Ah, XMas – Hot Cocoa, Snowfall, Ornaments, Crackling Fires, Ugly Sweaters, Relatives, Cloying Sentimentality, Tree Decorations, After-School Specials, & Family Movies mark the [Hallmark] celebration of this joyous holiday – and its morality children’s sociological parables. ‘Tis time we at CLC ranked the best movies for the best time of year.
1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1933)
A sublimely scripted classic led by James Stewart’s powerful performance, IAWL is THE greatest Christmas movie of All-Time and one of the most important and meaningful films ever made, examining depression, suicide, and the mystery (and meaning) of life. 9.7/10.
2. A Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
With a brilliant screenplay brimming in warm saccharinity and provocative thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas spirit and down-on-your-luck ornamentation, AMO34S is one of the most original holiday films. Christmas Adjustment ~9.5/10
3. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
A masterpiece of stop motion animation with subliminal feel-good iconography, rich textures bleeding early-tech charm, eye-popping vibrancy decades ahead of its time, a spirited soundtrack, and heart-warming celebration of differences that set the template for American Christmas specials & has aged beautifully even ~60 years later. 9.3/10.
4. The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
A wonderful period low-budget light romantic comedy that exemplifies the genre at peak warm-saccharinity – with classic Stewart & Sullivan dynamism & a timely yuletide setting of Depression practicalities among underpaid workers of a small notions store. 9.2/10.
5. Black Christmas (1974)
A complex, massively-influential slasher film blackening a joyous time of year as the first-ever holiday horror movie – with groundbreaking POV-transposition into the eyes of the killer, bone-chilling horror sequences, prognostic mental health cogitation, a fascinating central mystery, and wild twist-ending. 9.2/10.
6. A Christmas Carol (1951)
A polished, saccharine MGM version of the yuletide classic that captures Dickens’ novel’s feel with plenty of heart and a masterclass of character development, though preachy at-times: the best adaptation of the iconic tale. 9.1/10.
7. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
A bonkers, wildly-imaginative addition to Christmas canon with spectacularly-compositioned anime by mastermind Satoshi Kon that’s equally as impressive as its emotion-riddled storytelling prowess & fantasticism-longing script. 9/10.
8. Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1967)
One of the most groundbreaking films/stories to put holiday morals into a kid-focused and pop culture-invigorating motif that unsurprisingly has earned a plethora of imitators, the original Grinch deserves a hallmark spot on any holiday list. Adjusted ~8.7/10.
9. Elf (2003)
A vibrant, zesty Christmas-classic bursting with yuletide charm and a career-Ferrell performance with more charismatic energy and NYC-set comedy than is legal in one movie, Elf is a quick-footed, snappily-directed, and heartfelt family holiday staple by Favreau & co. – despite a few narrative shortcomings. 8.5/10.
10. Shazam! (2019)
A brilliant cocktail of coming-of-age story, superhero origin, Christmas movie, and hilarious comedy with a lifetime-casting in Zachary Levi, dark villain in Dr. Silvana, & nostalgic heart expertly handling the Seven Deadly Sins mythos. 8.7/10.
11. Die Hard (1988)
(Although pushing the boundaries of what’s technically a Christmas movie), Die Hard is a thriller boasting action virtuosity, stellar performance by Willis, and a script packed with quotable lines that all inspired an exodus of countless imitations. Adjusted ~8.9/10.
12. Home Alone (1990)
One of the best displays of slapstick in modern filmmaking, a star-making child performance by MacCaulkin, & surprising hint of depth / palatable holiday family values allow Home Alone to earn its widespread esteem as one of the iconic Christmas movies. Christmas Adjustment ~8.7/10.
13. Better Watch Out (2017)
The most provocative youth-horror since Scream, BWO blends Christmas feel with slasher stylism, tricky plotting, home invasion scares, & unforgettable villain twist by Levi Miller. A fresh reinvention of what holiday movies can be. 8.5/10.
14. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
A lo-fi special that finds beauty in simplicty with everlasting and endearing animation stylism, a subtextual analysis of the meaning of Christmas, & Peanut-classic comedic schticks that still hold up to this day as an irreplacable yuletide special. 8.5/10.
15. A Christmas Story (1983)
A quirky, eccentric, nostalgic, darkly-humorous, rewatchable glimpse into Middle American life in the 1940’s, A Christmas Story’s anti-bullying and consumerist themes plus wryly-witty narration will keep adult audiences smirking – and children: everything else. 8.4/10.
16. Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)
One of the first films to integrate musical numbers into the plot, it explores, without condescension or simplemindedness, the feelings that drive the family members apart and then bring them back together again. 8.4/10.
17. The Snowman (1982)
The Snowman gently relates, via pantomime and orchestral scoring, a young boy’s adventurous winter journey. A heartwarming and extremely adventurous animated film with breathtaking and innovative animation style. 8.3/10.
18. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Part avant-garde art film, part amusing but morbid fairy tale, it is a delightfully ghoulish holiday musical that displays more inventiveness in its brisk 75 minutes than some studios manage in years. 8.3/10.
19. Batman Returns (1992)
A chilly, unmistakably-Tim Burton film with fittingly-brooding atmospherics led by Keaton’s return as the Dark Knight & a *perfectly-casted* Penguin by Danny Devito, despite an overdone performance in Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Batman Returns is still a classic. Christmas Adjustment ~8.2/10.
20. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Hey, if Die Hard’s A Christmas Movie: Lethal Weapon is too. An electrifying, bluesy tour-de-force lifted by Glover & Gibson’s infectious charisma in buddy-cop dynamism, thrilling action sequences, phenomenal genre-subverting elegance-dripping ’80’s score, & well-executed detective case. 8/10.
21. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
A slapstick-mania of classic Chevy Chase-isms with unapologetic ostentation in its gags and lightshows, a familial script anyone with relatives can relate to, and guilty-pleasurable lightness in tone and heart, National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation still fits the bill as a staple family-watch holiday extravaganza. Christmas Adjustment ~8/10.
22. Trading Places (1983)
A brilliant social satire with an appreciatory message vital for the holiday season – buoyed by Saturday Night Live-veterans Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd’s herculean efforts. 8/10.
23. The Polar Express (2004)
Sublime animation, nice voice work, and a heartwarming story, but one imbued with at times glacial pacing and unnecessary scenes, The Polar Express is a good holiday film and overall good adaptation of the novel. Adjusted ~7.9/10.
24. Scrooged (1988)
Tough to improve upon Dickens’ famous classic story, but Scrooged not only sticks to its plot, but makes it believable as a modern fable with good comedy, fitting casting in Bill, and amusing commentary on the time. 7.8/10.
25. Gremlins (1984)
The horror/comedy anti-movie mocking previous alien invasion epics with yuletide-chaos in a snow-dusted idyllic town, clever consumer-culture/Reagan-era fear-mongering critique, wacky B-movie VFX charm, and parabolic season-resonant lesson on the importance of following the rules. 7.6/10.