10. The Polar Express (2004)
The Polar Express starts our top 10 Christmas movies list. The movie revolves around Billy (Hayden McFarland) who longs to believe in Santa Claus but finds it difficult to do so. With no belief from his family or word from the North Pole, he soon thinks Santa is a myth.
This all changes, however, when a mysterious train visits Billy in the middle of the night. The conductor promises to take him, and a group of lucky children, to the North Pole. The conductor, (Tom Hanks), and other passengers help turn Billy’s crisis in faith into a journey of self-discovery.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, Eddie Deezen
Release date: November 10, 2004
Runtime: 100 minutes
9. Love Actually (2003)
Next up is #9 on our top Christmas movies list. Love Actually follows the mystery that is love with a host of characters. The holiday season provides the ideal backdrop as prime ministers, widowers, best men, and even love-struck grade school kids take a stab at love.
Academy Award winners Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth, and Emma Thompson provide solid performances that catch your attention. Also, lookout for heartfelt acting by Liam Neeson–as he helps his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) around the ways of the heart.
Director: Richard Curtis
Cast: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Rowan Atkinson
Release date: November 14, 2003
Runtime: 136 minutes
8. Bad Santa (2003)
Good Christmas movies are not always full of love and cheer. Sometimes being a drunk and exhibiting shady behavior are the norm.
Santa Claus is the best, and he has no faults…well, maybe just a few. Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) plays a Santa with more than an edge–he’s a thief. He teams up with his friend Marcus (Tony Cox), a little person, for a special holiday scam.
Mall manager Bob Chipeska (John Ritter) suspects something is slightly off with Saint Nick. The laughs and action are all in good holiday cheer, but this picture is for adults.
Director: Terry Zwigoffa
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, John Ritter, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly, Lauren Tom
Release date: November 26, 2003
Runtime: 91 minutes
7. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (1989)
The seventh spot on our best holiday movies list stars Chevy Chase. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation will keep slapstick fans entertained with enough gags and Christmas cheer to qualify as a good holiday film.
Chase and his gang are at it again but try to keep things simple this time. If you’re familiar with the franchise, you know that won’t be the case. Funny Christmas movies like this one are a gift on its own.
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid
Release date: December 1, 1989
Runtime: 97 minutes
6. Gremlins (1984)
“Don’t expose him to bright light. Don’t ever get him wet. And don’t ever, ever feed him after midnight.” This sage advice is ignored midway through Gremlins with devastating results.
This Joe Dante film is set in a Norman Rockwell-esque small town during Christmas. Seeking a unique gift for his son, inventor (Hoyt Axton) purchases a cute and fuzzy little “Mogwai” from a Chinatown shopkeeper. A little bright light or water can’t cause that much of a problem, can it?
The situation grows out of hand before anyone knows what’s going on. This 80s throwback is one of our favorite Christmas movies to watch, and it’s available on Netflix.
Director: Joe Dante
Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holliday, Frances Lee McCain
Release date: June 8, 1984
Runtime: 106 minutes
5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
We’re halfway through our top 10 Christmas movies list. Toy Story, The Incredibles, Shrek, and even South Park must pay homage to the Peanuts gang and its famous leader Charlie Brown.
Although he often faces tough obstacles and gets the short end of the stick–watch him on the pitching mound for proof–Charlie Brown gives 100%. The music is cool, his gang is hilarious (what’s not to like about Peppermint Patty addressing everyone sir or ma’am), and a teacher that no one understands. Can you say, Kenny?
When you want to watch one of the best Christmas movies old or new, Charlie Brown is a great pick.
Director: Bill Melendez
Cast: Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Kathy Steinberg, Tracy Stratford, Bill Melendez, Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, Karen Mendelson, Geoffrey Ornstein
Release date: December 9, 1965
Runtime: 25 minutes
4. Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard isn’t a top 10 Christmas movie in the traditional sense, but it is great movie to play during the holiday season. The movie does take place in late December and is loaded with fun, action, suspense, and an awesome ending.
What’s not to like? Bruce Willis has been in many movies in his long career, but none fire on all cylinders like this one.
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov, Bonnie Bedelia
Release date: July 15, 1988
Runtime: 132 minutes
3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
#3 on our top 10 best Christmas movies list is Miracle on 34th Street. Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle) is a bearded old gent who is the living image of Santa Claus. Serving as a last-minute replacement for the drunken Santa who was to have led Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Kringle is offered a job as a Macy’s toy department Santa.
One of the store’s managers, Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara), soon begins having second thoughts about hiring Kringle. (He tells customers to shop elsewhere for toys that they can’t find at Macy’s.) Just when you think he’s overstepped his boundaries a miracle saves the day.
Director: George Seaton
Cast: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Gene Lockhart, Natalie Wood, Porter Hall, William Frawley, Jerome Cowan, Philip Tonge
Release date: June 11, 1947
Runtime: 96 minutes
2. Home Alone (1992)
One of the highest grossing Christmas movies ever, we don’t know anyone that doesn’t enjoy Home Alone. Audiences cheer for a young boy named Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) who is accidentally left behind when his family takes off for a Christmas vacation in France.
Kevin initially celebrates when he realizes they’ve actually left him home alone, but must learn quickly how to protect himself–and the family home–from two completely incompetent burglars (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern).
An annual favorite each year, popular Christmas movies like Home Alone get everyone into the spirit of Xmas.
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara
Release date: November 16, 1990
Runtime: 103 minutes
1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Did you already guess which film got our top pick for best Christmas movies of all time? It’s A Wonderful Life has got it all: heart-warming, perfect storytelling, and nostalgia all in one.
George Bailey (James Stewart) has long considered himself a failure and due to a grave error at his bank, faces financial ruin and arrest. Seeing no way out, George considers suicide.
High above Bedford Falls, two celestial voices discuss Bailey’s dilemma and decide to send down eternally bumbling angel Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers)–who after 200 years has yet to earn his wings–to help George out.
It’s good for all of us down here that Clarence arrived just in time–an inspirational classic.
Director: Frank Capra
Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Ward Bond, Frank Faylen, Gloria Grahame
Release date: December 20, 1946
Runtime: 131 minutes