It’s the holiday season once again, and it’s time to get in the spirit. Christmas movies are a time-honored tradition of most households, and there are a handful of those that everyone should (and will) enjoy this year. This list of the best Christmas movies isn’t ranked, but rest assured that every one of them will get you in the Christmas mood.
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1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) — Bill Melendez
While A Charlie Brown Christmas is technically a TV special, it’s really a short film that you can’t not talk about when discussing the best Christmas viewing experiences. It carries with it the brilliance of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strips, which remain timeless and wise even more than 50 years later. The jazz score by Vince Guaraldi is iconic, and A Charlie Brown Christmas is nostalgic Christmas comfort food.
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2. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) — Chuck Jones
The original animated TV special featured the voice talent of Boris Karloff and was directed by animation legend Chuck Jones. It’s a cynical-turned-heartwarming story brought to life by that trademark ’60s animation style.
3. Elf (2003) — Jon Favreau
Elf is probably the most recent film to become a true Christmas classic. Will Ferrell’s undeniable hilarity carries this fish-out-of-water story. It’s certainly the Christmas Story for a new generation, with many references and jokes becoming part of the holiday season. And it’s a sweet movie that holds up 13 (!) years later.
4. Gremlins (1984) — Joe Dante
Gremlins isn’t necessarily everyone’s first idea when they think of Christmas movies. But its allegiance to the holiday is even stronger. The Christmastime setting balances perfectly with the macabre comedy of the story. Gremlins is a great, unconventional movie to slip into your Christmas marathon.
5. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) — Frank Capra
It’s a Wonderful Life might feel a little slow to modern audiences, but it’s a classic to the point that you should watch it just to be able to know what everyone’s talking about. It stars the inimitable Jimmy Stewart, and defines the redemptive and sweet Christmas story.
6. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) — Brian Henson
Who doesn’t love The Muppets? Who doesn’t know the classic Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol? And really, who doesn’t love Christmas music? All these elements make The Muppet Christmas Carol a flawless Christmas experience. It’s a feel-good story made all the more touching by all the imaginative puppetry on display. Oscar winner Michael Caine is Scrooge!
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) — Henry Selick
The beauty of The Nightmare Before Christmas is you can watch it for Halloween or Christmas…or both! The stop-motion animation fits right in with all the classic TV specials that are already in your queue, and like some of the other movies on this list, it has a distinct enough flavor to make it memorable.
8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) — Larry Roemer
All the stop-motion Rankin/Bass Christmas specials are pure nostalgia bait, but I believe Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the best of the bunch. Why? The Island of Misfit Toys, of course. Oh, and the general message and the songs and quality of animation. It puts me in a good mood every time.
What are your favorite Christmas movies? Let us know in the comments below!