (1989)
Chevy Chase takes on Christmas with the in-laws, mall madness, natural disasters and even a boss that makes Scrooge look like a saint. One non-stop gag for 90 minutes, this movie will make you laugh in the New Year.
12. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown becomes the director of the school holiday pageant and goes out with Linus to buy an aluminum tree for the show. Instead, they bring back a forlorn real tree. Our hapless hero finds himself dismayed by the rampant commercialization of the holidays and searches for the true meaning of Christmas.
11. White Christmas (1954)
Aren’t we all dreaming of a ‘White Christmas’? The movie starring Bing “Mr. Christmas” Crosby and Danny Kaye is as charming as the tune, with all the elements to warm the heart: Two GIs come home from WWII, fall in love with singing-and-dancing sisters and help their general with his failing Vermont inn. Awww.
10. ‘Elf’ (2003)
Will Ferrell is Buddy the Elf is the fish-out-of water story set in NYC that is truly fun and funny for both kids and parents. The fact that this is nearly the only family-friendly movie Ferrell has ever made shouldn’t deter parents from watching it with their kids.
9. Babes in Toyland (1934)
Mother Goose rhymes come to life in this ’34 classic (reissued in ’52 as ‘March of the Wooden Soldiers’) starring comedy legends Laurel and Hardy as gut-bustingly bumbling toymakers out to save Toyland from the nefarious Barnaby. And if tricking him into a same-sex wedding is what it takes, so much the better.
8. ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (1992)
The only movie to ever feature Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge and Kermit the Frog as kindly Bob Cratchit is also one of the best takes on the classic Dickens tale you’ll find. Family friendly and full of the usual cast of foam-rubber characters, this one is worthy to hang in the same company as The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Movie, etc.
7. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
This classic made-for-TV Christmas movie premiered in 1964 and it’s been delighting generations of kids ever since. It tells the story of Rudolph, a reindeer with a nose that lights up. He’s looking for a place where he belongs. Special guest appearances by the Abominable Snowman and the misfit toys make this movie extra-special.
6. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Arnold Schwarzenegger was so enamored with this classic he directed his own TV version in 1992. True story. But for the love of Sinbad, stick to the original, a serene screwball comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck as a food writer who misleads her readers in adorably forgivable ways.
5. ‘The Polar Express’ (2004)
On Christmas Eve, a boy boards a train that’s headed to the North Pole, to find the conductor is none other than Tom Hanks and that Santas bustling workshop city really does exist far to the north.
4. A Christmas Carol (1951)
Also known as ‘Scrooge,’ this take is hailed as the best for its definitive Ebenezer Scrooge, fittingly played by a man named Alastair Sim, who gives a superb performance. Though a colorized version exists, we’d recommend kicking it old school and watching it in its original black and white beauty.
3. ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1947)
If this ’47 classic doesn’t make you a Santa believer, nothing (especially the ’94 remake) will. It’s dark stuff for a Christmas flick — Kris Kringle is put on trail to determine if he’s legally insane — but the endgame (in which the US Postal Service saves the day!) is utterly heartwarming.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
A tale of depression and almost-suicide doesn’t exactly scream “Christmas classic” — which is probably why Frank Capra’s flick flopped at the box office. But more than 30 years later, it endures as a beloved testament to everything Christmas embodies: family, friends and the joy of life.
1. ‘A Christmas Story’ (1983)
There’s a reason TBS Superstation plays this flick for 24 hours straight. This classic, near-perfect story of one boy’s struggle to get a Red Ryder BB gun is littered along the way with hilarious family hijinks, frozen tongues and, of course, sex-oozing leg lamps.
Free Downloads to Do More with Your Movie Collection
Own these DVDs already? DVDs are so fragile. Why not convert the DVDs and back them up, preserving them forever on your computer’s hard drive. Or, transfer the DVD extracted files to your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android—pretty much any mobile device—and let the whole family enjoy these classics this holiday season. Check out these free downloads here (Mac Versions are available too, just click on the link):
Anyway, get these movies and get yourself and your loved ones in front of the big screen for a fantastic holiday movie marathon of your very own. Happy Holidays!