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Must See Christmas Movies

Updated on November 22, 2009

I don’t know about you, but along with shopping, baking, and decorating; movie watching is an important part of my Christmas traditions. There are a certain amount of movies that I simply must watch each and every Christmas. They are just as much a part of my yearly celebration as my mom’s sugar cookies and sipping cocoa in front of the tree.

Here is my list of must-see Christmas movies:

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, NR)

Charlie Brown is a permanent fixture in Americana. His classic Christmas movie was the first prime time television special created by Charles M. Schulz. In twenty-five minutes Charlie Brown manages- as only he can- to shake loose his disenchantment with the commercialism surrounding Christmas and, with a little help from Linus, bring himself and his friends back to the true meaning of Christmas.

Elf (2003, PG)

A hilarious Christmas tale starring Will Ferrell as a man raised by elves at the North Pole who leaves to New York to find his real- human- father. However, his elf personality and customs don’t fit in so well in the real world, much less New York City and the movie resounds with laughter as hilarity ensues. Buddy the Elf's giving heart and innocence end up affecting a whole city and Christmas itself.

Family Man (2000, PG-13

While this is not necessarily a “Christmas movie”, it has nonetheless become a movie that is played on cable annually during the Christmas season, and a favorite of my husband’s and mine. A very creative and modern rendering along the lines of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life, you walk away from this movie with a renewed sense of gratitude for the blessings we often overlook.

Home Alone (1990, PG)

The movie that made Macaulay Culkin famous is now a modern Christmas tradition. The unlikely tale of a young boy accidentally left home alone when his family heads to France for vacation ends with him outsmarting a couple of bumbling crooks trying to rob his house while it’s (supposedly) empty. In the midst of his adventures, Macaulay Culkin’s character, Kevin, develops and great appreciation for his parents and extended family and even develops a little chutzpah.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, NR)

Jimmy Stewart’s most beloved role as George Bailey lends his character the extraordinary opportunity to see how the world would have been different had he not been in it. A cinematic masterpiece, It’s a Wonderful Life has become a part of pop culture lending us such wisdom as, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets it’s wings!” A movie that will truly warm your heart.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983, G)

Once again, A Christmas Carol will ever be retold, and it’s a story worth taking in again and again. In Disney’s retelling of the tale, Mickey Mouse and friends are the stars of the show. Ebenezer Scrooge is played by Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck is his nephew, Fred; and the whole gang makes their own appearance in this sweet rendition of a Christmas standard.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994, PG)

Little Susan, wise beyond her years, discovers that despite her doubts, there really is a Santa Clause. Although some may prefer the older version of this Christmas movie, I adore the modern remake starring Richard Attenborough, who is an extremely lovable- and believable- Santa Claus. When a store-employed Santa Claus is put on trial as to his reality, a whole city comes to believe in Old Saint Nick! You’ll find yourself believing right along with them.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992, G)

Of course, A Christmas Carol is a classic Christmas tale that will be told over and over through many decades, even centuries, to come in a variety of venues. Amongst all the versions of A Christmas Carol is have read, watched onscreen, or seen acted out on a stage, the Muppets rendering remains my absolute favorite. Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, and the three ghosts of Christmas are all included, but in a uniquely Muppet way.

One Magic Christmas (1985, G)

Here’s one you may not have heard of. A young mother (Mary Steenburgen) is stressed when her family falls on hard times during the Christmas season, which only brings out her bitterness toward the holiday even more. When her world comes crashing down around her, can an angel named Gideon and her young daughter, Abbie, succeed in drawing her back to the love and joy that Christmas is really about? A touching movie that should be on your Christmas watching list.

The Preacher’s Wife (1996, PG)

Another movie that is not necessarily about Christmas, but centered around the Christmas season, with wonderful messages to share about community, family, and gratitude. (And also akin to Miracle on 34th Street in that it is a newer version of the old classic The Bishop’s Wife.) An angel named Dudley, played by Denzel Washington, comes to help a minister whose family and church is struggling. A bonus to an enjoyable movie is several solos by the unmatchable Whitney Houston, who stars as the minister’s wife.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964, NR)

Of course, I can’t leave off those wonderful children’s classics that we all look forward to seeing on TV when Christmas rolls around. Rudolph is undoubtedly one of the best. Though the stop motion animation is now outdated, and some scenes are incredibly corny, it seems to only add to the movie’s charm. This one is a yearly must-see for the whole family.

The Santa Clause (1994, PG)

The creative tale, starring Tim Allen as an unwilling Santa-in-training, was an instant classic upon its release. Scott Calvin, a toy designer by trade, whose initials- not coincidentally are also S.C., is a divorced father who has grown out of touch with his son and disenchanted with Christmas. When he accidentally causes Santa Claus to fall off his roof on Christmas Eve, he inadvertently steps into the jolly man’s boots.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970, NR)

Like Rudolph, another children’s Christmas movie that is bound to show up on network television every December. Fred Astaire voices the narrator in the legend of how Santa Claus became, well, Santa Claus. The movie manages to put a story behind all Santa’s familiar qualities, from why he sports a beard to why he puts toys in stockings. Fun stories accompanied by fun music.

While You Were Sleeping (1995, PG)

This movie is set during the Christmas season and stars Sandra Bullock as Lucy Moderatz who is the nice girl, often forgotten and unnoticed, and very much alone in the world. After rescuing a handsome businessman she fell in love with from her subway token booth, she is mistaken by his family as his fiancée and finds herself suddenly a part of their lives. A great movie filled with humor about family and love in unexpected places.

White Christmas (1954, NR)

A quintessential Christmas musical from the golden age of Hollywood starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Judy Haynes in which a successful pair of performers (Crosby and Kaye) and former Army privates happen upon their former commander running a hard-pressed inn. Along the way the meet and help two sisters (Clooney and Haynes) revive their musical career- and their love lives. Moments of comedy are interspersed in all things Christmas.


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    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 

      7 years ago from Virginia

      Great list, I also love A Christmas Story, one of my alltime favorites. Voted Up and useful!

    • Sarah Songing profile imageAUTHOR

      Sarah Songing 

      9 years ago

      Your extremism cracks me up, jellydonut25! Reminds me of what my husband says when he doesn't want to do something, that he would rather poke himself in the eye with a fork.

      Glad to hear you're (almost) in agreement with (most of) my list! ;) Happy Christmas movie watching.

    • jellydonut25 profile image


      9 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      I think I'd rather pour liquid soap directly into my tear ducts than watch Family Man again and cry at the boredom found therein but I have seen most of the rest of your list and will say that they are all must-see films.

    • Sarah Songing profile imageAUTHOR

      Sarah Songing 

      9 years ago

      Bocincko- Thanks for the recommendation. I've never seen that one. Maybe I will check it out!

      Frogget_ba- That's unbelievable! Sadly, much of our country is losing touch with a beautiful era of American film because they're under the impression that anything old is boring. I couldn't agree with you more!

    • frogget_ba profile image


      9 years ago from Rockingham

      By far when I think of Christmas movies I think of White Christmas. I dearly love Bing Crosby and had thought that that movie would be a tradition through out America. Sadly, as I branched out from my little community to college and then another state, I realized this wasn't true. Often when I say White Christmas I hear "oh, I haven't seen that." I can't help but stare at them in disbelief. Especially when they say they didn't know Bing Crosby was in it, or even who the legendary singer was. To me, no on says Christmas like Bing Crosby.

    • Bocinko profile image


      9 years ago

      !!! Christmas movie watching - wonderful tradition, part of my Christmas as well :) But I didn't see on the list my No.1 for the Christmas period, Love Actually (is all around)! So romantic, so Christmas-y, so inspiring!


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