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The Ten Best Christmas Movies of All Time

Updated on December 11, 2012

Christmas is almost everybody's favorite time of year. There are so many great Christmas traditions, from wrapping and opening gifts to decorating the tree. Once of the most loved traditions is watching a great Christmas movie. There are so many to choose from, and many are worthy of recognition. However, I've compiled what I feel are the best ten Christmas movies of all time. I'd love to hear your opinions, and suggestions that you might add to the list!

A Muppet Christmas Carol!
A Muppet Christmas Carol!

10. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

In my opinion, the greatest story every told is Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and The Muppets' own spin on it was a truly brilliant, funny and entertaining version of the classic tale. Taking the much loved Muppets and plugging them in as the story's various supporting characters around a human "Scrooge" played brilliantly by Michael Caine, was pure genius. With Kermit perfectly placed as Bob Cratchit, the film was a great opportunity for young children to experience the Dickens' story, but was also entertaining for the whole family and has since become one of the more popular Christmas films of all time. Look out for a great role from the "Rat" who's scenes still have me laughing as a fully grown adult!

Tim Allen is Santa Clause
Tim Allen is Santa Clause

9. The Santa Clause (1994)

In a new take on the Christmas movie, "The Santa Clause" is in my opinion a largely underrated film. With the movie beginning with Tim Allen accidentally killing old St Nicholas, he is then magically bound to take his place. This results in some great family comedy, typical of Tim Allen, involving his physical and mental transformation into the new Santa Clause. Despite having some very underwhelming sequels, the original effort was a good old fashioned family flick with an original and quirky take on the Christmas legend. Well worth a watch for all ages.

The real Santa or not?
The real Santa or not?

8. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Despite a 90's remake, the original version of "Miracle on 34th Street" still stands as one of the best, most charming Christmas films of all time. Revolving around the idea that Santa Clause reveals himself to the public, and is promptly declared insane and institutionalized, the film is largely about belief, faith and Christmas spirit. One of my all time favorite actresses, Maureen O'Hara, plays the mother of a young girl who takes a liking to the man claiming the title of Santa, and John Payne plays a young lawyer who decides to defend "Santa" and argue against the claims that he is insane. Playing on the idea of belief and faith, the film provides emotional highs and lows as well as a number of statements on human nature which are still very relevant today. Overall though, it is just a great, feel good Christmas flick!

Ferrell doing what he does best.
Ferrell doing what he does best.

7. Elf (2003)

With Will Ferrell having made comedy films of all genres and situations, it was only a matter of time before he created a comedy Christmas film in his special style. The film sees Ferrell playing a young human named Buddy who ended up on The North Pole living as an elf. However he is temporarily banished from The North Pole to the regular community to attempt to make a life for himself. The film is probably the most purely hilarious Christmas comedy on this list, with Ferrell creating some genius moments involving a number of Christmas cliches mixed with his usual over the top, extreme comedy. The films best moments come within the dynamic between Buddy and his unwilling father, played angrily and brilliantly by James Caan. Overall, one of Ferrell's best films and a definite Christmas favorite.

James Stewart and Donna Reed
James Stewart and Donna Reed

6. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Starring the great James Stewart, "It's a Wonderful Life" is one of the most famous cinema classics of all time, and just so happens to be a great Christmas movie to boot. Stewart played George, who on Christmas Eve is severely depressed, given up on life and preparing himself to commit suicide. At this point it is up to an Angel, to talk George out of it, and in turn earn his wings. To do this, he proceeds to show George how everything he has done in his life has effected those around him for the better, and what life would be like if he hadn't been there to help those around him. One of the more seriously toned films on the list, this movie has the ability to be depressing at times but extremely uplifting at others and it is a must watch for all movie fans, especially those who love a good Christmas film.

5. White Christmas (1954)

The only true musical on my list, this particular is perhaps best known for sparking one of the most loved Christmas songs of all time, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas". The film is perhaps less known than the song in the modern day, but it is certainly still one of the best Christmas movies out there. The story is a fun one, involving two former soldiers who are now a song and dance act, teaming up with two women of the same profession to help out an old Army general who is now running a hotel. Starring Bing Crosby himself, the film contains some fantastic songs and is a great way to get into the Christmas cheer. Crosby's classic voice alone makes this movie worth your time.

Kevin and his two arch enemies.
Kevin and his two arch enemies.

4. Home Alone & Home Alone 2 (1990 & 1992)

While technically two films, I am including them in my list as one. The reason being, they are in many ways the exact same film, just in different locations. That being said, both are absolutely classic Christmas comedies, and contain some of the greatest slapstick comedy of all time. Macaulay Culkin stars as a young boy who is left "home alone" to fend for himself against a pair of idiotic petty thieves who plan to rob his home. One of the things that make the films so popular is that they really represent every young kid's dream, an adventure like we all imagined when we played with our friends around our own homes. The delivery and creativity is fantastic with some of the traps and obstacles he is able to set in place for our lovable criminals, and they do a great job falling for them every time. Mix in a little Christmas spirit, classic feel good side stories and some great family dynamics and you've got two of the best Christmas movies ever.

Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold
Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold

3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

Many would argue for this one to sit atop the list, and I can say that this one is my own father's favorite Christmas comedy. Chevy Chase stars as the legendary Clark Griswold, head of a family that is truly a magnet to disaster. As the film progresses we see Clark's attempts to give his wacky family (close and extended) the great Christmas he feels they deserves, just like his own father did for him. However, the harder he tries, the worse things get and the disasters go from bad to worse as the story continues. Chevy Chase delivers some of the greatest speeches in comedy history at various points throughout the film, and Randy Quaid's Uncle Eddie adds a lot of great moments as well. This is one of those films with so many memorable scenes that you can watch it every year, and none of them ever get old. Be sure to watch this one with friends.

"Oh Fudge" - Ralph
"Oh Fudge" - Ralph

2. A Christmas Story (1983)

Another film that could easily rank number one, "A Christmas Story" is a film based on a group of short stories told from the perspective of a young boy "Ralph". The film revolves around Ralphie and his family, as they prepare for the years Christmas. What makes this film different is that it is told mostly with the use of narration. Ralph is the narrator, but his narrator self is a much older version of the on screen Ralph we see. This creates a fantastic dynamic, where we hear the story of very adolescent, less mature themes told with an adult dialogue and more sophisticated humor. This makes the scenes all the more hilarious and what really makes the film so charming, is that it paints a perfect picture of middle class, working american families and their standard Christmas. My personal favorite is Ralph's dad, who reminds me so much of my own father, a tough exterior but a soft heart deep down. The film is so good that you'll find it played for 24 hours straight on Christmas Day, so there is certainly no excuse for missing one of the all time great Christmas films. Oh and be careful - "You'll shoot you're eye out kid!"

Alastair Sim as Scrooge
Alastair Sim as Scrooge

1. Scrooge (1951)

My personal favorite Christmas movie of all time, is another version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", and in my humble opinion, the very best version. I may be an old soul, but Brian Desmond Hurst's 1951 version, "Scrooge", is the most charming, most well acted and overall purest version of the classic tale. Alastair Sim plays the lead character, and does so brilliantly, better than anyone since. Throughout the whole film he portrays his emotions perfectly, and is able to slowly change his character as the film goes on, whereas in later versions the change is too harsh, and the development of the character is not near as good. The support characters are brilliant, and the old fashioned feel gives "Scrooge" that great fireside film feel. Turn off the lights and watch the film with a few candles and it has the ability to really make you feel like you're in the old days following Scrooge around on his travels. If I could only watch one Christmas movie this year, it would be this one, and I hope you're able to do the same.

We there's my list - hope you enjoyed it!

Some honorable mentions:

  • Bad Santa - Some hilarious adult comedy. A much darker Christmas movie!
  • Die Hard - Not a pure Christmas movie, but many consider it one and it is one of the best action films of all time

Check out some of my other movie hubs:

The Best Recent Movies You've Never Heard Of (and Part 2)

The Biggest Oscar Snubs of all time

The Best Supporting Actor Performances in Recent Memory

A classic scene from "Elf."


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    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thankyou! I agree - Dickens was amazing. I am reading Bleak House right now actually! There are so many versions of A Christmas Carol, but 'Scrooge' is my favorite by far.

      Thanks for reading!

    • amandajoyshapiro profile image


      6 years ago

      You made a great list! Thank you for not putting It's A Wonderful Life as the number 1 choice. It's a good movie but it's so cliché to make it The Best. What you did choose for top spot is the ultimate winner. Charles' Dickens' is essential to Western culture.


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