Must Watch Movies: 16 Classic Christmas Movies for the Holiday Season

Missy is back again with another guest post. For Halloween, she put together a list of her top Halloween movies, and she's collaborated with me in the past on our first impressions of The Sims 4: Cats and Dogs. She's back again, and you can actually expect her as a regular contributor to the blog from here on. =)

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and that means one thing - it’s the official kick off to the Holiday season! One of my favorite parts of the holidays is watching all the great festive films. There are so many great holly jolly flicks to choose from, but I’ve selected some of my favorites that you should check out this holiday season! FYI, these are in no particular order. :)

1. ELF -  Since its 2003 release, this film starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Bob Newhart and Ed Asner has quickly become a classic. The film captures the festive feel of the holiday season while it brilliantly blends comedy and a great soundtrack. If you haven’t checked out Elf, you absolutely need to watch it this year!


2. A Charlie Brown Christmas - This 1965 piece from Peanuts creator Charles Schulz directed by Bill Melendez reaffirms the holiday spirit of love and togetherness in this cozy animated special as we see a dismal Charlie Brown needing guidance on overcoming the holiday blues. Combined with music from the Vince Guaraldi Trio, this short film is one of my absolute favorites because it is so festive and comforting. If you haven’t watched this classic, I strongly suggest you check it out perhaps while waiting for your cookies to bake or decorating your tree.

3. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - This 1966 animated adaptation of the Dr. Seuss book brilliantly blends an animated retelling of the story of the green curmudgeon alongside music and narration from horror actor Boris Karloff. The short film also features music from Thurl Ravenscroft’s iconic “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” that help make this a classic that I watch every year. If you haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet, I absolutely suggest you check it out!

4. It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra’s 1946 film starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore is a poignant tale of George Bailey, a kindhearted family man who finds himself suddenly stressed financially. The film geniously tackles serious topics and it provides much-needed perspective when things may seem hopeless as in George’s case. The film, set in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, was filmed in Seneca Falls, NY so I might perhaps be a bit biased as a lifelong resident of New York State. Regardless, this Frank Capra black and white film is another film that I watch every single year because the plot honestly captures conflict while reassuring the spirit of love and family during the holiday season. If you haven’t seen it, this is an absolute must watch movie this holiday season!

5. A Muppet Christmas Carol - There are many renditions of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, but my absolute favorite is the 1992 A Muppet Christmas Carol as the film features Michael Caine portraying Ebenezer Scrooge. As a Jim Henson fan, I grew up on this movie and I love the merging of the muppets and Dickens’ story - it presents the story in a family-friendly presentation (although there were some scenes that had terrified me as a child including the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come). Check it out this holiday season!

6. The Polar Express - This 2004 adaptation of author Chris Van Allsburg’s classic children’s book takes viewers on an exceptional sensory journey as the protagonist young boy sets off on his Christmas Eve travels while actor Tom Hanks voices a variety of characters. The sophisticated visuals paired with the film’s sound design can transport you in the film. If you haven’t gotten to watch this yet, do yourself a favor - make yourself some cocoa and get ready to take a magical trip to the North Pole!

7. Home Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost in New York - This first film in the Home Alone series from 1990 is the perfect combination of holiday spirit with the aesthetic of the film’s director, John Hughes. The film starring Macaulay Culkin, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pesci, John Heard, and John Candy sees the first instance of Culkin’s character of Kevin McCallister being left home alone for the holidays while the rest of the family is away in Paris, France.

The second Home Alone movie sees Kevin left alone, but this time after some snafus ends up in New York City while the rest of his family is in Miami. The second one is especially my favorite as someone who loves New York at Christmastime and the film captures the warmth of New York in December. The second film also stars Rob Schneider, Tim Curry, Dana Ivey, and a cameo from a staple of John Hughes’ films with actress Ally Sheedy. The film’s humor and suspense combined with the heartfelt moments just make this a film I absolutely must watch each holiday season. Make a marathon out of it and check out both the first two films!

9. Die Hard - John McClane, a New York cop gets invited to his ex-wife’s Christmas work party just as terrorists siege control of the building - what could go wrong? This film may seem bizarre to watch during the holidays, but the combination of action and comedy provides an exceptional alternative to the cozy family-friendly holiday films. This classic from 1988 stars Bruce Willis, Reginald VelJohnson from Family Matters, and Alan Rickman in one of his breakout roles. If you’ve never seen it, be sure to grab some twinkies and check it out this year!

10. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - This film goes down in history for the music-heavy presence alongside the humorous animated scenes. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out this 1964 holiday staple, it tells the story of the misunderstood and outcast reindeer who saves Christmas with his bright red nose. The movie also features crooner Burl Ives as the tale’s narrator as well as having sung several songs for the film including “Silver and Gold”, “A Holly Jolly Christmas”, and the film’s title song. One of my favorite songs from the film is after Rudolph encounters the character of aspiring dentist and outcasted elf Hermey with “We’re a Couple of Misfits”. The film is one of several cozy quintessential holiday films. If you haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet, make this the year to check it out this holiday season!

11. The Year Without A Santa Claus - This 1974 stop motion film is a holiday classic that tells the tale of the year that Mickey Rooney’s Santa took a sick day and Christmas was in danger of being cancelled. This classic also features the iconic characters of Heat Miser and Snow Miser and perfectly blends songs like "The Snow Miser Song" and "The Heat Miser Song" with festive stop motion animation. Check it out this holiday season!

12. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town - Another great festive stop motion animated classic - this 1970 holiday film features narration from Fred Astaire as Special Delivery Kluger with Mickey Rooney as the voice of Kris Kringle. The film takes an animated look at Kringle’s transformation into Santa Claus. I absolutely love the way that the film incorporates song and humor. Check it out with Mickey Rooney’s later stop motion film The Year Without A Santa Claus.

13. A Christmas Story - You’ll shoot your eye out if you don’t check out this holiday classic! This 1983 film is easy to find with the annual 24-hour marathon starting on Christmas Eve - and for good reason. It’s a hilarious glimpse at Ralphie Parker and his desire to get a Red Rider BB gun featuring Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Peter Billingsley (who later made a cameo in the 2004 film Elf as one of the elves in the North Pole named Ming Ming). The film has a multitude of memorable scenes and quotable lines because it’s just a humorous festive classic. Don’t get left in the cold - check it out this holiday season if you haven’t already!

14. The Nutcracker - There are a multitude of versions of this iconic two-act ballet scored by classical composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, but my absolute favorite that I first discovered with my grandma is the 1993 theatrical film version from choreographer George Balanchine. Starring Macauley Culkin as the Nutcracker, The Prince, and Drosselmeyer’s nephew, this rendition of the ballet is soothing for the soul like a warm mug of cocoa. If you haven’t seen it before, be sure to check out this holiday spectacle on Christmas Eve and wait for visions of sugar plums to dance in your head.

15. The Santa Clause - Say what you want about Tim Allen, but the first of the Santa Clause film series is a comedic gem with divorced father and advertising executive Scott Calvin spends Christmas Eve with his young son Charlie before Santa Claus falls off Calvin’s roof and the two finish off Santa’s deliveries. This is another movie I used to watch as a kid with my grandma and I vividly remember laughing together during several parts of the movie. It’s honestly probably one of the few Tim Allen movies that I enjoy so if you haven’t gotten around to watching it, I highly recommend watching it this holiday season!

16. White Christmas - This musical film from 1954 is a soul-soothing film for the holiday season starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. The film opens with Crosby and Kaye’s former World War II soldier characters performing in Europe on Christmas Eve as they soon learn their commanding officer is being relieved of his duties. After the war, Crosby’s character of Captain Bob Wallace and Kaye’s Private Phil Davis team up for several entertainment endeavors when their former mess sergeant asks them to take a look at a sister act. What ensues is the four team up to make one festive showing. The songs from the film adds to the dreamy festive feel to the film. Though it may seem dated and is nearly sixty-four years old, the film makes you appreciate the dedication and courage of our soldiers and feel tremendous gratitude. If you haven’t yet definitely check this movie out this holiday season for the perfect festive musical film!

I hope these movies help to get you (and keep you) in the festive season this year. It's been a long, crazy, challenging year (to put it nicely) and I think we could all use some holiday cheer! 

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