What are the best Christmas movies of all time? This question lies at the heart of a debate that has pervaded family dinners and critic circles alike for decades. To suggest one Christmas movie is better than any other is certainly subjective, but we’re going to try to keep it as objective as we can by ranking the films based on: acting, directing, story and Christmas spirit. So without further ado, get your feet in the sled, grab the reins and take off into the night sky with us as we rank the best Christmas movies of all time!

Top Christmas Movies 

30. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Best Christmas Movies of All Time  •  Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

What if Santa wasn’t a benevolent toy delivery man but instead a monster trapped in ice? That’s the plot of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale – a 2010 movie from Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale may not have as wide of an audience as many of the other movies on this list, but it’s certainly carved out a niche for itself in the Christmas movies genre. It's such a unique entry in the genre that Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale should be on every list of Christmas movies worth watching.

Good Christmas Movies, Ranked

Conclusion

Rare Exports gives Santa Claus an origin story that few would ever expect.

Classic Christmas Movies

29. Bad Santa (2003)

Top Christmas Movies  •  Bad Santa

Bad Santa takes Christmas movie genre tropes and flips them on their head with a deconstructionist plot and raunchy characters. Billy Bob Thornton stars in the film as the titular “bad Santa,” Willie, who is more interested in drinking himself to death than he is with saving Christmas. Bad Santa wasn’t a revolutionary Christmas movie by any means, but it was a more-than-memorable romp through a unique Christmas setting.

Christmas Day Movies to Watch

Conclusion

Bad Santa offers a nice change of pace from the ultra-sentimality of most Christmas movies.

List of Christmas Movies, Ranked

28. Gremlins (1990)

Classic Christmas Movies  •  Gremlins Video Essay

My only question is this: how did Gremlins get greenlit in the first place? Chris Columbus’ Gremlins script follows a bunch of “Furby”-like monsters who wreak havoc on a small town over the course of a holiday night.

It may just be me, but that plot doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. But alas, Gremlins was a hit, grossing more than 19-times its budget at the box-office. Furthermore, Gremlins has come to be regarded as a classic of the Christmas genre.

Strange Christmas Movies

Conclusion

Gremlins has become a staple of horror cinema and every Christmas movies list for decades.

Good Christmas Movies

27. Scrooge (1951)

List of Christmas Movies  •  Scrooge

Brian Desmond Hurst’s Scrooge, or as it’s known to American audiences A Christmas Carol, is widely regarded as the best pure cinematic adaptation of Dickens’ novel of the same name.

Alastair Sim delivers a great performance in the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge, channeling the character’s signature misanthropy with believable precision. Scrooge may have been better suited for the stage than the screen but the latter result still impresses.

Classic Christmas Movies

Conclusion

The dark tone of Scrooge was off-putting to some critics in 1951, but recent reviews are much more glowing of the picture.

Romantic Christmas Movies to Watch

26. The Holiday (2006)

Good Christmas Movies  •  The Holiday

There are hundreds if not thousands of Christmas rom-coms, but few are better than The Holiday. Nancy Meyers’ contemporary Christmas classic is a breezy double love-story, aided by some great performances from Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black.

If you’re looking for a story about winter romance, then The Holiday may be the movie for you – followed closely behind by Ron Underwood’s Holiday in Handcuffs.

Classic Christmas Rom-Com

Conclusion

The Holiday may rely too much on genre cliches, but it’s still fun to watch. 

Christmas in Technicolor

25. We’re No Angels (1955)

Best Christmas Movies of All Time  •  We’re No Angels

What happens when you take Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray and put them in the roles of three convicts who escape a Devil’s Island prison around Christmas? Well, it would be fair to assume high-drama would ensue – but We’re No Angels takes a different route and instead opts for comedy.

We’re No Angels was one of the last great Hollywood Technicolor films and a perfect example of the bright, saturated colors the process has come to be synonymous with over the years.

Great Christmas Movies

Conclusion

We’re No Angels is a classic “hidden gem” Christmas movie that’s sure to elicit a good laugh from even the most cynical of viewers.

A Very Charlie Brown Yuletide Special

24. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Christmas Day Movies  •   A Charlie Brown Christmas Original vs. Revised 

Who doesn’t love a good Charlie Brown holiday special? For many, it’s impossible to look back on Charlie Brown cartoons without feeling a strong sense of nostalgia.

A Charlie Brown Christmas follows Charlie as he struggles to conjure up Christmas spirit. Although it runs short at just over 25 minutes, A Charlie Brown Christmas may be the best of the series’ holiday specials.


Classic Christmas Movies

Conclusion

A Charlie Brown Christmas offers a vision into a distant past of pop culture and styles of animation

Kubrick’s Christmas Nightmare

23. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Good Christmas Movies  •  Eyes Wide Shut Wisecrack Edition

I may be in the minority here, but I’d say that the Christmas setting of Eyes Wide Shut is essential to its story. I know, I know: when we think of Christmas, we don’t usually think of orgys – but that’s exactly why the setting works so well. 

The setting of Eyes Wide Shut sticks up a middle finger to the tropes and genre conventions of Christmas movies: the close-knit families, the monogamous loving partners, and the theme that generosity triumphs selfishness. 

Christmas Movies to Watch

Conclusion

Eyes Wide Shut may not be appropriate “family viewing” but it is a bold and daring story set around Christmas; and it just so happens to be one of renowned auteur Stanley Kubrick’s best movies.

Stop-Motion Holidays

22. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Classic Christmas Movies  •  Making of The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas takes the challenge of representing two holidays: Halloween and Christmas. The story follows the appropriately named skeletal king Jack Skellington as he seeks to bring Christmas to his boring Halloween Town. 

Tim Burton developed the story for The Nightmare Before Christmas for years before it was picked up by Disney and later released through Touchstone Pictures.

Top Christmas Movies

Conclusion

The gothic stop-motion animation of The Nightmare Before Christmas may not suit everybody, but it no doubt has an ardent following.

Christmas Day Movies to Watch

21. Love Actually (2003)

Top Christmas Movies  •  Love Actually 

At 2 ½ hours long, you might think that audiences would turn away from Love Actually. But due to some serious sentimentality and a great ensemble cast, Love Actually has developed a cult following.

Love Actually boasts an all-star cast that features heavy hitters like Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney and Bill Nighy. As Nighy’s character sings, “Christmas is all around us.”

Good Christmas Movies

Conclusion

Love Actually may not be the most “original” Christmas movie, but it has more than enough heart to win audiences over.

Wild Christmas Remake

20. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Best Christmas Movies of All Time  •  Behind the Scenes of How the Grinch Stole Christmas

If you have any interest in becoming a production designer, then you have to watch Ron Howard’s live action rendition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Every facet of the production from wardrobing to set design is wildly expressive.

Jim Carrey stars in Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and gives one of the best performances of his storied career. If there's any actor who could embody the surreal silliness of Dr. Seuss, it's Carrey.

Contemporary Christmas Classic

Conclusion

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a Christmas classic to some, nightmare fuel to others – but there’s no denying it’s one of the best Christmas movies of all time.

Classic Christmas Movies

19. Home Alone (1990)

Mastering The Christmas Movies  •   Subscribe on YouTtube

Home Alone brought Christmas movies back into the limelight when it was released in 1990. This John Hughes-written, Chris Columbus-directed Christmas classic grossed more than 25x its budget at the box-office and inspired countless remakes and sequels.

With an off-the-wall cast that includes Joe Pesci, Catherine O’Hara and John Candy, it’s no surprise that Home Alone is zany fun. Oh, and of course Home Alone is the film that helped launch the careers of Macaulay and Kieran Culkin.

Christmas Heist Gone Wrong

Conclusion

Home Alone is no cinematic masterpiece, but it’s the first in a franchise filled with a few good Christmas movies. 

Christmas Horror Special

18. Black Christmas (1974)

Popular Christmas Movies of Fright  •  Black Christmas

Black Christmas may not be a Christmas movie you watch every year, but it’s one of the most influential Christmas movies ever made. You’d be hard-pressed to find many slasher film directors who weren’t heavily influenced by Black Christmas.

Black Christmas follows a group of sorority girls who are picked off one-by-one by a psychopathic killer on – you guessed it – Christmas. A fascinating bit of trivia is that this is not director Bob Clark's only classic Christmas movie. He also directed the perennial favorite A Christmas Story, which we'll see later in this list.

Christmas Crime

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a change of pace from your typical Christmas movie, check out Clark’s Black Christmas.

Classic Christmas Movies to Watch

17. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Christmas Movies to Watch  •  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Perhaps it’s best to look back at Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer through rose-colored glasses. There’s no doubt that revisiting Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer made me realize it was much more strange than I remembered.

Rudolph is a story about a social outcast reindeer who’s exiled to the Island of Misfit toys. Whew, that doesn’t sound good. But hey, at least he’s brought back into the fold when they need him to guide Santa’s sled through a storm!

Classic Christmas Movies

Conclusion

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is widely regarded as one of the best Rankin Bass Christmas movies.

List of Christmas Movies, Ranked

16. Trading Places (1983)

Good Christmas Movies  •  Trading Places

Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy star in Trading Places as two men at opposite ends of the economic ladder who are swapped out into each other’s lives as part of a nefarious social experiment. Trading Places takes place during the Christmas season and the exorbitant displays of Holiday commercialization are on full display.

Famous Christmas Movies

Conclusion

Trading Places is a socially conscious satire film about class and race set during the Christmas season.

Top Christmas Movies

15. The Santa Clause (1994)

Best Christmas Movies of All Time  •  The Santa Clause

What would happen if an ordinary man accidentally killed Santa Claus and was forced to inherit his responsibilities? Well, as it turns out, a whole lot of Yuletide hi-jinks and interpersonal turmoil.

The Santa Clause, yes, clause as in “binding agreement,” is about a man who becomes the patron saint of giving after indirectly killing Santa. The Santa Clause performed well at the box-office and inspired two direct sequels.

My Favorite Christmas Movies

Conclusion

Tim Allen delivers an iconic performance in the role of a man who incidentally becomes jolly ole’ St. Nick in The Santa Clause.

Classic Christmas Movies

14. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Top Christmas Movies  •  The Bishop’s Wife

It’s hard to go wrong with a movie that features Cary Grant and Loretta Young, so it should come as no surprise that their Christmas movie The Bishop’s Wife was great. 

The Bishop’s Wife was remade by Penny Marshall in 1996, with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston taking up Grant and Loretta’s roles respectively. Marshall’s remake was well-received but it didn’t hold a candle to the original. 

Best Christmas Movies of All Time

Conclusion

The Bishop’s Wife is one of the most classic Christmas movies of the Hollywood golden age.

Most Popular Christmas Movies

13. Scrooged (1988)

Popular Christmas Movies  •  Scrooged

Richard Donner’s remake of A Christmas Carol, Scrooged, is a nightmarish reimagining of Dickens’ original. I suppose the original was pretty nightmarish as well, but Donner really turned the gothic filter up to 11 with some freaky visuals in Scrooged.

Scrooged marked Bill Murray’s return to Hollywood after a four-year hiatus in the mid-'80s – ultimately reigniting a career that’s dominated the box-office for decades.

Bill Murray Christmas Special

Conclusion

In the thirty-plus years since its release, Scrooged has accrued an ardent cult-following, and for good reason.

Best Christmas Movies of All Time

12. Joyeux Noel (2006)

Christmas Movies to Watch this Holiday Season  •  Joyeux Noel’

Many historians argue that World War I was the most preventable war of the 20th century. It wasn’t uncommon for soldiers on both sides to ask: “what exactly are we fighting for?” So it’s easy to understand that in 1914, at the onset of the Great War, opposing armies laid down their weapons to celebrate Christmas Eve together.

The incredible true story of “The Christmas Truce” lies at the heart of Joyeux Noel – a 2006 film that’s bursting to the seams with Christmas spirit.


Top Christmas Movies

Conclusion

Joyeux Noel is perhaps the most profoundly touching of all the top Christmas movies.

Family Drama on Christmas

11. A Christmas Tale (2008)

Great Christmas Movies  •  A Christmas Tale

Renowned French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale is a moving portrait of a family united by tragic circumstance in the Christmas season. 

The film received rave reviews upon its 2008 release, with Roger Ebert saying that “A Christmas Tale skates on thin ice across a crowded lake, arrives safely on the far shore, and shares a cup of hot cocoa and marshmallows with Death.”

Christmas Movies Ranked

Conclusion

A Christmas Tale is an ambitious film that explores the highs and lows of familial relationships.

Top 10 Christmas Movies

10. Metropolitan (1990)

Best Christmas Movies of All Time  •  Metropolitan

Most Christmas movies explore the holiday season through the perspective of the middle-class, but what about the metropolitans? Well, as it turns out, as with most other things, Christmas giving isn’t much of a concern.

Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan is a satire film about the upper-class. It’s not quite as scathing as other films that take similar satirical aims, like American Psycho and The Exterminating Angel, but it is still deeply impactful.

Good Christmas Movies

Conclusion

Whit Stillman received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Metropolitan. Check it out and see if his nomination was well-deserved!

List of Christmas Movies, Ranked

9. Klaus (2019)

Top Christmas Movies  •  Making of Klaus

Klaus is one of the most beautifully animated films ever made. The video above expertly shows how the animators used lighting techniques to enrich the depth of images and create the facade of a third-dimension.

Although Klaus was only released recently, it’s already begun to develop a cult following. It’s likely that as the years go by, the already-acclaimed Klaus will only continue to grow in esteem.


Best Christmas Movies of All Time

Conclusion

For its endearing characters and jaw-dropping animation-style, we regard Klaus as one of the best animated movies of all-time.

Is it a Christmas Movie?

8. Die Hard (1988)

Classic Christmas Movies  •  Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?

If you ask 100 people who just watched Die Hard whether they think it’s a Christmas movie or not, you’d probably get an even split. Die Hard may not be a prototypical Christmas movie but it does take place in the Christmas season, and it is structured around the events of the holiday.

If you ask me, Die Hard is a Christmas movie; and it’s a dang good one at that. The late Alan Rickman gives one of the best performances of his career in the film as the maniacal Hans Gruber.

Top 10 Christmas Movies

Conclusion

If conversation stalls during the holiday season, just ask the question: is Die Hard a Christmas movie? You’re sure to elicit some strong reactions.

Classic Christmas Movies

7. Elf (2003)

Christmas Day Movies  •  Unwrapping Elf: Cheering Our Inner Grinch

As the years go by and Christmas turns from a holiday of gift-receiving to gift-giving, some start to resent the economic and social burden of the yuletide season – for James Caan’s character, Walter, in Elf, that’s exactly what happens.

But when Walter’s long-lost son (Will Ferrell) arrives and proclaims that he’s an elf, the whole concept of “Christmas” is put on trial. In the end, Elf proves to be a Christmas classic for audiences of all ages.

Most Popular Christmas Movies

Conclusion

Elf is an endlessly enjoyable movie about the power of Christmas spirit. 

Best Christmas Movies of All Time

6. The Apartment (1960)

Great Christmas Movies  •  The Apartment

The Apartment may very well be the best movie on this list. That said, it’s not the best Christmas movie. For all of its great acting, writing and direction, The Apartment lacks Christmas spirit. But since it’s set during Christmas, we can still say it’s one of many great Christmas movies.

Jack Lemmon stars in The Apartment as a young man who allows his bosses to use his apartment to philander unsuspecting women. The screenplay of The Apartment is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all-time.

Billy Wilder Classic

Conclusion

The Apartment won five Academy Awards and was nominated for an additional five.

Famous Christmas Movies

5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Best Christmas Movies of All Time  •  Christmas Vacation

John Hughes took the screenwriting maxim “take a typical situation and muck it up” to heart with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Just about everything that could go wrong in Christmas Vacation, does – which makes the 100-minute film blaze by.

Christmas Vacation isn’t just regarded as one of the best Christmas movies, it’s considered one of best comedies of all-time. Jump into the car with the Griswolds and enjoy the ride (just don’t ask too many questions).

Christmas Comedy Classic

Conclusion

Chevy Chase delivers an all-time great comedic performance in the role of Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation.

Top 10 Christmas Movies

4. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Best Christmas Movies of All Time  •  The Muppet Christmas Carol

Call me crazy, but I think The Muppets deserve a feature-length movie for every holiday. There’s certainly no shortage of Muppets movies, but it’s hard to think there shouldn’t be more.

The Muppet Christmas Carol takes Charles Dickens’ classic story and injects new life into it with characters like Kermit the Frog and sharp writing from Jerry Juhl. 

Best Christmas Movies of All Time

Conclusion

Michael Caine’s dead-serious performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol is worth the price of purchase alone.

Most Popular Christmas Movies

3. A Christmas Story (1983)

Great Christmas Movies  •  A Christmas Story

It seems just about every Christmas season you can flip through a dozen channels on TV and always see A Christmas Story. Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical A Christmas Story paved the way for unconventional stories about the unglamourous side of Christmas.

A Christmas Story has solidified itself as more than just a great Christmas movie though, it’s an essential piece of American cinema; evident by its inclusion in the Library of Congress for “cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.”

‘You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out’

Conclusion

A Christmas Story is widely regarded as one of the best Christmas movies of all time for family viewings. 

Best Christmas Movies of All Time

2. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Top Christmas Movies  •  Miracle on 34th Street

I don’t know what’s more of a miracle: screenwriter George Seaton taking a Macy’s ad and turning it into a feature length movie or the fact that a Macy’s ad was able to become one of the best Christmas movies of all time.

I know Macy’s didn’t directly finance Miracle on 34th Street but for all intents and purposes, the film plays out like an ad for the department store. That’s not to say that it’s a bad movie by any means. Quite the contrary, Miracle on 34th Street is a Christmas classic due to some sharp writing and great lead performances – just don’t be fooled by its marketing motives.

Marketing is a Miracle

Conclusion

Miracle on 34th Street succeeds due to an overwhelming abundance of Christmas spirit.

My Favorite Christmas Movies

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Best Christmas Movies of All Time  •  It’s a Wonderful Life Video Essay

Perhaps it’s trite to say It’s a Wonderful Life is the very best Christmas movie, but few would argue otherwise. We don’t often get holiday-centric films from the world’s best directors, so the fact that the incomparable Frank Capra directed It’s a Wonderful Life makes it all the more special.

It’s a Wonderful Life combines all of the best aspects of storytelling and filmmaking with an abundance of Christmas spirit. But perhaps its most enduring aspect is the humanity at its core; as Clarence says “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives.”

Famous Christmas Movies

Conclusion

It’s a Wonderful Life remains a Christmas classic for its insightful morals, steady direction from Capra, and an unforgettable performance from James Stewart.

UP NEXT

Best Christmas Horror Movies

Still looking for a Christmas movie you haven’t seen? Don’t fret, in this next article we rank the best Christmas horror movies of all-time. Christmas horror movies have carved out a space for themselves as a legitimate subgenre in the cinema world. You may be surprised to see some of our “sleeper picks!”

Up Next: Christmas Horror Movies, Ranked →
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