From cartoon classics to more recent romantic comedies, these are my top 25 favorite Christmas movies. It just isn’t Christmas without them!
Many of my favorite Christmas memories are rooted in watching my favorite movies with my family. I remember dancing along to songs from Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town with my sisters. And communicating in movie quotes from Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. All of those happy memories have made it where it just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I’ve seen all my favorite Christmas movies. Some of these are favorites from childhood, plus a few more recent additions.
My Favorite Christmas Movies
The Santa Clause
The Santa Clause is such a fun Christmas movie! It’s about a workaholic dad that doesn’t really know how to spend time with his son anymore. He’s involved in an accident that results in him becoming Santa Claus. His new job helps him bond with his son and embrace a new life.
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
My all-time favorite Christmas movie is the stop-motion classic, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. It tells the story of the origin of Santa Claus and his magical friends. The movie is full of great music and so much fun. I’ve watched this movie every year for as long as I can remember.
Buddy the Elf came into our hearts in 2003 and never left. This fun movie about an orphaned baby that becomes an elf was an instant Christmas classic. I love everything about this movie. It never gets old.
The Grinch has been done several times and in many different ways. I love the latest remake with Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the Grinch. It gives a lot more character to Cindy Lou Who and her family. It’s not just about the generic Christmas spirit, but loving and appreciating your family.
Another holiday classic! It’s just not the holidays if you don’t watch Kevin McAllister booby-trap and mortally wound a couple of bad guys. It’s also a great reminder not to leave your kids at home when you leave for Christmas.
Home Alone 2
I may actually love the second Home Alone more than the first. The setting of New York City and Kevin protecting the toy store is just so good.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Growing up I was always a huge Jim Carrey fan, so naturally, his version of the Grinch is on my list. I love how absolutely ridiculous this movie is. It’s funny, has a great song from Cindy Lou Who, and really dives into the Grinch’s origin story. The jokes are pretty adult for a kids’ Christmas movie, but it’s still a fun watch.
Christmas with the Kranks
As an adult, I relate to the Kranks more and more. Christmas can be so overwhelming and sometimes I’d rather just take a vacation. The chaos of them trying to throw a last-minute celebration together is hilarious.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Another stop-motion classic! I love Rudolph and all of his misfit friends. This is another movie that I’ve loved since I was a kid. Rudolph just wants to find a place to belong.
Frosty the Snowman
Happy Birthday! Frosty is another Rankin-Bass Christmas classic with great music and memorable characters. Frosty and his friends are on the run from a greedy magician that wants Frosty’s magic hat.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The Peanuts cover all of the facets of the holiday season in a way only they can. There’s the Christmas magic of Santa, rampant commercialism, greed, the story of Jesus’ birth, and the overarching lesson about spending the holidays with those you love.
The Family Stone
The holidays can be messy. Especially when you’re bringing home a significant other for the first time. This is one of those quirky, family holiday movies with a fun twist.
The Polar Express
The beloved Christmas book turned into a visually stunning film. The animation for this movie is so beautiful and it’s such a fun retelling of the story.
A Muppet Christmas Carol
As a kid, my parents used to watch the classic Christmas Carol movie and it was terrifying. The Muppets version is a much more family-friendly telling of the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge.
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
There are two versions of this movie, but I grew up watching the version with Mara Wilson (aka Matilda). I love this story! A little girl and a lawyer must convince the world that a department store Santa is the real deal.
While it’s not the classic “feel-good” kind of Christmas movie, Love Actually is still a classic. I love all of the various perspectives and then how it all comes together in the end. There are so many different family dynamics and love stories.
This movie always reminds me of my family growing up. Mostly because we spent Christmas Day traveling around to see all of our families. That’s about where the similarities stop though. This movie is hilarious and has a lot of quirky family holiday humor.
Jingle All the Way
Another hilarious Christmas classic from my childhood starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad. I love that Arnold is willing to do anything to get his kid the sold-out toy he wants for Christmas.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
I love the classic story of The Nutcracker, but sometimes it’s fun to see a different version of a classic story. In The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Clara is on an ominous journey to the darker side of the Land of Sweets. She’s in search of a key to unlock a box that belonged to her late mother.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Three words: Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I had such a crush on JTT in the 90’s, so this movie was definitely a must-watch for me every year. It’s still a pretty good movie. JTT plays a college student that gets stranded in the desert with no money on his way home for Christmas.
The Nutcracker (1993)
This film version of The Nutcracker ballet is a mixture of film meets stage production. While the film has a narrator and Macaulay Culkin, it is mostly just a movie of the ballet. The music and performances are spectacular. It’s definitely a must-watch, especially if you can’t make it to a live performance.
A Christmas Carol (2009)
A Christmas Carol is such a classic Christmas tale, that most everyone is familiar with the story. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy retellings so much. It adds a fresh spin to a classic story. This movie was created by the same man that did The Polar Express. He explores the world of Ebeneezer Scrooge through digital animation. Jim Carrey also does a fun job at being the voice of Scrooge.
It’s a Wonderful Life
It just isn’t Christmas until you stumble upon a showing of It’s a Wonderful Life. My mom watched this movie every year when I was growing up. It’s kind of ingrained in me. While the movie is long, with a pretty heavy subject matter, it’s a beautiful story. George Bailey explores his past and what the world would have been like without him in it. He comes to realize how beautiful his life really is.
Last Christmas (2019)
This is the most recent movie on this list, but Last Christmas is an instant classic. Kate is a frustrated lady that seems to constantly have bad luck. She works in a year-round Christmas shop and has definitely lost her Christmas spirit. Then she meets a handsome man that takes her on a Christmas adventure through the city.
The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
I’m rounding out this list with one last Rankin-Bass stop motion movie. This one is less well known than Rudolph, but it’s such a fun film. Santa considers taking a vacation from Christmas, so his elves set out to find children to change his mind. But they are stopped by two brothers, Heat Miser and Snow Miser. There are some great songs in this movie and the Miser Brothers are pretty entertaining.
Get my list of favorite Hallmark Christmas movies. I also have a Netflix favorites list!