20 Best Christmas Movies of All Time

photo of Santa's arm holding a remote control

There’s nothing like a good Christmas movie to get you in the holiday spirit.

With hundreds of family-friendly Christmas movies to choose from, where do you begin? While there are many good one-time movies, some films stand the test of time as must-sees for Christmas. Whether you are looking for a cartoon, a black-and-white classic or a new holiday favorite, here are the best-of-the-best movies for Christmas.

Classic Christmas Movies

  1. Miracle On 34th Street - Black-and-white and timeless, Miracle On 34th Street will make you believe in Santa all over again. After Macy’s hires a new Santa for its holiday parade, Kris Kringle claims that he is, in fact, the real Santa. Making believers of everyone around him, he finds himself defending who he is in the court of law. When his young lawyer triumphs in proving Santa’s position, the true Christmas miracle is Kringle’s ability to bring people together in the spirit of the season.
  2. It’s A Wonderful Life - Truly embodying the Christmas spirit, George Bailey discovers what life would have been like without him through the help of an angel in It’s A Wonderful Life. By the end of his journey, he discovers that it is after all a wonderful life. Another black-and-white movie to capture the heart.
  3. White Christmas - If you like singing and dancing, then White Christmas is a Christmas movie not to miss. Filled with lots of heart and songs that fill your soul, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen will have you humming along for days. Bright color, lots of cheese and plenty of Christmas fun make this a classic to watch every year.
  4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - What would Christmas be without Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the young reindeer who led the way for Santa’s sleigh? Watch the classic holiday jingle come to life in this stop-motion tale of how Santa’s ninth reindeer, a bit of an outcast, became the most famous reindeer of all, thanks to a little help from his friends.
  5. Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town - This stop-animation cartoon (voiced by Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney) tells the story about how Santa Claus came to be. Orphaned as a baby, Kris Kringle learned his love for toys from his adoptive elf parents. When he discovers toys have been banned from the town boys and girls, he sets out to bring toys back to the children and becomes Santa Claus.

  1. Frosty the Snowman - Another beloved Christmas song brought to life by animators, Frosty the Snowman has been delighting children with the tale of a magical talking snowman since 1969. While the original is still the best, Frosty and his friends made appearances in several sequels including Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and Frosty Returns.
  2. The Muppet Christmas Carol - It’s the Muppets’ turn to make over A Christmas Carol and they don’t disappoint. With a lovable level of frivolous fun and all your favorite Muppet characters, this adaptation is a favorite that is sure to please.
  3. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas - From the beloved poem by Dr. Seuss comes the quirky tale of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In sing-song rhyme, the movie follows the story of the Grinch, and his plans to steal Christmas. But when his plans fail, the grumpy old Grinch’s heart grows three sizes as he realizes the meaning of Christmas. “Maybe Christmas," he thinks, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!”
  4. A Charlie Brown Christmas - While it’s a cartoon meant for children, all can love the valuable lesson learned as the title character refutes the commercialization of Christmas and discovers the true meaning of the holiday. His sad little Christmas tree became an icon in this hit, and Charlie Brown and his friends remind us all what Christmas is really about.
  5. Mickey’s Christmas Carol - With Mickey Mouse starring as the kindly Bob Cratchit, Disney’s kid-friendly version of Dickens’ tale brings home the magical story of Christmas that even the youngest audiences will watch and love. What’s not to enjoy about a bumbling Goofy as a Christmas spirit?

Funny Christmas Classics

  1. A Christmas Story - Bringing us the infamous lamp made to look like a woman's leg wearing a fishnet stocking, A Christmas Story marks the beginning of a new era in Christmas classics. Ralphie’s triple-dog-dare and everyone’s insistence in telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” make this a highly quotable and memorable new classic.
  2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation - Perhaps not a feel-good movie like older classics, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has, nevertheless, genuinely taken its place in the lineup of modern Christmas classics. Its loveable, albeit a bit odd, characters portray the not-so-perfect world of Christmas in the suburbs. The underlying theme of getting along with family at Christmas is something everyone can relate to.
  3. Elf - When a baby boy raised by elves in the North Pole discovers his human lineage and sets forth to NYC, his ignorance in the ways of the world lands him in a heap of trouble (again and again). Comedy fans of Will Ferrell will laugh out loud at his adventures as he finds his way and his true love.
  4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - The live-action version of the treasured story stars Jim Carrey as the Grinch and packs just as much heart and even more quirky fun. This version goes beyond the original story with more detail into the lives of the folks in Whoville and how the Grinch became so mean.
  5. Home Alone - Calamity ensues when a family mistakenly leaves its youngest member home alone when leaving for Christmas vacation to France. The precocious Kevin McCallister finds his home the target of would-be thieves and sets up a series of elaborate traps to foil their attempts. The pranks and all-out hilarity were so popular filmmakers went on to make Home Alone 2 and 3, both cute, but only the original makes the cut on the top 20.
  6. The Santa Clause - When an unsuspecting dad, Scott Calvin, puts on Santa’s suit, something remarkable happens — he becomes Santa Claus. The transformation begins slowly at first, but as Santa’s features (like the round belly and thirst for milk and cookies) become more apparent, there is no denying that he is indeed Santa. After successfully navigating its first Christmas, The Santa Clause returned for numbers 2 and 3.

New Christmas Classics

  1. The Star - This animated film tells the story of a young donkey who one day breaks free and begins what he thinks will be a journey of adventure and freedom. When he teams up with other animals, he begins the unintended journey that will lead to the witness of the very first Christmas.
  2. The Polar Express - A magical train takes its passengers on a midnight journey to the North Pole to meet the big guy and teaches a young boy what it means to believe again. Filled with mystery and adventure, it will leave you with the feeling you can hear Christmas bells again too.
  3. Disney’s A Christmas Carol - The most modern rendition of the classic A Christmas Carol brings its Christmas magic to life in animated 3D. (It is also the second Christmas story starring Jim Carrey.) Disney knows movies, and this new take on a familiar story is no exception.
  4. Miracle on 34th Street - A remake of the 1947 version created in 1994, this is one instance where a remake truly does the original justice. If any kiddos are opposed to black-and-white films, this version is a beautiful substitute.
There you have it! Now sit back, find time to relax and enjoy one, or five, or ten of these great movies this holiday season. No matter what your preference, there are movie options for everyone to get you in the Christmas spirit!

Jennifer Burg is a flip-flop wearing, Gator-loving, picture-taking, deal-hunting Florida gal. As an overachieving mom of two awesome daughters, making to-do lists helps her remain calm and (somewhat) organized. When she's not planning events and party sign-ups, you can find her blogging at www.TheSuburbanMom.com.

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