It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but a lot of holiday movies deserve a lump of coal. Here are 10 Christmas movies that are actually great.
We watched the new Lego Star Wars Holiday Special last night and it was a decently amusing love letter to Star Wars. Of course, it’s also 3000 times better than the original Star Wars Holiday Special which even George Lucas may or may not have said he would take a hammer and destroy every last copy of it. That said, the original did actually give us Boba Fett and result in the events leading to the creation of the currently brilliant The Mandalorian, so good job, Star Wars Holiday Special. You get a Baby Yoda toy for Christmas this year.
I’m writing this with less than a month to go before the big day. All the stores are decked out in lights and glamour, the carols are blaring, the streets are once again filled with activity which is awesome after the crazy COVID year that has been. And it’s time to get watching those holiday hits.
There are a lot of terrible Christmas movies out there to be sure. And there are also some longstanding icons – Miracle on 34th Street, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, and as Jake Peralta would argue, Die Hard.
But to me, there are a select few that stand out and usually get a rewatch every December. So I submit to you for your own holiday viewing pleasure 10 Christmas movies that are actually great, in no particular order. These cover a variety of age ratings so obviously viewer discretion advised on a few of these.
Honourable Mentions – TV Shows with Great Christmas episodes
Almost every TV show has a Christmas/holiday themed episode, and some TV shows have some absolutely great ones (or multiple great ones). So while they’re not explicitly movies, I thought a few shows were worth a mention:
- Hey Arnold – found the first few seasons for super cheap at JB HiFi the other week, what a treat this was. And I cried during the Christmas episode. During Hey Arnold. In my 30s. Maybe it’s because the events of the episode are much more real and wonderful when you’re older.
- Brooklyn 99 – holiday antics galore and very funny
- Invader Zim – I actually loved this cartoon to death and my love for it hasn’t wavered. Very, very funny for the ecclectic sense of humour, and using the love of Santa to take over the world makes for a very funny episode
- The Office – this one has a Christmas episode every season, and they’re all great
Jingle All The Way
I thought it was worth starting off with a hugely family friendly 90s Christmas movie. Starring Jake Lloyd (lil Ani) and the Governator himself, this one has surprisingly lost popularity as time has gone on, but I think it’s because somehow it’s become a bit more obscure.
It’s about a boy who wants the token Christmas toy of the season, and a deadbeat dad who wants to use this opportunity to repair his relationship with his son. The definition of cheesy Christmas fun.
Home Alone 2
“What kind of idiots you got working here?”.
“Finest in New York, madam”.
Tim Curry as the hotel owner makes this one a must watch. A boy separated from his family (again) at Christmas time in uptown New York. Also features a cameo from former President Trump giving young Kevin misleading directions to the elevator.
It’s pure slapstick for the most part but who could ever forget Kevin playing a Christmas themed crime movie to scare off his would be attackers. Merry Christmas ya filthy animal, and a happy new year.
Now this one was a real surprise. This is a Netflix Original Christmas movie my wife and I watched last year when it came out that stars Jason Schwartzman (of Scott Pilgrim fame, and Scott Pilgrim is my #2 fave of all time) as a postal worker sent to the top of the world to run a post office. In a town where everyone hates each other, it’s a heartwarming tale of people doing one of the most challenging things that Christmas presents us all with – addressing grievances and moving forward.
Very charming and one of the most heartwarming endings ever, I think we’ve decided to add this to our holiday rotation every year already.
Warning: this one has some slightly scary imagery making it a watch only for older kids and onwards.
Bill Murray is in fine form in this 80s comedy-drama as a Scrooge-like TV producer who is haunted in the modern day by the three ghosts of Christmas. Iconic, witty, and also charming, this is a good one.
Another one of the Christmas movies that are actually great, you may know this one as Four Christmases. It stars Vince Vaughn and Reece Witherspoon as a couple who never has spent time with their families at Christmas ending up doing just that. They both come from broken families resulting in four separate house visits on the same day.
I always enjoy movies that take a realistic look at life and relationships, and while this is funny and Hollywood, there are still a lot of zoomed in looks at the family dynamics and the experience that made these two who they are, as well as a look at the dynamics of the new family they are starting together.
The Santa Clause
A Tim Allen classic, this is another one of those movies with the 90s Christmas charm. A father accidentally makes Santa fall off the roof to his death and is forced to become the new Santa. Another straight up fun time. I didn’t used to like this movie as much but it’s one of my wife’s favourites and has slowly become one of mine over the years as well.
Ah, I love The Holiday. This is one of those movies that made me cry. The Three Musketeers!
An American movie producer and a British editor have made experiences in love and decide to swap houses for Christmas. Iris from the UK befriends a music producer in LA as well as the most charming old man in the history of cinema, and Amanda meets and falls in love with Iris’ troubled brother. It starts out very Hollywood but has enough realistic spins to make it very, very interesting to watch indeed.
This one has been the one I recommend to any of my female friends who have ever allowed themselves to be strung along by someone who promises the world but never delivers or commits. Gumption!
Also, one of the best movie soundtracks ever made from Hans Zimmer. Hands down.
The Miracle Maker
Whilst not explicitly a Christmas film, it is about the reason for the season, and the best adaption I know of the story of the life of Jesus. And yes I know Christmas used to be a pagan festival, but it has been a Christian festival since 336AD so I think we’ve had it long enough to claim it.
This tells the story of Jesus using a variety of animation styles and a great cast of voice actors headlined by Ralph Fiennes as Jesus and Ian Holm as Pontius Pilate. If you haven’t watched it, I’d recommend it, and it’s another movie in my top 10.
The Grinch x2
Allllllllllllrighty then. There have been many versions of the tale of The Grinch and there are two that I find are worth mentioning.
The first is the most recent animated version of this tale starring Benedict Cumerbatch as The Grinch, sidelined by Rashida Jones and Kenan Thompson. It’s got enough variations on the core story to be quite different and it is very charming in its own right.
And then there is the titan that is How The Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey. This movie and the next film are definitely the two greatest Christmas movies ever made.
For those who haven’t grown up around the story, The Grinch is a green creature who lives on a mountain above a town that loves Christmas named Whoville. The Jim Carrey adaption of this tale is truly in the upper echelon films nailing the combination of funny and heartwarming at the same time. Almost every line is quotable to the point that I have been quoting it almost weekly for over 20 years even when it isn’t Christmas time, and it’s a movie looking at how the holiday season touches every sensitive nerve in our lives this time of year.
And who doesn’t resonate even a little bit with the iconic lyrics of Where Are You Christmas? at some point in their lives – the feeling of having life change for better or worse year upon year, but hopefully also the hope of finding Christmas again.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
And now, the crown of the Christmas movies that are actually great – the undisputed best movie of the season. The Muppets spin on the Charles Dickens classic.
Starring Michael Caine who is unforgettable as Ebenezer Scrooge, this follows the classic tale of a man scorned and heartbroken at Christmas time, who is forced to revisit the things in his life that have made him the bitter man he has become. The Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat are the narration team and the Muppet spin just makes every little element of the original tale about 300 times better. Plus the songs are instant classics and eternally wonderful.
If you haven’t watched this one, you have been missing out. I have watched this one every Christmas season at least once (usually twice) since 1992, and plan to continue to do so. It’s on Disney+ now as well so more accessible than ever!
It is the season of the heart, a special time of caring, the ways of love make clear, and it is the season of the spirit, the message if we hear it is make it last all year.
I like to break up some of my more serious writing with some more lighthearted fare (like my last one about 10 Ways To Minimize Fights In Marriage and Love), and I thought it was a good time to put forward some of my favourite Christmas movies. I’m surprised I actually hadn’t done this already in all the years of this blog so far!
Now if you’ll excuse me, we’ll be binging these movies til December 25th.
How about you? What are some Christmas movies that are actually great to you?