Question: your favorite Christmas-related films?

I'm probably jumping the gun, as I haven't watched every so-called Christmas classic.
Below are a few I enjoy, including three short films:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (Frank Capra)
Probably one of the most uplifting and inspiring films ever made. A feel-good drama with fantasy elements. Arguably James Stewart's finest performance, he has an effortless charm. Stewart plays George Bailey, a thin, skinny, well-meaning and selfless character, who has much responsibility. He grows up in Bedford Falls in Connecticut and dreams about leaving and exploring the world. At the same time, he feels duty towards the community. My favourite scene is between Mary and George, when they talk about the future and he promises to pull the moon down for her. Like The Shipping News (2001), a film about community and what that entails, pros and cons.

Santa Claus - The Movie (1985) (Jeannot Szwarc)
The Christmas movie I have rewatched the most. They seemed to show Santa Claus - The Movie on TV every Christmas in the UK when I grew up. Probably my first movie memory, I was not very old when I first saw it, maybe 5, so obviously very nostalgic. Heck, I even rented the video once as a child when it wasn't even Christmas! The effects still hold up well, especially the reindeer sleigh-rides. They had a budget of 50 million dollars, which in 1985 was huge. The money is up on the screen and the toy workshops look amazing. The actors I thought were perfectly cast, the short actor Dudley Moore as the small elf Patch, the fatherly David Huddleston as Santa Claus, and John Lithgow as the sinister toy manufacturer. The story is partly about the origins of Santa Claus and might even get you interested to find out more about the history of the real Saint Nicholas. Probably will appeal more to kids. A film that can get you in the mood to celebrate Christmas.

A Christmas Story (1983) (Bob Clark)
The quintessential American Christmas movie. From the perspective of a young boy, we've all been kids who wanted something desperately for Christmas. Very quotable and rewatchable. With relatable childhood moments at school and with the family at home.

Black Christmas (1974)  (Bob Clark) 
Odd how Bob Clark made the beloved family-friendly A Christmas Story in 1983, yet even earlier made a horror film with Christmas in the title.
Black Christmas is one of the earliest and most influential slashers. A murder mystery in which a community receive obscene phone calls, those calls still hold up as very creepy. 

Gremlins (1984) (Joe Dante)
Part comedy, part horror. Not for kids, I remember I saw it fairly young, before the 15 rating on the video box said I should. The cute little creatures are not all cuddly!! Amazing to me how many classic 80s movies Corey Feldman is in, he reminds me of childhood. Feels very 80s, they don’t make them like this anymore. A definite nostalgic movie. Joe Dante was at the top of his game in the 80s.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) (Jeremiah S. Chechik) 
A goofy comedy classic. A bit uneven, but very funny in places, especially the dinner scenes cracked me up.
The third installment in National Lampoon's Vacation film series, written by John Hughes, and based on his short story in National Lampoon Magazine, Christmas ‘59.

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) (Henry Selick) 
I guess you can watch this to celebrate Halloween or Christmas. Atmospheric and timeless, a masterful piece of stop motion animation. I love the opening sequence. There are countless details which add to the charm and rewatchability, such as when the father opens his head and scratches his brain, the walking bath tub, the dog ghost, or the girl sewing her body parts back on.
I didn’t need to have Christmas explained to me. Although I admit it’s healthy to look at traditions with fresh eyes like a child does, so as to (re)discover what makes things magical in the first place. Hijacking Christmas is a unique idea and we can all relate to Jack’s feeling of something missing in our lives and tired of the old routine. Part of me feels like Burton as a kid would have preferred the ghoulish Christmas presents.
I admire the film more than I love it, but there’s enough to enjoy here in terms of visuals, music and quirky characters. The effects hold up well and so do the songs. Memorable tunes, especially ”This is Halloween” from the opening, and “What's This?” when Jack Skellington encounters Christmastown.

Bad Santa (2003) (Terry Zwigoff) 
A Christmas comedy with offensive swearing, drinking, lustful behaviour, and not least showing (deliberate) disrespect to Jesus and the lord. Guaranteed to divide audiences, I hadn’t seen anything like it before. Why the love interest and grandmother can’t see Santa is a jerk is implausible, but the story has its moments. Especially memorable are the scenes when Bernie Mac repeats ”half”, the staring guy at the bar, the boxing, and the jumper cables. The story felt sort of like a reworking of Home Alone, in which the kid befriends a crook. I'm usually not a fan of vulgar comedy, but the story was better than average.

Home Alone (1990) (Chris Columbus)

Batman Returns (1992) (Tim Burton)

Die Hard (1988) (John McTiernan)

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) (Stanley Kubrick)

Love Actually (2003) (Richard Curtis)

Short films:

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 
Surprisingly melancholic, but very very rewatchable, whether you are child or grown-up.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) 
An iconic story. You can understand how the grinch could be fed up with seeing xmas decorations and hearing all the music and caroling.

The Snowman (1982)
An Academy Award Nominee. I mainly remember the short for the flying scene featuring the song Walking In The Air

Yet to watch: White Christmas (1954), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Remember the Night (1940), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), Scrooged (1988), Elf (2003), Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (47 min 1964 TV special), Frosty the Snowman (25min 1969 TV short), The Little Drummer Boy (25min TV short 1968), A Garfield Christmas Special (30min, 1987)

Thanks to this site for use of the image


  1. Hey Chris! I think out of your list, the one Christmas-related movie I don't mind seeing over and over is Love, Actually. Love most of the actors and being an Anglophile, I love the London setting :) It’s a Wonderful Life is perhaps my fave classic Christmas film.

    1. @Ruth: Good choices! Santa Claus:The Movie (1985) still is my go-to which can get me in the Christmas spirit. A Wonderful Life is definitely high on my list too.

  2. The Snowman is a classic. I have to watch it every Christmas. Ivanhoe also always reminds me of Christmas although it has nothing to do with the holidays. Then of course Die Hard...

    1. @TSorensen: I admit the list is Americanized, only fair I include something from UK, The Snowman and Love Actually. I almost included 1991’s The Julekalender(but it isn’t a film). Do you mean Ivanhoe the 1952 film? How is that related to Christmas?

  3. I've seen a bunch (but by no means all) of your list. Die Hard is my favorite non-Christmas Christmas film, one that can be watched any time of year and is only remotely connected to the holiday, but with enough Christmas in it to justify watching it now. I agree with Ruth about Love, Actually. It's more a movie that takes place around Christmas than being about Christmas, but it's sweet in many ways.

    I genuinely love A Christmas Story, though, because of just how well it captures the nostalgia of being a kid at Christmas. Films like Miracle on 34th Street, while great in so many ways, really are more about the adults than about the kids. A Christmas Story is all about Ralphie, and as an adult watching it, we all end up being Ralphie, at least a little bit.

    Black Christmas is pretty astonishing and transgresive, which is what makes it work.

    1. @SJHoneywell: Agree Diehard is for all seasons and Love Actually is sweet.
      Good point we all end up being Ralphie for a short while.
      Black Christmas is quite unsettling and original with a number of imitations since(Scream, When a Stranger Calls)

  4. For me, Die Hard, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and Scrooged.

    Shorts, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Mad TV's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer trilogy.

    1. @thevoidd99: Of your favorites, I’ve heard of all of them, except the MADtv Rudolph trilogy.

    2. Well, they're essentially parodies of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer made in claymation style as if they were helmed by Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola. Here's the first part, Raging Rudolph.

    3. @thevoid99: Thanks, I’ll have to give that a look some time

  5. For me it's Home Alone, Elf and Muppets Christmas Carol. Still feel like I need to watch Miracle on 34th street (both versions)

  6. @Nostra: Thanks for sharing your favorites. Elf is on my watchlist, and like you I still need to see Miracle on 34th Street-it looks like the 1947 version has a better reputation than the 90s remake.

  7. It's A Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Bad Santa, Gremlins. You got all my favourites.

  8. Hey Chris, welcome back! I don't know that I have a favorite Christmas movie. I'm looking forward to catching an "alternative" Christmas double feature at a local theater though -- Die Hard and Gremlins. Now that should be a fun combo.

    1. Eric @ The Warning Sign: Nice to hear from you again! That "alternative" double feature sounds entertaining.

      I recently saw Gremlins 2, which isn’t as scary and isn’t christmassy. Some regard it as nonsense and roll their eyes, but a fun sequel with a boatload of wacky ideas.

  9. Love your list! A few of mine are on here like It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, and love the shout-out to Batman Returns too. Bridget Jones's Diary is one of my faves too. :)

  10. @Katy: Thanks, yeah Batman Returns is quite a dark christmassy movie. You’re right about Bridget Jones’ Diary, I particularly remember Colin Firth’s reindeer sweater!

  11. Gremlins! I can't not have a Christmas go by without seeing Gremlins. I'm not a huge Christmas film fan, but that's a must. As well as Home Alone 1 and 2. More so 2 though—great Christmas film.

    1. @Jaina: haha, yes Gremlins does remind me of Christmas as well. I’ve seen Home Alone 2, the scene when they get the room service bill I remember fondly. Watched Bad Santa this December and that’s all I've managed.

  12. I still have never seen It's a Wonderful Life. I know it's considered a classic but never got the time to watch and enjoy it. The only one from your list I didn't like was Christmas Story. I thought it was one that was overplayed a lot udrring this time. I am however interested in seeing Black Christmas since the directors are the same and I love seeing directors try new things

    1. @TheVern: I’m sure you’ll get to A Wonderful Life eventually.
      Black Christmas is well done, it’s horror rather than festive. I suppose you could watch it in December.


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