This Christmas, I’ve decided to not reinvent the wheel. I’m bringing many of my past favorite Christmas movies back for this list, but I’m adding some new ones as well.
I like all kinds of Christmas movies and I have a very liberal view on what counts. There are always a bunch of pointless debates about whether or not Die Hard qualifies. I say, if it’s a movie you enjoy watching at Christmastime, it’s a Christmas movie. Sometimes it may only have a glimpse of Christmas, but it gives you those Christmas feels. That’s fine! Who am I to rain on your parade? It’s Christmas, if anything I’m going to snow on your parade!
The sad fact of the matter is there aren’t enough great Christmas movies out there. There are a ton of Christmas movies but a lot of them are surprisingly bad. Still, the good ones are often really good.
So, without further adieu, let’s get in the Christmas spirit, shall we?
Check out my list of Thanksgiving movies to watch here.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
I’ve never really consciously thought of Terry Gilliam’s dystopian time travel film Twelve Monkeys as a Christmas movie before, but I always feel like watching it this time of year. I watched it with my son who hadn’t seen it before last week and it struck me that it is, in fact, something of a Christmas movie. John Cole (Bruce Willis) even visits a retail store—in two timelines—that’s just setting up for the Christmas shopping season. The film’s final scenes all take place just before Christmas. It counts, and it’s also one of the best movies ever made. Bruce Willis is terrific and Brad Pitt puts in a nutty performance that always cracks me up. Madeline Stowe is great as well.
The Holdovers (2023)
The newest film on this list, The Holdovers just released in theaters a couple months ago. I went to it instead of some of the big blockbusters out recently and I don’t regret a thing. It’s an instant Christmas classic, and one of the best-reviewed Christmas movies of all time. The story takes place over Christmas at a private boy’s school in 1970. Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is a grouchy history teacher at the school who gets tasked with watching over the boys who can’t go home for Christmas (the titular holdovers) and ends up bonding with Angus (Dominic Sessa). It’s funny, emotional, really well-written and feels like a movie made in the 70s, not just one that takes place then. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The Lion In Winter (1968)
This is a particularly fitting Christmas movie this year as I just finished watching the 2010 miniseries The Pillars Of The Earth, which takes place just before the reign of King Henry II (the book and the show end at different points in time, with the latter skipping the big time jump). In any case, The Lion In Winter is all about the kingly succession and the scheming and politicking that takes place during Christmas in the year 1183. Katherine Hepburn is at her best as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, as is Peter O’Toole as King Henry II. It’s funny, brilliantly acted and a must-see Christmas movie for anyone who loves great cinema. Newcomers Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton both made debuts in the film as well (though Hopkins had done a short film prior).
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Jimmy Stewart will always have a special place in my heart thanks to It’s A Wonderful Life and Harvey, though of course he’s famous for dozens of other great movies. Still, there’s something special about this movie and its reminder of hope and how we all have a small part to play that ends up having enormous repercussions to the people whose lives we touch. One of my favorite movies of all time.
Home Alone (1990)
Is there a funnier Christmas movie than Home Alone? I’m not sure. Macaulay Culkin is about my age, so when I watched this I could absolutely relate to Kevin and his excitement at getting the whole house to himself—and then his dismay. But it’s the Wet Bandits—Joe Pesci as Harry and Daniel Stern as Marv—that make this movie so hilarious. It’s really quite violent (and Kevin is a straight-up psychopath in the sequel!) and one of the best modern slapstick comedies ever made.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Chevy Chase almost always plays these ridiculous, hapless, slightly sexist characters but he does it so well you can’t help but love him. Christmas Vacation is the classic “everything goes wrong” movie, as Clark Griswold and family just can’t seem to get anything right and one misfortune leads to another. Like Home Alone, this one can work as a great background movie you can just have on while you make eggnogs and hang out.
I watched Hook again this year for the first time in many years and loved it even more this time around. I relate to Peter as a father now more than ever, and I just love everything about this movie, including the very obvious movie sets. I miss when movies had recognizable sets and didn’t feel so realistic!
The whole thing takes place at Christmas and while it’s not explicitly about the holiday, I think it counts. Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman are both brilliant in this Steven Spielberg feel-good film.
Die Hard (1988)
Probably the most debated “is it or isn’t it a Christmas movie?” films of all time, but the answer is simple: It’s up to you. If you feel like this is a Christmas movie, great! If you don’t, great! Get in the spirit of of the season and let people have their opinions. I consider it a timeless Christmas classic. Yippee kayak other buckets!
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Accept no substitute. The original animated Grinch is still the best. It’s perhaps the greatest book-to-screen adaptation of all time, faithfully reproducing Dr. Seuss’s classic Christmas tale with the added benefit of Boris Karloff’s narration, the classic song written by Seuss and Albert Hague and performed by the wonderfully named Thurl Ravenscroft.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Sure, Christmas isn’t what springs to mind when you think of Edward Scissorhands, but a big chunk of the movie does take place around Christmas and during a major Christmas party. And besides, everyone includes Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in these lists. I wanted to include some of his other Christmas films (one more below).
Klaus was one of the surprise hits of 2019, and an instant animated Christmas classic. I absolutely adore the animation style and artwork in this movie. It’s also a really great story about mending old wounds and ending old rivalries. Definitely worth your while!
I must admit, my favorite Will Ferrell movie that has elves in it is Eurovision Song Contest, but Elf is a pretty great Christmas movie and one of Ferrell’s more adorable roles. Always a fun modern classic to return to and good fun for the whole family.
A Christmas Story (1983)
This movie is about the same age as I am (two years younger, actually, which makes me feel old). It’s one of those timeless Christmas classics that highlights just how weird the suburban American family can be, even back in the 1940s.
Batman Returns (1992)
Not your typical Christmas movie, but it counts in my book. Batman Returns is one of the best Batman film ever made, and it takes place during Christmas in Gotham, which makes for a nice chilly twist, perfect for Danny DeVito’s pallid Penguin, Michael Keaton’s Batman and especially Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman (meow!). Just an awesome movie all around. While I’ve gotten a little tired of Tim Burton’s schtick, I still love his older movies.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
As much as I love the Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol (which we just watched the other day) the Muppets still do it best. A big part of that is Michael Caine’s performance as Scrooge. What a wonderful combination. Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog. One of my favorite Muppets outings as well. Light the lamp, not the rat!
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
A humble little made-for-TV classic and one of the shorter picks on this list, I still find it a comfort to watch this as an adult. I love the piano music, the small ambitions of the short, the tiny little tree that just needs a bit of love. Very wholesome and heartwarming.
This one is a bit less wholesome and a bit less heart-warming, but it’s still a great Christmas movie. Or at least a movie that frequently returns to Christmas scenes, parties and so forth. I wanted a mobster movie on this list and Goodfellas fits the bill. One of my favorite Martin Scorsese films and a modern classic.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)
James Gunn is the big boss over at DC Films now, but he’s not done with the delightful Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a Christmas special like Charlie Brown rather than a full-blown movie, but it’s a lovely little holiday escape and fun return to some of the MCU’s most charming characters while we wait for Guardians 3.
Obviously I couldn’t include everything on here and many great movies have been left off this list so that I could include a good variety. Please do let me know what your favorite Christmas movies are on Twitter or Facebook.
And as always, I’d love it if you’d follow me here on this blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel so you can stay up-to-date on all my TV, movie and video game reviews and coverage. Thanks!
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In the provided article, the author discusses their favorite Christmas movies and provides a brief description of each film. Let's go through the concepts mentioned in the article and provide relevant information:
Christmas movies are a popular genre that revolves around the theme of Christmas and often evoke feelings of joy, nostalgia, and holiday spirit. These movies are typically released during the holiday season and feature stories that center around Christmas traditions, family gatherings, and themes of love, hope, and redemption.
The author mentions the debate about whether Die Hard qualifies as a Christmas movie. Die Hard is an action film released in 1988, directed by John McTiernan and starring Bruce Willis. The story follows an NYPD officer, John McClane, who finds himself trapped in a Los Angeles skyscraper during a Christmas party that is taken over by terrorists. While Die Hard is primarily an action film, it is set during Christmas time and has become a popular choice for some viewers as a non-traditional Christmas movie.
Home Alone is a comedy film released in 1990, directed by Chris Columbus and starring Macaulay Culkin. The story revolves around an 8-year-old boy named Kevin McCallister, who is accidentally left behind when his family goes on a Christmas vacation. Kevin must defend his home from two burglars using creative and humorous traps. Home Alone has become a beloved Christmas classic known for its humor and heartwarming moments.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation:
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is a comedy film released in 1989, directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and starring Chevy Chase. The movie follows the Griswold family as they prepare for a big family Christmas celebration, which is filled with mishaps, comedic situations, and unexpected challenges. It is known for its humorous portrayal of the chaos and mishaps that can occur during the holiday season.
It's A Wonderful Life:
It's A Wonderful Life is a drama film released in 1946, directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart. The story revolves around George Bailey, a man who is shown what life would have been like if he had never existed. It's A Wonderful Life is often considered a Christmas classic and is known for its heartwarming message about the value of life and the impact individuals can have on others.
The Muppet Christmas Carol:
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a musical fantasy film released in 1992, directed by Brian Henson. It is a retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel "A Christmas Carol" with the addition of Muppet characters. The film follows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter and selfish man who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, leading to his transformation. The Muppet Christmas Carol combines humor, music, and the beloved Muppet characters to deliver a family-friendly Christmas tale.
These are just a few of the Christmas movies mentioned in the article. There are many more Christmas movies available, each with its own unique story and style. The choice of favorite Christmas movies can vary from person to person based on personal preferences and experiences.
Please note that the information provided above is based on general knowledge and may not cover all aspects of the mentioned movies.