My Favorite Christmas Movies, Ranked

“It’s that time of year.” You hear that a lot…this time of year. Whatever “that” means to you, it usually means it’s time to get festive, in some way, shape, or form. Christmas is, as the kids are saying these days, a “mood.” We all fall under its spell between late November (or earlier) and late December.

With every passing year, we get even more holiday-themed movies this “time of year.” Most of them are flops if you ask me (don’t get me started on Christmas Chronicles.) But many of them have stood the test of time. I’ve picked a few that have stood out to me each season, that are well worth an annual watch.

10. Scrooged (1988) 

Paramount Pictures

Because who better to school you on the spirit of Christmas than Bill Murray? A modern (as of the 1980s) re-telling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this dark comedy follows a selfish TV exec on Christmas night as he encounters three spirits of his own. Murray at the helm of any film is good by me, and watching him as a pre-Groundhog Day (where he’s also Scroogey in his role as well) is delightful and gritty.

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Touchstone Pictures

Whether or not you think this is a Christmas movie, Nightmare is a rollicking good time. While it took over seven years to complete due to its intricate stop-motion animation, Tim Burton spent painstaking amounts of time to make the aesthetic of the film equal parts comical and spooky (with homage to German impressionism and film noir which gets me GEEKED.) It’s also a great lesson on cultural appropriation. And Zero the ghost pupper is my hero (so is the zombie who says “Nice work, Bone-daddy.”)

8. The Polar Express (2004) 

Castle Rock Entertainment

I’m not just adding this because the author of the original film is a Michigan native. When I was younger, I was captivated by the detailed motion-capture animation of the film, which gave it a similar style to the illustrations from the picture book. And “Hot Chocolate?” Such a bop. For the past fourteen years of my life I’ve been trying to hole punch things like Tom Hanks’ character.

7. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) 

Liberty Films

First off, I love classic Christmas films because they aren’t overly saturated with Christmas, like some modern films are. Several scenes of this film don’t take place during Christmas time (i.e., when George is wooing his future wife. SO CUTE.) Second, Jimmy Stewart is adorable, and don’t tell me otherwise. It’s a wholesome, timeless story that reminds you that just because you make one mistake doesn’t mean you’re worthless. Unless you really want an angel to save you from jumping off a bridge. It’s your call.

6. A Christmas Story (1983)


I know we were all today years old when we found out Peter Billingsley was also in Elf for a hot minute, but we all know him as the baby-blue-eyed kid who almost shot his eye out. This movie permeates the airwaves between December 23 and 25, and I say more power to it. It reminds me of how I looked at Christmas when I was little, and I always enjoy watching my parents live vicariously through this movie (“I had a school bully like that! Now that’s what winter used to look like back in the day!”) It’s also an endearing story of a real family and all their foibles, quirks, and shortcomings.

5. Love Actually (2003)

Universal Pictures

Love Actually is a fun, slightly irreverent, and highly unique look at relationships during the holidays. While it’s fun and sweet, it opens up your eyes to how Christmas is for different people: a widower and his stepson, a pent-up writer and his housekeeper, a family struggling with infidelity. My favorite storyline is Bill Nighy as a washed-out rock star and his endearing friendship with his producer (“Ten minutes at Elton John’s, and you’re gay as a maypole.”)

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 

Lee Mendelson Film Productions

Yes, TV movies count, especially this one, because I was raised on this, and its message can span generations. Do I really need to give you any more reasons as to why this is one of my favorites, except for how I maybe wanted to marry Schroeder when I was seven?

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The Cat in the Hat Productions

This will hands-down always be my favorite version of The Grinch (Jim Carrey can step the heck off.) I used to watch this in the middle of the summer when I was a kid because I loved it so much. Like the Charlie Brown special, it is accessible for all ages. And a healthy dose of Boris Karloff never hurt anyone.

2. White Christmas (1954) 

Paramount Pictures

While we’re talking about classics and tradition, I was raised on Bing Crosby’s dulcet tones singing “White Christmas” all through the house, and no other version can top that. The song becomes even more impactful in the context of the movie. Crosby first sings this song while serving overseas during the war, and the desolate landscape can be seen behind him while bombs go off in the distance. Total tearjerker. But my favorite part of the film is Rosemary Clooney, who is so effortlessly gorgeous (“Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” is so salty and I love it.) Also, I want her entire wardrobe.

1. A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) 

Walt Disney Pictures

How do you make the most classic of all Christmas stories even better? By adding Muppets. How do you make the Muppets even better? By adding Michael Caine. How do you make Audrey cry? By making Tiny Tim a tiny frog. What I love about this adaptation of the story is it stays true to the source material while being fun and not overly chintzy. In my opinion, it’s a great way to introduce anyone to the classic story. Just try to contain your Christmas joy while you watch it. I dare you.




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