ByTom Chapman, writer at
tweet: tomtomchap Warden of the North - bearded, tattooed and square eyed 'til the end
Tom Chapman

You hear that? The sound of Bobby Helms's "Jingle Bell Rock," so, do you know what time it is? Pull out that TV guide and prepare for a winter crammed around the TV screen while pretending you like each other. Too soon, you say? Well, it is never too early to start brewing up some eggnog and jamming your tongue down someone's throat under the mistletoe. Let's thaw that heart and enjoy some classic films for even the scroogiest of Scrooges.

Image: Warner Bros.
Image: Warner Bros.

As you prepare to gorge yourself on turkey, unbutton those jeans and slip into Bridget Jones mode to watch 12 of the best Christmas films out there, before you get your tinsel in a twist, the following are in no particular order. Save your festive cheer for the comments!

See also:

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Image: Buena Vista Pictures
Image: Buena Vista Pictures
  • What's it about: Furry festive fun with happy sock puppets
  • Starring: Michael Caine, Frank Oz (voice), Dave Goelz (voice), Steve Whitmire (voice)
  • Quote: "Light the lamp, not the rat, light the lamp, not the rat."

The first of two great Christmas film entries on this list to retread the tired story of A Christmas Carol, this time Jim Henson Studios stuck those rag-tag Muppets into the classic tale. Taking Michael Caine's Ebenezer Scrooge on a ghostly visit through Christmas eve, Gonzo, Rizzo, Kermit, and Miss Piggy were along for the ride.

Appealing to your parents who remember the original Muppets, the generation who watched the film in 1992, and a younger generation because, well, it's weird creatures with witty one-liners. Where else can you find a singing cabbage without heading to YouTube?

2. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

  • What's it about: An angel saves you from Christmas suicide
  • Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed
  • Quote: "Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings."

It is back to the classic Christmas films, and proving the oldies are sometimes the best. If you thought you couldn't make a wholesome family film about suicide during the holiday season, you were wrong — dead wrong. Frank Capra's black and white classic is on everyone's film bucket list, starring James Stewart as a suicidal man helped by his guardian angel. It's A Wonderful Life is based off the short story The Greatest Gift, and has had a place in our hearts since its release in 1946.

After initially performing poorly at the box office, It's A Wonderful Life is one of the most frequently parodied films out there, and it is a pretty big deal when a film even has its own episode of Rugrats. At the heart of the film is that old "I wish I had never been born" threat we all make, but it leads to a happy ending while teaching us that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

Image: Warner Bros
Image: Warner Bros
  • What's it about: That guy from Community has his family over for Christmas.
  • Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis
  • Quote: "We're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f*cking Kaye."

Despite the franchise continuing into 2015's maligned reboot of the series, the third entry in the National Lampoon Vacation series is often heralded as its best. Jammed with expletives and Christmas cheer, it is hard not to see why Christmas Vacation is so popular. Focusing on a frustrated Chevy Chase shoehorning fun into an over packed Christmas, there is a flashy light show, the world's driest turkey, and that infamous squirrel hiding in the tree to keep you entertained.

Christmas Vacation has that original Griswold Family slapstick with holiday spirit, and has the honor of being the only film in the Vacation series to spawn its own sequel: 2003's direct-to-TV National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure. The less said about that, the better, but go back and enjoy the original Christmas Vacation for a family fun festive film — try saying that after an eggnog.

4. Elf (2003)

  • What's it about: Will Ferrell gets hyper off glitter as a giant child
  • Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel
  • Quote: "You sit on a throne of lies!"

It should be so bad, but it is sooooo good. 2003's Elf gathered a cult Christmas following and even became its own Broadway production. Following Will Ferrell lost in a world of whimsy, the story of a man raised by elves sounds like a HBO documentary waiting to happen.

Turning the volume up to 100, we are left with Ferrell at his most enthusiastic, and a feel-good family film. Cue James Caan as the Scrooge of the show, stick in Zooey Deschanel to sing us some carols, and use that old formula of "Santa needs your help," and New Line Cinema has a winner with the Christmas comedy film, and Elf is the guilty pleasure of Christmas fans everywhere.

5. Scrooged (1988)

Image: Paramount Pictures
Image: Paramount Pictures
  • What's it about: A Ghostbuster learns some lessons about the holiday season
  • Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane
  • Quote: "Well, I'm sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples."

Aiming to cash in on the success of Ghostbusters, the strapline for Scrooged even said "Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time, it's three against one." Murray starred as Frank Cross, the TV executive-cum-Scrooge in this updated version of the Dickensian classic.

With a slew of celebrity cameos (including Lee Majors), and Murray at his cynical best, Scrooged was a social commentary on the go-get-'em world of the '80s. We all know how the story ends with a reformed lead character, but it is no less fun getting there in a battered yellow cab — Scrooged is one of the best A Christmas Carol adaptations out there.

6. Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Image: Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures
  • What's it about: Jim Carrey eats onions up a mountain
  • Starring: Jim Carrey, Anthony Hopkins (voice), Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor
  • Quote: "Inside a snowflake like the one on your sleeve, there happened a story you must see to believe."

There is something about Jim Carrey's furry festiveless fiend that appeals to the humbug inside all of us. Carrey plays the grisly titular monster, the Grinch who stole Christmas, as the 2000 film offers colorful holiday to cheer to our screens — beautifully narrated by a rhyming Anthony Hopkins.

Ron Howard imaginatively brings to life the world of author Dr. Seuss, with just enough harking back to the poetic 1957 story on which it is based. Alongside Carey's madcap roles of The Mask and Ace Ventura, The Grinch allows the actor to flaunt his unique style of acting in glowing green glory.

7. Home Alone (1990)

  • What's it about: Stranger danger for Macaulay Culkin
  • Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara
  • Quote: "Keep the change, ya filthy animal!"

It has been 26 years since we first fell in love with Kevin McCallister, and although Culkin's career has been a rollercoaster, everyone has fond memories of Home Alone. Telling the story of a young boy who wishes his family would disappear, Kevin's dreams come true when his family accidentally leaves him behind to go on vacation. A young Culkin is left to defend his home from invaders with his homemade security system in a film that emphasized childhood innocence while skipping over the mutilation and GBH one boy could cause.

Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern steal the show as bumbling burglars Harry and Marv, and thankfully the whole cast returned for the equally great Home Alone II: Lost in New York — it even featured a young POTUS with Donald Trump's cameo. The series continued after Culkin and co. departed the franchise, but all paled in comparison to the first two. It just wouldn't be a list of the best Christmas films without Home Alone.

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Image: CBS
Image: CBS
  • What's it about: Some kids, a dog... peanuts
  • Starring: Peter Robbins, Chris Shea, Tracy Stratford, Bill Melendez
  • Quote: "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

The animated television special means that no one is left in the dog house over the winter. Bringing together the lovable Peanuts cast, A Charlie Brown Christmas airs annually in the run up to December 25 to become one of the best-loved Christmas animations of all time.

A typically glum Charlie Brown isn't feeling the spirit of Christmas, so it is up to best pal Snoopy and his school friends to cheer him up. Going down the unconventional route (of the time), A Charlie Brown Christmas features unknown child actors and an unorthodox Christmas/jazz soundtrack. The legacy of the Peanuts Christmas Special set the tone for all those that came after it, as well as single-handedly making the popular aluminum Christmas tree fad extinct.

9. The Snowman (1982)

  • What's it about: A boy befriends a snowman — he probably melted afterwards
  • Starring: No cast
  • Quote: "We're walking in the air."

Over to the UK for their annual Christmas tradition and a beautifully animated Christmas film. Airing on Channel 4 since 1982, the cartoon short based on Raymond Briggs's book will melt anyone's heart (just hopefully not the snowman). The Snowman is best known for its haunting soundtrack and the song "Walking in the Air," which incorrectly made a child star of singer Aled Jones. It was chorister Peter Auty who sang the song on the original film, but he rarely gets credit.

At just 26 minutes long, the story of The Snowman had to be continued at some point. Author Raymond Briggs gave his permission for a sequel, but it wasn't until 2012 that we saw The Snowman and the Snowdog. An equally warming tale, we learned that no, our favorite Mr. Frosty hadn't melted with spring.

10. Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

Image: 20th Century Fox
Image: 20th Century Fox
  • What's it about: It doesn't have Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park as Santa
  • Starring: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood
  • Quote: "Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind... and that's what's been changing."

Back to the classic Christmas movies and to 1947 for Miracle on 34th Street. After Santa has gone a bit heavy on the mulled wine, it is up to the real Kris Kringle to replace him as the Macy's department store Santa. Kringle has to battle with non-believers and attempt to prove his existence to the Supreme Court. Thanks to one kind-hearted little girl, everybody has to believe in the man in the red suit again.

Weirdly the original film didn't even have a Christmas release, with studio head Darryl F. Zanuck insisting that people go to see films in warmer weather. With the film's Christmas setting kept under wraps, Miracle on 34th Street was released on May 2, 1947. Entered for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, there have also been four remakes of the film, and a Broadway Musical. Many will remember the 1994 version with Richard Attenborough and Matilda's Mara Wilson, but the original will always be the best.

11. Gremlins (1984)

Image: Warner Bros
Image: Warner Bros
  • What's it about: Feeding Furbies after midnight can be dangerous
  • Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Corey Feldman
  • Quote: "Bright light. Bright light."

You get so caught up in the fact that Gremlins is dubbed a horror film, it is easy to forget it is a festive romp. Joe Dante's dark comedy introduced us to the cuddly race of Mogwais. The rules are simple: Don't get them wet, no bright light, and don't feed them after midnight. Lauded for its special effects, Gremlins still stands the test of time now!

Set in the fictional town of Kingston Falls, it isn't long before the Furby-lookalikes transform into the bloodthirsty Gremlins and the body count rises. A second film came out to critical success, but we have been waiting for a third entry ever since. Lead actor Zach Galligan said in late 2015 that a third entry IS coming, but it will likely be a sequel not a reboot. Even though we have seen the damage they can cause, don't lie, everybody wants to find a Gizmo under their tree this year.

12. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What's it about: Halloween fun that you can still watch until December 25

Starring: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix

Quote: "And they call him, Sandy... Clawssss...!"

Tim Burton's stop-motion film transcends the holiday season as one of those Christmas films that you never really know when to watch. Set in the fictional Halloween Town, de facto hero Jack Skellington is sick of being scary, venturing to Christmas Town to bring holiday cheer to the world with disastrous results. A sequel to this Halloween/Christmas romp is one of the most frequently asked for, but thankfully it looks like that idea is remaining (like the characters) six feet under.

Pure Burton-esque magic alongside the likes of Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns. The Nightmare Before Christmas would stand on its own as a great, but Danny Elfman's insanely good soundtrack makes it one of the best films outside the holiday season too.

Image: Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

Feeling festive yet, or ready to sharpen a candy cane to a point and poke your eyes out? At least we have something for you to watch in the 12 days of Christmas. While you pack away your new DVDs (they still exist, right?) and hunker down for party games, too much sherry, and small talk with the in-laws, just remember that TV has your back. TV never hurt you, and it is the best Christmas present you could ask for!

Check out the amazingly seasonal "Jingle Bell Rock" from Mean Girls, and don't forget our poll below!


Which is your favorite Christmas film?


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