Christmas movies have become a family tradition for many. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, loved ones snuggle up together, often armed with buttery popcorn and hot cocoa, and repeat their favorite lines along with the characters in the Christmas movie they’re watching. In fact, many families have a lineup of favorite Christmas movies that they rotate throughout the holiday season. There are several movies, however, that are universally loved and make it onto most families’ viewing schedules. Below are the seven best Christmas movies of all time.
7. Home Alone
There is a disturbing trend afoot that slanders Kevin McCallister as a sociopath. I’m afraid that this out-of-context labeling of Home Alone’s protagonist as a villain will put a damper on the wonderful treat that is one of the best Christmas movies of all time. Not only is the movie funny, action-packed, and replete with well-deserved comeuppance, it’s also family-affirming and truly heartwarming. The early ’90s film classic also reinforces the magical belief that resides in the hearts of children that good will overcome evil. Stop being a Grinch, Kevin McCallister haters!
6. A Christmas Carol
Of course, it’s the 1951 film version of Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Christmas redemption that makes this list. That’s not to slight the other versions, some of which are excellent in their own right, but this is the list of the best Christmas movies of all time. For starters, no other version contains the magnificent performance of Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge (for the record, many people know this movie by the name of Scrooge, which was the original British title for the film). Additionally, very few movies, Christmas themed or otherwise, have captured the art of variance in tone A Christmas Carol skillfully accomplished. For over half a century, children watching A Christmas Carol have thrilled at the opportunity to experience the full range of the film-watching emotions of empathy, humor, suspense, terror, relief, sadness, and joy while being reminded that Christmas is almost here.
5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
It’s highly doubtful that any Christmas movie has captured the contradictory spirit that has become our contemporary rush of Christmas by combining franticness, holiday excess, familial conflict with nostalgia, the richness of the holiday, and familial love as does National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Plus, the movie is hilarious. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation finds Chevy Chase at his driest and ironic best as the bumbling yet big-hearted patriarch Clark Griswold. Even without Chevy Chase, however, the rest of the cast would still make this movie a comedic Christmas treat.
4. Miracle on 34th Street
The competition between the 1994 version of Miracle on 34th Street and the original is very one-sided. The 1947 Christmas classic is almost flawless. The near-perfect holiday settings, the black and white photography, and the award-worthy performances from the cast (Edmund Gwenn actually won awards for his portrayal of Kris Kringle) came together to turn an almost quintessential Christmas tale into one of the best Christmas movies of all time. There is only so much time during the Christmas season to watch all of the wonderful movies. When it’s time to watch Miracle on 34th Street, choose the 1947 version over the often self-indulgent and overly serious, at times, 1994 version.
3. A Christmas Story
No movie prompted the desire for a BB gun in millions of boys and girls like A Christmas Story. And no movie gave mothers a handy, one-line excuse to not comply with that desire like A Christmas Story. Which makes sense considering that the family dynamic within the quirky holiday classic is wonderfully contradictory. Filled with a love that’s balanced by stress, irritation, and resignation, the Parker family reminds all of us of at least aspects of our own family. Not to mention that A Christmas Story contains several PSAs, including the all-important warning not to stick your tongue to a frozen flagpole and what not to do if you choose to ignore the warning.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life
I went back and forth over the ordering of the final two movies on this list. It’s a Wonderful Life is so, well, wonderful, it almost feels sacrilegious to the Christmas spirit of George Bailey to have the number two in front of this holiday treat. The aforementioned George Bailey may very well be the ultimate small-town American hero. And while Frank Capra may not have intended for his favorite movie to be considered a Christmas movie, when you set such a heartfelt story of selflessness, love, and sense of community at Christmastime, well, sorry, Frank Capra. It’s a Wonderful Life is most definitely a Christmas movie.
1. White Christmas
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is the Christmas movie that should be reserved for one of your final movie-watching slots before Christmas. On second thought, watch the beloved holiday classic at the beginning of the Christmas season, the end of the Christmas season, and at various times throughout the year in order to remind yourself why you love the holiday season. White Christmas is that good. The movie showcases the best of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen as they sing and dance to spirited numbers, humorous exchanges, and moving songs culminating in one of the twentieth century’s most endearing Christmas carols. The story, of course, is rooted in the Christmas themes of selflessness, family, and love, while throwing in a heaping portion of good old-fashioned patriotism. Laughter, tears, and feelings of peace and goodwill are White Christmas’ gift to the viewers.