Tomorrow is Christmas and you’re probably settling in with family or friends at some point today to watch a Christmas film. After all, what’s a better way to get into the Christmas spirit than watching a movie full of it with the people you like to be around? But what movie to watch? With almost every film out there streaming in one way or another you’ve got your pick of practically all the greatest Christmas movies around.
With that in mind we present to you Flixist’s choices for the ten greatest Christmas movies. Through a complicated system of math, science and magic we’ve come up with the top ten best Christmas movies. Watching any of these is sure to not only bring you Christmas cheer, but also let you watch a great movie.
Now, there are plenty of other great films out there (Jingle All the Way for instance), so let us know what your favorite Christmas (or any holiday) films are too.
10. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Leave it to Tim Burton to make a Gothic film into one of the best Christmas movies of all time. From the music, to the story to the inspired animation that basically brought stop-motion animation back from the dead The Nightmare Before Christmas is a work of unique and singular art. We will probably never get another movie that is both dark and creepy yet full of Christmas cheer ever again, so this is definitely a film that should be cherished. Tweens who wear too much eyeliner and Disney marketing may have turned the movie into some Goth emblem, but before that it was simply a wonderfully charming, brilliantly executed and entirely creative Christmas movie. Best of all, despite the film’s ongoing popularity and Disney reissuing it almost annually in 3D there hasn’t been a sequel. The film has been allowed to stand on its own as the singular masterpiece that it is, and it’s all the better for it. – Matthew Razak
9. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was the third film in the Vacation series and probably the best all around. While both Vacation and European Vacation are hilarious, Christmas Vacation is just so universally applicable and downright funny that it stands out head-over-heels above the other films (we won’t even talk about the two films that followed it). It’s easy to point to Chevy Chase’s sublime slapstick comedy in order to explain why this film is hilarious, but it’s a bit trickier to explain why it’s actually a fantastic Christmas story as well. Through Clark Griswald’s (Chase) repeated efforts to make Christmas perfect we all see a lot of trials and tribulations that we all go through — his are just escalated to the nth degree. Every time another thing goes wrong you actually feel a little pang of sorrow for him and when that Christmas bonus doesn’t come through like he had planned and then his lights don’t work it’s downright impossible not to feel for the man in spite of the comedic overtones of the film. Yes, Christmas Vacation is all out hilarious, but it somehow manages to be a great film about family and Christmas as well.
Also, that swimming pool scene was like my first porn ever. That VHS got plenty of rewinding, let me tell you. – Matthew Razak
8. The Muppet Christmas Carol
I still have not read the original A Christmas Carol, and I didn’t know the full story until I was in my late teens. That’s because all I really needed that early on was The Muppet Christmas Carol. The movie portrays the old story, with all of its dark tones and sadness, with enough of that Muppet joviality that children aren’t absolutely terrified of the fact that the Ghost of Christmas Future is an empty fucking cloak. Seriously, how horrifying is that? I don’t know how I avoided all the nightmares. On a technical level, despite being the first Muppet movie after Jim Henson’s death, it’s one of the strongest: the pacing problems present in most Muppet movies are taken away by the need to stick to the story. On a less technical level, ’tis the season to be jolly and joyous (fa la la).
I think the only downside is that I didn’t know that there was only one Marley, not two, for the longest time. I was very confused when I saw a more faithful (read: boring) adaptation of the story when I was older, and it was missing Robert Marley. Worth it. – Jenika Katz
7. Home Alone 2
Home Alone 2, much like the first, is a family film that supplies a generous amount of slapstick comedy in-between its story beats. However, there is a loneliness and sadness that underlies these films that feels more true to the nature of the holiday season. While Kevin McCallister lives out every ten-year-old’s fantasy in a New York City highrise, there are lonely pigeon ladies and crooked thieves wandering the cold December streets below. The transition from the suburbs of the original to the metropolis in this sequel highlights and improves upon the series’ themes. No longer confined to his parent’s house, Kevin has a whole city to go wild in while maxing-out his parent’s credit card. Furthermore, the new, strange environment expands on the underlying sorrow and threat present in the original. It’s an excellent sequel filled with memorable lines, scenes, and characters. Let’s just not talk about the two sequels that followed. – Allistair Pinsof
When I first saw the trailers for Elf I almost vomited from how horrible I assumed it was going to be. Will Ferrell acting like an overgrown child in a Christmas movie? No thank you, I thought. How absolutely and totally wrong I was. What looked like a simple vehicle to cash in on Ferrell’s rising fame and the Holiday season turned out to not only be a hilarious movie, but one full of heart and charm. Somehow Ferrell and the gang made a dumb concept about a human who gets raised as one of Santa’s elves into one of the best modern Christmas films to date. I’m not sure if it’s the childish honesty behind Ferrell’s performance or simply the fact that the entire cast clicks so well (all praise Bob Newhart), but this film is just a fantastic representation of what a Christmas film should be. It’s both fun and smart while also somehow truly grasping that childhood wonderment that Christmas should inspire in all of us. – Matthew Razak
5. It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a Wonderful Life is a holiday cliché, but Christmas movies are usually about expressing what is genuine in what is otherwise cliché: peace on Earth, good will towards others, we should be generous to the less fortunate, love is not a mere commodity. I suppose you can accuse this Frank Capra classic of swimming in a sort of excessive sentimentality, but I’m perfectly okay with that since I have a sentimental attachment to the movie.
As I get older, It’s a Wonderful Life helps me understand my dad. It’s that odd thing that art can do; in re-envisioning the real world, something you never quite noticed suddenly crystallizes. My old man has worked hard all of his life, he’s given up on so many dreams, he’s thanklessly sacrificed a lot for his siblings and extended family, and he’s been embittered by his shortcomings. And yet, there’s a dignity in this endurance. Even when he’s off his rocker, he has always been a good man. One day, I hope to live up to his example.
There’s this old Horace Mann quotation that goes, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” My dad has won many small victories. None that would change the world probably, but these victories have made the lives of his loved ones better. He and all the other George Baileys out there have nothing to be ashamed of. – Hubert Vigilla
4. Home Alone
Every kid’s dream is to have a whole day to themselves without rules, big brothers/sisters, and parents controlling their every move. The dream is realized by Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) in the 1990 film, Home Alone. After wishing for his family to disappear, he wakes up one morning to realize the wish actually came true (as his family inadvertently left without him). However, the dream turns into a nightmare as he catches wind of a pair of thieves plotting to rob his large Chicagoland house. It’s then that the film finds its shine as Kevin orchestrates a large labyrinth of traps to thwart the thieves. It’s fun, wholesome, moralistic, and a perfect example of that special touch that John Hughes brought to us. – Geoff Henao
3. A Christmas Story
Was there ever a toy you just HAD to have for Christmas as a kid? Ralphie knows the feeling all too well in this 1983 film adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical short stories. All Ralphie wants for Christmas this year is a Red Ryder BB gun, but everyone from his mom, his teacher to Santa Claus himself taunts him, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” This is the classic shut down from adults who just don’t understand the needs of a kid. This film is multi-dimentional, however, and explores many a holiday strife that children and parents alike must go through every year. Incidentally, I want something remarkably similar to young Ralphie this year for Christmas: Winona Ryder in a revealing red dress. That’s neither here nor there, however. – Jamie Stone
2. Die Hard
While Christmas might be the most popular holiday to make movies about that doesn’t mean it gets fair representation genre wise. Take a look at this list and its easy to see that Christmas gets type-cast as either a comedy or a drama a lot. But Christmas is crazy multi-faceted. In fact Christmas pulled off one of the greatest, genre-defining action movies of all time: Die Hard.
There are those out there who argue that Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie, but simply a movie that happens to take place during Christmas. First off a movie that takes place during Christmas is a Christmas movie, but more importantly Die Hard is all about the Christmas spirit. Behind John McClane killing bad guys is a story about family, friendship and and making sure everyone is alive to celebrate Christmas. Is there anything more in line with the holiday spirit than stopping crime, saving your marriage and making a new friend? No. No, there is not. – Sean Walsh
Scrooged is a Christmas movie for Jewish people. We have Bill Murray as a sarcastic asshole that learns the meaning of not being such a sarcastic asshole in life. It’s stuffed with Christmas cheer, and also Bobcat Goldthwait tries to shoot people with a shotgun. It’s the definitive version, for me, of A Christmas Carol that doesn’t involve the Muppets. It’s also, aside from maybe Ghostbusters, one of the best performances Bill Murray’s ever tossed out. His change from cold, unfeeling bastard of television to a man of decency feels earned, as much as having a magical night of ghostly visions imparting truth upon you can be earned. Also, every other Christmas Carol is lessened by the design on the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in Scrooged. It’s got a TV for a head and oh jesus the heads living in its body kill with fire why – Alex Katz