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The 10 Most Popular Christmas Movies

Updated on November 21, 2011
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Get in the Spirit with Nightly Holiday Movies

Watching holiday movies is as much a part of Christmas tradition as tree trimming, cookie baking and shopping. And with Netflix, DVDs and Tivo, you don't have to wait for your favorites to air or choose between watching and caroling!

Here's a list of my personal faves, guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

As a young girl, I looked forward to Charlie Brown as the official kickoff to December. This simple animated show manages to cram in about 100 life lessons into 1/2 hour. Charles Schulz's Peanuts gang decides to stage a play with -- guess who -- as its director. Lucy angles for a gift from the piano-playing Schroeder, while Charlie's younger sister Sally makes up her own list for Santa ("All I want is what's coming to me. All I want is my fair share!"). Snoopy goes uber-commercial, decorating his doghouse to the hilt.

MM comments: The day Charles Schultz died I happened to be shopping at a downtown mall. A TV crew caught me on the way out and asked for my opinion. I couldn't think of what to say, but my spontaneous dance moves made the evening news!

Which Peanuts character is your favorite dancer?

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

The primitive claymation may be cheesy by today's animation standards, but to me that makes it all the more precious. Gotta love the pairing of a misfit reindeer (Rudolph) with a misfit elf (Hermey, who aspires to be a dentist). And of course there's redemption all around at the end, especially for Rudolph, who not only gets the girl (Clarice) but goes down in history for guiding Santa's sleigh.

Burl Ives is the narrator/snowman singing the classics, "Silver and Gold" and "Holly, Jolly Christmas."

MM comments: I remember when this was sponsored by Norelco. Couldn't tell you who sponsors it now!

Scrooged (1988)

Bill Murray at his best (then again, when isn't he?) as modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge/TV executive Frank Cross. Hates Christmas. Visited by three ghosts, transforms to nice guy -- the plot's familiar, but Murray makes it unique.

MM comments: Carol Kane is hysterical as the Ghost of Christmas Present!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Mean, green Mr. Grinch plots to stop Christmas from coming to Whoville. He steals everything that's not nailed down. Guess what? It comes anyway. Dr. Seuss adds the whimsy while Boris Karloff narrates in his deep, insidious voice.

MM comments: Favorite scene is when the Grinch taps the candy cane from the fingers of the sleeping baby Whos. How low can you go?

White Christmas (1954)

Is this a comedy? A love story? A musical? A tribute to WWII soldiers? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, successful entertainers, hook up with sister act Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. They head north to a Vermont Inn, which turns out to be run by General Waverly, who happened to be BC and DK's commanding officer. Great singing, dancing, romancing, and a happy, snowy ending.

MM comments: I start bawling as soon as they hit the inn and don't stop till RC puts the white knight into Bingo's sack.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Christmas as seen through the bespectacled eyes of Ralphie, an 8-year-old midwestern boy. Let's just say Ralphie has quite the imagination. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, given his wacky (but endearing) family. There's real love and affection underneath the constant comedic happenings, as Ralphie tries to convince his parents to get him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

MM comments: For those who might romanticize Christmas in a snowy climate, consider this lesson. Ralphie's friend Flick finds out the hard way that tongues do stick to freezing metal.

Elf (2003)

Bar none, the funniest Will Ferrell movie ever. Ferrell plays Buddy, a normal-sized human raised among elves. Buddy sets off for New York City to find his real dad, a very reluctant James Caan. Buddy is the quintessential overgrown kid in a candycane shop. As he bumps up against the wonders and the realities of non-elf life, his wide-eyed enthusiasm is contagious (to everyone but Caan, that is). More than a just a feel-good movie, it's about tolerance and acceptance.

MM comments: My husband's favorite scene is when Buddy jumps into the family Christmas tree. Must be a guy thing. Me, I like his four sugar-based food groups -- now that's my kind of diet!

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

This little-known gem is my personal favorite. Could it be because the heroine is a magazine writer? Barbara Stanwyck writes a food/lifestyle column for Smart Housekeeping under the pen name Elizabeth Lane (imagine Martha Stewart circa 1945). No one's the wiser that she's not really married and doesn't live on a farm in Connecticut -- until her boss (Sydney Greenstreet) and a WWII Navy hero (Dennis Morgan) invite themselves for Christmas. A delightful romp ensues.

MM comments: The ends definitely justify the means ...and getting there is a lot of fun.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's always a toss-up whether to watch this one or A Christmas Carol closest to Christmas. I usually prefer them in this order.

What can I say about this Frank Capra classic? It is a wonderful film. How can you go wrong with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed as George and Mary Bailey .. plus an angel named Clarence? Running out of holiday cheer? Feeling like 2008 is a little too much like 1929? Stick this into the DVD player and you'll soon get over yourself and into the spirit!

MM comments: Shows that true acts of heroism usually go uncelebrated, but certainly not unrewarded.

A Christmas Carol (1951)

If you don't know this Dickens tale, I bet you at least know the famous lines, "Bah, humbug" and "God bless us, everyone!" A miserly, mean old Englishman named Scrooge (whose name has become synonymous with miserly and mean) hates Christmas and everything associated with it. On Christmas Eve he's visited by three ghosts who show him the error of his ways.

MM comments: There are color, b/w and animated versions to choose from. For my money, the 1951 version, with Alastair Simm as Scrooge, is the best. Others may prefer the 1938 original with Reginald Owen or later versions with George C. Scott (1984) or Kelsey Grammer (2004).

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    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 4 years ago from Midwest

      All great Christmas movies! I think my absolute favorite is Elf!

    • bruzzbuzz profile image

      bruzzbuzz 5 years ago from Texas , USA

      Yes, I love Christmas Vacation. What a great display of dysfunctional families in America. I must admit that the pool scene heated me up though.

    • profile image

      Lea 5 years ago

      I saw a Christmas film last year and don't know the name if it, about wealthy little girl inviting a homeless man to live with her family Anyone have any ideas?

    • profile image

      5 years ago

      sarah, that is santa claus: the movie. it had dudley moore in it. from the 80's - i remember watching it growing up! : )

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      My hubby turned me onto Christmas Vacation. I am not a huge Chevy Chase fan, but this one movie has some great elements.

      For me, the classic movies are one of the best traditions of the season. Can't believe we're almost there again!!!

      Thanks for your additions, sir. MM

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      Everybody I know watches Christmas Vacation around the holidays. Well and of course A Christmas Story.

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Peter,

      I have never seen that! I will have to check it out. Maybe for my Christmas in July:-). Thanks for the referral and for stopping in to comment. MM

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 6 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      I put Love Actually at the top of my list. I know it's not nostalgic, but I can watch it over and over.

    • profile image

      Sarah 7 years ago

      I was wondering if anyone could help me out...I saw a movie a couple Christmases ago and really enjoyed it, however, I cannot remember the name and google searches haven't helped. It was an older movie and the only parts I remember really well are with a rich girl and a homeless boy. She secretly brings food out to him when she sees him shivering outside. I think she ends up hiding him in her basement. Another part - and this may even be a different movie entirely - was when an elf has to figure out how to get his sleigh to run...I think they end up using candycanes. Now, I don't think the movie was in black-and-white, but I do remember the quality was a little off so I'm assuming this is a pre-1990s film. If anyone could help me, I would GREATLY appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      I'm so glad we are on the same page with this one. Yay us!

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Ah Ha! That makes total sense. I agree with you -- these movies make at least one season seem like life was the way we wanted it to be. Frank Capra was the master at that!

      But it works, doesn't it? Now that it's 2009 I can look back at growing up in the 60s/70s and make myself believe -- even though I know it was not 100% true -- that life was Cleaver-esque or Brady-esque. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing.

      And yes, The Grinch and all Seuss is wonderful any day of the year! I'm with you on that one like Horton's faithful -- 100%!

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      I was browsing your list and I'll tell you my little secret.  I love all nostalgia for that pretend world that never existed the way I remember it.  I call it BeaverCleaver Land.  I wish that it was and I wish that it will be again.  I just stumbled into this Hub.  I watch as many of these every single season as I can because I love the 'cleaverism' of them.  :)

      Anyway, the Grinch is better than seasonal.  Who couldn't love that one any time of year?

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      LOL, woman! What are you doing looking at Christmas movies in June! You are funny -- in a good way! MM

    • profile image

      Iðunn 8 years ago

      In for all of these, wonderful batch, great memories. :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Isn't it lovely how universal these classics are? I hope you enjoy your Christmas traditions with your family this year. MM

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      I love these movies. It's a Wonderful Life is a tradition in our family as well as Charlie Brown.

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      CW -- Who would beat you up for being in the Xmas spirit, besides possibly that old curmudgeon Shadesbreath:-)? I would LOVE to read a hub on why you are in the spirit and what that means in your life. I could use a little CS from CW! Thanks for commenting!!

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 8 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Is it Christmas already?!?!

      Actually - and this is weird for me - I'm totally in the Christmas spirit already! I hadn't said anything yet because I didn't want to get beat up...

      A Christmas Story is my fave right now. The narration is hilarious.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      The plot is great, as this elderly man who takes over the role of highstore 'Macey's' Santa, tells all the children he is Santa for real, and refuses to point them in the direction of the goods Macey's want him to sell.

      To cut a long story short 'Kris Kringle' (who claims to be Santa for real), is assumed to be mentally ill, and ultimately ends up in court defending the fact that he really is 'Santa'.

      This is a must watch film with a magical ending, and I am guessing that even in black and white any child will love it and end up being completely enthralled :)

      See this link for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_on_34th_Stree...

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      For sure, indeed! I always assumed it was made way earlier than it was. There is a house in our neighborhood that decorates with the infamouse "fragile" lamp at holiday time. I can only imagine people driving by who are unfamiliar with this movie wondering "what the heck does a leg lamp have to do with Christmas?"

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Some great Christmas movies here. A Christmas Story will always be one of my favorites for sure.

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Misty -- that's a big fat "Why the heck did I not think of that one?" I think because I associate it more with Thanksgiving than Christmas and because I've only seen it like once in my life. And don't remember the plot. Only that it stars a very young Natalie Wood and has something to do with a Santa Claus. I'll have to put it on my to-watch list for 2008.

      Love the idea of you and your family all sitting around watching on a white screen!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Lovely Hub. One of my personal favourite Christmas movies was the old black and white version of 'Miracle on 34th Street'. A couple of Christmas's ago we hung a large white sheet up to use as a movie screen, and then sat there with my parents, my Sister, her fiancé, my Husband and myself, and watched it just as if we were at the cinema. It is such a touching and beautiful Christmas movie.

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Good one, CW! I totally forgot about Polar Express. I hope you do check some of these out because they are wonderful and I know you will enjoy them!

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

      WOW!! Great list. I need to checkout these movies when I go to the video library next time. I sure agree movies are a fun way to get into the spirit of holidays. Last year I saw polar express and it surely was a nice experience around christmas time.

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Can't say I'm familiar with that one, Spryte. The Heat Miser song -- sounds like something we should share with PGrundy (have you seen her hub on saving on heating bills this winter?). Thanks tho.

      I have 2 more to add to my Halloween list as of tonight tho. The Shuttered Room and The Dunwich Horror!

    • spryte profile image

      spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Hmm... I didn't see "The Year Without a Santa Claus" up there. Christmas isn't complete without a stirring rendition of that Heat Miser song....

      :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image
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      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      I can see I'm preaching to the holiday movie choir here. LOL -- everybody remembers the same scenes! William, I thought long and hard about adding Holiday Inn. I believe it DOES deserve to be on this list for the reason you cite. Irving Berlin rocks and I think the average GI Joe or Jane (today) mistakenly believes that song comes from White Christmas. Which was a whole decade + later!

      Gotta get through the ghosts and goblins tonight and I can start prioritizing my viewing. Thanks for sharing the special time of year! I'm sure we'll all have good fun and times ahead! MM

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Very good selections, MightyMom. My favorites are "White Christmas," Christmas in Connecticut" and "It's a Wonderful Life." Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney are hard to beat. But, if I could, I'd add "Holiday Inn,' (1942) with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. In that movie Bing introduced Irving Berllin's "White Christmas," the largest selling single in history, according to the 2008 Guinness Book of Records.

    • NYLady profile image

      NYLady 8 years ago from White Plains, NY

      MM:

      Love this hub and can't wait to start watching! I love it when Ralphie's friend gets his tongue stuck to the lightpole in A Christmas Story. And when Rosie Clooney and Bing sing Counting My Blessings in White Christmas. And when Linus recites his piece from the Biblical Christmas story in Charlie's Brown's Christmas. And when Clarisse sings There's Always Tomorrow in Rudolph. One of my all-time favorites is Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, which never airs anymore. Obviousy, I'm looking forward to the Christmas viewing season.

    • Em Writes profile image

      Em Writes 8 years ago from Upstate NY

      My favorite moment from "A Christmas Story": "Oooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, fffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudddddddddgggggggge."

      This is a really fun hub! Brings back lotsa fond memories. :)

    • t.keeley profile image

      Tim 8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Beautiful hub. Kelsey Grammers version of Carol was phenom. I also like the rest of your picks, the live Grinch movie was a nice adaptation too :)