The Greatest Christmas Films Ever Made

When the MarkMeets team embarks on a collective mission to compile a list of the best Christmas movies, the primary source of fervent debate usually revolves around their rankings. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case with our selection of The Greatest Christmas Films of All Time. The fierce discussions primarily revolved around what precisely qualifies as a Christmas movie and what doesn’t. Does a movie simply need to be set during the Christmas season? Is it sufficient to include a pivotal Christmas scene in a film with an extended time frame? Or should a Christmas movie be imbued with traditional holiday themes?

Initially, we attempted to establish strict criteria for the movies that would make the cut and those that wouldn’t. However, Christmas isn’t a subject easily confined to a set of rules or an experiment in scientific precision; it’s a feeling. After countless debates, email exchanges that might even make Mrs. Claus blush, we’ve painstakingly curated a list of festive movies that, as a team, we believe collectively evoke that quintessential holiday feeling. To arrive at this list, every member of the Mark Meets team assessed and assigned scores to each film they’ve seen. These ratings were averaged, and only the films that met a minimum vote count made it to the final selection.

So, as you prepare to don your Santa hat, fetch some milk and cookies, and anticipate the holiday season, allow us to present to you with our editors’s ultimate compilation of the finest Christmas movies of all time.

25. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Let’s start with a perennial classic that might technically be a holiday special rather than a Christmas movie, but it would be unthinkable to exclude the stop-motion marvel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The year 1964 saw this enchanting TV special introduce viewers to a fantastical North Pole world, complete with reindeer games, bustling workshops, and the iconic journey of the eponymous Rudolph. This reindeer’s quest to find his place in the world and save Christmas remains a heartwarming tale that has graced our screens for nearly six decades. It also introduces a delightful array of beloved characters such as Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowman, and Hermey, a young elf with aspirations of becoming a dentist. And of course, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until Rudolph guides Santa’s sleigh to rescue the day, despite some aspects of the film that may raise concerns.

Memorable Quote: “Oh, excuse me, call me Sam. What’s the matter? Haven’t you ever seen a talking snowman before?”

24. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Moving on to another stop-motion masterpiece, The Nightmare Before Christmas directed by Henry Selick stands out as a unique holiday film. The story revolves around Jack, the Pumpkin King, who resides in Halloween Town but yearns for a change from the monotonous routine. When the opportunity arises, he decides to transform Halloween Town into Christmas Town, inadvertently mixing two distinct holidays in the process.

The movie’s enduring popularity is a testament to its superb animation, captivating songs, and the fact that it can be enjoyed during both Christmas and Halloween. This exceptional blend of elements gives the film a soul that sets it apart from other animated works.

Memorable Quote: “And I just can’t wait until next Halloween ‘cause I’ve got some new ideas that will really make them scream. And by God, I’m really gonna give it all my might!”

23. Violent Night (2022)

In a departure from traditional Christmas movies, Violent Night, directed by Tommy Wirkola, introduces us to a Santa Claus, portrayed by David Harbour, who has lost his Christmas spirit. However, when he unexpectedly finds himself in a household taken hostage by a group of mercenaries, he embarks on a mission to rescue a little girl named Trudy, who possesses a heart of gold, and her family by eliminating the intruders one by one.

This film may not align with the conventional expectations of a Christmas movie, but it manages to infuse the holiday season with a generous dose of action, heart, and top-notch performance from David Harbour as the bloodied man in the red suit.

Memorable Quote: “Santa’s gonna eat through these guys like a plate of cookies!”

22. Lethal Weapon (1987)

In a somewhat unconventional entry, we have Lethal Weapon, a film that wouldn’t immediately come to mind as a Christmas movie. This action-packed classic follows a suicidal, widowed cop (Mel Gibson) and his retiring partner (Danny Glover) as they join forces to take down an illegal heroin ring amidst the holiday season.

What elevates this movie to Christmas territory is its unique connection to writer Shane Black, who frequently sets his action thrillers during the holiday season, incorporating numerous references to infuse his dark narrative with a touch of holiday cheer. The film’s introduction, where Martin Riggs (Gibson) buys drugs from criminals on a Christmas tree lot, is just one example of this seasonal integration. While not the typical holiday movie filled with snow and goodwill, sometimes all you want is to witness Gary Busey punching Gibson on Glover’s front lawn. When that time comes, Lethal Weapon is ready and waiting.

Memorable Quote: “What do ya say, Jack? Would you like a shot at the title?”

21. Arthur Christmas (2011)

Arthur Christmas offers a fresh and modern perspective on Santa Claus, personified by Jim Broadbent. The film delves into the inner workings of Santa’s family on the night between Christmas Eve and Christmas. The focus is on Arthur (James McAvoy), Santa’s youngest son, who takes on the responsibility of responding to the letters children send to the North Pole.

In this unique take on Santa Claus, the movie envisions Santa’s operation as a military-style mission and offers a heartwarming look at the dysfunctional family of Father Christmas. As Arthur embarks on a mission to deliver a forgotten gift with the help of Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and the spirited elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen), the film manages to both entertain and provide a fresh perspective on the beloved holiday figure.

Memorable Quote: “Jingle Bells, this boat smells, 3000 miles to go!”

20. Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the sequel to the original Home Alone, sees Macaulay Culkin reprising his role as Kevin. In this installment, Kevin boards the wrong plane, ending up in New York City, where he spends his time at The Plaza Hotel. However, he crosses paths with the escaped Wet Bandits, Harry and Marv (now known as the Sticky Bandits), turning his Big Apple adventure into a series of misadventures.

While the premise remains similar to the first film, with a child lost during Christmas and parents frantically trying to reunite with him, the urban setting of New York City during the holiday season adds an extra layer of excitement to the story. The heightened stakes and the introduction of new characters, including one of Tim Curry’s standout performances, make this sequel a holiday favorite.

Memorable Quote: “Get outta here, you nosey little pervert, or I’m gonna slap you silly!”

19. Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually, directed by Richard Curtis, stands out as a romantic comedy that juggles multiple interwoven plotlines. Through a plethora of characters, the film offers a broad spectrum of perspectives on the Christmas season, capturing the joy and occasional melancholy that accompanies it.

The film depicts the messiness of the holiday season through a multitude of characters and their interconnected stories, each using the holidays as a backdrop for meaningful changes in their lives. In its exploration of love, relationships, and family during Christmas, Love Actually strikes a chord with audiences, deftly navigating the complexity of emotions that the season can evoke.

Memorable Quote: “Tell her that you love her. You’ve got nothing to lose and you’ll always regret it if you don’t.”

18. Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged, directed by Richard Donner, presents a modern retelling of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic, “A Christmas Carol.” The film features Bill Murray as the selfish TV executive who is visited by three ghosts determined to rekindle his Christmas spirit.

This adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” distinguishes itself by infusing the story with humor and heart, making it a standout Christmas movie. Bill Murray’s charismatic performance and the film’s ability to blend humor and sentimentality ensure it’s a heartwarming addition to the holiday movie canon.

Memorable Quote: “I never liked a girl well enough to give her twelve sharp knives.”

17. Trading Places (1983)

Trading Places might not be your typical Christmas movie, but it’s a classic that deserves recognition. Directed by John Landis and featuring Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis, this comedy originally hit theaters in June 1983, well ahead of the holiday season. However, it seamlessly captures the holiday spirit with its wintry New York City setting and a story that is inherently heartwarming.

The film follows the Duke brothers, who place a bet on the outcomes of two men, played by Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, after swapping their social statuses. Amidst a series of comedic and occasionally absurd events, the film celebrates the triumph of goodness and resourcefulness over greed, making it an ideal choice for the holiday season.

Memorable Quote: “Merry New Year.”

16. The Lodge (2020)

While Christmas is typically a time for family gatherings and joyful festivities, The Lodge takes a dark and psychological turn. Directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, this thriller maintains the trappings of the holiday season while weaving a chilling narrative.

As Grace, played by Riley Keough, gets to know her future stepchildren during the holidays, a growing sense of dread envelops the story. The film keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, offering a unique perspective on the holiday season by blending family dynamics with psychological horror. The slow build-up to a climactic, thought-provoking conclusion makes The Lodge an excellent choice for those who appreciate a dose of holiday horror.

Memorable Quote: “Do you see now? You see that we cannot die? Because you’re already dead. We’re in purgatory.”

15. The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday, directed by Nancy Meyers, offers a different take on Christmas movies, balancing the spirit of the season with romantic comedy. The film centers on two women, Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz), who agree to swap houses and lives due to their respective relationship troubles. This decision sets in motion a series of events that lead to romance for both women.

Nancy Meyers, known for her expertise in crafting romantic comedies, weaves a narrative that captures the essence of Christmas without overwhelming viewers with holiday clichés. The film’s focus on love, relationships, and personal growth during the holiday season strikes a chord with audiences, making it a heartwarming addition to our list.

Memorable Quote: “I’ve found almost everything written about love to be true.”

14. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

While not a traditional Christmas movie, Edward Scissorhands finds its place on our list due to the holiday elements that surround its plot. Directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp in one of his most iconic roles, the film follows the story of Edward, an artificial humanoid with scissor-like hands who is taken in by a family. As he falls in love with their teenage daughter, the film explores themes of love, acceptance, and the holiday season.

The movie’s connection to Christmas is undeniable, and the emotions it elicits from viewers contribute to its holiday charm. It may not be a conventional holiday film, but the touching moments in the story, particularly Edward’s ice sculpture, make it a great choice for a romantic Christmas movie.

Memorable Quote: “I know it is a little early for Christmas, Edward, but; I have a present for you.”

13. Elf (2003)

Elf captures the unbridled joy and excitement of Christmas as experienced by children. With Will Ferrell delivering a perfect performance, the film immerses viewers in the world of Buddy the Elf, a human raised by elves who embarks on an unforgettable Christmas adventure.

The film beautifully conveys the pure, unapologetic excitement and wonder associated with the holiday season, much like the feelings we all had as children. Buddy the Elf represents the childlike innocence that many of us wish we could recapture, and watching him find joy in the little things serves as a heartwarming reminder of the magic of Christmas.

Memorable Quote: “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.”

12. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

While it’s rare for a third installment to outshine its predecessors, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation manages to do just that. Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and penned by the legendary John Hughes, this 1989 classic follows the hapless Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) as he strives to create the perfect Christmas for his extended family.

What sets this film apart is its genuine and genuinely funny portrayal of the Griswold family’s holiday misadventures. The movie boasts an array of memorable side characters, uproarious moments, and iconic scenes, including the “Why’s the floor wet, Todd?” scene, the notorious dried-out turkey, and a SWAT team crashing the Christmas party. It even features one of the most beloved Christmas movie songs of all time.

Memorable Quote: “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

11. Gremlins (1984)

The Deceptively Merry Chaos in Kingston Falls

You might be wondering, “Is Gremlins really a Christmas movie?” It’s a fair question, considering the chaotic horror-comedy in director Joe Dante’s classic creature feature often overshadows its holiday setting.

The Holiday Adventures in Kingston Falls

The adventures of Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and Gizmo (Howie Mandell) battling the hordes of the green menace certainly left a cultural impact. However, let’s not forget the significant Christmas element in writer Chris Columbus’ dark yuletide rollercoaster.

A Dark Spin on “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Drawing inspiration from “It’s A Wonderful Life,” both in its idyllic small-town setting and the inclusion of actual footage, Gremlins’ aim becomes clearer. It unleashes a nightmarish scenario in small-town America, one monster at a time, where laughter and screams are next-door neighbors in this thrilling holiday horror show.

  • Mike Reyes

Memorable Quote: “You say you hate Washington’s Birthday or Thanksgiving, and nobody cares, but you say you hate Christmas, and people treat you like you’re a leper.”

10. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Heartwarming Muppet Take on Dickens’ Classic

Directed by Brian Henson, the Muppet adaptation of A Christmas Carol wasn’t the first to tackle Charles Dickens’ classic story, but it’s arguably the most colorful, musical, and, if not the funniest (Scrooged gives it a run for its money), certainly heartwarming. It features incredible puppeteer talent, including Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, and the great Frank Oz. This holiday classic also stars Michael Caine as the cranky Ebenezer Scrooge, who gets a chance at redemption in the face of a bleak alternative. The cast includes grumpy commentators Waldorf and Statler as the Marley Brothers, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and Miss Piggy as his frustrated wife Emily, with Rizzo the Rat as the helpful co-narrator alongside Gonzo.

A Muppet Masterpiece with Dickens’ Soul

The greatness of the Muppets aside, The Muppet Christmas Carol masterfully combines Muppet humor with a faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ story, delivering a timeless tale that warms hearts year after year.

  • Kelly West

Memorable Quotes: “You’re a little absent-minded, spirit.”

9. A Christmas Story (1983)

A Nostalgic Journey into Childhood at Christmas

Despite being narrated by a man in his 60s, A Christmas Story is one of the most authentic depictions of what it feels like to be a kid that we’ve ever gotten. It’s certainly the best one that touches on Christmas and how life or death getting the right present can feel. In Ralphie’s case, that life or death present is a Red Ryder BB Gun. He wants it. Everyone else thinks he’ll shoot his eye out.

Everyday Christmas Delights and Frustrations

He, of course, does shoot his eye out, but before he pulls the trigger, A Christmas Story delivers moment-after-moment of comedy gold, many of which feel so relatable. There’s the blowout Christmas meal that turns into an inedible disaster. There’s the embarrassing present from extended family members, the department store Santa that just wants to keep the line moving, the first f-bomb in front of the parents, the childhood dare that goes disastrously wrong, the first fight, the brother who won’t eat, the bad grade, the bar of soap punishment, and the new decoration one family member loves and everyone else hates. Some of the details might be different, but A Christmas Story portrays every one of those universal emotions, which is why it means so much to so many.

  • Mack Rawden

Memorable Quote: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

8. Klaus (2019) – A New Classic for the Holidays

Creating a new holiday tradition is a daunting task. Iconic figures like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus didn’t become beloved overnight. However, the Netflix original film “Klaus” successfully carves out its place in the holiday tradition with a heartwarming and humorous story.

The film introduces us to Jesper, a spoiled postman portrayed by Jason Schwartzman. Jesper’s life takes an unexpected turn when he gets banished to a small town in Norway. His mission: to convince the town to post 6,000 letters or lose his claim to the family fortune. As he embarks on this challenging journey, he forms an unlikely partnership with Klaus, played by J.K. Simmons, a reclusive toymaker.

7. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – A Timeless Tale of Belief

“Miracle on 34th Street,” directed by George Seaton, is one of the most well-known and beloved Christmas movies of all time. It tells a heartwarming story about a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real deal, capturing the hearts of almost everyone around him, except for a jealous co-worker and an arrogant psychologist. The film, released in 1947, follows Kris Kringle, portrayed by Edmund Gwenn, as he becomes the Santa Claus of Macy’s flagship store in New York City. He teaches event director Doris Walker, played by Maureen O’Hara, and her young daughter, Susan, portrayed by Natalie Wood, the true meaning of Christmas.

As soon as Kringle is introduced in the early part of the movie, his calm and kind nature captivates the audience. Despite those around him not believing in Santa, he never loses his faith in people or the holidays.

6. Home Alone (1990) – Loneliness and Holiday Expectations

“Home Alone” may seem like a film about a child defending his home from burglars, but beneath its adventurous exterior, it delves into the theme of loneliness. Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, isn’t just defending his house; he’s protecting his sense of home, disrupted when his family mistakenly leaves for vacation without him.

The film explores the idea that Christmas is often entwined with expectations. Families can’t always live up to these expectations, and sometimes they make mistakes, like leaving their child behind. Kevin’s journey is not only about thwarting burglars with booby traps but also about finding unexpected connections, particularly with his elderly neighbor who, like Kevin, is dealing with isolation.

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – A Timeless Peanuts Classic

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was the first TV special based on Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts strip and has become one of the most iconic holiday cartoons ever since its release in 1965. This short and sweet special focuses on Charlie Brown’s attempt to direct a Christmas play that captures the true meaning of the season. However, his efforts are met with a rebellious cast and rampant commercialism.

Bill Melendez’s special has captured the hearts and minds of generations with its touching story, simple yet beautiful animation, and Vince Guaraldi’s memorable score. It laid the foundation for numerous similar holiday titles that followed.

4. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – Dr. Seuss’ Timeless Tale

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” from 1966 stands out among the network TV animated specials produced during that era. This success can be attributed to its faithful adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ original words. Narrated by Boris Karloff, who also provides the voice of the Grinch, the special stays close to the book’s wordplay.

Despite its somewhat crude animation by modern standards, the clever use of visuals, transitions, and Thurl Ravenscroft’s unforgettable song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” make this special a holiday favorite.

3. Die Hard (1988) – The Unconventional Christmas Classic

“Die Hard” is an action classic directed by John McTiernan in 1988. While the debate continues about whether it’s a Christmas movie, there are plenty of reasons to consider it one. The film follows off-duty cop John McClane, portrayed by Bruce Willis, as he single-handedly foils a high-stakes robbery during a Los Angeles Christmas party.

“Die Hard” offers a perfect blend of action, humor, and holiday spirit. From John McClane’s memorable line “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-Ho-Ho” to the clever use of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the film immerses the audience in the holiday mood.

2. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – A Timeless Tale of Redemption

Is it even Christmas if you don’t watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” at least once? Frank Capra’s celebrated black-and-white holiday classic, released in 1946, follows George Bailey, portrayed by James Stewart, a man who contemplates ending his life after facing personal and professional setbacks.

1. White Christmas (1954) – A Holiday Classic for All

When a film like “White Christmas” is used to define the ideal holiday celebration, you know it holds a special place in the holiday canon. Directed by Michael Curtiz in 1954, this movie has earned its top spot.

Featuring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, “White Christmas” is a delightful mix of war-time camaraderie and romantic comedy. Whether you’re enjoying the catchy tunes or the heartwarming story, this movie continues to shine brightly in the holiday season.

Author Profile

Adam Regan
Adam Regan
Deputy Editor

Features and account management. 3 years media experience. Previously covered features for online and print editions.

Latest entries

Leave a Reply