The holidays are a time for family fun! Opening presents and eating great food are just some of the traditions that make Christmas everyone’s favorite time of the year. The real icing on the cake is of course… movies! When the weather outside is brutal and the family’s stomach is full of delicious treats, we all plop down in front of the boob tube and watch our favorite holiday films. So the team at Your Holiday Lights put together a list of the top ten Christmas movies of all time. We polled our office, family, and friends to get the most well rounded list we could.
- The Santa Clause
Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson
Director: John Pasquin
Tim Allen was known as the quintessential father in the ‘90s. His role on Home Improvement is a television classic, but his breakout movie role was in this holiday comedy. Allen hears what he believes is an intruder on the roof, and he rushes outside, startling Santa who then falls to his death. Over the next hour he not only goes through a physical change, but the character also enjoys an excellent arc. The character of Scott Calvin grows from a bitter divorcee into a caring and thoughtful father as he is forced to take on the role of Santa.
Favorite Quote: “Charlie, stay away from those things. They’re reindeer, you don’t know where they’ve been. They all look like they’ve got key lime disease.” -Scott Calvin
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Starring: Boris Karloff, Thurl Ravenscroft, June Foray
Directors: Chuck Jones and Ben Washam
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the first cartoon on the list, but it is perhaps the best crafted Christmas animation. The famous Dr. Seuss story is not only beloved because of the excellent visuals, it also is full of heart. The tale of a Christmas hater being won over by love and compassion might seem unoriginal, but the Grinch is the most endearing out of all the Scrooge-esque stories. It should be noted that the live action film starring Jim Carrey could easily be swapped in.
Favorite Quote: “And then, they’ll do something I hate most of all. . They’ll stand hand in hand… and those Whos… will start singing!”- Grinch
- Miracle on 34th Street
Starring: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn
Director: George Seaton
When Miracle on 34th Street is brought up as a potential top ten Christmas film, people fall on two sides. The pro side says Miracle is the epitome of the season because of Fred’s faith overcoming Doris’s cynicism. To the opposing side, a lawyer volunteering his time to prove that Kris Kringle is actually Santa Claus sounds cloying. The truth is, Miracle is sweet and contrived, but it is also a beautifully acted tale of hope and faith. It is the type of film that the season deserves.
Favorite Quote: “But… but maybe he’s only a little crazy like painters or composers or… or some of those men in Washington.”- Mr. Shellhammer
- Frosty The Snowman
Starring: Jackie Vernon, Billy De Wolfe, Jimmy Durante
Directors: Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass
With the unequivocal success of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special five years earlier, it only made sense to turn the epic tale of a magical snowman into a cartoon. The story of Frosty serves as an example of using the holiday season as a way to teach children a valuable lesson about loss and faith. There are some very endearing moments in the film, like Frosty carrying Karen through brutal snow or Santa threatening to not deliver anymore presents to Professor Hinkle.
Favorite Quote: “Happy Birthday”-Frosty
- It’s a Wonderful Life
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
Director: Frank Capra
Fifteen years ago, It’s a Wonderful Life would have probably topped this list, but black and white films just don’t play for audiences the way they once did. The tried and true story of “everyman” George Bailey seems stale because it has been copied so many times, but imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Buoyed by the terrific performance of James Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life will always be a Christmas favorite.
Favorite Quote: ” Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”- Zuzu Bailey
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Starring: Billie Mae Richards, Burl Ives, Paul Soles
Director: Larry Roemer
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the one that started it all. The terrific tale of acceptance and self-confidence is the longest running Christmas special of all time. Rudolph is expertly crafted and fun. Bucking the easier animation for stop motion at the time seemed risky, but it paid off in a huge way. Not only did the style set it apart from any other traditional cartoon, but it also gave the whimsical tale a sense of artfulness that is often lacking in holiday films.
Favorite Quote: “Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nitwit. Just because my nose glows… why don’t I fit in?”-Rudolph
- A Christmas Story
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin
Director: Bob Clark
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” is one of the most quoted lines among holiday films. The tragic story of Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder B.B. gun is so popular because it is so relatable. From the bullies to the overbearing mother, A Christmas Story is a modern classic. Every millennial has experienced the trepidation of poor Ralphie as he waits in line to see Santa. This film has become so engrained in the zeitgeist that on Christmas Day, it is played for 24 hours straight on TBS. The leg lamp is even a staple on ESPN’s PTI.
Favorite Quote: “Oh my god, I shot my eye out!”-Ralphie
- Home Alone
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern
Director: Chris Columbus
Out of all the films so far on this list, Home Alone probably has the highest pedigree. Penned by John Hughes and led by the charismatic Macaulay Culkin, this film oozes fun. Generation after generation the fearless Kevin McCallister defeating the “Wet Bandits” will be enjoyed by families. Home Alone is the highest grossing Christmas themed film in box office history. The resourcefulness of Kevin and his elaborate traps propel this film to a hilarious and heartfelt finale. The movie was so big, it spawned an equally funny and successful sequel.
Favorite Quote: “Bless this highly nutritious microwavable macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.”- Kevin McCallister
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan
Director: Jon Favreau
Elf is the second highest grossing film on this list. Only Home Alone made more money at the box office. What makes Elf come in slightly higher on our list? The simple answer is the universal appeal. Elf is a draw to adults and children. Will Ferrell’s performance as Buddy is classic, and the cameos are amazing. The film really stands out because of how modern it feels, but much like the rest of the movies on this list, it embraces the season.
Favorite Quote: “You sit on a throne of lies!”- Buddy
- Christmas Vacation
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis
Director: Jeremiah Chechik
We asked several people what their favorite Christmas film was, and the overwhelming majority had Christmas Vacation on their list. Christmas Vacation was released to little fan fair and mixed reviews. Over time the film began to become a holiday tradition. It’s hard to not love the Griswolds. They are a caricature of a normal Midwestern family. As viewers, we see a little of ourselves in each character, and of course it’s side-splittingly funny.
Favorite Quote: “Oh, Eddie… If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now.”-Clark Griswold
There it is! Our top ten Christmas films of all time. Did we miss anything? Let us know what your list would look like, and have a Merry Christmas!