Christmas movies lift our spirits and help us get into the holiday season. They make perfect additions to your evening lounge plans but are also great for a family gathering.
Here are the 29 best Christmas movies to add to your watch list this year.
Classic Christmas Movies
Classic Christmas movies from the 1900s still warm our hearts each year. Networks constantly air these beloved films, and you can find them on many modern streaming services.
It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a Wonderful Life is the quintessential Christmas movie. Network television ran the film so much during the holiday season that it was impossible to miss.
The tale follows George Bailey, played by the prolific actor Jimmy Stewart, who wishes he was never born after a miserable old man ruins his life. An angel visits George, showing him how his loved ones would fare if he weren’t around, providing him with renewed hope.
The heartwarming tale will raise even the lowest spirits and add a sprinkle of nostalgia to your holiday season.
Miracle on 34th Street
Is Santa Claus real?
The beloved 1947 classic Miracle on 34th sought to answer the age-old question with a court case. Kris Kringle submits to mental evaluations and assaults on his identity but maintains his good-hearted Christmas joy and helps others embrace the spirit of Christmas.
Modern audiences may prefer the 1994 remake starring Mara Wilson.
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story tells the tale of a young boy who desperately wants a BB gun for Christmas. The film gave us hundreds of iconic Christmas and winter scenes, showcasing the hilarity and realism of a family Christmas.
Though the film takes place in the 1940s, many situations and imagery persist today, from parents forcing children outside in overstuffed coats to kids getting their tongues stuck on frozen lampposts.
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dicken’s classic tale of a miserly scrooge comes to life in the original 1938 classic A Christmas Tale. Ebenezer Scrooge receives visits from three ghosts who help him reject his unscrupulous business practices and learn the true meaning of Christmas.
Though the original film holds up, modern audiences may prefer one of the many retellings over time. Collider rated the 1951 version the best, but modern audiences may prefer the 1999 film starring Patrick Stewart. Those looking for a humorous spin on the classic tale may enjoy Bill Murray’s Scrooged.
If you’re dreaming of a White Christmas, watch this classic from the 1950s. The film, starring Bing Crosby, the singer/actor who wrote the song, follows ex-soldiers as they make their mark on Broadway.
White Christmas has everything you’d expect from a 1950s film: War heroes, romance, misunderstandings, and happy endings.
Meet Me in St. Louis
The Hollywood classic Meet me in St. Louis takes place over a year, but the film’s most iconic scenes occur over Christmas.
The main drama centers upon a potential move from St. Louis to New York City right before the former city host the World’s Fair. Judy Garland stars in the film and debuts her iconic Christmas melody “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which is played on radios every season.
Modern Movies to Celebrate Christmas
The 2000s has its share of heartwarming Christmas tales. These newer films will warm your heart and push you into the Christmas spirit.
Love Actually is nearly twenty years old, but as a movie made in the 2000s, it can still be considered “modern.”
The movie follows a series of intertwined stories to showcase various types of love. We see blossoming new relationships, sibling love, romantic love, and even love through friendship. The film doesn’t shy away from the heartbreak associated with loving, showcasing depression, despair, betrayal, and the difficult choices we often face.
Love Actually explores the human emotions associated with love but ends on a positive note, allowing us to celebrate love on Christmas and filling us with hope for the new year.
Noelle is an uplifting tale of Christmas Spirit starring the always magical Anna Kendrick. Noelle is the joyful daughter of Santa, who embarks on a quest to get her brother, Nick, to fulfill his destiny.
Nick constantly fails at his duties, wanting nothing more than a normal life in a warm climate. The two learn that social norms don’t matter regarding spiritual destiny in this heartwarming tale that’s sure to land on your yearly Christmas watch list.
The 2020 Christmas musical Jingle Jangle will delight audiences for ages to come. The Netflix original follows genius toy inventor Jeronicus Jangle through betrayal, loss, and redemption.
After losing his toy company through the treachery of a trusted apprentice, Jeronicus loses his passion and drive. A visit from his estranged daughter helps him rediscover his passion, and through a series of mishaps and tribulations, the Jangle family rebuilds their dreams.
Happy Christmas may be a sappy film tied up with a neat ending, but it’s a perfect guilty pleasure film for the holidays.
Anna Kendrick stars as Jenny, a young party girl forced to move in with her older brother and his wife after a rough breakup. Though she initially clashes with her rigid sister-in-law Kelly, they become close. Jenny helps Kelly break out of the domestic rut she’s been stuck in and rekindle her spark.
Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)
A war drama set in the trenches of World War I, Joyeux Noel showcases the horrors of war alongside the joys of humanity. The foreign film provides a fictionalized account of a Christmas truce between the French and German forces during the height of the conflict.
Although the uplifting truce allowed opposing sides to connect, the horrors of war won the day, when after the ceasefire, the bombing started anew. Those looking for a lighthearted Christmas story may want to skip this soon-to-be classic. Still, viewers wanting an accurate display of humanity with all flaws brightly displayed will appreciate this film.
A Boy Called Christmas
A Boy Called Christmas is a British fantasy reimagining the Santa Claus origin story. The film uses the storytelling trope to set the scene of Elfhelm, a mystical land inhabited by elves.
In the story, a young boy named Nikolas braves the cold to find his father. Upon discovering the legendary realm, Nikolas must convince a group of hunters, including his father, to abandon their quest and leave the elves alone. In the process, Nikolas becomes friends with the magical creatures and rewards the people of his kingdom with gifts.
Want laughs this holiday season? These Christmas movies are just what you need! Celebrate the season with Christmas guffaws while watching these belly-bursting comedies.
Jingle all the Way
Jingle All The Way offers viewers an escape from reality with ever-escalating absurdity. The 1996 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger offers laughs, unrealistic situations, fun action scenes, and social commentary on Christmas’s commercialization.
Though the movie was never well received and will never be considered a “best Christmas movie,” it’s an excellent option for mindless entertainment.
Christmas with the Kranks
Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis team up as a married couple trying to take a break from the holidays until a last-minute visit from their daughter changes their plans.
Hilarity ensues as the duo attempts to justify their decision to their holiday-loving neighbors, who insist they at least decorate and struggle to create a magical Christmas atmosphere before their daughter’s last-minute arrival.
A Christmas Tale
If you’re looking for a more realistic Christmas story with bits of dark humor, consider the 2008 French film A Christmas Tale.
The movie follows a family who comes together over Christmas after learning about the matriarch’s cancer. Though billed as a comedy, the often heavy subject matter offers a more balanced and realistic view of a family Christmas gathering. It provides us with an exploration of human relationships alongside humor.
For wholesome belly-bursting laughs, check out Will Farrell’s depiction of Buddy, the human raised with Christmas elves.
When Buddy grows up, he discovers his true identity as a human and travels to New York to meet his biological father, Walter. Through social faux pas and hijinks, Walter learns to accept his son, and Buddy finds a place in the world of humans.
Add Bad Santa to your viewing list if you like your Christmas with raunchy humor. Billy Bob Thornton excels as a drunken derelict who poses as a mall Santa to rob shopping centers.
The film abounds with dark humor and adult situations but shows there’s hope for even the worst among us around the holidays. Sometimes all we need is for someone to believe in us.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Follow the antics of the Griswold family as they attempt to have a loving and happy Christmas celebration. The film is the third in the Vacation series featuring Clark and Ellen Griswold and offers the slapstick comedy viewers expect from the National Lampoon brand.
Clark Griswold adores his family and seeks to give them a delightful Christmas filled with joy. However, life and family often get in the way of his good intentions, resulting in hilarious and often absurd situations.
Children’s Christmas Classics
Many Christmas films are aimed at children, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy them. These family-friendly Christmas films are perfect for gatherings and inject nostalgia into your life for the holidays.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The 1966 animated television special has delighted families for generations and become a Christmas-time staple.
Watch the miserable old Grinch attempt to destroy the peaceful Whoville’s Christmas joy, only to discover that happiness doesn’t come from the stores. The heartwarming animation is sure to grow any stooge’s heart around Christmas.
The live-action remake starring Jim Carey is entertaining but doesn’t pack the same punch.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Travel to the island of misfit toys and discover that our differences make us powerful with the delightful tale of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Though the tale has been retold on numerous occasions through film, animation, and song, one of the most iconic versions is the 1964 stop-motion animated television special. This rendition features Hermey, the misfit elf longing to become a dentist, and the ferocious Abominable Snow Monster, who becomes friendly after having some dental work.
Frosty the Snowman
The 1969 television special brings the magical snowman from the hit song to life. A group of schoolchildren builds a fantastic snowman who magically springs to life with the help of a magician’s hat.
Unfortunately, warm weather proves disastrous for Frosty, so the children hatch a plot to send him to the North Pole. As Frosty travels, he must save his companion Karen from the cold while avoiding the magician in hot pursuit, trying to reclaim his lost hat. Santa saves the day by rescuing Karen and proclaiming that Frosty will return annually with magical Christmas snow. Santa also gives the magician a new hat to replace the one Frosty wears.
Home Alone thrust child star Macaulay Culkin into the spotlight. Starring as Kevin McCallister, Culkin finds himself home alone after oversleeping before a family trip. The 10-year-old Kevin must learn to care for himself and defend his home against Harry and Marv, dangerous burglars played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
Kevin prepares numerous booby traps to thwart Harry and Marv, ultimately resulting in their arrest. Poor Kevin misses his family and hopes for their return. His dreams come true when they are reunited on Christmas morning.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The first Peanuts television special spawned a fantastic empire of Charlie Brown cartoons. In this short Christmas film, Charlie Brown becomes depressed at the commercialization of Christmas. Lucy convinces him to direct the town Christmas play to get into the spirit, and although he accepts, the project doesn’t turn out as he hoped.
Charlie chooses a puny but real tree as the play’s centerpiece, much to the group’s chagrin. A little love and decoration reveal the tree’s inner beauty, and it’s beloved by all when they discover the true meaning of Christmas.
Since the special aired, many smaller Christmas trees are lovingly dubbed “Charlie Brown Christmas Trees.”
A Muppet Christmas Carol
A Muppet Christmas Carol is a kid-friendly take on Dicken’s classic story. Outside of the colorful Muppets, the story follows the source material very closely, allowing audiences of all ages to enjoy the film.
Michael Cain provides a brilliant performance as Ebenezer Scrooge, especially considering the fact that all his major costars are Muppets.
Non-Traditional Christmas Movies
We don’t always want to watch heartwarming films for Christmas. Sometimes, we need to add a little action, adventure, and horror into our lives. These movies fit the bill, but they also take place around Christmas time, allowing you to get your action movie fix while displaying the Christmas spirit.
One of the greatest action movies of all time doubles as a Christmas movie, as the iconic film takes place at Christmas.
Watch John McClane take on terrorists seeking to steal millions from a multi-national corporation headquartered in downtown Los Angles. The film was a hit when first released in the 80s and turned the television actor Bruce Willis into an action hero.
Who could forget that the loveable mogwai, Gizmo, was a Christmas present? Unfortunately, our hero didn’t heed the warnings about not getting Gizmo wet and not feeding mogwai after midnight.
The gremlins wreak havoc on the unsuspecting small town during the Christmas holidays.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
If you want a little Halloween with your Christmas movie, add The Nightmare Before Christmas to your watch list. Doubling as a Halloween movie, this Tim Burton film follows the hero of Halloween Town as he discovers a magical new holiday: Christmas.
Can Jack find a way to combine delightful Christmas cheer with macabre Halloween festivities?
Better Watch Out
Horror fans will love the psychological thriller set over Christmas Eve. Follow Ashley as she babysits a troubled young boy with a crush on her as she tries to keep him safe from a potential killer.
Don’t let the Christmas setting lull you into a false sense of security. Better Watch Out is a horror film wrapped in a tidy Christmas bow.
Krampus, the evil anti-Santa, is unleashed in this 2015 horror comedy that seamlessly melds the holiday spirit with gruesome monsters.
The monster punishes those who lose their Christmas spirit by pitting them against evil toys and dragging them to Hell.
More Movies to Enjoy Around Christmas
You don’t have to limit your Christmas movie celebrations to movies featuring the holiday. Some of the best family traditions reject customs, which brings the family closer.
Here are some famous franchises to consider adding to your Christmas traditions.
The Original Star Wars
My family’s Christmas always included a Star Wars marathon. Though there’s nothing uniquely “Christmas” about the films, the movies showcase the best of humanity with an epic battle against an evil empire.
Look at the lightsabers if you need something that reminds you of Christmas. Luke’s green and Darth Vader’s red are classic Christmas colors.
ABC Family played the Harry Potter Series as part of its 25 Days of Christmas series for many years, turning the epic saga into a beloved Christmas movie for many families.
Although the films don’t revolve around Christmas, most feature at least one scene showcasing Christmas magic at Hogwarts Castle.
Lord of the Rings
Their release date is the most “Christmas” thing about the Lord of the Rings. The movies arrived in theaters around Christmas from 2001-2003.
However, if you want an epic saga with gorgeous scenery and breathtaking cinematography to engross yourself in over Christmas, the Lord of the Rings trilogy fits the bill.
The Toy Story franchise includes light-hearted films about toys trying to make it in the human world. Follow Woody, the talking cowboy, and the high-tech Buzz Light Year as they turn from competitors to friends and lead the group of Andy’s toys through various adventures.
There’s no Christmas angle to Toy Story, but the original movie and many sequels offer a wide range of family-friendly films for your viewing pleasure.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Those who want to celebrate the holidays with action and humor appropriate for the entire family should consider Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise.
Though the franchise does feature some adult situations, most scenes are appropriate for kids, and adults will love Captain Jack Sparrow’s ridiculous humor.
What more could you want on Christmas than a wealthy playboy who moonlights as an action hero? The best thing about Batman is that there are so many movies to choose from. With 16 feature films in the franchise plus numerous cartoons and television shows, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re looking for a Christmas movie, check out the 1992 film Batman Returns. Though quintessential Batman, the film is set around Christmas time and includes tons of Christmas imagery.
Numerous Options for your Christmas Viewing Pleasure
Thousands of wonderful Christmas movies are available, and each year, networks and streaming services release new gems. Regardless of what type of movie you enjoy, you’ll find something related to Christmas to fit your style.
Merry Christmas, and enjoy your movie marathons!
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.