Top 25 best Christmas movies of all time

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Stills from Carol, Home Alone 2, and Die HardStudioCanal/20th Century Studios

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals: it’s time to count down our picks for the top 25 holiday movies of all time.

The best way to spread Christmas cheer isn’t singing loud for all to hear: it’s hunkering down with a hot-hot (oh, we got it) hot chocolate, or feeling the quiet, cozy buzz of one or two (or three!) mulled wines, and digging out your ever-reliable, impenetrable cache of festive re-watchables.

The thing about Christmas movies: it doesn’t matter where they’re going; what matters is deciding which one to put on. In the canon of yuletide cinema, there’s something for everyone: rom-coms that balm the soul, shriek-worthy horrors, and action movies that’ll have you shouting, “Yippee ki-yay!”

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It’s December 1; trees adorned with sparkling tinsel are about to light up living rooms around the world, and people are about to enjoy their first sumptuous bite of chocolate from advent calendars. So, to mark the true beginning of the holiday season, here’s our picks for the best Christmas movies ever.

25. Black Christmas (1974)

Olivia Hussey in Black ChristmasWarner Bros.

Halloween is the godfather of the slasher genre, but Black Christmas got there first, a full four years before Michael Myers came home. Here the setting is a sorority house, where the sisters receive a series of obscene phone-calls over the festive period. They are then stalked and slashed by that terrifying voice on the line, with the question of his identity turning Black Christmas into a horror whodunnit. Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, and Keir Dullea star, while Bob Clark directs, making this the first – and least pleasant – of his movies on this list.

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Where to watch: Peacock

Author: Chris Tilly

24. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

A still from Mickey's Once Upon a ChristmasDisney

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas is an anthology film that gives audiences three different heartwarming stories to fawn over, each with its own Christmas lesson. In Donald Duck’s story, his nephews learn how to appreciate the holiday season and not focus too much on gifts. In Goofy’s segment, Goofy and his son, Max, work to show that Santa is real in order to keep the Christmas spirit alive.

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And in the final story, Mickey and Minnie come to realize that Christmas isn’t about the presents we give each other; it’s about putting time and effort into those we love. All three of these stories give viewers a chance to explore the Christmas season through an OG beloved Disney character while also giving them a sense of hope; that’s what the holiday season is all about.

Where to watch: Disney+

Author: Kayla Harrington

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23. Just Friends

Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart in Just FriendsNew Line Cinema

From Ryan Reynolds’ rom-com era, Just Friends is a sneaky good gem that is not necessarily about the holidays but going home for the holidays. When transformed Chris Brander accidentally returns to his hometown, he gets a second chance with his high school crush Jamie Palamino. Navigating his family, his superficial flame from his life in LA, and his history with Jamie, Chris tries to recapture the nostalgia of that girl from back home. And Just Friends does a great job expressing the hope that so many young adults have when they go home for the holidays.

Where to watch: On-demand

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Author: Josh Tyler

22. Little Women

The cast of 2019's Little WomanSony Pictures

Little Women has gone through numerous adaptations in the past, but Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version is considered one of the best, if not the best. Granted, the flick isn’t completely set during Christmas, but the opening scenes will no doubt put you in a traditional Christmas mood, and have you making plays with your family, sharing food with your neighbors, and hanging up handmade decorations while your father’s off at war.

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Where to watch: STARZ

Author: Lucy-Jo Finnighan

21. Violent Night

David Harbour in Violent NightUniversal Pictures

David Harbour as an ass-kicking Santa and more puns than you can shake a fist at – this is Violent Night. Directed by Tommy Wirkola, the film offers a fresh perspective on the Christmas season, blending dark comedy with action-packed sequences and plenty of gore, while still serving up some festive cheer. The Stranger Things star is perfect for the role; his charisma shines through as he delivers “seasonal beatings” to the bad guys, making Violent Night a fun and funny Christmas hit.

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Where to watch: Prime Video

Author: Daisy Phillipson

20. Bad Santa

The cast of Bad Santa, one of the best Christmas moviesMiramax

If you’re feeling b-b-b-b-b-b-bad this Christmas, why not crack on Bad Santa, the ultimate antidote for all you grinches out there. Terry Zwigoff masterfully subverts the traditional Christmas narrative, offering a hilariously irreverent take on the holiday season. Billy Bob Thornton is the perfect choice for the far-from-saintly protagonist, Willie, whose unlikely friendship with the chalk to his cheese, Brett Kelly’s Thurman, shows that even the most jaded hearts can find a semblance of joy and purpose during the holidays.

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Where to watch: Paramount Plus

Author: Daisy Phillipson

19. A Christmas Story

A still from A Christmas StoryMGM

Black Christmas director Bob Clark also made this much more family-friendly festive flick, about a boy who really, really, really wants a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas. Set in the 1940s – and based on Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical anecdotes – A Christmas Story is narrated by grown-up Ralphie Parker, looking back on his childhood via a series of hilarious vignettes featuring young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his eccentric friends and family. Filled to the brim with nostalgia for a bygone era, the film is now the subject of multiple movie marathons over the holiday season, while it was followed by three sequels, none of which captured the magic of the original.

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Where to watch: Max

Author: Chris Tilly

18. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Jim Carrey and Taylor Momsen in How the Grinch Stole ChristmasUniversal Pictures

A hilarious, sardonic, and somewhat raunchy take on the Christmas classic, Jim Carrey’s version offers fun for the whole family. From fun set pieces for the kids to jokes that they won’t understand until they’re re-watching with their little ones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas re-energizes this classic tale. Plus, it actually gives us some lore behind the main characters that is both fitting and adds to the enjoyment of the original a bit more!

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Where to watch: On-demand

Author: Josh Tyler

17. Last Holiday

Queen Latifah in Last HolidayParamount Pictures

Queen Latifah shines in a holiday classic from 2006: the romance comedy Last Holiday. They just don’t make movies like this anymore. Georgia Byrd has lived her whole life by the book until learning she has a tumor. Last Holiday is at the heart of the holidays as Georgia decides to live the life she has always dreamed of with no substitutions. The movie is comical, in true 2000s style, and takes place among the beauty of the mountains and snotty rich people. 

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Where to watch: Paramount Plus

Author: Gabriela Silva

16. Jingle All the Way

Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger in20th Century Studios

It’s a bleak showcase of consumerist Turbo Time at Christmas that not only boots the Santa legend to the curb, but revolves around parents becoming agents of desperation. However, it also has Arnold Schwarzenegger punching a reindeer in the face, getting hilariously irate about a divorcee eating his cookies, and chasing a bouncy ball around a shopping mall. It’s not exactly filled with Christmas spirit, but despite its nasty undercurrent, Jingle All the Way is a stupid treat with its finger on the capitalist pulse.

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Where to watch: Disney+

Author: Cameron Frew

15. Miracle on 34th Street

Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson in Miracle on 34th Street20th Century Studios

Miracle on 34th Street, following Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough) fighting to prove he’s the real Santa Claus in court, is no less magical than its predecessor – in fact, the lack of Macy’s aside, it’s a better, more emotionally fulfilling film than the original, forging itself a place as an American Christmas classic ever since its release in 1994.

Where to watch: Disney+ and Prime Video

Author: Cameron Frew

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14. Love Actually

Bill Nighy in Love ActuallyUniversal Pictures

Love Actually has grown to be as big and beloved as its ensemble cast. Featuring the exciting setting of London and a wide range of characters – some better than others – Love Actually is a great way to feel the Christmas cheer from numerous perspectives. Granted, some of the plots haven’t aged well, but that’s arguably only made the film more iconic, as it truly feels of the early 2000s times, which we all appear to be nostalgic for as of late.

Where to watch: Netflix

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Author: Lucy-Jo Finnighan

13. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before ChristmasDisney

The Nightmare Before Christmas is Tim Burton at his Tim Burtonist, weaving together the gothic iconography of the famed filmmaker with the heartwarming spirit of Christmas. What’s more, it birthed a goth icon in the form of Jack Skellington. The movie’s groundbreaking stop-motion animation, coupled with Danny Elfman’s hauntingly beautiful score, creates an immersive, visually stunning experience. And before you @ us, yes, this is a Christmas film as much as it is a Halloween one. 

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Where to watch: Disney+

Author: Daisy Phillipson

12. Carol

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in CarolStudioCanal

For lesbians across the world, Todd Haynes’ 2015 movie is the only Christmas Carol worth watching. Producing plenty of memeable quotes and festive thirst traps, Rooney Mara’s Therese Belivet works at a department store in Manhattan where she encounters Cate Blanchett’s alluring Carol. As they start to develop feelings for one another, Haynes crafts a narrative that is nothing short of perfection. Even better – there’s a potential happy ever after. 

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Where to watch: Netflix

Author: Jasmine Valentine

11. Eyes Wide Shut

Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide ShutWarner Bros.

God rest ye horny gentlemen this Christmas, and let Stanley Kubrick broaden your notions of holiday movies with one word: fidelio. Eyes Wide Shut follows Tom Cruise as he wanders the gutters and hideouts of New York after dark, tortured by his wife’s (Nicole Kidman) dreams of infidelity. Kubrick was the master, so it’s no surprise his stately, bonkers odyssey of darkness and sexual desire (and his final movie) is one of the best festive films – it’s basically It’s a Wonderful Life with orgies.

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Where to watch: Showtime

Author: Cameron Frew

10. Christmas with the Kranks

Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen in Christmas with the KranksSony Pictures

Many of us remember having this holiday DVD at home and watching it when school was canceled. Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis embody a suburban married couple who are at their wits end with Christmas since their daughter left for the Peace Corps. Christmas With the Kranks is a comical example of what it means when you try to skip Christmas – and it backfires horribly. Add in a creepy Snowman Frosty, a hickory honey ham, and camaraderie among neighbors, and it’s a perfect holiday movie. 

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Where to watch: Prime Video

Author: Gabriela Silva

9. Home Alone

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone20th Century Studios

Chris Columbus’ Home Alone manages to have its Christmas cake and eat it, too. This 1990 comedy is at once a wish fulfilment fantasy – eight-year-old Kevin has run of the house – and a genuinely heartfelt paean to the importance of family. Toss in a dynamite performance by Macaulay Culkin and a side splittingly slapstick finale, and it’s easy to see why Home Alone is a perennial festive season favorite.

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Where to watch: Disney+

Author: Leon Miller

8. Gremlins

A still from GremlinsWarner Bros.

Gizmo is the single cutest creature in all of cinema, but there’s more reasons to enjoy Gremlins this Christmas than a singing Mogwai (albeit, it’s a bloody good one). One doesn’t tend to associate monsters with the holidays. But when the havoc is this gleefully macabre, even frightening at times, it’s a bedtime story you’ll be hard-pressed to resist (even during that mental moment of dramedy). Remember, check all the cupboards and under the beds, “you never can tell – there might just be a Gremlin in your house.”

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Where to watch: On-demand

Author: Cameron Frew

7. The Family Stone

The cast of The Family Stone, one of the best Christmas movies20th Century Studios

The ultimate underrated Christmas movie. When the Stone family’s eldest son brings ‘the one’ (Sarah Jessica Parker) home for the holidays, she quickly finds herself at odds with almost everyone – but especially its ostensibly open-armed, fierce matriarch (Diane Keaton). It’s a shrewdly written, uproarious tragi-comedy that blends humor and heartbreak perfectly – and the cringe is agonizingly delicious.

Where to watch: STARZ

Author: Cameron Frew

6. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas CarolDisney

If we’re being honest with ourselves, the Muppets can make absolutely anything seem top-tier. That doesn’t stop their adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol from being one of the most beloved of all time, with the likes of Kermit the Frog starring alongside the straight-laced and serious Michael Caine. A special shoutout goes to Statler and Waldorf for embodying the role of Scrooge’s former partners so well, they might have been born for it.

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Where to watch: Disney+ and Hulu

Author: Jasmine Valentine

5. The Holiday

Jack Black and Kate Winslet in The HolidayUniversal Pictures

Nancy Meyers always hits, and The Holiday is no different – especially when it has a cast this great. Set between two equally interesting locations and storylines, The Holiday has already made a mark on pop culture with its use of “gumption” and “meet-cutes.” Not to mention, it features a killer score by the one and only Hans Zimmer.

Where to watch: Hulu

Author: Lucy-Jo Finnighan

4. Elf

Will Ferrell in ElfNew Line Cinema

Son of a nutcracker! Elf has everything you could ever want from a movie at this time of year: the North Pole, elves, Santa Claus, Christmas in New York, a massive toy store, the cynical businessman who’s lost sight of the true meaning of the season, the naughty and nice list, and Santa’s reindeer and sleigh. The guffaws come thick and fast, all in the pursuit of rousing holiday spirit.

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Where to watch: Hulu and Max

Author: Cameron Frew

3. Home Alone 2

The stars of Home Alone 220th Century Studios

While it does follow the same formula as its predecessor, Home Alone 2 surpasses the original because of its higher stakes when it comes to location. No longer is Kevin McCallister stuck at home; he’s all alone in the Big Apple while trying to evade the same home invaders who tried to kill him in the last movie. Home Alone 2 gives audiences the warm Christmas spirit as Kevin explores beautifully decorated places around NYC, but also reminds us all to remember to count where our children are at all times.

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Where to watch: Disney+

Author: Kayla Harrington

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

James Stewart and the cast of It's a Wonderful LifeRKO

Typically dismissed as a saccharine schmaltz fest, It’s a Wonderful Life is anything but. From the constant self-sacrifice of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey to the nightmarish alternate timeline sequence, there’s far more edge to this Christmas classic than its reputation suggests. And that’s ultimately why the movie’s infamously happy ending works: because we know ol’ George went through hell to earn it.

Where to watch: Prime Video

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Author: Leon Miller

1. Die Hard

Bruce Willis in Die Hard20th Century Studios

Not only is Die Hard one of the greatest and most influential action movies of all time, it’s also a top-tier festive flick. True, the main takeaway here is the incredible game of cat and mouse between Bruce Willis’ John McClane and Alan Rickman’s iconic baddie, Hans Gruber. Yet when you get right down to it, Die Hard is about a guy who wants to spend December 25 with his wife and kids – sure sounds like a Christmas film to us.

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Where to watch: Hulu

Author: Leon Miller

These movies are also available to buy and rent on-demand via Amazon Prime, which you can sign up for here.

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