10 Best Christmas Films For Everyone to Watch and Why (+Bonus)

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Christmas is wonderful for many reasons—presents, gatherings with family, and, of course, the excellent selection of holiday movies.

Here are some of the best Christmas movies of all time you can enjoy with your family or yourself during the holiday season or year-round!

1. Elf (2003)

“I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.”

Buddy
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Screenwriter: David Berenbaum
  • Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel

Description: Buddy (Will Ferrell) has never fit in with the other elves at the North Pole due to his outrageous size, but is completely shocked when he finds out he was adopted. As a further blow, Santa tells him that his biological father, Walter (James Caan), is on the Naughty List! Buddy heads to New York to try to redeem his dad, but misadventures ensue when his dad doesn’t recognize him. He doesn’t understand the human world and falls for store clerk Jovie (Zooey Deschanel).

Why you should watch it: Elf offers a masterclass blending humor and heart, creating a timeless holiday classic. Will Ferrell’s performance is a comedic gem. Its joyful spirit and whimsical story are perfect for spreading Christmas cheer.

2. Scrooged (1988)

“The bitch hit me with a toaster!”

Frank Cross
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Screenwriters: Mitch Glazer, Michael O’Donoghue
  • Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe

Description: TV president Frank Cross (Bill Murray), motivated by Christmas greed more than Christmas spirit, pushes his network to perform a live production of A Christmas Carol, forcing everyone to work through the holidays. However, the ghost of Frank’s boss, Lew (John Forsythe), warns him off this path and sends three more-or-less bumbling Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to set the workaholic, greedy executive back on the right path.

Why you should watch it: A modern twist on Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooged offers a hilarious and poignant take on the classic tale. Bill Murray shines as a cynical TV executive visited by ghosts, teaching viewers about the importance of kindness and redemption during the holiday season.

3. The Polar Express (2004)

“Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”

Santa
  • Genre: Musical Adventure
  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Screenwriters: Robert Zemeckis and William Broyles Jr.
  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye

Description: A young boy (Tom Hanks/Daryl Sabara) who doubts the existence of Santa Claus is stunned when he wakes up on Christmas Eve to a mysterious train rolling on the street. He joins fellow passengers Billy (Peter Scolari) and a brave girl (Nona Gaye) as they go to the North Pole and learn about the spirit of Christmas from the interesting people they meet.

Why you should watch it: The Polar Express is a visually stunning animated film that captures the magic and wonder of Christmas. Filmmakers should watch for its groundbreaking motion-capture technology and immersive visuals that bring the magic of Christmas to life. Perfect for viewers of all ages.

4. Home Alone (1990)

“Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”

Johnny
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Chris Columbus
  • Screenwriter: John Hughes
  • Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Catherine O’Hara

Description: The numerous McCallister family gets ready to spend their Christmas vacation in Paris, but in the craziness, they accidentally leave behind their youngest son, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin). While mother Kate (Catherine O’Hara) frantically tries to get back to her son, Kevin enjoys having the house alone without his bullying siblings. However, Kevin’s idyllic Christmas is about to be broken up by two bumbling yet determined burglars, Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci), who have their eyes set on the riches of the suburban house.

Why you should watch it: Home Alone is a beloved holiday classic combining comedy, heart, and adventure. For filmmakers, Home Alone is a lesson in crafting a perfect blend of comedy and heartwarming family moments. Movie buffs will cherish its iconic scenes and memorable score. Kids and families will delight in its hilarious antics and heartwarming message of family togetherness.

5. Die Hard (1988)

“Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker.”

John McClane
  • Genre: Action
  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Screenwriters: Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza
  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia

Description: NYPD detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) wants to reconcile with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) by attending her company Christmas party in Nakatomi Plaza. However, just as McClane arrives in the building, it’s seized by the terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), who takes everybody else hostage. It is up to McClane to attract the attention of the authorities and save everyone in the building from the German’s well-planned machinations. Although the debate rages about whether this is a Christmas movie, it’s become part of the holiday season for many families.

Why you should watch it: Filmmakers can study Die Hard for its innovative action sequences and genre-defying Christmas setting. Movie buffs will appreciate its iconic hero, John McClane and enjoy its adrenaline-pumping thrills and unconventional holiday spirit.

6. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

“We’re gonna have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas.”

Clark Griswold
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
  • Screenwriter: John Hughes
  • Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid

Description: Stressed-out family patriarch Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is determined to make this year’s Christmas the best, with the assistance of his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), as long as his holiday bonus comes on time. His children are less than thrilled with his grandiose holiday plans, especially when they involve trekking through the woods for the perfect Christmas tree and filling the house with annoying relatives. Even Clark gets more than he bargained for when trailer-living Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his family show up unannounced.

Why you should watch it: This comedy classic is a hilarious and relatable portrayal of the chaos and joy that often comes with family gatherings during the holidays. Watch it for its comedic timing and relatable family dynamics mixed with its slapstick humor and ultimately heartwarming portrayal of holiday mishaps.

7. Gremlins (1984)

“Bye, Billy.”

Gizmo
  • Genre: Comedy Horror
  • Director: Joe Dante
  • Screenwriter: Chris Columbus
  • Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton

Description: Randall Petzer (Hoyt Axton) buys a small mogwai from a shop in Chinatown for his son. Billy (Zach Galligan) is thrilled at the gift but forgets the rules not to show it in sunlight, spill water, or feed it after midnight. The mogwai multiply, spawn into gremlins and wreak havoc on the town during Christmas Eve in this horror movie with holiday spirit.

Why you should watch it: Gremlins offers a darkly comedic and unconventional take on the holiday season. This cult classic blends horror and humor as a small town deals with mischievous creatures wreaking havoc during Christmas. With its mix of thrills and laughs, Gremlins is a unique and entertaining choice for those looking for a different kind of Christmas movie.

8. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

“What’s this? What’s this? There’s color everywhere!”

Jack Skellington
  • Genre: Animated Dark Fantasy, Stop-Motion Puppetry
  • Director: Henry Selick
  • Screenwriter: Caroline Thompson
  • Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara

Description: The Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman/Chris Sarandon), is revered by his fellow citizens but tired of the same old holiday. When he accidentally wanders into Christmas Town, he becomes fascinated by the new holiday and decides that his town should take over Christmas. Despite her love for Jack, the only lonely tailor Sally (Catherine O’Hara) foresees that this could end in disaster. Although the debate rages about whether this is a Christmas or Halloween movie, it’s so good that it’s worth watching twice a year.

Why you should watch it: Tim Burton’s stop-motion masterpiece is a visually stunning and imaginative film that blurs the lines between Halloween and Christmas. Filmmakers can draw inspiration from its unique stop-motion animation and imaginative storytelling. Movie buffs will admire its darkly enchanting visuals and memorable music. Kids and families will be enchanted by its whimsical world and timeless tale of self-discovery.

9. White Christmas (1954)

“Well if that’s love, somebody goofed.”

Bob Wallace
  • Genre: Musical
  • Director: Michael Curtis
  • Screenwriters: Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, Melvin Frank
  • Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen

Description: Former soldiers Bob (Bing Crosby) and Phil (Danny Kaye) run a successful entertainment empire after they’re discharged from the army. They meet up with sister act Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Ellen) and, after saving the two from a greedy landlord, run up to Vermont. When they get to Vermont, the entertainers must plan to save a failing inn run by Bob and Phil’s former commander, Major General Tom Waverly (Dean Jagger), and open themselves up to the potential of love.

Why you should watch it: White Christmas is a classic musical filled with timeless songs, dazzling dance numbers, and heartwarming romance. Musical fans can appreciate its timeless charm, classic musical numbers, and stunning choreography. It’s sure to give you a warm and nostalgic feeling with its magical winter wonderland.

10. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

“Thank you all and Merry Christmas!”

Fozzie Bear
  • Genre: Musical Fantasy
  • Director: Brian Henson
  • Screenwriter: Jerry Juhl
  • Starring: Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Michael Caine

Description: Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) is a cold-hearted moneylender who needs to be convinced to give his employees Christmas Day off. Sick with his cold-hearted nature, Scrooge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Scrooge sees his origin story and the lonely future that awaits him. He also learns about the plight of his employee Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog, voiced by Steve Whitmire). Although there have been many adaptations of Dickens’s Christmas classic, the Muppet version is a classic for a reason.

Why you should watch it: The Muppet Christmas Carol is a delightful retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic story with a Muppet twist. Filmmakers can study its inventive blend of puppetry and classic storytelling and appreciate its clever humor and heartfelt adaptation of a beloved Christmas tale. Perfect for families and fans of the Muppets alike.

Bonus: The Snowman (1982)

Directors: Jimmy T. Murakami (supervising director), Dianne Jackson

Screenplay: Based on the book by Raymond Briggs

Starring: Peter Auty as the voice of James, Raymond Briggs (David Bowie in the re-released version) as Older James, Mel Smith as Father Christmas (20th Anniversary version).

The Snowman is one of my favorite Christmas tales of all time. It first aired on British national television public service Channel 4 in 1982.

It’s a truly magical short film about a young boy who builds a snowman that comes to life. The two then travel to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas.

The beautiful piano and music by Howard Blake still get me every time.

Summary

Those were my top Christmas movies of all time. It’s a great mix of classic Christmas movies, feel-good Christmas movies, family-family Christmas movies, and alternative Christmas movies.

What are your top ten Christmas movies of all time? Let me know in the comments below.


Author

    by
  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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