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  • Writer's pictureTammi Chenard

Top Ten Classic Christmas Movies

Make Your Holiday Brighter With These Classics

While there are as many different holiday traditions as there are different families in the world, one-holiday tradition of a slightly modern nature is the annual viewing of classic Christmas movies. Whether you're all gathered around to decorate the tree, or after stuffing yourself full at the dinner table, throwing on a classic Christmas movie in the background is a guaranteed way to get your family in the holiday spirit. Here are 10 movies that are considered to be classic Christmas movies.

10. Elf (2003)

Widely considered to be a modern Christmas classic, Elf is the 2003 Wil Ferrell comedy which thankfully doesn't take itself very seriously at all and has some genuinely humorous moments. Some would argue that Wil Ferrell dressed as an elf alone is worth the price of admission, and that slapstick is the highest form of comedy, but aside from that philosophical dispute, the film has been generally well-received by critics and audiences alike.

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burton's unique vision brought the world an instant Christmas classic in 1993 when he produced The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's an exclusively Christmas movie, though, since it's kind of a Halloween film as well. The genre-bending, jaw-dropping feature film was the directorial debut of Henry Selick, and brilliantly showcased Burton's signature visual style to nearly universal critical acclaim, using painstaking stop-action animation. The result is a completely unique movie experience which is a treat any time of year.

8. Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone is a family holiday movie dripping with slapstick and visual humor sure to keep the kids quiet for an hour or two. There's a plot in there, somewhere, about little Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), whose family somehow forgets about him completely and takes off on vacation without him. The house is targeted by baddie burglars, and hilarity ensues. To a certain degree. Anyway, Macaulay mugs at the camera and is generally adorable while the slapstick is heavy on everything but consequences for the hundreds of acts of violence that take place. Whatever, it's kind of fun.

7. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

In 1989, Chevy Chase reprised his role as Clark Griswold, head of a family which could only be described as "wacky" or maybe "zany". This time the Griswold family tackles the usually formal and somber Christmas holiday season with their usual brand of delightful nonsense. The scene where he is in the attic with an old home movie projector and a bottle of hard liquor is pure comedy gold. Audiences have invited the Griswolds into their homes during the holidays for thirty years now, seeking solace in the absurdist humor which is hauntingly familiar, echoing (to an extreme) all the real world nonsense and heartache that the holidays can bring.

6. Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard is a Christmas movie. I know there are debates that have been had about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Let me be clear: Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Not only is it a Christmas movie, but it is the most awesome Christmas movie ever made. Do you want a young (ish) Bruce Willis to say witty and sarcastic one-liners while jumping out of a skyscraper? Here ya go. Do you want that skyscraper to totally explode? Yup. Terrorists? Yes, I said, this is Die Hard! It's all here. Now, some nit-pickers might cry about how it's only a Christmas movie because the action happens to take place during a Christmas party, and not because Christmas somehow plays an integral role in the plot. Doesn't matter, Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

5. Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged was the cynical 1980's re-telling of the classic Charles Dickens Christmas story "A Christmas Carol", starring Bill Murray. The updating of the details of the classic Victorian plot is pretty hilarious since the updates themselves are already outdated. Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, who is a high-powered television network executive. Yeah, back when there were only three networks. It is an interesting mix of black comedy and traditional holiday moralizing which will appeal quite deeply to some, and repel others right out of the gate. Unlike some of the safe bet, crowd-pleasers on this list, this one is sort of a roll of the dice, but worth a shot, since there are some solid laughs throughout the movie.

4. A Christmas Story (1983)

This film has gathered such a following over the years that TBS is once again airing it for 24 hours straight, starting at 8 PM on December 24th. It's nostalgic, cheesy, and genuinely funny, appealing to a broad swath of the potential viewing audience, making it a holiday staple for millions of people every year. It's practically guaranteed that everyone will find at least one scene hilarious: The leg lamp, the bunny snowsuit, the malfunctioning furnace, the tongue on the frozen pole, and of course "you'll shoot your eye out". A true classic crowd-pleaser and a must for everyone's holiday view list.

3. White Christmas (1954)

This absolute titan of classic Christmas movies, White Christmas features Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen singing iconic holiday songs by Irving Berlin, including a special version of the title song, White Christmas, made just for this film. A gorgeous and delightful holiday favorite of young and old alike, it's likely to get the gang singing along to the nostalgic Christmas songs that everyone remembers from their childhood.

2. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

This classic dramatic comedy starring Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood was an instant classic from the moment it was made. It won three Academy Awards the year it was released and has gone on to become an absolutely beloved piece of Christmas media. Its blatant and unashamed optimism is infectious, whisking the audience away to a simpler, less ironic time. It's easy for a modern person, worn down by a years-long pandemic and the unrelenting negativity which has infected every corner of our online lives, to get lost in the nostalgia for a time before we, our parents, or even our grandparents, were even born, and revel in the warm comfort of sincerity.

1. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

The oldest film on this list also happens to be the most iconic Christmas movie ever made. The film stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, who hits the bottom of the proverbial barrel in life, and contemplates ending it all. With the help of his guarding angel, Clarence, he realizes that his life is important not only in how he himself is affected but more critically in how other people are affected by him and his actions. It's A Wonderful Life is the quintessential feel-good Christmas movie that everyone at the family gathering can enjoy together, without worrying about the occasional F-bomb or poop joke causing offense.

Want more Christmas movie recommendations? Check out this:

Tammi Joy Chenard is a contributing writer here If you loved this article you can find more of her work at

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