The 50 Best Christmas Movies Of All Time, Ranked

Every viewer's definition of what makes a great "holiday classic" is different. Some film fans prefer their holiday fare to be earnest and heartfelt, while others enjoy seeing a darker take on the winter season expressed in thrillers, subversive comedies, and horror films. A great Christmas movie does more than just take place during the final days of December; it should comment on the holiday itself and tie the celebrations into the storyline. Some Christmas movies are worth revisiting throughout the year, while others necessitate a viewing on the day itself.

While some Christmas films have been popular holiday viewings since the Golden Age of Hollywood, new classics emerge every year. Streaming services continue to churn out Christmas films; Netflix's many Christmas movies include the groundbreaking "Klaus" and "The Christmas Chronicles" franchise. In addition, while we won't be including short-form animated specials like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the 2D-animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" — all of which are worth your time — anything that's feature-length is fair game. It doesn't matter if it's a Hollywood classic or a Hallmark Channel original; you'll find the best of both here.

While they're bound by their connection to the holiday, the Christmas movie label encapsulates many genres and pleases a variety of different audiences. Here are the 50 greatest Christmas films of all time, ranked.

50. Let It Snow (2019)

A sweet, good-natured Netflix ensemble piece, "Let It Snow" asks very little of its audience. That's not a knock against it. Sometimes, when we're searching for a cozy movie to watch with the family over a glass of eggnog, that's exactly what we're looking for.

As a snowstorm bears down on a small town in Illinois, several teenagers end up having an eventful Christmas Eve. Julie (Isabela Merced) ends up crossing paths with a bona fide pop star (Shameik Moore), and sparks fly almost immediately. Elsewhere in town, an awkward love triangle unfolds between a girl, her best friend (who is secretly in love with her), and a hot college guy who is competing for her attention. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this town's relationship shenanigans. What "Let It Snow" lacks in depth it compensates for with a likable cast of young actors and a harmless storyline that's appealing enough to make the film a perfect choice for lazy winter viewing.

49. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

It's difficult to think of another Christmas movie that's as unrelentingly and aggressively nasty as "Silent Night, Deadly Night." This grisly holiday horror film was condemned by 1980s parents before it was even released in theaters; apparently, they took umbrage with the fact that the advertisements for the film featured a murderous Santa Claus, traumatizing pint-sized viewers. And, to be fair, the naysayers may have had a point: "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is hardly in the best of taste.

That doesn't mean, however, that it isn't an entertaining holiday horror film thanks to its sheer audacity. After a young boy witnesses the murder of his family at the hands of a man in a Santa Claus costume (yes, really), he grows up in an orphanage run by abusive nuns. Despite this, he seems to embark on a normal life as an adult, getting a job working at a local toy store. However, a work holiday party that takes a bad turn sets him off, sending him on a mistletoe-fuelled killing spree. As much backlash as the film received, however, it has wormed its way into many horror fans' hearts, launching what became a six-film franchise.

48. Jingle All the Way (1996)

You might think that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christmas are two things that don't mix, but oh, how wrong you would be. "Jingle All the Way" is proof that the two are actually an unbeatable combination. This film came out when Schwarzenegger was trying his hand at the whole family comedy thing, starring here as a hapless mattress salesman determined to make up for neglecting his wife and child for the entire calendar year by getting his hands on the most in-demand Christmas present: a Turbo-Man action figure. This quest grows more and more ridiculous with every minute, as Schwarzenegger is driven to increasingly extreme lengths in pursuit of the elusive toy.

One of the rare films that tackles the materialism of the holidays head on, "Jingle All the Way" taps into a distinct stress that should resonate with older viewers. This was especially true in the mid-1990s, when many parents were likely survivors of the Cabbage Patch Kid riots a little over a decade earlier.

47. The Princess Switch (2018)

When Vanessa Hudgens burst onto the scene in the Disney Channel smash hit "High School Musical," it was clear that she would soon carve out a career in sunny made-for-TV fare. As predicted, Hudgens has found a home in the popular subgenre of Netflix original Christmas movies. In "The Princess Switch," she pulls double duty, playing both Stacy, a humble Chicago baker, and Lady Margaret, a prim European duchess with the most questionable of English accents.

Obviously, the two women switch places. Obviously, they end up falling for the men in their doppelganger's life. For Margaret, this means getting a taste of ordinary life with Stacy's friend and sous chef Kevin, while Stacy's romance is a little more fraught with complications, since she's got the hots for Margaret's fiance, Prince Edward. A fluffy, charming Christmas romance, "The Princess Switch" was a major success, as evinced by the fact that it quickly spawned two sequels, which were released in 2020 and 2021.

46. Rise of the Guardians (2012)

A supremely underrated animated film, "Rise of the Guardians" features a group of immortal legends who operate as a sort of fairy tale Justice League that protects the children of the world from evil. There's the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Sandman, the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), and Jack Frost (Chris Pine). Together, they face off against Pitch Black (Jude Law), a malevolent spirit who seeks to weaken their powers by making children stop believing in them. It takes the exuberance of Jack Frost, a winter spirit who just wants to help kids have fun in the snow and struggles to conform to the Guardians' rules, to overcome Pitch Black's malicious efforts.

Although it was something of a financial disappointment upon release, "Rise of the Guardians" was appreciated by plenty, with Olly Richards of Empire Magazine saying, "It's gorgeously designed, deftly written and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. For child or adult, this is a fantasy to get lost in."

45. Holiday Affair (1949)

Robert Mitchum may not come across as rom-com material (or maybe we've just spent too much time watching him in darker fare, like the sublime "Night of the Hunter"), but he nails it in "Holiday Affair." In this 1949 holiday film, a pre-"Psycho" Janet Leigh plays Connie, a mystery shopper for a rival store who is caught by Mitchum's salesman, Steve Mason. Although Steve is duty bound to turn her in, the fact that she's a war widow with a child to provide for convinces him to cover for her instead. This act of altruism costs him his job, but it does win her affections, and the bond between the two grows over the course of the film.

"Holiday Affair" wasn't a success when it was first released, but it has grown in popularity in the years since, becoming a lesser-known but still worthwhile Christmas film. If nothing else, it's worth watching just to see Robert Mitchum fully out of his element (word on the street is that RKO cast him in this film to help rehabilitate his image after a highly public drug bust — or, at the very least, to capitalize on his newfound infamy).

44. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

"The Man Who Invented Christmas" debuted only recently, but it's already announced itself as a future holiday favorite. There are many adaptations of "A Christmas Carol," but "The Man Who Invented Christmas" explores the origin of the beloved novel through the "real" characters and events that inspired Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens). Stevens is, as always, very charismatic, and perfectly captures the idiosyncratic nature of a talented, but tortured, writer.

Dickens is in a state of distress, as in the wake of "Oliver Twist," he's yet to write another hit. London's holiday festivities only dampen his mood, but after a series of familiar events, Dickens begins to piece together the narrative of "A Christmas Story." The character Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) appears in Dickens' mind and guides him throughout the writing process, while he learns to reconnect with his estranged father John (Jonathan Pryce). Dickens' own personal family reconciliations help retain the light holiday tone.

43. Krampus (2015)

Who says that Christmas movies have to be sickly sweet? "Krampus" may be on the lighter side for a horror film, with plenty of comedic moments that prevent it from getting too gruesome, but it's still an effectively nasty counterpoint to all of that seasonal holiday cheer and goodwill towards men.

When family drama causes a young boy to lose his Christmas spirit, he unwittingly unleashes a malevolent creature called the Krampus. Known in Eastern European folklore as a sort of anti-Santa who takes care of all the kids on the naughty list, the creature begins wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting family. Filled with malicious charm and a strong ensemble cast of made up of eccentric stars like Adam Scott, David Koechner, and Toni Collette, the oddball horror comedy won over audiences, with Sara Michelle Fetters of writing, "As Christmas miracles for horror fans go, this is one stocking stuffer certain to be enjoyed for many years to come."

42. The Spirit of Christmas (2015)

It's kind of interesting that some of our most famous Christmas stories have ghosts in them. Consider, for example, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," which is stuffed to the gills with the supernatural. "The Spirit of Christmas" isn't quite on Scrooge's level; it's a humble, goofy little Lifetime Christmas movie. But it has a certain charm and atmosphere that elevates it above many of its made-for-TV competitors.

Jen Lilley stars in "The Spirit of Christmas" as Kate, a big-city lawyer who heads to the country (as we've come to expect from these types of films) to broker the sale of a charming old hotel that just happens to be haunted by its handsome former owner, Daniel Forsythe (Thomas Beaudoin), in the days leading up to Christmas. As you might expect, things go from spooky to steamy (well, made-for-TV steamy, at any rate) pretty quickly. But who are we to judge? There are way stranger couples out there.

41. The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Siblings Teddy and Kate are staring down their first Christmas without their father, and are in desperate need of a little holiday cheer. So, Kate becomes obsessed with the idea of catching Santa Claus on camera after watching an old family video and noticing an arm sticking out of the chimney, which she can only assume is the man in the red suit himself. What follows is a near-disaster, as their efforts lead to Santa (played by Kurt Russell) crashing his sleigh and running the real risk of not being able to deliver all of the world's presents. The two siblings have to pitch in and help Santa, finding their Christmas spirit along the way.

"The Christmas Chronicles" is lightweight but charming, with Ed Potton of The Times declaring, "This festive family adventure for Netflix leaves you with a hyperglycaemic glow, and that's mainly down to Kurt Russell as the most likable Santa Claus in years."

40. Ben Is Back (2018)

"Ben Is Back" serves as a poignant reminder that, for many families, the Christmas season isn't all twinkly lights and eggnog. Julia Roberts stars as a mother who is surprised and slightly unnerved to find that her eldest son (Lucas Hedges) has unexpectedly returned from rehab to celebrate Christmas with the family. She loves her son, and wants to give him the benefit of the doubt, but years of dealing with his opioid addiction have her perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop. She has the safety of her other children to think about as well.

The idea of celebrating Christmas while everyone's nerves are on a hair-trigger is something that will resonate with viewers who have dealt with mental illness or addiction in their family. In many ways, "Ben Is Back" feels more emotionally honest than Christmas films that view the holiday exclusively through rose-colored glasses.

39. Batman Returns (1992)

Tim Burton often hints at Christmas themes in his films — see, for example, "Edward Scissorhands" — but his 1989 comic book adaptation of "Batman" had a distinct Halloween vibe, with its dark gothic atmosphere and haunted house elements. However, the 1992 sequel "Batman Returns" is set entirely during the Christmas season, and explores the ways in which the holiday forces each of its isolated characters to break out of their shells.

Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) has always been a solemn figure, and his responsibilities as Batman don't rest during Christmas, as he's forced to contend with a trio of villains. A formerly mousy secretary named Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) has transformed into the latex-clad femme fatale Catwoman, and the abandoned and deformed orphan Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito) has risen through the ranks of the Gotham underworld to become the supervillain known the Penguin. Perhaps crueler than them both is the cynical politician Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). "Batman Returns" is one of the darkest superhero movies ever made, and the Christmas noir elements make the story even chillier.

38. Bachelor Mother (1939)

Ginger Rogers stars in "Bachelor Mother" as Polly, a shopgirl who works in the toy section of a major New York City department store during the holiday season. She is a single, independent woman, so she's not exactly prepared when she encounters a woman leaving an infant on the icy steps of an orphanage and ends up becoming caught up in the child's fate. Every attempt that Polly makes to prove that she merely found the child has people convinced that she's an unwed mother trying to avoid the stigma of her condition (no small thing when this film was made).

Polly's custodianship of the baby boy impacts her life in a multitude of ways. Although she was let go after the holidays, she is given her job back when her boss learns that she has a little one to care for. A comedy of errors ensues: The son of the shop's owner (andPolly's love interest), David Merlin (played by David Nevin), takes Polly under his wing, believing that she is the boy's real mother, while Merlin's father sees their relationship and thinks that he is the boy's father. Funny, clever, and packed with holiday charm, "Bachelor Mother" is a classic for a reason.

37. Love Hard (2021)

It was only a matter of time before someone made a holiday rom-com about catfishing (a cursed sentence if there ever was one). So, it's to the credit of the cast and writers of "Love Hard" that the concept mostly works, introducing dating apps into the holiday romance lexicon. Natalie Bauer (Nina Dobrev) is a girl from Los Angeles who has made a career out of writing a column detailing all the bad dates she goes on. When she has a series of positive interactions with a guy online, she impulsively flies out to surprise him for the holidays, only to learn that he's not exactly who he said he was.

See, Josh (Jimmy O. Yang), being insecure about his own looks, has been using his friend's photo on his dating profile, and is far from the ruggedly handsome, outdoorsy type that Natalie was expecting. Through a series of plot machinations, they agree to pretend to be a couple for Christmas; inevitably, their fake relationship turns into something real. The two actors play off each other well, with Yang bringing a quirky leading man energy to the film that makes this entire adventure endearing in spite of itself.

36. Die Hard (1988)

The debate rages every year as to whether or not "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie. There are certainly many action films set during the holiday season (such as nearly all of Shane Black's films), but "Die Hard" actually has themes that are relevant to Christmas. Ultimately, it's a story about everyday heroism and finding a purpose, and it explores the holiday-centric anxieties that many people feel. At the beginning of the film, Christmas is just another stressful burden in the life of John McClane (Bruce Willis), but by the end his hope is restored and has a reason to celebrate.

While whether or not "Die Hard" qualifies as a Christmas movie is in question, there's no debate about its merits as a film. There's a reason why "Die Hard" is so often cited as the greatest action film ever made, and why decades later new films are still pitched as "Die Hard on a...." McClane is the definitive action hero, an intelligent underdog who uses his ingenuity and wit to survive some of the greatest action sequences ever seen on screen. Willis has never been more relatable. It's also unbelievable that Alan Rickman's incredible performance as the scenery-chewing terrorist Hans Gruber was his screen debut, as he set the standard for a generation of screen villains. The 1992 sequel "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" retained the Christmas setting, but the later entries in the saga transitioned to the summer.

35. While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Every day, token collector Lucy (Sandra Bullock) looks forward to seeing one commuter in particular: Peter Callaghan (Peter Gallager), a man she has fallen in love with from afar. But when Peter suffers a head injury after being pushed onto the subway tracks and slips into a coma, Lucy's protective instincts get her in trouble. She follows Peter to the hospital, one thing leads to another, and before she knows it, his entire family thinks that she's engaged to him.

For a number of reasons, she decides not to disabuse them of this notion. However, while Peter is still in a coma, she can't help but develop feelings for his younger brother, Jack (Bill Pullman), a situation that becomes even more complicated when Peter finally wakes up. A likable romance set during the Christmas season, "While You Were Sleeping" proves once again that it's nigh on impossible not to fall in love with Sandra Bullock.

34. Gremlins (1984)

For anyone who's ever bought or received a bad Christmas present, "Gremlins" is the ultimate holiday nightmare. Joe Dante's monster movie classic features some of the most incredible puppet and marionette work ever committed to screen, and Dante is a master at hiding visual gags in his movies that some viewers definitely won't catch on their first viewings. However, the Christmas setting helps ground the madcap narrative, and gives "Gremlins" a heartfelt emotional touch that's allowed it to stand the test of time.

Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives a mysterious Christmas present from his father Randall (Hoyt Axton): a small, furry creature named Gizmo. Billy is told to follow a series of specific rules to care for his new pet, but he accidentally exposes Gizmo to water and feeds him after midnight. More gremlins are spawned, and they spread havoc across the small town of Kingston Falls during the Christmas season. Along the way, Billy's crush Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates) tells a hilariously dark Christmas story about her father's accidental death when he tried to sneak down their chimney as Santa Claus.

33. The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

Vanessa Hudgens, queen of the Netflix Christmas movie, strikes again. In "The Knight Before Christmas," she stars as Brooke, a small-town high school science teacher recovering from a bad breakup. Her life is fairly unexciting until a medieval knight, Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse), turns up on her doorstep, having traveled through time from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Despite the far-out premise, the chemistry between Hudgens and Whitehouse works from their very first scene together, as Brooke helps Cole adjust to some serious culture shock (even though she doesn't believe he's actually from the past). The fish-out-of-water element helps "The Knight Before Christmas" stand out in a fairly crowded genre, giving it a little something extra beyond "city girl is taught the meaning of Christmas by small-town artisanal candlestick maker." Although Cole seems to settle into modern life way too easily, it feels a bit churlish to get nitpicky about an endearing little Christmas fantasy like this.

32. Arthur Christmas (2011)

We've all heard about families where everyone goes into the same occupational field, forging dynasties of doctors or lawyers or Hollywood stars who claim to be self-made. Well, the North Pole has one of those too: the Clauses. In "Arthur Christmas," they're in the gift production and distribution industry. There's Malcolm Claus (the name "Santa" is apparently just a ceremonial title), the current head honcho who oversees most operations, and his eldest son, Steve, his second-in-command and heir apparent. Then there's younger son, Arthur, who ... well, Arthur basically handles the mail department.

But when one girl's presents fail to make it to her on Christmas, it's Arthur who undertakes a personal mission to prove himself as a member of the Claus family. With an endearing animation style, "Arthur Christmas" easily charmed audiences and critics– Anthony Quinn of the Independent wrote that its "yuletide offering is both a heartwarmer and a sly dig at the gospel of family togetherness."

31. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

The frosty blue tones of "Edward Scissorhands" scream winter, even in the scenes that take place during different parts of the year. Johnny Depp stars in one of his earliest collaborations with director Tim Burton as Edward Scissorhands, the creation of an eccentric scientist (Vincent Price) who dies before completing the misfit's hands, leaving the poor boy with long knives instead of fingers and no place in the world.

Edward is taken in by the kindly Boggs family, and although they quickly become attached to him, his status as an outsider continually creates tension in their larger community. The bond between Edward and Kim Boggs (Winona Ryder) is the centerpiece of the film, culminating in a gorgeously-shot winter scene in which snow falls from the sky as the two embrace before parting forever, giving the conclusion of "Edward Scissorhands" the feeling of a dark Christmas fairy tale.

30. The Bishop's Wife (1947)

There were undoubtedly many filmgoers in the 1940s who considered Cary Grant an angel from heaven, and that's before he actually played one in "The Bishop's Wife." Struggling bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) prays for heavenly support in his quest to fund a new cathedral, and receives unprecedented intervention in the form of Dudley (Cary Grant), an angel sent to Earth to help him out. Dudley operates as the bishop's right-hand man for a little while, but things become ... shall we say complicated when he draws the eye of the bishop's neglected wife, played by Loretta Young.

The melancholy quasi-romance is a success thanks to the three lead performances, especially the dynamic between Cary Grant and Loretta Young. As Walter Goodman of the New York Times put it, "Whatever you make of the minor miracles performed along the way, there's no trouble believing that Cary would fall for Loretta or that anybody would fall for Cary."

29. Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

Like "Nightmare Before Christmas," "Bell, Book and Candle" could be an appropriate watch on either Halloween or Christmas. It revolves around a young witch, Gillian (Kim Hunter), who decides to cast a spell that will make an old college rival's fiancé (James Stewart) fall in love with her. The only problem is that Gillian ends up catching feelings for him herself, which is the one thing that can make a witch lose her powers.

"Bell, Book and Candle" has supernatural elements that make it well-suited for the crisp autumn months, but the pair's brief courtship takes place over the course of one Christmas Eve, stretching into Christmas morning. The snow-covered streets of Manhattan lend a charming, romantic atmosphere to the proceedings, and provide a sort of physical representation of Hunter's purposefully cold demeanor as Gillian.

28. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

1983's "National Lampoon's Vacation" is one of the quintessential comedies of its era; the "family" adventure wasn't really family-friendly, but amidst the raunchy misadventures was an accurate depiction of familial bonding as the Griswold clan's summer plans go awry. The 1985 sequel "National Lampoon's European Vacation" unfortunately lost the original's charm, focusing too heavily on gags and not enough on relatable moments. A Christmas setting ended up being the perfect way for the series to redeem itself; "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" isn't only a holiday classic, but one of the greatest comedy sequels ever made.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is eager to receive a holiday bonus in order to surprise his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and their children Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Rusty (Johnny Galecki) with a swimming pool. Clark is also excited about decorating and planning for the holiday season, but his mood plummets when the extended Griswold family comes to stay with them for weeks on end. Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) proves to be a particularly obnoxious presence, and causes further chaos when he kidnaps Clark's boss to secure that aforementioned bonus.

27. The Santa Clause (1994)

Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is a harried businessman who's rattled by his recent divorce and the struggles of sharing custody of his young son, Charlie. To be honest, the absolute last thing that he needs is for Santa Claus to fall off his roof and die. There's no way his homeowner's insurance is going to cover that. To make matters worse, Scott fails to realize that, by putting on Santa's suit, he has committed to becoming the new Santa Claus, a vaguely supernatural transformation that will wreak havoc on his life for years to come.

As you'd expect, Scott bonds with his son and learns the true meaning of Christmas and all that stuff. "The Santa Clause" is the stuff that 1990s Christmas memories are made of, with inventive sequences set at the North Pole and a perfectly off-kilter performance from Tim Allen. In addition, David Krumholtz turns in a star-making performance as Bernard, the most exasperated elf you've ever seen.

26. A Princess for Christmas (2011)

Sometimes a made-for-TV holiday movie strikes gold and manages to land stars at the exact right points in their careers. That's certainly the case with "A Princess for Christmas," which features Katie McGrath (who since went on to star on "Supergirl" and in "Jurassic World") and Sam Heughan (best known for his role as the dreamy Jamie Fraser on "Outlander") in its lead roles. Jules (McGrath) is preparing for her first Christmas with her niece and nephew, who she gained custody of after their parents died in a car crash. All of a sudden, the three are invited to spend the holidays with her late brother-in-law's family, who just happen to be royalty in a small European country.

Jules and the kids travel from Buffalo, New York to an alpine castle, and Jules brings some holiday cheer to the reserved, grieving royals through her sheer bloody-mindedness. She also finds an unexpected romance with Prince Ashton (Heughan), the children's uncle. So really, we're checking all the boxes for a Hallmark classic. Royalty? Check. Romance? Check. Christmas? Check. What else could you ask for?

25. White Christmas (1954)

When looking at the history of Old Hollywood musicals, few are as clever, poetic, optimistic, and insightful as 1954's "White Christmas." It's a film that boasts incredible musical numbers, as it's about the very power of show business and its ability to provide comfort to those in need of a boost. However, "White Christmas" isn't an idolization of Hollywood that tries to frame the holiday season from a celebrity perspective; it's a film about finding connections during the most wonderful time of the year.

The film begins in the middle of World War II, as American soldiers Bob Wallace (Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) put on an impromptu Christmas performance for the men in the service. They pay tribute to their beloved Major General Tom Waverly (Dean Jagger), the rare honorable man who treats every soldier as an equal. After a devastating attack, Phil saves Bob's life, and they form a lifelong friendship. They enter show business together, and a chance encounter introduces the pair to the talented musicians sisters Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Hayes (Vera-Ellen).

The four escape to Vermont where they discover that Waverly has become the manager of a failing hotel, and they concoct a plan to save the old man's dignity by honoring him with a Christmas concert. It's delightfully earnest, and often hilarious.

24. A Christmas Carol (1951)

We've seen many filmmakers get cute with "A Christmas Carol," trying to modernize it with Muppets and divas and who knows what else. And all of that stuff is fine. But if you want a good, old-fashioned, traditional interpretation of Charles Dickens' famous holiday ghost story, the 1951 adaptation (also released under the title of "Scrooge") starring Alistair Sim is by far the most faithful. It isn't afraid to delve into all the nuances of the story, including its darker elements — in fact, the film is legitimately frightening at times.

But those moments only serve to heighten the joy of its conclusion as the movie takes us on a rollercoaster ride through Ebenezer Scrooge's past, present, and future. Harrison's Reports reviewed the film at the time of its release, saying that, although "it does have its somber moments it ends on so cheerful a note that one cannot help but leave the theater in a happy mood.

23. Love Actually (2003)

Romantic comedies set during the holidays can often be either unbearably sentimental or coldly cynical, yet screenwriter Richard Curtis finds the right balance between heart, humor, and playful absurdity with his ensemble comedy "Love Actually," although you can make a compelling argument that it hasn't aged particularly well. Still, while 136 minutes is a long running time for a rom-com, "Love Actually" remains engaging with its creative techniques for pulling together a variety of individual stories.

In "Love Actually," each set of characters comes to a realization that saves their holiday season. Eccentric rock star Milly Mack (Bill Nighy) realizes that his best friend Joe (Gregor Fisher) is a better companion than any party crowd. Similarly, Mark (Andrew Lincoln) learns to accept the love he once felt for his best friend Peter's (Chiwetel Ejiofer) bride, Juliet (Kiera Knightley). A depressed writer (Colin Firth) finds unexpected love with his Portuguese housekeeper (Lúcia Moniz), while the marriage between advertising director Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson) ends in heartbreak.

Love appears in unexpected places; the prime minister (Hugh Grant) falls for his secretary Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), grieving father Daniel (Liam Neeson) helps his young son Sam (Thomas Sangster) impress his crush Joanna (Olivia Olson), and body doubles John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) embark on a surprisingly PG relationship given the intimate sex scenes they film professionally.

22. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Christmas is a stressful time for many people, as the pressure to be happy and optimistic can lead to anxiety, and familial complications often rear their heads. No filmmaker captures internal pressure better than Stanley Kubrick, and in his final film Kubrick used the Christmas season as the spooky backdrop for his deconstruction of marriage, masculinity, and paranoia. Christmas is integral to the film's story, as holiday imagery is subverted into a nightmarish vision of surveillance. The film has a bright color pallet of red and green, with Christmas decorations frequently appearing in the background. In it, Kubrick satirizes consumerism, a particularly relevant topic amidst the Christmas holiday season.

Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) is a successful doctor within New York City who learns about a secret private ceremony from a long-lost friend during a Christmas party. Bill decides to attend the ceremony and discovers a ritualistic cult that performs graphic sexual activities. Bill is quickly identified as being out of place, and he's forbidden from joining the group again. Bill discovers that he's constantly being watched, and that the secret society can threaten him even within his own home. They leave a hidden mask for him as a dark Christmas present.

21. Joyeux Noel (2005)

In the middle of an endlessly destructive war that left death and disillusionment in its wake, soldiers somehow found a brief, shining reprieve from the darkness. "Joyeux Noel" (which translates to "Merry Christmas" in French) tells the remarkable true story of the World War I Christmas truce. In the winter of 1914, French, British, and German soldiers were embroiled in a war of attrition, losing men by the thousands in the trenches. Then all of a sudden, Christmas rolled around, and they just ... stopped.

In order to celebrate the holiday, the men put down their guns and called a temporary ceasefire, crossing into No Man's Land to, incredibly, play a game of soccer. Starring Daniel Brühl, Diane Kruger, and Steven Robertson, "Joyeux Noel" assembles a suitably international cast to tell this powerful story about soldiers who, against all odds, assert their shared humanity in the most unlikely of places.

20. Klaus (2019)

We all know who Santa Claus is — jolly guy, red suit, big white beard, extremely judgmental towards small children — but "Klaus" tells us how the beloved Christmas figure came to be. Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is an entitled nepotism baby who works for 19th-century Norway's postal service, and who is sent to the Far North by his father, who hopes that he will find a way to prove himself in adversity. He begrudgingly travels to a town where the residents are too caught up in their petty grievances to write letters for him to deliver. 

The legend of Klaus (J.K. Simmons) grows organically. He begins as an anti-social huntsman who finds a way to connect with his community by hand-building toys for the children in town. Together, Klaus and Jesper help the isolated villagers overcome their local tensions to discover a proto-Christmas spirit. With gorgeous winter vistas, "Klaus" won over critics and audiences alike. Of the animated Netflix film, Kristy Puchko of Pajiba said, "Sure to become a holiday favorite in many homes, it's warm, sweet, and fantastically funny."

19. Silent Night (2021)

Hosting a Christmas gathering for your family and closest friends in a gorgeous English manor house should be a happy occasion — unless the end of humanity is close at hand, that is, meaning that this celebration comes with the tacit understanding that everyone is going to take a pill immediately afterwards that will spare them a violent and painful death. That sort of thing tends to put a damper on the holiday spirit. 

In "Silent Night," Kiera Knightley and Matthew Goode star as a couple who have brought together their oldest companions as well as their own children for one last hurrah, during which everyone copes with their grief in different ways. However, the fact that kids are present gives "Silent Night" a bitter note that grows increasingly relevant as we look at the burning world around us and the inheritance that we're leaving to our children. "Silent Night" isn't exactly a cheery Christmas movie, but it will stick with you long after you've finished watching it.

18. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Any feature-length adaptation of Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is going to have an uphill battle when it comes to competing with the classic cartoon version from the 1960s, which is narrated with malevolent glee by Boris Karloff. But credit where credit's due: The 2000 film, which features Jim Carrey in the title role, takes a pretty good crack at it. Carrey's version of the character is more manic and over-the-top than curmudgeonly (as though we would expect anything different from Carrey), but he injects an offbeat sense of humor that keeps the film's energy up.

This adaptation also succeeds by lending a little bit of depth to the citizens of Whoville. In the original, they're essentially saint-like cardboard cutouts who only exist to be the Grinch's victims (and, later, his salvation). Here, we see that the Whos have constructed an insular community that has purposefully excluded the Grinch just as much as he isolated himself. It's a change that helps make the sparse story last for the length of a feature film, and it helps the film immensely.

17. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

Each of the "Harry Potter" films take place over the course of an entire school year, so it's not like they're exclusively Christmas films. But given that they play on a loop around the holidays, they have a Christmas-y atmosphere, especially "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

The first Harry Potter film features Christmas as a major set piece: Harry is spending his first holiday away from his cruel aunt and uncle, and he is overjoyed to discover that there are presents waiting for him on Christmas morning. Among them is the invisibility cloak, a priceless heirloom passed down from Harry's father, which becomes a recurring plot device over the course of all the films. But really, all it takes is seeing the Great Hall decked out for Christmas with John Williams' score soaring in the background to cement the film's holiday credentials.

16. Spencer (2021)

We're getting in early on this one, if only to avoid the pedantic argument over whether or not it's a Christmas movie (we're still exhausted by the discourse surrounding "Die Hard"). Yes, Virginia, "Spencer" is a Christmas movie. It delves deep into Princess Diana's psyche as she spends the holidays on a tension-filled visit to Sandringham immediately after the press breaks the story of her rapidly deteriorating relationship with Prince Charles.

The British royal family is built almost entirely on ritual, and the Christmas holidays are no exception. Diana, played with an eerie ethereality by Kristen Stewart, floats through Christmas as though in a dream — or, rather, a nightmare. The constant pressures placed on her by the royal family and the oppressive surveillance state she lives in make her feel trapped, like a bird in a cage. Blending elements of gothic horror with a postmodern narrative approach, "Spencer" captures the fragility and tragedy of the People's Princess.

15. Black Christmas (1974)

There are plenty of Christmas horror movies, but there's something unique about "Black Christmas," which never fails to get under your skin. A group of young women live together in a large sorority house on their college campus as Christmas break approaches. They are plagued by frequent anonymous phone calls, each one featuring a man who makes disturbing, unintelligible noises, and then quickly hangs up. 

That's creepy enough, but it isn't long before the coeds start being picked off one by one. The survivors hole up inside the house, believing that it will provide safety, and not realizing that the murderer has been hiding inside along with them. The visuals in "Black Christmas" are terribly unsettling and leave an unforgettable impression on viewers, especially those who have settled in for a cozy, quiet night, only to become convinced that there's a murderer lurking in their attic. (Look, it happens to the best of us!)

14. A Christmas Story (1983)

Is there any single film that is aired on television around the holidays more than "A Christmas Story"? For many American cable viewers, it's now synonymous with Christmas. Banking heavily on nostalgia, "A Christmas Story" is told via the voiceover of an adult Ralphie Parker, who reflects on his childhood in 1940s Indiana. This approach creates an eccentric yet festive slice-of-life narrative, as we see Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) get caught up in a series of misadventures both at school and at home.

Now essentially a holiday institution, "A Christmas Story" has maintained its relevance since its 1983 release, generating both a live TV special in 2017 and a number of sequels. A direct continuation, "A Christmas Story 2," was released to little fanfare in 2012, while the highest-profile follow-up came out in November 2022, and had the added charm of seeing a grown-up Peter Billingsley reprise his role as Ralphie.

13. Scrooged (1988)

Look, if there's one thing that Hollywood is generous with, it's new takes on a proven hit. "Scrooged" is perhaps the most creatively ambitious adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," transposing the Victorian morality tale to the era of Regan, when the sort of greed that defined Ebenezer Scrooge was not just tolerated, but celebrated in corporate America.

Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, the Scrooge analog, a harried television network president tasked with putting together a live telecast of "A Christmas Carol" despite his complete lack of anything even approaching holiday cheer. Although Murray is a perfect fit for the curmudgeonly character, the success of "Scrooged" is a testament to the skill of its supporting cast. Carol Kane and Bobcat Goldthwait in particular run away with the film as the Ghost of Christmas Present and the unstable television executive Eliot Loudermilk, respectively.

12. The Holiday (2006)

If nothing else, "The Holiday" deserves all the credit in the world for proving that Jack Black can play a viable romantic lead in a mainstream rom-com. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz star as two women who, dissatisfied with their lives, agree to swap homes for the holiday so that each can get a change of scenery and a fresh perspective. Iris (Winslet), a London journalist pining over her ex, hops on a flight to Los Angeles, while Amanda (Diaz), a Hollywood trailer producer recovering from a nasty breakup, travels to a quaint British cottage.

To the surprise of exactly no one, both women meet the men of their dreams: Iris immediately hits it off with loveable composer Miles (Black), while Amanda falls in love with Iris' dreamy brother, Graham (Jude Law), a single dad to two young daughters. A charming Christmas rom-com, "The Holiday" manages to depict not one but two believable romances, with all four leads bringing endless chemistry to the table.

11. Elf (2003)

There's always a danger when major stars try to tone down their R-rated humor to make a family-friendly holiday comedy; look no further than Ben Affleck in "Saving Christmas" or Vince Vaughn in "Fred Claus" to see the disastrous results. However, in "Elf," Will Ferrell manages to sideline these frequent issues and create a beloved Christmas character who appeals to audiences of all ages. The story is genuinely heartfelt, and putting Ferrell under PG constraints results in one of his most earnest and hilarious performances ever.

Buddy (Ferrell) was a human orphan raised as an elf in the North Pole by one of Santa's oldest employees, Papa (Bob Newhart). When he learns of his real heritage, Buddy decides to travel to New York City to meet his real father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan). Hobbs is a cynical book publisher who is unaware of Buddy's existence, and he's forced to bring his long-lost son home and introduce him to his wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and their younger son, Michael (Daniel Tay). The fish-out-of-water comedy is uproarious. Buddy must adjust to a world that doesn't revolve around Christmas, and yet still needs to save the holiday for those that need the Christmas cheer.

10. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Some of the best holiday films are the ones that blend different genres together, cutting through Christmas' over-the-top sentimentality. And you can't blend genres together more than "Anna and the Apocalypse," which is perhaps the world's first-ever zombie horror comedy coming-of-age Christmas musical.

Ella Hunt stars as Anna, a disaffected teen who is struggling with a recent breakup and a clash with her father over what she's going to do after she finishes high school (he plans for her to go straight to college, while she wants to knock about Australia first). All of this is sidelined, however, when her town is overrun by zombies on the night of the school's Christmas talent show, forcing Anna and her friends to fight for their lives. With a talented ensemble of young stars and songs that are catchier than they have any right to be, "Anna and the Apocalypse" is a pure delight.

9. Little Women (1994)

Many of the most memorable moments of the 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel "Little Women" are centered around Christmas. The March girls struggle through the holidays with their father away amid the Civil War, lamenting the things that they lack while remaining mindful of what they do have. We watch them make the decision to cheerfully deliver their Christmas feast to a family living in abject poverty, giving us a profound look at the kind of people the March sisters are.

The film also luxuriates in its wintery New England setting, with Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy stomping through the snow while singing "Here We Come A-Caroling," capturing the interest of their next-door neighbor and resident Boy Who Will Cause Them All a Lot of Emotional Trouble, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence. All of "Little Women" feels as though it was lit by candles flickering the dead of winter, making it the perfect film to curl up with under a cozy blanket on a cold December evening.

8. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Some Christmas films are so endearing that they can be enjoyed throughout the year; "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a story worth revisiting during both the Halloween and Christmas seasons. It's among the most beautifully crafted stop-motion animated films ever made, and its dark fantasy elements contrast nicely with an animation style reminiscent of holiday classics like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." The story is remarkably dark for a children's film, and while the premise (and some of the aesthetic) came from Tim Burton, director Henry Sellick deserves credit for the film's unique tone.

The film follows the residents of "Halloween Town," a city filled with vampires, ghouls, and monsters, including the "Pumpkin King" himself, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon and Danny Elfman). Jack has grown dissatisfied with the spooky holiday and soon finds himself in "Christmas Town." The dark creature is fascinated by the joyous season's greetings, and tries to recapture the Christmas spirit at home as he falls in love with the undead rag doll Sally (Catherine O'Hara).

7. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

The first "Home Alone" was a surprise success. The unassuming family film made a massive impact at the box office and became an instant holiday classic. But "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" is one of those rare sequels that stands up against the original, finding new ways to replicate its predecessor's charm.

This time, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is a little bit older and wiser — he actually makes it to the airport rather than being left at home, but accidentally boards the wrong plane (something it was possible to do in a pre-9/11 world) and ends up stranded in New York City. Surrounded by the magic of Manhattan at Christmastime, Kevin settles in for a few days of the high life, somehow finagling a room at the Plaza Hotel. But the Wet Bandits (played again by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) find a way to crash his holiday with plans to rob Mr. Duncan's toy store. To fight the robbers, Kevin pulls out all the stops (and inflicts quite a bit of bodily harm), using the same ingenious spirit that made "Home Alone" such a hit to save the holiday once again.

6. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Santa Claus ranks alongside figures like Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, King Arthur, and Robin Hood as one of the frequently adapted on-screen characters, as he's often a key supporting character in Christmas films. While there are many Santa-themed films, including the entries in "The Santa Clause" and "The Christmas Chronicles" franchises, they generally appeal to younger viewers. However, the 1947 classic "Miracle on 34th Street" is the rare film that addresses the legend of Saint Nick in a way that appeals to audiences of all ages.

The film opens on Thanksgiving Day, when business director Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) finds herself desperate to find a replacement Santa Claus for the Macy's parade. A curious older man named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) shows up on a moment's notice, taking up the reins and delighting children with his seemingly magical knowledge and optimism. Doris sees Kringle's success as a great business opportunity, but doesn't want him to influence her young daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood). Doris has raised Susan without any fairy tales, and she's not about to let the idiosyncratic older man convince her that magic is real. Doris' next door neighbor Fred Gailey (John Payne), a successful lawyer, is concerned about Susan's well-being, but also desperately in love with her mother.

When Kringle's mental state becomes a public fixation, a media circus ensues as Fred defends him and makes the case that he's the real Santa Claus. It's inspiring to see how Kringle's Christmas spirit affects the reclusive mother-daughter pair.

5. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Look, who among us hasn't feigned a certain level of competence in something that we know nothing about, only for the lie to get bigger and bigger until it threatens to crush us? Certainly not Elizabeth Lane, Barbara Stanwyck's character in "Christmas in Connecticut." An enterprising writer, Elizabeth develops a popular cooking column in a New York City newspaper, where she presents herself as the perfect Connecticut housewife, a proto-Martha Stewart with a full collection of delectable family recipes. The only problem? Elizabeth is actually a single lady living in a Manhattan apartment, and she could probably start a fire just by attempting to boil water. 

Still, her charade holds up until her newspaper decides to profile her, reporting directly from the hearth of her nonexistent family home in Connecticut. What follows is a comedy of errors, as Elizabeth desperately tries to keep up the act, all while entertaining a returning war hero (played by Dennis Morgan). A warm, bubbly Christmas romp, this light-hearted comedy has earned its place in the holiday canon.

4. Home Alone (1990)

"Home Alone" is one of the most rewatchable Christmas movies — it may be known primarily for its slapstick gags, but John Hughes' clever screenplay actually has a lot of heart. The film delivered a breakout role for Macaulay Culkin, who delivers one of the best child performances of all time in a surprisingly unique film. You'll laugh at the comic pratfalls, and you'll tear up as John Williams' "Somewhere in My Memory" plays.

Eight-year-old Kevin McCallister (Culkin) is constantly scolded by his parents for his mischievous behavior, only to be accidentally left behind when his family embarks on their annual Christmas vacation. Kevin revels in his newfound freedom as he lives on his own, and when the wacky bank robbers Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) attempt to ransack the house, Kevin combats them by constructing dangerous inventions and traps. A heartfelt encounter with a reclusive old man named Marley (Robert Blossom) reminds the audience of the movie's Christmas themes, as Kevin inspires him to reconnect with his estranged son.

3. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

In 1940s Budapest, Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) discovers a perfect match in the personal ads and begins corresponding with his mysterious lady love, quickly developing a powerful connection with her. Little does he know that the woman he's fallen in love with is actually his coworker Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan), with whom he shares an antagonistic, generally hostile relationship. How can the two be so perfect on paper, but not be able to stop squabbling in real life?

Ernst Lubitsch's romantic comedy "The Shop Around the Corner" benefits from the note-perfect chemistry between Stewart and Sullavan — they make sense as petty workplace rivals, but it's also satisfying to watch their ire soften as they gradually get to know each other as individuals. David Thomson couldn't speak highly enough of the film in "A Biographical Dictionary of Film," saying, "This is a love story about a couple too much in love with love to fall tidily into one another's arms ... It is a comedy so good it frightens us for them."

2. The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)

Charles Dickens' classic novel "A Christmas Carol" has been adapted countless times for films and television specials, but, unsurprisingly, the Muppets did it the best. "The Muppets Christmas Carol" is remarkable in that it perfectly casts the beloved characters as Dickens' characters, and is surprisingly faithful to the original source material. Directed by original Muppet creator Jim Henson's son Brian, "The Muppets Christmas Carol" also boasts incredible production design that brings its depiction of 19th century London to vivid life.

What makes the film work is the genuinely powerful performance by the great Michael Caine as the signature grouch Ebenezer Scrooge. Caine doesn't see the material as beneath him, and he delivers what is perhaps the single greatest performance by a human in a Muppet film. Scrooge's journey exploring his tragic past, painful reality, and potentially dark future are humorous thanks to the Muppets' sense of comedy, but his redemption is treated seriously. The framing device of Gonzo explaining the narrative under the guise of Charles Dickens is also hilarious, and improves the film's pacing.

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

The phrase "holiday greetings" may mean different things to film fans of different backgrounds, but at its core the holiday season is all about hope. Hope isn't tied to one religion or creed, and although the theme is universal, it's very hard to capture on screen. Although there were significant systematic issues within Old Hollywood, there's an optimism about the human spirit present in many classic era films that's rarely captured by the modern studio system. Frank Capra stands among the great cinematic formalists, and his ability to capture genuine emotion was never more present than in the definitive holiday classic, "It's a Wonderful Life."

Capra had many great collaborators, but none more genuinely pleasant and likeable as James Stewart. Here, Stewart shines as the embodiment of goodness. Stewart's George Bailey has no shred of hatred within his body, and he's bound by his commitments to his family and community. He's seen his dreams of traveling overseas dissipate as he takes over the struggling family business and watches his brother Harry (Todd Karnes) become a war hero, even as he has settled down with his wife Mary (Donna Reed) to raise a family.

As George's situation grows worse and he's convinced he has no value, his guardian angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), presents him with a dark vision of a world where he's never been born. George's realization of the lives he's touched and the joyous Christmas celebration that follows are touching moments worth revisiting each and every holiday season.