Ah, the holidays. You either love them or hate them, probably a little bit of both. Maybe it’s the time for joy and excitement for gift giving and opening presents, a sweet reunion with the family you’ve missed all year, a time to enjoy a good meal and delicious desserts. Or, maybe it’s the time you dread having to spend a whole day with your insufferable in-laws, the season when you have to drain your bank account for people who don’t deserve more than a pile of poop in a brown bag, the time when you have to slave away in front of a hot stove for hours, wrap gifts after last minute shopping, and wake up in the middle of the night to play Santa.
Either way, it’s the season that comes every year, and the good thing about it is that you have a reason to enjoy some of the most awesome movies that make you feel good about life. I love Christmas movies and there are ones that I enjoy watching that I think hold up for many years. So I’m sharing with you my ten favorite Christmas movies of all time. Feel free to share some of yours in the comments!
10. Gremlins (1984)
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Chris Columbus
Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Corey Feldman
There are three rules to caring for a Mogwai: keep him out of bright light, don’t ever get water on him, and never feed him after midnight. Billy (Zach Galligan), after receiving the adorable “Gizmo” from his father as a Christmas gift, breaks all the rules, resulting in his town being overrun by mischievous gremlins who like to get drunk, smoke cigarettes, play poker, wreak havoc on old ladies, and watch Snow White at the theater. This movie is so ridiculous I can’t help but love it. It’s a lot of hilarious fun for Christmas time and I’ve always wanted a Gizmo for my own, he’s so unbelievably cute.
9. Jingle All the Way (1996)
Director: Brain Levant
Writer: Randy Kornfield
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Rita Wilson, Phil Hartman
Howard’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) main last minute goal for Christmas time is to get his son (Jake Lloyd) the unobtainable Turbo Man action figure and has to fight off other determined fathers like Myron (Sinbad) in the process. This movie is so dumb, but I love it. It’s like a funny way of showing what the holidays have become, and how crazy people are when it comes to getting gifts, especially at the last minute. Let’s be honest, the holiday season is really boring unless you add on the extra drama involved with last minute gift shopping! Arnold is awesome and anything having to do with him brawling with other shoppers over a ridiculous toy is totally worth watching every year.
8. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Writer: John Hughes
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki
The Griswold’s plan a big family Christmas at their house only to have it ruined by a series of unfortunate events. This movie is a must-see for Christmas time. Everyone knows the struggles that come with family holiday get togethers, and this movie exaggerates and satirizes that. Chevy Chase is his usual arrogant and goofy self, determined to cover his entire house in Christmas lights and try to recapture the spirit of Christmas from his childhood. You’ve also got the stereotypical awful relatives, the moody kids, and annoying neighbors. Mix that in with ruined dinners, ugly trees, and pesky animals and you have a great film to get you in the holiday spirit.
7. Love Actually (2003)
Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
Cast: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightley, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman
It’s a sweet intertwining of multiple stories centered around love at Christmas time. Other than being one of the best examples of a large ensemble movie done right, Love Actually is just one of those movies that really gives you the good feels when you watch it. It features some of the best actors from the UK, it had sad moments, happy moments, humor, and it’s just an all around cute movie that I love watching any time of the year.
6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Tim Burton, Michael McDowell, Caroline Thompson
Cast: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey
Tim Burton’s classic animated tale of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king, as he discovers Christmas Town one day, and tries to get the residents of Halloween Town to help recreate Christmas with their own scary twist. This one is tricky. Is it a Halloween movie? Is it a Christmas movie? I like to think of it as both. If a movie has anything even slightly Christmas-y in it, it’s a Christmas movie! That’s my rule. If there was ever a movie that so accurately portrays the weirdly unique style of Tim Burton, it’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s a reason why so many people are drawn to it, it’s different, it’s skillfully done stop-motion animation with a main character who is nothing short of iconic in the animation world, it features some really catchy songs, and it’s a lot of stylish, entertaining fun, and perfect for the holiday despite its Halloween themes.
5. Home Alone (1990)
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: John Hughes
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy
The story of Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), a boy who must defend his home from burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) after he was accidentally left behind by his family who flew to France for Christmas. To me, Home Alone is classic holiday movie that never gets old. I grew up watching it at least a few times every year. I always wished that I could be as fearless and clever as Kevin if I ever had to face the same situation, of course, it would never happen like that. But at least I learned how to blow torch someone’s head if they ever walked into my front door uninvited, or how to ice my steps so they might never make it to the door in the first place. There’s a lot here for a kid to love. I’m 25 now, but I could still watch endless reruns of this movie any time of year.
4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Director: George Seaton
Writers: George Seaton, Valentine Davies
Cast: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, John Payne
Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood), meet a nice old man (Edmund Gwenn) who works as Santa Claus in Macy’s and who claims to be the real deal. When he is institutionalized for these claims, Fred Gailey (John Payne), a lawyer and the Walkers’ neighbor, has to defend him by proving that he really is Santa Claus. Its a cute story that involves a no nonsense mother and daughter who are made to believe in the extraordinary and the illogical. It’s a movie that captures the spirit of Christmas in all the right ways. You have a nice old man who changes people’s lives and who even turns presidents of department stores into helpful, giving men. Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle and it was well deserved. Natalie Wood was also an impressive talent as a sharp-tongued and clever young girl. Miracle on 34th Street is a great Christmas movie for the whole family.
3. Die Hard (1988)
Directors: John McTiernan
Writers: Steven de Souza, Jeb Stuart
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson
John McClane (Bruce Willis) has to save his estranged wife and her co-workers when they are taken hostage by a German terrorist named Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). I recently wrote a guest review for this movie for Movierob’s blog, so I’ll spare everyone the repetitiveness about just how awesome I think this movie is. The best part about it is that I could include it in both a favorite action movies list as well as a favorite Christmas movies list (yes, it’s a Christmas movie!) The fact that it’s number 3 also says that if someone ever asks me what Christmas movie I feel like watching, if none of the 2 options below are available, Die Hard is my most obvious choice, despite any kind of weird judgement I might receive for it.”What? No Christmas Vacation? Elf? BAD SANTA?!” No, Die Hard. NOW!
2. A Christmas Story (1983)
Director: Bob Clark
Writers: Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark
Cast: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin
Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) is obsessed with the idea of getting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, despite his parents, teacher, and the fake Santa at the department store insisting that he’ll shoot his eye out with it. I don’t know about anyone outside the US, but here there’s a TV station that plays 24 hours of A Christmas Story starting on Christmas Eve. For those whole 24 hours, I don’t watch anything except this movie. Yeah, every single year. I love it. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it, honestly. It’s entertaining and hilarious, the narration is great and I love the depiction of Christmas time in the 1940s. Growing up watching this over and over again every year, it’s become a piece of my childhood and a big part of my holiday probably for years to come. Come tonight, I’m going to marathoning the hell out of this movie!
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Director: Frank Capra
Writers: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra
Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore
George Bailey (James Stewart) often misses his opportunities to live out his life dreams of traveling in order to fulfill his responsibilities to his town and his family. When his uncle misplaces an $8,000 loan on Christmas Eve, he feels overwhelmed and suicidal until his guardian angel comes along and shows him how worse off everyone would be if he never existed. It’s a Wonderful Life is the ultimate Christmas classic. Even in some other Christmas movies, you’ll see the characters watching this. Not only is it a great movie for the holiday, but it’s one of the greatest movies ever made. The story is so relatable, how many people out there have had to sacrifice big dreams for the good of the people around them? I’m sure plenty have, and plenty still do. It’s sad, and it makes me cry like a baby, but the message is so great. This is a truly beautiful movie that everyone should watch regardless of whether or not you celebrate Christmas.
Elf (2003) – not a bad movie at all about a regular sized man raised as an elf at the North Pole. I’m usually not a big fan of Will Ferrell, but he’s kind of awesome in this.
Bad Santa (2003) – Billy Bob Thornton is perfect for the role as the rude and miserable man who poses as Santa in order to rob department stores. Not exactly a kid friendly movie, but it’s a good time.
The Family Stone (2005) – I wasn’t a huge fan of this movie until my mom’s love for it forced me to watch it a bunch of times and it grew on me, now I think it’s slightly underrated.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) – One of the best old stop-motion animated Christmas specials I used to look forward to seeing every year on TV.
Scrooged (1988) – a modern twist on the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge with Bill Murray as a selfish TV executive who is haunted by three spirits at Christmas. Who doesn’t love Bill Murray?
Well, there it is, folks! I hope everyone has a happy holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever else. ‘Tis the season to enjoy some time off work or school (assuming you’re lucky enough to have that), to spend time with family and relax. May you have the patience, tolerance and self-restraint needed to get through the not always pleasant family gatherings, and if all else fails, ignore them and go watch a movie with a glass of wine and some homemade cookies!