Amidst the twinkling lights, frosted windowpanes, and the cozy aroma of peppermint, few things capture the spirit of the holiday season like settling in with a beloved Christmas movie. As the year winds down and the air fills with anticipation, we’ve curated a list of the top 15 best Christmas movies that have woven themselves into the fabric of our traditions. From timeless classics to heartwarming tales that never lose their magic, these movies evoke the joy, wonder, and warmth that define this festive time of year.
Best Christmas Movies Ever
15. The Santa Clause (1994)
Starting our list of top Christmas movies, The Santa Clause is a charming family comedy film starring Tim Allen. The story revolves around Scott Calvin, played by Allen, a divorced father who unintentionally becomes Santa Claus after Santa falls off his roof on Christmas Eve. Scott and his son, Charlie, find Santa’s suit and magical instructions, which state that Scott must take over the role of Santa Claus. Initially skeptical, Scott eventually discovers he is bound by a “Santa Clause,” which means he has to assume the responsibilities of the jolly gift-giver. As the film progresses, Scott undergoes physical changes, including gaining weight, growing a beard overnight, and experiencing an increasing likeness to Santa. He struggles with disbelief and society’s skepticism about his newfound identity, all while attempting to balance his responsibilities as Santa with his everyday life. The movie explores themes of family, belief, and the importance of embracing the spirit of Christmas. The Santa Clause became a holiday favorite for many audiences and spawned two sequels, continuing Scott Calvin’s adventures as Santa Claus.
14. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy film. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who grows tired of the same routine year after year of scaring people and organizing Halloween festivities. One day, while wandering in the woods, Jack stumbles upon the entrance to Christmas Town and becomes enchanted by the holiday’s joy and cheer. Inspired but still not fully understanding the concept of Christmas, Jack decides to take over the holiday and bring his twist on Halloween it. With the help of the residents of Halloween Town, including characters like Sally (a ragdoll who has feelings for Jack) and Oogie Boogie (the film’s villain), Jack tries to put on his version of Christmas, which leads to unexpected and chaotic results. The film is renowned for its unique animation style, imaginative storytelling, catchy musical numbers composed by Danny Elfman, and its blend of dark themes with whimsical elements. It has gained a cult following and is celebrated as a beloved holiday classic, transcending the typical boundaries of Christmas and Halloween movies.
13. Bad Santa (2003)
One of the top best Christmas movies ever, Bad Santa is a dark comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton in the lead role. The film follows Willie T. Stokes, a cynical and foul-mouthed conman who, along with his partner Marcus (Tony Cox), poses as Santa Claus and his elf in various shopping malls during the Christmas season to rob them on Christmas Eve. Willie, who has a severe drinking problem and a general disdain for the holiday season, uses his Santa persona to gain access to the stores’ safes and steal their contents. However, things get complicated when Willie befriends a troubled and naive young boy named Thurman Merman, who believes Willie is the real Santa Claus. Here’s a recommendation for parents seeking something to watch after the kids have gone to bed.
12. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a beloved animated Christmas TV special in 1964. The story follows Rudolph, a reindeer born with a glowing red nose that sets him apart from the others in Santa Claus’s reindeer team. Rudolph faces ridicule and exclusion because of his unique features. He decides to leave Christmas Town and embarks on a journey where he meets other misfits, including Hermey the elf, who dreams of becoming a dentist rather than making toys. Together, Rudolph and his newfound friends encounter various challenges and adventures, including encounters with the Abominable Snow Monster and the Island of Misfit Toys. Along the way, Rudolph learns to embrace his differences and discovers that his unique red nose can be an asset. The special really captures the true spirit of Christmas and has become a classic holiday tradition, cherished by audiences for its endearing characters, memorable songs, and heartwarming message.
11. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a musical fantasy film produced by Jim Henson Productions. It is a unique adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novella “A Christmas Carol” with the added twist of incorporating the beloved Muppet characters created by Jim Henson. The movie follows the familiar storyline of “A Christmas Carol,” where the miserly and cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Michael Caine, is visited by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. However, in this version, the Muppets take on various roles, portraying characters from Dickens’ tale alongside human actors. Kermit the Frog plays Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s overworked and underpaid employee, while Miss Piggy appears as Mrs. Cratchit. The other Muppets also fill roles like Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig, Gonzo as Charles Dickens (narrator), and Rizzo the Rat as his sidekick. Michael Caine delivers a notable performance as Scrooge, interacting seamlessly with the Muppet characters. It is a true Christmas must-see!
10. Love Actually (2003)
Crafted by the same creators behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, Love Actually is a delightful romantic comedy that intricately weaves multiple love stories set in the weeks leading up to Christmas in London. Among these interwoven tales, the film explores the narrative of the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, portrayed by Hugh Grant, who develops romantic feelings for a staff member named Natalie, played by Martine McCutcheon. Additionally, it delves into the story of a recently widowed man, played by Liam Neeson, assisting his stepson in navigating his first experience with love. Moreover, it portrays a married couple, portrayed by Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson, facing marital challenges stemming from infidelity. Love Actually has garnered immense popularity as a romantic comedy, treasured for its ensemble cast, heartwarming scenes, and its portrayal of diverse forms of love, solidifying its status as a beloved Christmas movie for countless audiences.
9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Long before the live-action Jim Carry version, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was a classic animated TV special that first aired in 1966. It was directed by Chuck Jones and based on the 1957 book of the same name written by Dr. Seuss. The story centers around the Grinch, a green, grouchy creature who lives in a cave above the cheerful town of Whoville. The Grinch despises Christmas and the joyous celebrations of the Whos, particularly their love for gifts, feasting, and singing. Determined to put an end to Christmas, the Grinch devises a plan. On Christmas Eve, he disguises himself as Santa Claus and, along with his dog Max, sneaks into Whoville to steal all the decorations, presents, and holiday spirit from the Whos’ homes. However, despite the Grinch’s efforts to ruin Christmas by taking everything, he is surprised when he hears the Whos in Whoville joyously singing and celebrating despite having no physical gifts or decorations. Witnessing their genuine spirit of togetherness and love, the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes, and he realizes the true meaning of Christmas. The special is known for its iconic animation style, memorable rhyming narration by Boris Karloff, and its timeless message about the importance of love, kindness, and the true spirit of Christmas beyond material possessions.
8. Scrooged (1988)
What a great film! Scrooged is a comedy film that stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a selfish and cynical television executive who is in charge of a major TV network. Frank is callous and has lost touch with the true meaning of Christmas. He’s focused solely on ratings and profit, disregarding the holiday spirit and the needs of others. As Christmas approaches, Frank is visited by the ghost of his former boss, who warns him that he will be visited by three spirits: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Throughout the night, these spectral visitors take Frank on a journey through time, showing him scenes from his past, the current state of those around him, and the dire consequences of his actions if he continues on his selfish path. As Frank witnesses the impact of his behavior and confronts his own past mistakes, he begins to understand the importance of kindness, generosity, and reconnecting with loved ones. Ultimately, he experiences a transformation and learns the true spirit of Christmas. The film combines humor, heartwarming moments, and a message about redemption, making it a popular and enduring Christmas movie.
7. Elf (2003)
Starring Will Ferrell as the main character, Buddy, Elf is a Christmas comedy film. The story follows Buddy, a human who, as a baby, accidentally crawled into Santa Claus’s gift sack and was taken to the North Pole. He was raised as an elf by Papa Elf among Santa’s workshop elves. As Buddy grows up, it becomes increasingly clear that he doesn’t quite fit in among the other elves due to his larger size and lack of skill in toy-making. Eventually, Buddy learns the truth about his origins and sets out on a journey to New York City to find his biological father, Walter Hobbs (played by James Caan), a cynical businessman who is on Santa’s naughty list. In New York, Buddy discovers a world vastly different from the one he’s known at the North Pole. He tries to connect with his father, spreads Christmas cheer wherever he goes, and navigates the complexities of the human world, all while maintaining his unwavering belief in the magic of Christmas. The film has become a beloved holiday classic, cherished for its uplifting message about the importance of family, kindness, and embracing the spirit of Christmas.
6. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Oh, what a classic Christmas special! Based on the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz, A Charlie Brown Christmas revolves around Charlie Brown, the lovable and often insecure protagonist of the Peanuts gang, as he finds himself feeling disheartened by the commercialization of Christmas. Despite the festive decorations and holiday preparations, Charlie Brown feels a lack of genuine meaning and spirit in the holiday season. In an attempt to discover the true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown becomes the director of the school Christmas play. However, his efforts to bring authenticity to the play, including finding a suitable Christmas tree, face ridicule and criticism from his friends. Amidst his struggles, Charlie Brown seeks advice from his friend Linus, who helps him understand the deeper significance of Christmas by reciting the biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ. This heartfelt moment brings clarity to Charlie Brown, and he finds a small, seemingly inadequate Christmas tree to decorate. In a heartwarming turn of events, the Peanuts gang gathers around the simple tree, embracing its sincerity and sharing in the true spirit of Christmas. Truly, if there’s a movie that inspires you to bring home the loneliest, bare tree from the garden center, this is the one.
5. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
A true masterpiece, It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas film directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart as the main character, George Bailey. The story follows George Bailey, a compassionate and selfless man from the small town of Bedford Falls. The movie begins with an angel named Clarence who is sent to Earth to help George Bailey, who is contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve due to financial troubles and feeling like his life has amounted to nothing. Clarence shows George what life in Bedford Falls would have been like if he had never existed. Through a series of flashbacks and alternate realities, George sees the positive impact he has made on the lives of those around him. He witnesses how his absence would have drastically changed the town and the people he loves. Despite facing numerous challenges and personal sacrifices, George realizes the true value of his life and the importance of selflessness, love, and community.
4. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
One of my favorites on this list of top best Christmas movies, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a crime-comedy film about Harry Lockhart, a petty thief who unexpectedly finds himself auditioning for a movie role in Hollywood after a series of events. Val Kilmer plays the role of a private investigator named Perry van Shrike, also known as “Gay Perry,” who gets involved with Harry in solving a murder mystery. Michelle Monaghan stars as Harmony Lane, an aspiring actress and Harry’s childhood friend, who becomes entangled in the investigation. The film follows a comedic yet noir-inspired narrative, blending elements of crime, mystery, and dark humor as the characters navigate a convoluted murder case in Los Angeles. The chemistry between Downey Jr., Kilmer, and Monaghan contributes to the film’s appeal, making it a notable entry in the crime-comedy genre. Additionally, Michelle Monaghan’s appearance in her Santa outfit is worth noting!
3. Home Alone (1990)
Is there anything new to add about this timeless, delightful, and emotionally uplifting comedy film that hasn’t been expressed before? Home Alone follows the story of an 8-year-old boy named Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, who is accidentally left behind when his family travels to Paris for Christmas vacation. Initially thrilled at having the house to himself, Kevin soon realizes that two burglars, Harry and Marv (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), plan to rob his family’s home. Determined to protect his house, Kevin sets up a series of booby traps to thwart the burglars’ attempts to break in. As Kevin becomes a resourceful and inventive young defender, he outsmarts the bumbling burglars in a series of comedic and slapstick sequences. Meanwhile, Kevin’s mother, played by Catherine O’Hara, desperately tries to get back home to her son after realizing he was left behind. The movie became a massive success upon its release, becoming the highest-grossing live-action comedy film at the time. It’s celebrated for its humor, memorable quotes, and the endearing performance of Macaulay Culkin.
2. Gremlins (1984)
Suppose, for an unusual circumstance—such as being born on the moon—you haven’t yet watched Gremlins. In that case, I highly recommend setting aside everything and immediately watching it! Gremlins is a horror-comedy film that follows the story of a young man named Billy Peltzer, who receives a strange creature called a Mogwai named Gizmo as a Christmas present from his father. Billy receives three important rules for taking care of Gizmo: keep him away from bright light, don’t get him wet, and never feed him after midnight. However, after an accidental breach of these rules, Gizmo spawns more mischievous creatures called Gremlins. The Gremlins wreak havoc on the small town of Kingston Falls during the Christmas season, causing chaos, destruction, and mayhem. The film combines horror elements with dark humor as the Gremlins cause chaos in the town, leading to various comedic and thrilling scenarios. As Billy and his girlfriend try to contain the chaos caused by the Gremlins, they encounter a series of challenges while attempting to stop the creatures from causing further destruction.
1. Die Hard (1988)
My absolute favorite Christmas movie and one of the best action movies ever, Die Hard is one of the best gun movies, a 1988 action film directed by John McTiernan and starring Bruce Willis as the main character, NYPD officer John McClane. The movie is set on Christmas Eve when McClane arrives in Los Angeles to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly Gennaro McClane, played by Bonnie Bedelia, at her workplace, the Nakatomi Plaza. However, their reunion is interrupted when a group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman, takes control of the skyscraper, intending to steal millions in bearer bonds from the building’s vault. John McClane, who happens to be in the building’s restroom during the initial attack, becomes the lone opposition against the terrorists. Armed with wit, resourcefulness, and his NYPD training, McClane sets out to rescue the hostages and foil the terrorists’ plans while communicating with the police outside. The film follows McClane’s one-man battle against the heavily armed terrorists, utilizing his cunning and improvisation to outsmart and eliminate them. As the action intensifies, McClane becomes an unlikely hero in a high-stakes and explosive confrontation against Gruber and his group. Die Hard is famous for its intense action sequences, Bruce Willis’s portrayal of the resilient and relatable John McClane, Alan Rickman’s performance as the sophisticated yet menacing villain, and its suspenseful storyline. Though it’s debated whether it’s a true “Christmas movie,” its setting during the holiday season has led many to include it in their annual Christmas movie watchlists.