Every year, there's a new slate of Christmas movies to bring cheer (and revenue) to one and all — heck, Hallmark has more than 40 Christmas movies coming out this year. But for every Last Christmas or Home Alone 3, there's a classic Christmas movie that stands the test of time.
And, for this list, "classic" means classic. The majority of the movies on this list are in black and white, and the most recent of the bunch was made 20 years ago. So get out your slippers, heat up the hot chocolate and cozy up on the couch as we bring you our list of our top ten classic Christmas movies.
The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear — and watching Elf. The goofy, sweet comedy will make you smile, which is Buddy the Elf’s favorite activity. Will Ferrell stars as a man raised alongside elves in the North Pole. When his toy-making skills prove woeful, he embarks on a quest to find his biological father in New York City. At first, his childlike wonder and positivity stick out like a sore thumb but soon prove to be irresistible, especially to cynical department store co-worker Zooey Deschanel. — Kelly Woo
Love Actually is quite a controversial Christmas movie. Many people love it and rewatch it repeatedly through the holidays; others loathe it. The movie is (rightly) knocked for problematic depictions of unbalanced relationships and women in general. But damn it, the emotional arcs, nuanced performances and genuinely funny moments get me every time. When Emma Thompson cries, I cry. When Hugh Grant shimmies, I dance, too. And when Rowan Atkinson sloooooowly wraps a gift, I laugh. – Kelly Woo
Home Alone will resonate deeply for many people this year if they spend the holidays away from their families. But the 1990 slapstick comedy is also perfect if you need a bit of cheering up. The first part of the film is all about 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) enjoying a bit of “me time.” Then, enjoy watching him foil a pair of bumbling thieves. And the ending can be a hopeful reminder that your own reunions are coming soon. You even see a pre-Succession Kieran Culkin as Fuller McCallister, who's come along way since he wasn't trusted in a bunk bed. — Kelly Woo
White Christmas is one of two Christmas classics where Bing Crosby sings and dances at a snowy country inn (the other is 1942’s Holiday Inn). Crosby and co-star Danny Kaye ooze charm as two WWII soldiers who team up with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen) to save their favorite country inn. Mostly, White Christmas is a vehicle for the eponymous hit song, plus several other Irving Berlin ditties. Which is fine, since it gives us an excuse to sing along as we enjoy the merry and Technicolor-bright scenery. — Kelly Woo
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Classics are classics for a reason, and there's nothing more classic than Chuck Jones' 1966 animated feature of Dr. Seuss' work. Perfect for Whos of all ages, it's a wonderful reminder of the joys of giving, and the fact that Christmas is about more than presents, trees, and mistletoe. (A similar lesson can be found in another animated classic, 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas.)
For those who have been living in a cave, the Grinch is a miserly green-furred creature who resents the residents of Whoville for celebrating Christmas, and, disguised as Santa, proceeds to steal every decoration, ornament, and scrap of food in the town. So what happens when all the townsfolk wake up in the morning? You'll just have to watch to find out. Oh, and skip the Jim Carrey live-action remake. — Mike Prospero
Miracle on 34th Street
The court of Christmas is now in session! The 1947 original is still a must-see staple during the holidays (though the 1994 remake with Mara Wilson is also pretty good). When a department store Santa Claus gets too drunk to do the job, the real Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) takes over. But his insistence that he’s actually, really Santa puts him on trial to determine if he should be committed. Through it all, a little girl named Susan (Natalie Wood) learns to believe that good things can happen. It’s a poignant, heartwarming tale that castigates commercialism and celebrates the power of imagination. — Kelly Woo
A Christmas Story
Is it really Christmas if you don’t watch A Christmas Story? The 1983 classic is a pure dose of nostalgia for the days when you were just a kid who desperately wished for a particular Christmas present, like Ralphie does with the Red Ryder air rifle. The movie captures other slice-of-childhood life details, from neighborhood bullies to embarrassing outfits to a scene-stealing younger sibling. And when dinner turns into a disaster and the family ends up at a Chinese restaurant, there really could be nothing more Christmas than that. – Kelly Woo
It’s a Wonderful Life
The best Christmas movies have a dark side — it’s what makes the eventual joy so affecting and wonderful, as it does in Frank Capra’s enduring classic film. Before Tom Hanks, Jimmy Stewart was the decent, upstanding leading man everyone loved. In It’s a Wonderful Life, he teeters on the edge of suicide until an angelic intervention shows him how much he truly matters to those around him. And even with all the intervening years, the movie’s messages of gratitude and neighborly care are as poignant as ever. — Kelly Woo
A Christmas Carol (1951)
There have been as many retellings of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as there are needles on a Christmas tree, but to my mind, the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim is the definitive version. (For other variations, check out the 1984 version starring George C. Scott, and the 1999 remake with Patrick Stewart).
Yes, it’s in black and white, and yes, it’s not widescreen, but it sets just the right tone — not too preachy and not too treacly. Sim’s Scrooge is appropriately menacing to start, and then amusingly joyful post-conversion. It’s become a holiday must-watch. — Mike Prospero
Christmas in Connecticut
Perhaps the proto-Hallmark Christmas movie, Christmas in Connecticut features Barbara Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane, a single New Yorker who writes a column for a national magazine, where she passes herself off as the model housewife on a farm in Connecticut. However, wackiness ensues when her in-the-dark publisher (Sydney Greenstreet from Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon) invites himself and Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), a returning war hero for a traditional Christmas feast.
You'll be totally surprised to learn that Lane falls for Jones immediately, but she then has to extricate herself from the elaborate setup that she and a few friends have concocted to make it seem like she's the domestic goddess she claims to be. And, like any good holiday movie, it all works out in the end. —Mike Prospero
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