10. “Home Alone”
One of the most iconic 90s Christmas movies, “Home Alone” is nothing short of legendary. Kevin McCallister’s attempts to outsmart the Wert Bandits around Christmas time led the film to become the highest grossing live-action comedy for two decades and sparked a franchise, although none of the other films have ever matched the original which remains as funny and charming as ever. Beyond the inventive traps and comedic hijinks there’s a touching story about the value of family and how Christmas is best celebrated with the ones you love no matter how hard they can be to live with sometimes.
9. “Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
There are a lot of people with strong opinions one way or another about the live action version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” but there’s no denying the legacy it has build over two decades of syndication and streaming. Telling the story of Dr. Suess’s legendary Christmas grump and even expanding on his origins, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” mixes genuine Christmas charm with both child and adult humor to bring the famed Christmas story to literal life. While the 2018 animated “The Grinch” film is carving out its own fanbase, the live-action version remains the definitive feature film adaptation even if the original animated short is still the best version.
8. “A Miracle on 34th Street”
While the 90s remake is just as charming, there’s no beating the 1947 version of “Miracle of 34th Street”. Focusing on a man named Kris Kringle’s attempts to prove he is the real Santa Claus in court, the black and white original and Oscar winner is a still-relevant story that inspires generosity and belief during the holidays. I’ve always loved how both Macy’s and Gimbels signed on to the film and embraced the film’s decision to present them as more generous rather than profit-hungry and yet it never feels fake or pandering. If you want a classic Christmas film to warm your heart this is an easy option to remind you of the magic of believing.
7. “Scrooge” aka “A Christmas Carol”
While not my personal favorite version of “A Christmas Carol” it’s still one of the best and the definitive version for many. Alastair Sim’s take on Scrooge is one of the most iconic interpretations of the miser and “Scrooge’s” expanded look at the character’s backstory offers something unique when compared to other adaptations. While we do get all three ghosts as per the usual formula, more time is spent on Scrooge’s past and we truly get a detailed examination of why he is such a money-hungry and cynical figure making his transformation that much more cathartic. While there are plenty of options when seeking out a “Carol” adaptation to celebrate the holidays, this one has plenty of special touches to make it an easy go-to.
6. “A Christmas Story”
Everyone knows this classic especially because it’s played throughout the entire day every Christmas which can also make it unbearable due to oversaturation. Whether you see it as a must-watch classic or an overhyped nuisance, “A Christmas Story” is an undeniable staple of the holidays that tells of young Ralphie’s desperate attempts to earn his Red Rider B.B. Gun from either his parents or Santa for the holiday. The nostalgia and that special, honest interpretation of childhood wonder around Christmas never gets old no matter how many times I view this film and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who truly doesn’t find something special in this signature Christmas Day movie.
The newest movie on this list has easily become one of my all-time favorite Christmas feature films. Released in 2019, “Klaus” is a Santa origin story for a new generation as young postmaster is assigned to a town composed of two warring families and teams with the titular toymaker to help bring peace to the land. Beautifully animated and oozing Christmas spirit with its themes of generosity and brotherhood, “Klaus” was my top pick for best animated Christmas film earlier this month and in my opinion isn’t just a new addition to my personal holiday watch list but also one of my favorite Netflix movies period.
4. “White Christmas”
Originally released in 1954, “White Christmas” is a classic musical that captures the Christmas spirit in a variety of ways. Not only is the music and style Christmassy, especially since the film introduces one of the classic version of the titular song, but the tear-jerking finale where soldiers come together to honor a former military general drives home the Christmas spirit by reminding us all of the sense of togetherness that comes with the season and how it doesn’t take something physical to give the best gift, sometimes the best gift is simply to remind someone how important they are to the world around them. It’s an addicting and charming holiday staple kept alive by its soundtrack and stage adaptations in recent decades.
3. “The Muppets Christmas Carol”
This is my personal favorite version of “A Christmas Carol” combining the charm and joy associated with the Muppets with the dark honesty of Charles Dickens’ story. Numerous iconic Muppets take the roles of characters within Dickens’ story along with Gonzo as the author himself serving as narrator, including dictating lines right from the book. Michael Kane also turns in what’s considered one of, if not the most beloved rendition of Scrooge to hit the big screen. A staple of the 90s that doesn’t feel the least bit dated, “The Muppet Christmas Carol” is a faithful, charming and memorable adaptation of one of the most famous Christmas stories of all time.
2. “Christmas Vacation”
One of the most iconic Christmas comedies, “Christmas Vacation” is a perennial favorite for many and just misses being named my favorite holiday feature. Myself and countless others watch this movie so often around the holidays most can dictate it word for word. As the third installment in the “Vacation” series and the only one where the Griswolds actually stay at home, “Christmas Vacation” follows Clark Griswold’s attempts to create the perfect Christmas but nothing seems to go right as comedic mishaps ensue. At the heart of it is a truly charming exploration of the spirit of the season and how you don’t have to be perfect to find charm in the holidays. This is truly one of the most enjoyable holiday classics ever made!
1. “It’s a Wonderful Life”
It’s funny that this 1946 film is considered such a Christmas classic as it’s only the final act that takes place during the holiday, but it’s hard to deny that it truly defines the spirit of Christmas. “It’s a Wonderful Life” follows George Bailey and reveals all the things he did in his life leading up to a mishap that drives him to consider suicide and wish he never existed. Only after an angel shows him a world where he was never there does he realize how many lives he changed. Packed with quotable lines and story concepts that have since become cliches, “It’s a Wonderful Life” simply reminds us that everyone’s life has meaning, and that life truly is a precious gift. I can’t think of a more perfect film and message to represent what Christmas and the holiday season is all about.