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Christmas Movies

Movies | By The Top 13 on December 23, 2009

It seems to us that no holiday has been used for a setting by more films than Christmas, and every year you're likely to see many Christmastime movies on your TV's guide. No matter what your religion, many of these films are classics and are worth your viewing time. With that in mind, we present the Top 13 Christmas Movies. We are defining a Christmas movie as any movie set at Christmas, whether or not the holiday is actually the subject of the film.

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A Christmas Story

1

A Christmas Story

1983

Widely regarded as the best movie about the Christmas experience from a kid's perspective, this movie about a boy named Ralphie and his desire for a Red Ryder BB gun was not an immediate success. It became a cult classic in large part due to constant basic cable airtime and its charming, universal observations about childhood and family dynamics.

Trading Places

2

Trading Places

1983

This film masterfully incorporates Christmas as a backdrop for its comedic tale of greed and social manipulation. Trading Places features what are perhaps the finest comedic performances by either Dan Aykroyd or Eddie Murphy in a feature film, which is, no doubt, a lofty distinction. The characters of Randolph and Mortimer Duke (played by late greats Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche), who also appeared in the film's sort-of-sequel, Coming to America, are arguably the funniest capitalist buffoons ever captured on film.

Die Hard

3

Die Hard

1988

Another 80s gem, Die Hard is one of the pillars of the action movie canon. Featuring breakthrough performances by Bruce Willis and the sublime Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, this movie makes up for its lack of holiday cheer with nonstop action and suspense. The film spawned three sequels, though none of them have come close to capturing the urgency or ultra-violence of the original.

Gremlins

4

Gremlins

1984

For some reason, the early-mid 1980s set a lot of great films around Christmas, and Gremlins is among the best from any era. This innovative and weird science fiction tale about a boy, his pet mogwai, and the importance of following rules was a huge box office success - grossing more than ten times its budget - and spawned a sequel in 1990. Strangely, despite its Christmas setting, this film was released mid-summer, on the same day as fellow 80s classic Ghostbusters.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

5

The Nightmare Before Christmas

1993

The Nightmare Before Christmas is the best of all animated Christmas films. This Tim Burton-produced musical, best known for its groundbreaking visuals and animation style, was a box-office hit and its popularity has only grown over time, elevating it to classic status.

It's a Wonderful Life

6

It's a Wonderful Life

1946

Originally a major box-office disappointment, It's a Wonderful Life has now become one of the bedrock Christmas institutions in American popular culture. This film, incorporating elements of the Scrooge story, focuses on one suicidal man and his ultimate epiphany that he has touched many lives in a positive way. This is a genuinely classic movie and is one of the old films you'll see flipping through the channels that remains relevant and worthwhile today.

Love Actually

7

Love Actually

2003

The best of writer Richard Curtis' romantic comedies, Love Actually is a serious yet funny take on relationships and the importance of love. The ensemble cast is practically a who's who of British romantic comedies, featuring Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson and Keira Knightley, along with the more versatile Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman, but it's Bill Nighy's turn as ridiculous pop star Billy Mack that stands out from the rest.

Scrooged

8

Scrooged

1988

This comedic 1980s adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol has aged amazingly well given the fact that its premise - that a live, big-network version of the Scrooge story could be a must-see TV event - has been rendered implausible by the changing times. This film's dark comic style still provides big laughs - most notably from Bill Murray - but doesn't overshadow the heart of gold inside.

Elf

9

Elf

2003

This is the film that affirmed Will Ferrell as a Hollywood leading man. A genuinely funny fish-out-of-water comedy, this is one of the few recent Christmas comedies that actually delivered the goods. This film was also now-Iron Man director Jon Favreau's first turn at the helm of a big-budget picture and one of Zooey Deschanel's first lead performances.

Scrooge

10

Scrooge

1951

Starring Alastair Sim as the eponymous main character, this 1951 adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol (the film's title for its US release) is the definitive film version of the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Though reception was lukewarm upon its original release, this film attained classic status through its annual airings on television, most notably on PBS in America. Sim's Scrooge is the one that immediately comes to mind for most when trying to picture the miserly cautionary character.

Bad Santa

11

Bad Santa

2003

They don't make them much ruder or cruder than this story about an alcoholic lowlife who uses his position as a mall Santa to conduct Christmastime heists. This comedy succeeds due to the brilliance of the cast, including Billy Bob Thornton, John Ritter, the late Bernie Mac, and an amazing performance by a 10-year-old Brett Kelly as The Kid. This is a love-it-or-hate it film, and The Top 13 can't resist its cynical charms.

Home Alone

12

Home Alone

1990

Certainly the career-defining film for star Macauley Culkin, Home Alone was a worldwide commercial juggernaut in 1990, remaining #1 at the box office for 12 straight weeks, well past the end of the Christmas season. By the time its run finished, it was the third-highest grossing movie of all time. While clearly targeted for children and full of slapstick comedy, this movie endures because of the performances of its fine cast of actors, including Joe Pesci and Catherine O'Hara.

Black Christmas

13

Black Christmas

1974

As we noted in ranking this film first in The Top 13 Slasher Films, this movie is arguably the first modern slasher film and established many genre trademarks. The decision to use Christmas as the setting was both unsettling and revolutionary, given the subsequent trends of basing slasher movies around holidays. This film is a cult classic and is probably one of the least festive movies you could flip to this holiday season.

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Comments Leave a comment

david 

Christmas Vacation is better than Scrooged!

5:47 AM   Dec 23, 2009

blix 

I'll get push back on this, but I don't really consider Die Hard or Trading Places Christmas movies - and I love them both. I would personally put Scrooged and Home Alone in the top 3. Spot on with A Christmas Story. That's the quintessential holiday flick.

8:24 AM   Dec 23, 2009

rjasonf 

Where's Christmas Vacation? Miracle on 34th Street? nice to bookend the list with Bob Clark films.

8:25 AM   Dec 23, 2009

jasun 

Christmas Vacation being left off thi list is embarrassing.

8:48 AM   Dec 23, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

Agree that Christmas Vacation not being on the list is a travesty.

8:57 AM   Dec 23, 2009

oshoney 

no Christmas Vacation is such fail. it's the only christmas movie i watch every year multiple times.

9:41 AM   Dec 23, 2009

jason ★★

Having seen Christmas Vacation 2 weeks ago, going into it with fond memories, I absolutely do not think it belongs on this list. The jokes are crude and lame and it's really just not funny. At all. It has aged very poorly (and wasn't that good to begin with), in my opinion. Scrooged (which I watched at the same time), in comparison, has held up well.

Blix, I hear you, I didn't really consider them Christmas movies per se either, but they do fit the criteria and are awesome.

9:55 AM   Dec 23, 2009

abujabu 

embarrassing

11:26 AM   Dec 23, 2009

stillathreat ★★

14. Christmas Vacation.

11:32 AM   Dec 23, 2009

jason ★★

BTW, great observation on Bob Clark. Hard to believe that A Christmas Story and Black Christmas were directed by the same guy.

5:48 PM   Dec 23, 2009

ajay ★★

Just watched Christmas Vacation last night and found that I agree with Jason. It's littered with stupid slapstick comedy that made me want to turn the channel over to Home Alone. It should at least be somewhere on the list, but nowhere near the top. Especially not above Scrooged.

1:02 AM   Dec 26, 2009

Caseydog 

The only Christmas movie I watch regularly is Elf. It's actually on my Top 13 movies of all time list. It's pretty sad that I know all the lines and my 5 1/2 year old daughter knows them all too.

9:40 AM   Dec 26, 2009

PulpAffliction ★★

I lovvvvvve Elf. Easily the best Will Farrell vehicle.

12:34 PM   Dec 27, 2009

bludevil007 

Christmas Vacation has to be top 3 of all time. And seriously, Bad Santa that far down? "Look, I've boned a lot of fat chicks in my time, sure. But, as far back as I can remember, I've never fornicated anybody."

4:11 PM   Dec 28, 2009

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