It’s that time of year again, which means everyone is stressing over the holidays. Whether you’re preparing your home to host Christmas, or you’re trying to knock out shopping before it gets too crazy, this is one of the most magical, yet busy times of year.
It can be hard to keep the Christmas spirit flowing, but by watching some of the best Christmas movies, you might be able to switch into a cheerier mood. And surprisingly, there is a wide variety that you can watch. First on our list is an animated cult classic:
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
One of the more well-known films, this might seem like a Halloween movie, but is quite the opposite. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Disney film that has quite a cult following.
The stop-motion dark fantasy musical was directed by Henry Selick and was produced and conceived by Tim Burton.
The story follows Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town, who stumbles upon Christmas Town and plans to take over the holiday. When Jake starts to bring Christmas to his town, it creates quite the confusion.
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Bad Santa (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton you glorious miserable, stone-faced b*stard. One expression for every occasion, and it’s perfect each time.
With Mr. Thornton, you know what you’re getting. But when it came to Bad Santa, I didn’t expect his one expression could be so moving. It’s gotta be that adorable kid.
If you’re looking for a movie that’ll clear a room of anyone with delicate sensibilities, Bad Santa is the streaming option you should be reaching for. Be warned, it’s not suitable for all the family (and don’t reach for Bad Santa 2, it just isn’t as good).
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Love Actually (2003)
Hugh Grant. Emma Thompson. Colin Firth. Keira Knightley. Liam Neeson. Could it be any more British?
Love Actually was made by Richard Curtis and is a collection of stories that comes together during a kid’s talent show at Christmas. Stories include a couple of extras standing in for the lighting of a movie’s sex scene, a work love affair, and a backpacker seeking excitement.
The best of those stories places Hugh Grant as the awkward UK Prime Minister. He meets Martine McCutcheon, a maid working at No. 10 Downing Street. This newfound love leads him to prove he’s got moves.
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Jingle All the Way (1996)
You might be wondering how this trainwreck of a movie can be on the best Christmas movies list, right? Well, this is classically bad, so bad it loops back and becomes a watchable guilty pleasure. It’s the worst flick on this list but watching Arnold Schwarzenegger KO a reindeer never gets old.
Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a tragic 15 percent, which is generous. Arnie is awful — he’s not built for comedy, despite Twins being great. Swap The Terminator for Jim Belushi, who plays a mall Santa in this, and it would have been better. And one last thing: Turbo Man sucks. No wonder Jake Lloyd turned to the dark side…
Klaus is an adventure comedy written and directed by Sergio Pablos as his directional debut. The art style and animation alone are enough to get giddy about, as it’s absolutely stunning and adorable. But the story captivates.
Beginning with a simple act of kindness, the story blossoms to a whole adventure that warms the heart. The story follows Jesper who distinguishes himself as the postal academy’s worst student, making him stationed on a frozen island above the Arctic Circle, where feuding locals hardly exchange words, let alone letters.
However, when Jesper befriends Klaus, a mysterious carpenter who lives alone in his cabin full of handmade toys, an idea pops in his head to help Klaus distribute his old toys, creating a wonderful tradition, and a happier town.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
The critics loved it. The audience loved it. Even I loved it, at the time. It’s still funny, charming, and romantic. Fact. You’re not going to find a better love-triangle Christmas movie out there!
Starring Renée Zellweger. We all know how talented she is. An Oscar winner for Cold Mountain, Golden Globe winner for Chicago, — and Nurse Betty. Then there’s Colin Firth and Hugh Grant: both in 2001 were hot stuff and dashing. According to my sisters.
But its tone in 2001, when it was released, was edgy. Not anymore. The level of crude innuendo in a female-led comedy has evolved. Bridget Jones lost her “I can’t believe she did that!” magic. Compare it to something like Fleabag, the outrageous TV show starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Luckily, you don’t want something too crude to watch with loved ones. So, despite losing that edge, it makes for one of the best Christmas movies available. Hurrah!
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Polar Express (2004)
This is an absolute must if you’re wanting to find the best Christmas movies. The only reason it’s so high on the list is because I have personally seen it every single year with my family and currently can’t watch it ever again, but that’s beside the point.
Polar Express is a stellar movie. The 2004 adventure fantasy film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and is based on the 1985 children’s book sharing the same name by Chris Van Allsburg.
The film stars Tom Hanks who actually voices multiple roles such as the Conductor, the Hero Boy, Santa Clause, Narrator, Hero Boy’s Dad, and the Ghost on the Train. With such genius at work, this is definitely a movie that can’t be missed if you’re wanting to see the best of the best.
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The Santa Clause (1994)
Another classic movie is The Santa Clause franchise, consisting of three movies, with a television show currently on Disney+, and it all starts with the 1994 comedy film directed by John Pasquin.
Starring Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, the story follows him, an ordinary man who accidentally causes Santa Clause to fall from his roof to his supposed death on Christmas Eve.
In order to save Christmas, Scott and his son, Charlie, take on the suit and finish the rest of the deliveries. But just because he saved this year, doesn’t mean his time is up. When they head back to the North Pole, he realizes that he must become the new Santa Clause.
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The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
James Stewart had a wonderful career spanning over 80 films, and this is just one of many. He’s the star in The Shop Around the Corner, a romantic comedy produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, also starring Margaret Sullavan and Frank Morgan.
The story follows two employees at a gift shop who can barely stand each other, but do not realize that they are falling in love with each other through anonymous pen pals.
The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
We know the sequel hit Netflix in 2020, but it doesn’t come close to the original’s magic.
Simply put, if you’ve got an eclectic gathering this Christmas, Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles should be your go-to movie. It’s a bonafide crowd-pleaser that’ll keep everyone around your big-screen TV happy.
It’s got action junkies covered with fighting elves and car chases. For the romantic, there’s plenty of crying as missing family members are reflected on. Finally, it’s got comedy in the bag with Santa one-liners delivered by the always-cool Kurt Russell.
Like most Christmas movies, plots are often cliche, but the acting, visual effects, and style make this a hit with adults and kids alike. Put this movie at the top of your watchlist for finding Christmas cheer early.
White Christmas (1954)
Bing Crosby is well-known for his singing and acting, and in White Christmas, you’re able to witness both. The 1954 musical film was directed by Michael Curtiz and stars Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.
The story follows Bob Wallace and Phil Davis who team up to become a top song-and-dance act after leaving the Army following W.W.II. Davis soon plays matchmaker and introduces himself and Wallace to the pair of sisters who also have a song-and-dance act.
And like all romantic comedies, mix ups, fights, dramas, and romance ensue as they team up together in as a showstopping duo.
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Home Alone (1990)
I was always scared of being home alone as a kid, but after watching Kevin, it was more like an adventure. Home Alone is one of the many installments in the franchise directed by Chris Columbus and written and produced by John Hughes.
Starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and more, the story follows Kevin McCallister, a boy who defends his suburban Chicago home from a home invasion by a pair of robbers after his family accidentally leaves him behind on their vacation to Paris.
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Can there even be a list about the best Christmas movies if we don’t talk about Elf? Probably, but it wouldn’t be a very good one. This 2003 comedy film was directed by Jon Favreau and written by David Berenbaum starring Will Ferrell.
The story follows Buddy (Ferrell) who was raised as an oversized elf who travels from the North Pole to New York City to meet his biological father, Walter Hobbs, who doesn’t know he exists. The relationship between them is strained at first, not only because Walter would rather not have met Buddy, but Buddy is still trying to get used to human customs.
This is one of the best Christmas movies, and one I still quote to this day, like the adorable narwal saying “I hope you find your dad”.
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It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
If you want to watch the best Christmas movie, you need to plan on watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Another movie starring James Stewart, this 1946 supernatural drama is one that can’t be missed. Produced and directed by Frank Capra, this story is based on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift which was self-published by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1943.
The film follows George Bailey (Stewart), a man who has given up his personal dreams in order to help others in his community and whose thoughts of suicide on Christmas Eve bring out his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, who shows George all the lives he has touched and what the world would be like if he did not exist.
Safe to say, while it has a deep topic, it’s heartwarming and is beautiful, helping everyone fall a bit more in love with life and Christmas again.
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A Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Hands-down the best Christmas movie of all time, and one of my all-time favorites. No matter how many times I watch this one, I get so giddy and happy.
The 1947 Christmas comedy-drama was directed and written by George Seaton and is based on the story by Valentine Davies, starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. A Miracle on 34th Street begins at the Thanksgiving parade and follows a divorced New York mother who hires a nice old man to play the Santa Clause at the parade after seeing the original drunk.
But once the old man starts talking about how he is the true and real Santa Clause, things get a bit more confusing. When his sanity is questioned, a lawyer comes to his defense.
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