Top 25 Best Christmas Movies of All Time
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Top 25 Best Christmas Movies of All Time

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

There are two things that produce incredibly polarized reactions in people during the holidays: the music and the movies. Most folks can look past the decorations, unless they have the kind of neighbors that keep them up until February. It’s more or less possible to stay home for the most part and avoid the bulk of the inconvenience that holiday shopping brings to an everyday trip to the store. But if you turn on your television or venture out at all, you’re sure to find yourself having to ignore the same twenty or so Christmas songs and flip past the same dozen Christmas movies.

That being said, those who love these things really love them. Putting on Christmas movies and music helps establish the joy and warmth of the season. The holidays are squarely about tradition, so it’s the very repetition each year that gets folks in the mood to celebrate. The rest of life doesn’t stop for us to enjoy the holidays, so popping on our favorite Christmas movie lets us turn off for awhile, safely ensconced in a world where Christmas is the most important thing. (Well, for the most part. You’ll see what I mean as you go through this list.)

Like anything else, there are a whole bunch of interpretations that make a given movie feel Christmas-y to one person and not to another. We’ve included a pretty good mix of styles here, from vintage classics to modern classics and at every point along the Sappiness Spectrum (a measure I have just made up). Whatever says Christmas to you, chances are we have it reflected below.

While it’s true that you can probably catch any of these on TV during the season, we think it’s important to have ready access to your favorite Christmas flick at any given moment, since that’s the whole point. Additionally, movies on TV are terrible. They’re interrupted with ads (as if you need to be advertised to between October and January), they’re trimmed down in often awkward ways, and if you opt for any of the rated R titles below, they’re censored beyond recognition. For the holiday movies you love the most, you either want to own them or know you can call them up — commercial-free — at any moment.

To that end, we’ve indicated their availability on either Netflix or Amazon, and further whether they’re available for free with Amazon Prime. (If you don’t have Prime yet, go here for a free trial.) If those options fail, you can always grab yourself a good, ol’ fashioned physical copy. And just for fun, we included the Rotten Tomatoes score for those who might be swayed by it.

Oh, and before we get started, The Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t on this list. Though it can be read either way, it was originally released in October, and the director himself has said he considers it a Halloween movie. Whichever way you think of it, you’re not wrong. For that matter, Black Christmas isn’t on here, either. What is on this list is in no particular order, so don’t sweat the rankings.

In order to best bask in the holiday spirit, here are the 25 best Christmas movies of all time.


1. ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (1992)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Disney

Not to be confused with the other Muppet Christmas offerings (including A Muppet Family Christmas and It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, among others), this is the Muppet take on the Dickens classic tale. It’s also in my top five movies of all time, far and away my favorite Christmas movie. It’s worth the price of admission alone for Rizzo the Rat, but Michael Caine plays this movie as though he isn’t talking to puppets. There are so many film adaptions of this classic tale (the 1938 version is also great), but this one stands out as having all the elements needed for the perfect Christmas tradition. I still watch it every Christmas morning and strongly urge you to do the same.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 69%

Price: $10 on DVD, $17.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $17.99 to buy in HD

Buy The Muppet Christmas Carol here.




2. ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ (1966)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Dr. Suess Properties

Unless you must have it available streaming, the animated adaption of the 1957 children’s book is the absolute truth. The Jim Carrey version is fine (and is also available to buy digitally on Amazon), but it loses some of the subtle magic of the original. The Grinch is essentially Scrooge reimagined as an actual gift-stealing monster, rather than just a parsimonious capitalist. It’s a fine cinematic achievement.

Available digitally on Amazon?: No
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Price: $19.95 on DVD, $9.99 on Blu-ray

Buy How the Grinch Stole Christmas here.




3. ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ (1963)

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20th Century Fox

Picking just one among the Rankin-Bass classics is tough, but Rudolph probably wins by a… well, nevermind. You can’t pass up watching Hermey the would-be elf dentist and Yukon Cornelius, and of course there’s the Island of Misfit Toys. Rudolph is available to stream for free with a Prime membership, and you can otherwise access it digitally as a $0.99 rental or a $9.99 purchase. If you love the other Rankin-Bass movies, though, opt for the full set on a disc of some sort. It’s not Christmas until you’ve watched at least one of these.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: Yes
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Price: $14.98 for DVD or $21.64 on Blu-ray as part of the Rankin-Bass set

Buy The Original Christmas Classics Gift Set here.



4. ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ (1965)

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Warner Bros.

Clearly, the mid-60s were a goldmine for Christmas classics. Charlie Brown finds himself unable to get into the holiday spirit and, following Lucy’s advice, agrees to direct the Christmas play. Though they mock his choice of tree, it eventually becomes the symbol of what the holiday really means. Must-own viewing available in your choice of modern formats.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Price: $8.96 on DVD, $9.96 on Blu-ray, $12.99 to buy in HD

Buy A Charlie Brown Christmas here.




5. ‘Elf’ (2003)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

New Line Cinema

As far as I can tell, Elf is just Will Ferrell playing himself. Okay, maybe that isn’t true. Instead, he plays Buddy, a 30 year old man just discovering that he isn’t one of Santa’s elves. He travels to New York City to find his real father and as you might imagine, hijinks ensue. If you like Will Ferrell, this is one of his signature pieces and it captures all his zany energy at its peak. If you don’t, well, there are 24 other movies on this list to try.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

Price: $8.99 on DVD, $7.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy in HD

Buy Elf here.




6. ‘Home Alone’ (1990)

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20th Century Fox

Among the most iconic movies of all time, that Home Alone ever became popular is actually somewhat strange. This is a movie about a child accidentally left behind when his family goes to Paris for Christmas, which is improbable enough. He then goes on to torture two would-be robbers for something like an hour of screen time, inflicting more than one wound that should have proven fatal. (We know none of them did because Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci reprise their roles in Home Alone 2.) Somehow, somewhere in here is a Christmas classic. It’s half slapstick routine, half child fantasy from an era where a kids movie could be chock full of violence as long as it seemed funny.

On a separate note, there are not just two of these; there are five. That includes Home Alone 3, Home Alone 4 (starring French Stewart!), and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist. The last of these has a plot nearly identical to the first, while all of these sequels have undeservedly-high star ratings. It’s an odd franchise, but if you loved it when you were a kid, chances are you still love it.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 62%

Price: $7.50 on DVD, $18.66 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $13.99 to buy in HD

Buy Home Alone here.




7. ‘A Christmas Story’ (1983)

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Warner Bros.

In Home Alone, Kevin shoots one of the robbers in the groin with a BB gun. In A Christmas Story, virtually the entire plot centers on Ralphie’s longing for just such a weapon. Specifically, the Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot air rifle. The movie follows the lead up to and eventual bestowing of the gun upon young Ralphie, right through to the close encounter with the harm that is foreshadowed to him repeatedly throughout the film. For those who don’t know, this is the movie with the leg lamp. In 2012, they released a sequel, which starred Daniel Stern capitalizing on all the Christmas movie goodwill he generated with Home Alone, presumably. If you like, you can get both in a single pack here.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

Price: $8.99 on DVD, $7.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $9.96 to buy in HD

Buy A Christmas Story here.




8. ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ (1989)

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Warner Bros.

The third installment in the Vacation series, this movie centers on Clark Griswold’s (that’s Pierce Hawthorne for you millennials) dogged pursuit of a fun family Christmas despite a series of calamities. Most notable among these is the absence of his Christmas bonus, which he needs to pay for a swimming pool, which is about as American as it gets. A squirrel, the SWAT team, a man named Eddie, and open flame can’t keep Clark from realizing the meaning of Christmas. They made a sequel to this that focuses on the aforementioned Eddie, for reasons unclear to your humble correspondent.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 64%

Price: $9.99 on DVD, $7.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $9.96 to buy in HD

Buy National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation here.




9. ‘The Santa Clause’ (1994)

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Disney

The eponymous clause is that if you are the sole witness to (or the cause of, ahem) the death of Santa, you are to don the outfit, thereby becoming Old St. Nick. Filmed at the height of Home Improvement popularity, Disney found in Tim Allen a bankable star who was also relatable as a father figure. For all that, it has a lot of heart and manages a warmth found in the more-iconic Christmas movies. It’s enjoyable, especially to watch with kids. There are not one, but two, sequels, both of which are available digitally: The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 75%

Price: $6.99 on DVD, $19.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $17.99 to buy in HD

Buy The Santa Clause here.




10. ‘Jingle All the Way’ (1996)

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20th Century Fox

To be fair, this movie probably doesn’t quite belong on this list. Perhaps especially because we decided to leave out The Family Stone, among others. We included it here for a few reasons. First, if you can get behind the slapstick aspects of the last few movies, this one has them in droves. Second, what seemed like hyperbole in terms of the depiction of consumerism has in the ensuing years become pretty spot-on. Finally, at least one boxed set of Christmas classics includes it alongside some bona fide mega-hits, so we feel like it has a place. In this film, The Terminator (okay, fine, Howard Langston as played by Schwarzenegger) scrambles over hill and dale to buy his son, young Anakin Skywalker (okay, fine, Jamie Langston as played by Jake Lloyd), a Turbo Man action figure. And hey, Sinbad and Phil Hartman are in it. Whatever you do, though, avoid the sequel.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 17%

Price: $7.99 on DVD, $14.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $13.99 to buy in HD

Buy Jingle All the Way here.




11. ‘Trading Places’ (1983)

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Paramount

A meditation on wealth and capitalism set at Christmastime, this movie explores what would happen if two people at opposite ends of the wealth spectrum were suddenly switched. Definitely not a family-friendly affair, what with the drugs and advanced stock market transactions, but a perfect 80s flick for watching in early December.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: Yes
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

Price: $6.99 on DVD, $11.61 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy in HD

Buy Trading Places here.




12. ‘Scrooged’ (1988)

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Warner Bros.

Speaking of the 80s, villainous rich folk, and Ghostbusters actors, this movie could be for you if the pure joy of the Muppets take on A Christmas Carol is too saccharine for you. Billy Murray plays Frank Cross, a modern Scrooge in need of having his attitude adjusted by three spirits. It’s humorous, if a bit overdone on the mean-spirited scale, and undoubtedly a classic. If you’re looking for something a little more faithful to the Christmas spirit, go for Scrooge starring Albert Finney, which is exceptional.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 68%

Price: $8.88 on DVD, $9.59 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $9.96 to buy in HD

Buy Scrooged here.




13. ‘Die Hard’ (1988)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

20th Century Fox

Before we return to actual, heart-warming Christmas titles, we have four adult-oriented, somewhat jaded entries that deserve mention. Skip ahead to number 17 to resume the feel-good holiday traditions. With that out of the way, whether you think of Die Hard as a Christmas movie probably relies more on how much you love it in general. This quintessential action flick is equally loved by those who don’t much care for Christmas movies and so call this their version of one as it is by those who accept the holiday spirit in whatever form it takes. Ultra-badass John McClane takes on ultra-bad guy Hans Gruber and stuff gets blown up. Somewhere in the middle of all of it is a Christmas party. Hard to go wrong, really.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Price: $5.99 on DVD, $13.19 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $13.99 to buy in HD

Buy Die Hard here.




14. ‘Gremlins’ (1984)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Warner Bros.

Blending camp horror with consumerist critique, this movie features the Christmas gift of a mogwai named Gizmo turning into an ever-growing problem for protagonist Billy. Sure, it’s dated now, but it’s still a fun romp for those that like mixing their Halloween feels with their Christmas joy (sorry again, Nightmare Before Christmas fans). There’s a sequel, but your milage may vary on that.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: Yes
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

Price: $11.67 on DVD, $8.56 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy in HD

Buy Gremlins here.




15. ‘Bad Santa’ (2003)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Miramax

The blackest of black comedies, this movie came out the same year as Elf, as though the movie gods decreed that where there is light, there must be dark to balance it. Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox play professional thieves who take jobs as Santa and an elf, respectively, in order to rob the mall stores at night. You know, that old chestnut. Lots of violence, a suicide attempt, alcoholism, sex addiction, Lauren Graham as not-Lorelai — this movie has it all. Maybe better for people who hate Christmas, come to think of it. There’s a sequel of this, too, but it’s probably best to avoid it.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: Yes
Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

Price: $7.99 on DVD, $7.85 on Blu-ray, $4.99 to buy in HD

Buy Bad Santa here.




16. ‘Batman Returns’ (1992)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Warner Bros.

The last of our not-quite-Christmas-focused Christmas movies, this Batman entry predates both the Nolan masterpieces and the Schumacher disasters and is actually a solid film. Our titular hero battles Penguin and Catwoman at Christmas. Again, great for early December watching, and an entry that hopefully subdues the Tim Burton fans clamoring for blood after reading this list.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%

Price: $14.91 on DVD, $19.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy in HD

Buy Batman Returns here.




17. ‘Ernest Saves Christmas’ (1988)

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Touchstone

Sort of a National Lampoon’s for kids, this is probably among the best of the Ernest P. Worrell entries. It’s completely over-the-top and possibly even unnecessary, but it’s also charming and perfectly in line with suspending your disbelief during the holidays. If nothing else, the fact that it’s dated may inspire a healthy dose of nostalgia.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 38%

Price: $3.99 on DVD, $3.99 to rent, $14.99 to buy in HD

Buy Ernest Saves Christmas here.




18. ‘Love Actually’ (2003)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Universal Studios

As it turns out, 2003 was a banner year for Christmas films. This uber-ensemble film (including the late Alan Rickman, if you need a second dose of him this holiday season) follows eight couples in London in the lead-up to Christmas. The warmth of the season informs the rush of feelings for everyone involved. It’s syrupy and somewhat overdone, but it’s also widely loved and worth watching as the holiday draws closer.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%

Price: $6.99 on DVD, $6.90 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy in HD

Buy Love Actually here.




19. ‘The Polar Express’ (2004)

Warner Bros.

Although it cannot hold a candle to the unbelievable power of the book upon which it is based (to be fair, few things can), this motion-capture animated film manages to conjure some of the magic. The scale and weight is excellent and so is Tom Hanks in his six voice roles. It’s a warm, fun movie that’s just as much fun for adults as it is for kids. You can get this in a bundle with How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which is probably the way to go.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 55%

Price: $8.99 on DVD, $7.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $9.96 to buy in HD

Buy The Polar Express here.




20. ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1994)

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20th Century Fox

Whether you opt for this one or the 1947 original, the basic premise of this film makes for absolutely classic Christmas viewing. It follows the story of a little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa, her mother who is lacking Christmas spirit but is nevertheless charged with hiring Santas for Macy’s, and a Kris Kringle who is dragged into court on an insanity charge for claiming he is, indeed, Santa Claus. Worth it for Richard Attenborough alone, but Elizabeth Perkins is also excellent.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 61%

Price: $9.95 on DVD, $9.97 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $13.99 to buy in HD

Buy Miracle on 34th Street here.




21. ‘Arthur Christmas’ (2011)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Sony Pictures

While most Christmas movies don’t stop to dwell on just how Santa makes it to every home in one night, this one posits that the entire operation is a finely tuned, military-style endeavor, with drops calculated down to the second. Tangential to this highly efficient operation is Santa’s son Arthur, who is in charge of replying to all the letters Santa gets each year. When delivery to one child is missed, Arthur steps up to save the day by reverting back to the old fashioned delivery method.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Price: $4.99 on DVD, $14.97 on Blu-ray, $12.99 to buy in HD

Buy Arthur Christmas here.




22. ‘White Christmas’ (1954)

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Paramount

Completely, relentlessly sentimental, this film focuses on WWII vets who become a song-and-dance duo. They meet a pair of sisters who have their own act, follow them to a lodge in Vermont, and romance ensues with the help of many musical numbers. Great for calling up that certain 50s Christmas feel.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: Yes
Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%

Price: $10 on DVD, $11.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $9.96 to buy in HD

Buy White Christmas here.




23. ‘Holiday Inn’ (1942)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Universal Studios

Long before Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” recording was featured in the film of the same name, it debuted in this Irving Berlin film, which starred Crosby and Fred Astaire. Technically, White Chirstmas is sort of a remake of this film, which is the original and perhaps best. Crosby and Astaire compete for the love of Virginia Dale’s character against a backdrop of holiday music. You don’t need this one to enjoy the one that came before it on this list, but watching them together makes for fine vintage viewing.

Available digitally on Amazon?: Yes
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Price: $19.98 on DVD, $11.99 on Blu-ray, $3.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy in HD

Buy Holiday Inn here.




24. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Paramount

You had to know this was coming. George Bailey wishes he was never born and experiences the world as though that were true. No question, this is Christmas distilled. You’ve probably seen it, you might even love it. It’s hard to resist and worth the watch each year.

Available digitally on Amazon?: No
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Price: $10 on DVD, $9.99 on Blu-ray

Buy It’s a Wonderful Life here.




25. ‘A Garfield Christmas Special’ (1987)

best christmas movies, christmas movies on netflix, where to watch christmas movies

Paws, Inc.

This is the abrupt left turn every list of Christmas movies must have. It’s true that Garfield has become more of a joke than anything else (Garfield Minus Garfield, anyone?), but this is the hill I die on. The short, animated television special wherein Garfield learns the true meaning of Christmas is good. Don’t think too much about it, just enjoy the (short) ride. The very cheap DVD pack also includes the Thanksgiving special.

Available digitally on Amazon?: No
Free to watch with Amazon Prime?: No
Available on Netflix?: No
Rotten Tomatoes score: 78% (audience)

Price: $3.99 on DVD (with the Thanksgiving special)

Buy Happy Holidays, Garfield! here.



Looking for more Christmas cheer? Follow along with our Shopping category for more Christmas-focused posts from our whole team.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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