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Top 10 Christmas Movies of All Time

Updated on December 10, 2013

The holidays are all about getting together with family and celebrating the most wonderful time of year. Sometimes it's also nice to turn on a movie to drown out the family fights that will surely break out after the turkey burns, you get snowed in, the egg nog runs out, and tension starts building. So if you're going to turn on a movie during the holidays, you'll probably want to include at least a couple with a Christmas theme to bring back some of that holiday cheer.

I've ranked the top 10 Christmas movies of all time below which you can use to help you decide what to watch this holiday season. Be sure to list your favorites in the comments if they're not included.

I realize the "all time" in the title could be a little misleading since the motion picture was invented about a century ago. That's a relatively small time frame in the grand scheme of things, but there is still a plethora of Christmas movies to choose from.

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Runtime: 2 hours, 15 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
IMDb rating: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 8.8/10

This heartwarming classic reminds us that no matter how bad things get, there's always a reason to keep on keepin' on. George Bailey finds himself with nothing left to live for when his business undergoes a serious setback. His guardian angel grants his wish to have never been born, which helps George realize the positive changes he made in the world.

2. Elf (2003)

Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
IMDb rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 7.0/10

No matter how bad of a mood I'm in, this one always puts a smile on my face. Buddy learns the secret in North Pole elf training early on in the movie: "the best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear."

Will Ferrell plays an uncharacteristicly clean and relentlessly optimistic role in Buddy the Elf. He's "a human, raised by elves," and lives, breathes, and sleeps holiday cheer. The story revolves around Buddy's trip to New York City to find his dad and convince the world that Santa is real to save Christmas. Hilarity quickly ensues as Will Ferrell tries to understand the human world in his elf costume, tights and all.

3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
IMDb rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 7.0/10

Edmund Gwenn plays the best Kris Kringle of all the attempts I've seen. He's funny, smart, and impossible not to love. This movie makes me want to believe in Santa again, or at least that there are old people like him out there in the world.

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Runtime: 26 minutes
MPAA rating: unrated
IMDb rating: 8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 8.0/10

It's hard to believe that this movie covers so much in only 26 minutes. Despite his best efforts, the Grinch and his minuscule dog are unable to spoil Christmas by taking away every last physical shred of physical remnants of the holidays. Those adorable little whos teach us that getting around in a circle and singing Christmas music is way better than all those fancy gifts and delicious holiday hams.

5. White Christmas (1954)

Runtime: 2 hours
MPAA rating: unrated
IMDb rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 6.4/10

For you music and dance lovers out there, this one is right down your alley, and might even be higher on your list. Bing Crosby and company provide a couple hours of top notch entertainment.

6. The Santa Clause (1994)

Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
IMDb rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 6.0/10

Tim Allen might not be the most believable Santa on the big screen, but it gets a pass since the intended audience for this one is the younger tikes. Santa's workshop and accompanying gadgetry are pretty imaginative, and Tim Allen does a decent job of making the movie funny for older viewers as well.

7. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)

Runtime: 48 minutes
MPAA rating: unrated
IMDb rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: na

There's nothing like a little claymation to make it feel like Christmas. I was particularly surprised by the creative and detailed explanation of the genesis of Santa Claus which completely flew over my head when I watched it as a kid. Just try to ignore the creepy song about paying a price to sit on Santa's lap...

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Runtime: 30 minutes
MPAA rating: unrated
IMDb rating: 8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 8.6/10

The ratings for Charlie Brown's tribute to December 25th are only eclipsed by the number one movie on this list. The rag tag team puts together a Christmas that reminds everyone of the true meaning if Christmas.

9. A Christmas Story (1983)

Runtime: 1 hour, 33 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
IMDb rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 8.4/10

You don't get played on continuous loop before, during, and after Christmas without making just about every Christmas movie list. However, I never feel like this movie does the best job if lifting my Christmas spirits, except that I've formed such a strong emotional association between it and Christmas because of its omnipresence during the month of December.

10. The Polar Express (2004)

Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes
MPAA rating: G
IMDb rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes average rating: 6.4/10

The ratings on IMDb speak to the fact that this one isn't exactly the highest quality Christmas movie available. I bet its rating would increase at least one star if they found anybody else to do the voice of the boy with the glasses.


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