It’s that time of year again! It’s the time when every website, entertainment show, and magazine gives you its “Top [insert number here] Christmas Movies of All Time” list. Well, ignore all of those lists, fellow geeks, because I’m going to provide you with the end-all-be-all top Christmas movie list. Well, maybe I wouldn’t go that far, but I think this list is pretty good…or at least better than average. As an added bonus, I’ll even throw in a few movies that you should avoid like the plague!
So, without further ado, in honor of The Twelve Days of Christmas, here are the top 12 Christmas movies (and one honorable mention), as determined by some random guy on an equally random website!
Oh yeah, before we begin, let me tell you that this list doesn’t include (or even take into consideration) any of the terrible Hallmark Channel or Lifetime Christmas movies. No offense to Dean Cain, Lacey Chabert, Winnie Cooper, or DJ Tanner, but the movies those two channels produce are formulaic crap that are agonizing to watch. Consider that my Christmas gift to you!
Guilty Pleasure Christmas Movie Not Making the List:
Jingle All The Way (1996)
So, this movie isn’t exactly good enough to make any type of top [insert whatever number you’d like here] list, but when it comes on television, it’s hard not to watch. Yes, I realize I may be killing my credibility by including this in the list with this not-exactly-Oscar-worthy film, but hear me out. This movie, which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and 80s comedian Sinbad as two dads out to get an elusive Turbo Man toy, is the perfect movie to catch on cable or if it pops up on Netflix or Amazon Video because it’s just funny enough to justify the 90 minutes or so it’ll take to watch it. While this isn’t going to be on anyone’s “Christmas Classics” list, there are a few things that make this movie funny. First, Phil Hartman steals the show as Arnold’s scumbag neighbor. Second, Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) is in it; that guy is never in a bad movie. Third, Sinbad is actually funny in it…and a funny Sinbad movie is about as common as a purple unicorn. Finally, listening to Arnold say, “Turbo Man,” and shout, “JAMIE!” (his son’s name) never gets old. While this movie won’t have you rolling on the floor laughing, it’ll give you the giggles once or twice.
#12: The Santa Clause (1994)
While I might not agree with his politics, I can’t deny that Tim Allen does a good job as Scott Calvin in this movie that never fails to give me the feels. Sure, the premise of the movie is, essentially, that Allen’s character inherits the Santa Claus mantle after inadvertently killing the jolly fat guy, but if you look past that, it’s a happy tale of believing in Christmas and what it stands for (well, the GOOD things it stands for…let’s look past the blatant consumerism and stuff like that).
Judge Reinhold gets props for playing Scott’s ex-wife’s new psychiatrist husband, Neil, who’s the “Christmas is illogical” counter to Scott’s “believing is seeing” mantra. I dare you to not laugh when Neil gets his Oscar Meyer Wiener Whistle.
#11: Better Watch Out (2016)
Okay, this is another guilty pleasure movie of mine. And, yes, it’s not exactly a, “’tis the season,” sort of Christmas movie, but I think it narrowly edges out Krampus as the, “sort of horror sort of funny schlock fest,” Christmas movie that has to make this list.
Essentially, this movie centers around a teenage girl (Olivia DeJonge) who has to babysit two boys, one of whom has a crush on her. When intruders attempt to break into the house, the three have to fend for themselves, but not in a Kevin McAllister-eqsue way.
I’m not going to say anything else about this movie. Just watch it. I think you’ll enjoy it if you like your Christmas movies a little on the non-traditional side.
#10: Gremlins (1984)
Come on, people; be honest. Tell me you haven’t seen this movie and seriously thought about whether or not you could own a mogwai. Despite the fact that people might argue that this isn’t a true, “Christmas movie,” nothing could be further from the truth. This movie is essentially about a creative Christmas gift gone wrong…sort of like a Magic Bullet in the wrong hands.
This movie had it all: humor, action, suspense, cuteness to the point it made you sick, an old lady in an automated chair flying through an upstairs window, and Phoebe Cates…`nuff said.
#9: Rocky IV (1985)
Is this another stretch for a Christmas movie? This exchange says it all:
Reporter: What date?
Rocky: December twenty-fifth.
Reporter: Why Christmas?
Rocky: It’s what I was told.
Rocky: In Russia.
Paulie: Are you nuts?
I realize that some people probably think that this isn’t even the best Rocky movie, but I have fond memories of this film. When I was kid, people in the theater were actually going bonkers when Rocky started winning. When the “fight” was over, the crowd went crazy. It was just a fun movie experience. Cheesy? Yes. But who doesn’t have a cheesy movie memory or two?
Oh yeah, Dolph Lundgren ruled the school as Ivan Drago. “If he dies…he dies.” Classic.
*Fun fact…Lundgren only says 46 words in the entire movie.
#8: Scrooged (1988)
Bill Murray is classic Bill Murray as Frank Cross…a super-successful television executive who isn’t exactly a pillar of Christmas cheer. The movie unfolds as a modern (well modern-er…since it’s 30 years old now) take on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. While this movie will never be selected as a master class in acting, it’s so wacky and over the top that it’s hard not to like. Plus, Bill Murray’s end-of-movie speech will rip your heart strings right out of your chest. Good stuff.
#7: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Okay, we’re about halfway through and I’m finally including a movie that’s a mainstream Christmas classic, and a classic that you need to make some time to watch. To sum it up, a department store Santa claims to be the real thing. Society being as it is, they declare the guy insane. Some true believers stick by the guy, while others want to lock him up in the loony bin. Even though the movie came out in 1947, it’s still immensely watchable. It’s funny and touching and all the stuff you want out of a Christmas movie.
By the way, they did a remake of this movie in 1994 starring the old man from Jurassic Park, the slutty lady who falls for adult Josh Baskin in Big, and Bobby Donnell from The Practice. I can’t speak on this version of the movie; I saw the original…and I highly recommend it.
#6: Home Alone (1990)
This is the first movie on this list that I seem to watch every year. It’s one of those movies that you can’t seem to pass when it comes on TV. Yes, every sequel got progressively worse (Did you know there were actually FIVE of these?), but the original was a classic. Yes, it’s an idiotic premise. Yes, the mom should’ve been arrested at the end of the movie. And, yes, the two robbers should’ve just shot the kid and gotten it over with…but it’s all about suspending disbelief around the holidays, isn’t it?
There are about a dozen funny scenes in this movie, my favorite being the, “Keep the change, ya’ filthy animal,” scene. I also really liked the sub-plot with the creepy old neighbor (played by Roberts Blossom)…it was probably the most underrated part of the movie…and definitely heartwarming. And really, who doesn’t need a little heartwarming from time to time?
#5: Christmas Vacation (1989)
I’m sure a lot of you are going to consider it blasphemy to rank this movie this low, but I’m not as big a fan of it as some people. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a funny movie. I also believe this is the one Christmas movie on the list that I can really relate to…not a year goes by where something happens to me that happened in this movie (mostly related to the Christmas lights), but there are just some parts that make me go,“meh.” Most of them revolve around Cousin Eddie, who I think is a lot funnier in Vegas Vacation. I don’t know…I just can’t put my finger on why I can’t rank this movie higher, but I can’t.
Despite the fact that many of you will think I ranked this criminally low, I will give this movie a special award: Best Scene in a Christmas Movie. When Clark doesn’t quite get the bonus he thinks he’s going to get, he goes into what could be one of the most hysterical rants of all time. Do yourself a favor and rent this movie…the television version of this scene doesn’t do it justice.
Finally, here’s a movie fun fact! There’s actually a sequel to Christmas Vacation! Yup, some movie executive thought it would be a good idea to do a sequel to this starring everyone’s favorite paranoid schizophrenic, Randy Quaid. Pick up Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure at your local gas station movie bin! Do it for someone you dislike immensely!
#4: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Okay, technically, HTGSC (the cartoon version, not the blight on our existence that is the Jim Carrey live-action version) isn’t a Christmas movie…it was a 30-minute television special. I feel sort of bad bumping an actual movie off the list, but I had to include it because it’s been a part of my Christmases for over 30 years now.
First, let me talk about how awesome How The Grinch Stole Christmas is. How can you not enjoy a movie with lines like:
And they’ll play noisy games like zoozit and kazay, a roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet!
If that’s not enough for you…try this one…
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch / With a nauseous super-naus / You’re a crooked, jerky jockey and you drive a crooked hoss / Mr. Gri-inch! Your soul is an appalling dump-heap, overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable, mangled up in…tangled up knots!
Seriously, I can’t see anyone but those with no souls not enjoying this movie. If your tear ducts don’t tremble a little bit at the end of this movie, you might want to test your pulse.
#3: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Okay, now we’re getting to the cream of the crop. The top three movies I have in this list are absolutely must-sees. I can’t stress that enough.
It’s a Wonderful Life is a timeless classic that you must make it a priority to see. It stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. George is probably one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet in your life. In addition to being nice, George is a dreamer who wants to go to college and see the world. The only problem? After George’s father dies, the town’s old, rich dickweed, Mr. Potter, threatens to shut down George’s father’s building and loan company, which would put most of the town on the street. Without giving too much more of the plot away, George eventually learns what his hometown (and the people in it) would be like if he had never existed.
I can say in all seriousness that the world would be a better place if everyone watched this movie every Christmas. If you’re pissed off about how “commercial” Christmas has become…bake a batch of cookies, invite some family and/or friends over, and watch this movie…and for a couple of hours, you’ll see what Christmas should really be about.
#2: Die Hard (1988)
I’m probably going to catch hell for this, but Die Hard is indeed my second favorite Christmas movie of all time…no matter what Bruce Willis says!
Now, Christmas purists may cry foul on this one, but any movie that starts with RUN DMC’s Christmas in Hollis, and ends with a fantastic rendition of Let it Snow by Vaughn Monroe has got to qualify as a Christmas movie. If that doesn’t do it…CARL WINSLOW’S IN IT!! Nothing says Christmas like Reginald Vel Johnson! As my last piece of evidence, every great Christmas movie should have a classic line like, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”
For the uninitiated, Die Hard is about a police officer who…you know what? If you don’t know the plot of Die Hard, I don’t even want to talk to you.
Whether you agree or not, I love this movie and I watch it every year. Nothing is better after a full day of fighting with rude Christmas shoppers and inconsiderate store employees than to watch this movie and cheer as John McClane single-handedly routs a dozen or so terrorists in his bare feet. Plus, Alan Rickman is GAWD!
#1: A Christmas Story (1983)
I don’t really have to defend ranking this movie this high, do I? Any movie that you can show for two full days straight at Christmas must by pretty good, amiright?
What’s great about this movie is that it’s really just a series of Christmas-related skits. Whether it’s Flick sticking his tongue to a pole, Ralphie’s old man getting his “major award” (I still say “Fra-jee-lay”every time I see a box with the word “Fragile” on it.), Ralphie decoding his Little Orphan Annie message, Ralphie going to see Santa, or Ralphie finally getting the Christmas gift of his dreams, there isn’t a scene in this movie that isn’t memorable.
For the six of you that haven’t seen this movie yet, do yourself a favor and take some time to watch it on TBS this Christmas. If you don’t, I’ll send Scut Farkus over to your house to beat the tar out of you. And, yes, it’s “Scut,” not “Scott.” Don’t even try my obscure movie trivia skills.
Others Receiving Votes
In addition to the movies on the preceding list, there are a few other Christmas movies that I liked, but didn’t include. These movies include the following.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (I know it’s a crime to some folks that I don’t love this movie, but I do think it’s good.)
- Home Alone 2 (I can’t justify putting two Home Alone movies on one list when there are so many other great Christmas flicks, but this is still a really good movie.)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Track down the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.)
- Elf (Yes, I know this should’ve made the list, but I’m just not as thrilled with it as everyone else. I think this would’ve made it at 13, if this list had 13 spots. I just get a little bored by the 327th “Buddy likes sugar” joke.)
- Love Actually (Yes, I like this movie. Don’t judge me. Besides, Alan Rickman’s in it!)
Christmas Movies to Avoid Like the Plague
There are a few Christmas movies that I really, truly have hated. It takes a lot for me to utterly despise a movie, especially at Christmas, but a few standout as being ridiculously bad.
First, Deck the Halls. I watched about half of this movie and turned it off. I’m not even going to waste time listing the dozens of reasons why this movie is horrible…and I have a crush on Kristin Davis. If there were 5,000 Kristin Davises in this movie, it wouldn’t be enough. I would rather sniff reindeer poop for a month than sit through this movie again.
Next up, Surviving Christmas. I saw this movie a couple of years ago and barely remember anything other than the fact that it had Tony Soprano, Kelly Bundy, and Ben Affleck. I remember being bored out of my mind when I watched it, so I’ll tell you to avoid it and save you the trouble…and $2.00.
Finally, Christmas with the Kranks. Ugh. This movie, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen as a couple who decides to “cancel” Christmas, does nothing to make me happy about the holidays. It’s almost agonizingly bad.
Wrapping Things Up (Get It?)
Well, that’s about it for my Christmas movie roundup. I hope you find at least one movie that becomes part of your annual Christmas watch list. I know I probably left one of your favorites off, and if I have, my apologies. If you have a movie to recommend, feel free…I’m always up for seeing a good Christmas movie. While I’m probably going to avoid likely stinkers like Ernest Saves Christmas and Bad Santa, if there’s something that you’ve seen that you really think is good, I’d love to hear about it.
In closing, I really hope all of you have a fantastic holiday season. In the semi-immortal words of Bill Murray in Scrooged:
It’s Christmas Eve! It’s… it’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we… we… we smile a little easier, we… w-w-we…we… we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!
Here’s hoping you get a chance to be the person you always hoped you’d be.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!