It’s Christmas time again, and therefore time to watch lots and lots of holiday movies!
While there are many great theatrical and made-for-TV movies to choose from this holiday season, Moviefone has assembled a collection of fun, unique and beloved Christmas classics to make sure you add to your annual holiday watchlist.
Let’s begin and Merry Christmas!
In ‘Spirited,’ Will Ferrell plays Christmas Present, who is considering retirement after the holidays but chooses to haunt Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), an arrogant public relations executive who is completely aware of Charles Dickens’ famous story and that Present is trying to teach him about the true meaning of Christmas. The result is a fun twist on ‘A Christmas Carol,’ with fantastic musical numbers created by ‘La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
No matter where you come down on the “creepy or cute” debate over this film’s CGI characters, Robert Zemeckis’ first animated holiday film has a surprisingly tender and important message for audiences of all ages as a young boy goes on an odyssey to prove that he can hold onto his Christmas spirit in the face of too many reasons not to believe.
As quite possibly the only Jewish-themed Christmas movie (at least on this list), Jonathan Levine’s story of three friends (Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie) searching for the ultimate Christmas party offers tons of laughs but also some surprisingly mature messages, all anchored by an unexpectedly delightful turn by Michael Shannon as the trio’s would-be guardian angel.
“Their past, present and future. All in one night.”
1 hr 41 minNov 20th, 2015
Having run every year on television since 1964, “Rudolph” is the longest-running Christmas special in history. But Rankin/ Bass’ stop-motion adventure is full both of anachronistic, oddball charms and timeless lessons, as Burl Ives supplies a musical backdrop that make Rudolph’s search for friends – and eventually, self-acceptance – such an enduring story.
Tim Allen’s 1990s hot streak continued with this story of a man who inadvertently inherits the mantle of Santa Claus and must adjust – and adjust his wardrobe – to accommodate the demands of one of the world’s most important jobs.
“What if your dad was Santa Claus?”
1 hr 37 minNov 11th, 1994
If the movies teach us anything it’s that Santa has a lot of family members – but this might be the first time he not only has kids, but a father of his own. In this delightful animated film, Santa’s son and old, OLD Saint Nick team up to deliver a lost gift to a young girl in time for Christmas.
You may not remember, but ‘Lethal Weapon’ is totally a Christmas movie as it takes place over the holiday. On the eve of retirement, veteran LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is assigned a new partner, Vietnam veteran Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), a recent widower with suicidal tendencies. After initially bumping heads, the two come together to solve a homicide, bring down a group of heroin smugglers, and rescue Murtaugh’s family.
“If these two can learn to stand each other… the bad guys don’t stand a chance.”
1 hr 50 minMar 6th, 1987
Terry Zwigoff’s midnight-black comedy offers a rejoinder to the notion that Christmas stories must be cheerful and bright, as alcoholic safe-cracker Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) eats and drinks his way through the holiday season, holing up in the house of an outcast kid name Thurman who think he’s the real article as his partner Marcus tries to keep him in check (and sober enough to complete their annual Christmas Eve heist).
“He doesn’t care if you’re naughty or nice.”
1 hr 32 minNov 26th, 2003
The best holiday stories are those that remind you what it was like to be a kid – or at least that there’s some magic in the world – and this one is no exception: when a man dressed as Santa Claus and claiming to be him gets institutionalized, a young lawyer sets out to prove that he’s the real thing.
Joe Dante created this mischievous romp about a mysterious little creature and the trouble caused when his owner (Zach Galligan) fails to obey the very simple and strict rules for taking care of him. Featuring a cavalcade of manic, menacing, oddball creatures and plenty of Dante’s own impish creativity, it’s a highly unconventional holiday film that has earned its place in the canon.
“Don’t get him wet, keep him out of bright light, and never NEVER feed him after midnight.”
1 hr 46 minJun 7th, 1984
At 26 minutes and using only hand-drawn animation, this television special might lack some of the pizazz of the live-action and computer-animated versions that followed. But its adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ classic children’s book gets all of the details the most right, and features the immortal Boris Karloff as narrator, lending the character’s journey from crank to Christmas superfan a theatrical elegance that’s never been matched.
Bob Clark’s adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” skillfully pays tribute to a bygone era of childhood fantasy and hilariously exposes the simple truth that it never really existed. Peter Billingsley is so good as the kid who wants nothing as much as a Red Ryder BB gun and will engage in any and all subterfuge to obtain one – and protect it even after his parents’ worst fears come true.
Written and directed by ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ James Gunn, the movie follows Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) as they set out to give Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) the best Christmas ever, after discovering that Yondu (Michael Rooker) ruined the holiday for him as a child. So, the two Guardians travel to Earth to kidnap Peter’s childhood hero, the ‘Footloose’ actor Kevin Bacon (playing himself), as the ultimate gift for Peter.
This would make the list on the strength of Vince Guaraldi’s music alone, but this animated special qualifies as Charles Schulz’ magnum opus, as his beleaguered title character tries to find the true meaning of Christmas in a landscape marred by rampant commercialism.
Tim Burton combines the best of two holidays with this stop-motion animated film about Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman), an authority on all things Halloween who decides to turn his macabre creativity loose on Santa’s favorite day of the year.
9. ‘Elf‘ (2003)
Jon Favreau’s comedic chops balance perfectly with Will Ferrell’s wholesome, silly enthusiasm in this endlessly entertaining story of a human raised at the North Pole who treks to civilization and reconnect with his father, a cynical workaholic book publisher played to perfection by James Caan.
John Hughes transitioned into decidedly more family-friendly territory with this script about a kid who gets left behind while the rest of his family heads out for their Christmas vacation. Macaulay Culkin became a star overnight as the precocious preteen who fends off burglars and holiday loneliness in Chris Columbus’ monster hit film.
“A family comedy without the family.”
1 hr 43 minNov 16th, 1990
Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo come clashing back together as Clark Griswold and his loving, long-suffering wife Ellen, this time trying to survive the holiday season that much like every other Clark family gathering seems destined for disaster.
There have been a lot of great versions of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but Bill Murray makes his version of Scrooge one of the wildest, this time a television executive who loses his way in a cutthroat industry and gets visited by three ghosts unafraid to beat him (literally) into a Christmas morning epiphany.
“The spirits will move you in odd and hysterical ways.”
1 hr 41 minNov 22nd, 1988
Frank Capra’s 1946 film initially achieved ubiquitousness by virtue of endless syndicated showings on television, but it became a classic on the strength of its story – a portrait of sacrifice and generosity – as well as a performance by Jimmy Stewart that utilized both his fragile desperation and scrappy determination.
Watch the Made In Hollywood interview with Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy) and Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu) for the 75th anniversary of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’
Asking the age old question: “What would Santa Clause do if he was in ‘Die Hard?'” ‘Violent Night’ stars David Harbour as Father Christmas, who has lost faith in mankind. While delivering gifts to a wealthy family on Christmas Eve, he discovers a group of criminals have taken the family hostage, and its up to Santa to save the day and rescue a little girl and her family, who teaches him that some people still believe in Christmas miracles.
Richard Curtis’ enchanting tapestry of relationships in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas continues to inspire debates about exactly how healthy the behavior some of its cast of characters are, but that’s sort of the point of the movie itself: what we all want, what we’re pursuing, and at what cost all connects through love, even if in some cases that means the fractured relationship between a husband (Alan Rickman) and wife (Emma Thompson), and others, the recognition of a soul mate in a long-suffering tour manager (Gregor Fisher) and his unpredictable rock-star client (Bill Nighy).
“Love actually is all around.”
2 hr 15 minNov 7th, 2003
This “Christmas Carol” adaptation has largely been reduced by the internet to a meme of its Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) dancing along with one of Jim Henson’s human-sized puppets, but the film remains one of the most magical – and emotional – versions of the story ever told, thanks to a Bob Cratchit, played by Kermit the Frog, who irresistibly embodies the everyman everyone loves.
Before John McClane became a superhero and Bruce Willis descended into super-stardom, his performance in this iconic original installment oozed with everyman charm as the New York cop loses his shoes, battles a skyscraper full of terrorists, and tries to make peace with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia).
“Forty stories. Twelve terrorists. One cop.”
2 hr 11 minJul 22nd, 1988