Photo: Warner Bros.
On top of
eggnog, the smell of a pine tree farm, and all of the festive food, we most look forward to the movies when the holidays are finally upon us. Every year, we make a list in our heads of the handful of movies that we need to watch before Christmas. There are mad cap comedies, raunchy romps, family stories, and classic, black and white favorites.
There are so many great holiday movies, it’s really difficult to pick the best ones. But not only did we pick our No. 1 holiday movie of all time, but we also ranked (in honor of the year 2021) our top 21 holiday films in the history of seasonal cinema. Keep scrolling to see how the ranking turned out and to check if your favorite movie made the cut.
Top 21 Christmas Movies Ranked
21) Just Friends (2005)
If you’ve never watched this over-the-top holiday romantic comedy about a formerly overweight guy (played by Ryan Reynolds) who was friend-zoned by his crush, now’s your chance.
20) Love Actually (2003)
This fun, sometimes emotional, poignant British romantic comedy has a diverse, talented cast, and an interwoven storyline that makes it a go-to year after year.
19) The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
There are many versions of the classic Charles Dickens story, but this is the only one featuring Kermit, the rest of the Muppets, and the always great Michael Caine.
18) Bad Santa (2003)
For almost 20 years, we’ve eagerly awaited this time of year so we can finally watch Billy Bob Thornton’s epic, foul-mouthed, raunchy mall Santa and his equally belligerent elf helper.
17) Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
You might have missed ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ when it came out in 2005. But this holiday-centered mystery thriller starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer should be on your list this year.
16) The Santa Claus (1994)
It’s a story as old as time. Man mistakenly kills Santa, doesn’t read the fine print, and is forced to take over for him. Tim Allen is hilarious and heartwarming as a man stuck in a peculiar situation.
15) Gremlins (1984)
If you don’t think Gremlins is a Christmas movie then we don’t really want to hear from you. Just because it’s a dark comedy about horrifying creatures taking over a town shouldn’t take away from the fact that it literally takes place during Christmas.
14) The Ref (1994)
We are all for Dennis Leary getting more starring roles. One of his best performances is as a burglar who decides to hold a dysfunctional couple hostage on Christmas eve, Hilarity and lots of yelling ensue.
13) Edward Scissorhands (1990)
In our opinion, there’s no debate as to whether or not this story of a boy with scissors for hands created by a mad inventor is a Christmas movie. It totally is.
12) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The only movie that you can watch on Halloween and Christmas, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is breathtaking in its stop-motion animation and loaded with memorable songs.
11) White Christmas (1954)
We all dream about having a white Christmas. This movie might feel a little dated, but who doesn’t enjoy a good song and dance during the holidays thanks to Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, and Danny Kaye.
10) A Christmas Carol (1951)
There have been many iterations of this classic tale over the years, but few have performances as epic as the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim as the titular Ebenezer Scrooge.
9) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Santa, Macy’s, a courtroom drama? What more could you want in a Christmas movie? This story of a man claiming to be Santa Claus has been made over and over, but this version is by far the best.
8) Scrooged (1988)
A 1980s take on ‘A Christmas Carol’ sees Bill Murray as a cable network executive haunted by three ghosts on Christmas eve. It’s Murray at his best.
7) Elf (2003)
In the years since this silly tale about an elf named Buddy who travels to New York City to find his human father came out, it’s become one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time.
6) Trading Places (1983)
This classic comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd centers around a con artist literally trading places (hence the name) with an arrogant investment banker to hilarious, darkly comic results.
5) Die Hard (1988)
There’s no debate here as to whether or not this is a Christmas movie. This story of a New York police officer who battles German terrorists at an office party on Christmas Eve totally fits the bill.
4) Home Alone (1990)
This movie is more than thirty years old. We’ve pretty much watched this story of a boy who’s mistakenly left home alone while his family travels to Paris and forced to outwit a pair of burglars every year since.
3) A Christmas Story (1983)
This hilariously whole family Christmas tale is about a boy named Ralphie who simply wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. It also has an uncomfortable swear word, a bunny costume, and a tongue stuck to a metal pole.
2) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Year after year, we watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. We always look forward to this movie about a man (played by Jimmy Stewart) who gets a glimpse of what life would be like if he was never born.
1) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
It wasn’t easy picking a #1 movie, but we decided that there are no Christmas movies we look forward to more than this story of Clark Griswold and his madcap family. It has everything you could want in a holiday film. Rude relatives, quotable lines, a ridiculous amount of holiday lights, a rogue squirrel, and a kidnapping.