You know it’s time to bust out the best Christmas movies when Target tosses out all the black and orange for the red and green. When the holidays come around, there is a batch of movies you just have to watch to truly get into the spirit of things. There’s no arguing over this. These are must-see movies — and not in the so-bad-it’s-good way that Hallmark rings in the Xmas season.
No, there are some movies that are both Christmas spirit essentials and actually great films. Whether it’s an animated classic or live-action flick, including 50-year-old-plus films and modern day marvels, get ready for a lot of binging this December because these Christmas movies are necessary holiday watching.
17. The Santa Clause
In the ’90s, Tim Allen could really do no wrong. He was on the top of his game on Home Improvement, so when he stepped into the role of Santa Claus in the aptly titled The Santa Claues, we loved every second. In fact, we still do. There’s something somewhat inspiring about an average dude becoming Santa out of nowhere that just gives us hope for the world. Maybe this means we’re also meant for something more.
Will Ferrell could go on to win a thousand awards, cure world hunger and live on the moon and he’d likely still be known for portraying one of the best modern-day movie characters. It is hard to take the holidays and deliver them in a way we’ve yet to see, but Elf does the trick. Buddy’s story is one of the first flicks you’ve got to watch when fall turns to winter and is a frequent for many people’s post-Thanksgiving watching.
15. A Christmas Story
From a modern-day tale to a true classic, A Christmas Story is one of the simplest gems out there. What kid (both young and old) can’t identify with Ralphie and wanting that one huge gift on Christmas morning? It’s one of those movies you can watch at any age and be like, “same man, freaking same.”
There was a 1994 sequel and it was adapted for the stage, so the 1983 movie has certainly made its mark!
14. Jack Frost
No, we’re not talking about the horror movie that shares the same name. We’re talking about Michael Keaton‘s finest settled in between Beetlejuice and Birdman. I mean, who hasn’t thought about their dad turning into a legit snowman? No? Just me? Okay. Nevertheless, it’s just not the holidays without it.
13. Frosty The Snowman
Speaking of humanesque snowmen, if there is one thing that can make a Christmas movie an instant classic, it’s a jingle that gets stuck in your head in about .05 seconds. Everyone and their mother gets down when the old-school stereo in your living room blasts that “Frosty The Snowman” jam. It’s not only catchy, but it’s a quintessential winter song and the season would not be the same without this iconic character.
12. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Whether you’re absolutely obsessed with the animated version or the live-action Jim Carrey movie, it’s not Christmas without Mr. Grinch. With Dr. Suess involved, how could it not be a classic? Unlike the creepy Cat in the Hat (just sayin’!), the Grinch movie was a perfect delight.
And remember what we were saying about having a catchy jingle really upping the popularity of a Christmas movie? Same thing with How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
11. A Charlie Brown Christmas
For over 50 years, A Charlie Brown Christmas has been a staple in homes all over the world. A simple story that brings about feelings of not only the holidays but nostalgia for most, it’s the perfect Christmas movie. Also, this movie gave birth to “The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” fad which we’re pretty thankful for. Those rinky-dink trees were all the rage from 1958 to 1965, and still make an appearance in some homes to this day.
10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Written by the late, great John Hughes, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was everyone’s favorite after its 1989 release. A modern(ish)-day classic, there is a lot of comedy that showcased what the holidays are like for most of us: chaotic. In-laws, mishaps, and drama a-plenty but at the end of the day a loving family — relatable.
9. The Muppet Christmas Carol
There seem to be about a million and one adaptations of Charles Dickens‘s 1843 A Christmas Carol. The best though? When The Muppets did it because — hello, they’re THE Muppets. It’s never a dull time when Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and the rest of the gang get together and admittedly make this Dickens tale a bit more lively. The story is epic in its own right, but this just feels like it’s got double the star power and we love it.
8. It’s a Wonderful Life
This one is the definition of “an oldie but a goody.” Probably once of the most iconic Christmas movies in history, It’s a Wonderful Life centers around George Bailey, a man in crisis who needs to be reminded just how blessed his life truly is. Of course, this is with the help of a quirky angel with ~unconventional~ methods. A touching story about love and family — James Stewart and Donna Reed bring these characters to life in a movie that’s been around for 71 years and still hasn’t gotten old yet.
Straddling the line between horror and comedy, Gremlins is a Christmas movie in the end… well, in our opinion. Christmas lights and trees are all around as the evil creatures wreak havoc on the small town in this comedy-horror flick. It’s perfect for those of us who don’t love the mushy-gushy aspects of Christmas movies and prefer there to be a few more jump-scares.
6. Love Actually
Where would be without the constant stream of memes born thanks to Andrew Lincoln‘s sign scene in this movie? Truly lost. On a real level though, Love Actually is not just Christmas-movie good, but romantic-comedy good, all year round. Obviously we must reserve watching it (usually) for the winter months, but it holds up pretty great. All in all, it’s a great way to spend a few hours.
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
It’s not hard to dispute that we all love Halloween and Christmas. So when Tim Burton gave us a blend of the two, we wept tears of joy. Jack Skellington and Sally became relationship goals for many, but also Christmas icons after this movie came to be in 1993. The best part of this movie is that you can start watching it on a loop from October to New Year’s Eve and no one would bat an eye.
4. Jingle All the Way
The biggest stress factor when it comes to the holidays is the shopping. Especially when you’re a parent and it comes to the “hot toy” of the year. Seriously, spending hours in line to get some toy that your kid will forget about in four days (at most) seems… silly. Jingle All the Way just GOT how real that struggle is. A parent willing to do just about anything to get his son the ONE toy on his list that means everything that year is just as relatable as it gets. We’re not saying it’s a good thing — but it’s just the way it is!
3. Home Alone
Well, hello, here is another John Hughes gift to the world. Home Alone was an instant hit when it debuted in 1990. Macaulay Culkin became a hero to kids all over the world with his clever skills, quotable lines and on-point facial expressions. We’re not saying we wanted to get forgotten by our parents and left vulnerable to dangerous robbers, but Macauley didn’t make it look so bad.
2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Yeah, Santa Claus is Father Christmas, but can we all just agree that Rudolph IS the Christmas’s biggest star? In this movie, and every year tbh, he saves Christmas. Being an outcast sucks when you’re young but this movie reminds us all that it’s actually better to be different. And probably inspired a lot of us to want to be dentists. We had Rudolph’s red nose and Hermey the elf popping up as the coolest weirdos around.
1. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Home Alone is great, but spoiler alert — Home Alone 2 is even better. Why? The mere fact that Kevin was able to wind up in New York City by himself and completely own it speaks for itself. There are people three times his age that would’ve been left for dead in that situation. He not only survived bad guys YET again but he saved Christmas for a ton of kids AND lived lavishly in a hotel suite as he was at it.