15 Best Christmas Movies of All Time
It's the most wonderful time of the year! As such, it is only right that you binge-watch movies that reflect the holiday season you love so much. Whether you enjoy adorable animated specials, old-time classics or a tinge of gloom, there's a Christmas movie out there that fits your tastes. Here's an eclectic list of movies that capture the spirit of Christmas.
Tokyo Godfathers (2004)
Fans of anime don't have to feel overlooked when it comes to cheerful Christmas flicks. Tokyo Godfathers is a holiday film packed with comedy, drama and light action. The story chronicles an eventful Christmas Eve for three homeless characters in Shinjuku, Tokyo after they find an abandoned infant. Though the trio's members come from very different backgrounds, they form a makeshift family while they care for the baby, Kiyoko ("pure child"), and try to find her mother. As they search the city, they battle personal demons along the way, which tests the strength of their bond. The film is a substantive and atypical tale in the animated Christmas canon.
Released in 2003, Elf quickly became a modern holiday classic, and we're still enjoying it 14 years later. The film stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a regular-size man who was raised as if he were a diminutive elf in the North Pole. When Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) and Santa Claus (Edward Asner) break the news that Buddy is not a real elf and that his father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), is on the naughty list, Buddy decides to seek out his biological family in New York City. It's in the the city that never sleeps that Buddy attempts to restore Christmas cheer, making Elf a spirited and good-natured family comedy.
Credit: New Line Cinema
Disney's The Santa Clause (1994)
Disney's The Santa Clause is a lighthearted holiday comedy that's appropriate for all ages. Protagonist Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is a divorced dad sharing custody of his son Charlie (Eric Lloyd). Scott's ex-wife (Wendy Crewson) and her new husband (Judge Reinhold) have told Charlie that Santa Claus isn't real. In an attempt to cheer Charlie up, Scott lets him visit on Christmas Eve, but their fun night takes a weird turn when they accidentally incapacitate Santa Claus. A shocked Scott agrees to finish the jolly old elf's deliveries. However, taking on Santa's job triggers a legal technicality called "the Santa Clause," which requires Scott to become Father Christmas for good.
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures/Getty
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Who doesn't like a film that you can watch on both Halloween and Christmas? Disney and Tim Burton's collaboration The Nightmare Before Christmas delivers an original, dark fantasy musical in which holidays collide. Protagonist Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) presides over a very successful Halloween as the "Pumpkin King." However, he eventually grows tired of his dreary Halloween Town, where ghouls and monsters thrive. On the day after Halloween, Jack discovers the magic of Christmas and makes it his mission to spread Yuletide cheer in his own spooky realm.
Batman Returns (1992)
If you're a superhero junkie, then Batman Returns is the unconventional Christmas movie for you. It delivers a healthy mix of action, drama, romance and comedy, all courtesy of director Tim Burton. If you have any doubt that Batman Returns is indeed a Christmas movie, just take a look at its holiday setting, which includes surprise gifts, exploding Christmas trees, a bat-filled lighting ceremony, and iconic mistletoe scenes between Batman (Michael Keaton) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). All told, this second installment in the modern Batman film franchise is all about the Dark Knight beating up baddies and saving the citizens of Gotham from a violent Christmas outing.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Jingle All The Way (1996)
Jingle All The Way is like Kindergarten Cop meets Christmas. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Howard Langston, a workaholic mattress salesman with no time for his wife and 9-year-old son. After disappointing his family, Howard aims to make things right by acquiring an elusive Turbo-Man doll — at the Mall of America on Christmas Eve. The ordeal proves to be more difficult than Howard expected, resulting in store brawls, destruction and a final showdown against a postal worker rival. Jingle All The Way is ridiculous from beginning to end, but it's a fun family comedy that fulfills all the Christmastime fantasies kids may have about their super-dads.
Home Alone (1990)
Filled with slapstick humor, Home Alone is an unorthodox holiday favorite that follows mischievous 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) as he discovers he's been left behind by his family on Christmas vacation. While the McCallisters journey to Paris, a pair of burglars called the "Wet Bandits" target the family home. Using his quick wits, Kevin takes on the criminals with booby traps and devious schemes on Christmas Eve. Comedic moments aside, Home Alone's core message is about the importance of family, which is as Christmassy as you can get.
Credit: Everett Collection
A Christmas Story (1983)
It's not really Christmas if you don't hear "you'll shoot your eye out" on a regular basis. Every year, Bob Clark's A Christmas Story commandeers TBS for a full 24 hours. Viewers can't be too mad, though, since it's a hilarious holiday flick. Set in the 1940s, the film stars 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who wants only a Red Ryder BB rifle for Christmas. But before he can run around Indiana as a gun-toting tween, Ralphie has to survive the pains of goofy adolescence and a strict, old-school dad.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
A holiday classic , Frosty the Snowman is a CBS animated special that follows the tale of a snowman brought to life with Christmas magic. Built on Christmas Eve by a grade-school class, Frosty (Jackie Vernon) gains sentience when the kids place magician Professor Hinkle's (Billy De Wolfe) hat on the snowman's head. Of course, not everyone is happy to see a walking, talking snowman in their town. With both Hinkle and warming weather conspiring against him, Frosty sets forth with the children to get to Santa's home in the North Pole.
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Based on the famous children's book by Dr. Seuss, the 1966 TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an animated tale that explores what Christmas is really about. The main character, the Grinch (Boris Karloff), is a green and grouchy cave dweller who hates everything Christmas-related. From presents, to holiday feasts, to jollily sung carols, the Grinch despises the happy Whos celebrating Christmas in Whoville. One Christmas Eve, the Grinch poses as Santa Claus and steals everything the Whos hold dear on Christmas. But when the Grinch doesn't receive the reaction he expected, he experiences a literal change of heart, and his desires shift from devious to redemptive.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
It wouldn't be Christmastime without a Peanuts holiday special. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, lovable loser Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) is afflicted by the "Yuletide blues." After taking shots at consumerism and questioning what the holiday is really about, Charlie agrees to direct the community Christmas play in an attempt to get into the holiday spirit. Cartoon hijinks ensue, involving colorful characters and a lackluster evergreen tree, before the true meaning of Christmas makes its return.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Nearly every Christmas aficionado can recite the popular carol Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by heart. It's a song about perseverance and teamwork saving Christmas. Larry Roemer's 1964 "animagic" stop-motion film tells the same story with a slight twist. Watch as Rudolph (Billy Richards) grows from an unsure fawn into a Christmas hero in this coming-of-age retelling.
A Christmas Carol (1951)
This 1951 British adaptation of Charles Dickens' novella of the same name contains what is simply the best portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) on film. With one of the most memorable "bah humbugs" captured on the silver screen, the London miser Scrooge refuses to make charitable contributions and mistreats his employees in defiance of Christmas. However, Scrooge's life changes forever when he's visited by a series of ghosts on Christmas Eve. These spirits include his late business partner Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Michael Dolan), Present (Francis De Wolff) and Future (Czeslaw Konarski).
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Turn off the Law & Order marathon, because Miracle on 34th Street has your dose of courtroom drama wrapped in Christmas magic. Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is alive and working at Macy's in New York City. However, not everyone believes Kringle is actually Santa Claus. Kris endures the trial of the century to prove he's the real deal, showing that anything is possible if you have faith. Sure, the legal proceedings don't make much sense, but Miracle on 34th Street is one fantasy-drama that'll make you a believer in old Saint Nick.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Like many other iconic holiday movies from the last century, It's a Wonderful Life starts with a bleak opening and ends on a brighter note. George Bailey (James Stewart), a struggling businessman, contemplates suicide over his impending financial ruin. However, his prayers reach a guardian angel by the name of Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers), who attempts to change George's mind. George wishes he'd never been born, triggering a flashback journey and visions of an alternate reality in which he never existed. In these moments, Odbody demonstrates that George's existence has touched many lives.