Settle on the couch with some popcorn and these classic holiday films.
‘Tis the season to curl up on the couch with a cup of cocoa—and binge on nostalgic, feel-good movies. While rating the best holiday films is purely subjective, here’s a list of the season’s twenty best (in no particular order):
These are the films that your grandparents approve of and for good reason: they’re wonderful.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
Arguably the most-watched film each holiday season, George Bailey’s never-been-born adventure is sure to make you cry tears of life-is-beautiful joy.
2. Holiday Inn
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire: what more do you need? How about the debut of the now-classic song “White Christmas”? Warning: this film will make you want to quit your job and only work on holidays.
3. White Christmas
After you’ve seen Holiday Inn, watch its Crosby-starring spin-off, “White Christmas.” Rosemary Clooney is a dream—as are the fur-trimmed capes and painted Vermont landscapes.
4. A Christmas Carol (1951)
The classic Dickens novel has countless adaptations. A top recommendation: the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim. It will destroy your inner “bah, humbug!”
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
In this 1947 Oscar winner, Santa Claus is on trial. By the inspirational movie’s end, you’ll believe again.
6. The Bishop’s Wife
The non-musical inspiration behind The Preacher’s Wife, this film stars Cary Grant as an angel-slash-marriage-counselor. Enough said.
7. The Bells of St. Mary’s
More Bing Crosby, the face of classic Christmas movies. This 1945 film features a Christmas pageant at the run-down school he and a nun are trying to save.
8. Meet Me in St. Louis
This Judy Garland classic is on the list merely for the scene in which she sings a magical rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
9. Babes in Toyland
Laurel and Hardy rescue Tom Tom and Bo Peep from Bogeyland in this 1934 adaptation of Victor Herbert’s operetta. Disney’s adaptation was released in 1961.
These are our classics, the ones we’ll make our grandchildren watch one day.
10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
This hilarious, irreverent, everything-goes-wrong Chevy Chase vehicle will make you so thankful that your crazy family isn’t that crazy.
11. A Christmas Story
It’s probably cinema’s most famous Christmas wish list: Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun. The super-quotable funny flick has been on must-watch lists since its 1983 premiere.
12. Home Alone
A kid has to fight off burglars after his semi-dysfunctional family accidently leaves him behind during the Christmas holidays. Hilarity ensues, but so do the warm-and-fuzzies.
13. Home Alone 2: Christmas in New York
Arguably better than the original, Kevin McCallister ends up in New York—alone. Ignore the plot impossibility and be charmed by a precocious Macaulay Culkin and the near-perfect score by John Williams. Note: Home Alone 2 was the most successful film of 1992.
14. A Muppet Christmas Carol
Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit; this charming adaption is surprisingly faithful to the original story. The Muppets are trendy again, so why not include them in your holiday-movie plans?
This film is fast becoming a can’t-avoid classic. It has everything a holiday film needs: humor, hope, music, quirky romance, candy overdoses, and Ed Asner as Santa Claus. Even non-fans of Will Ferrell admit to being charmed by the man who believes he’s an elf.
16. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
This remake of the classic film holds its own against the original. Richard Attenborough probably is the real Santa. He’s that jolly.
17. The Preacher’s Wife
We’ve mentioned The Bishop’s Wife, but we can’t ignore the remake. Denzel Washington makes for the perfect modern-day Cary Grant, and Whitney Houston’s powerhouse vocals will have downloading the soundtrack in no time.
18. The Family Man
This alternate-reality holiday film has Nicolas Cage in a George Bailey-like role, waking up one morning to a life he could have had. This film might encourage you to look up “the one who got away,” so avoid if you’re feeling a little vulnerable to Facebook stalking.
19. The Nativity Story
Why not check out a Biblical account of that first Christmas?
The holidays bring out the child in all of us. Here are our favorite animated and claymation films for this time of year:
20. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Bogged down by the chaos at the mall? This classic animated Christmas special seeks to discover the real meaning of Christmas. Spoiler alert: scripture trumps commercialism.
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