29 Best Christmas Movies Of All Time


Christmas movies are a contentious subject, and everyone has their favorite, but there are some that are so iconic that they deserve a spot among the greatest movies of all time. These are the Christmas movies that will always find an audience, that inspire and leave a seasonally-appropriate happy feeling in their viewers. Movies set at Christmastime that don’t have Christmas as a major focus also get a mention (which should please fans of Die Hard!).



New holiday movies are released every year. They used to be big theatrical events, but with the rise in popularity of streaming services, streamers have gotten in on the action. Disney Plus has Noelle, Apple has Spirited, Netflix has Falling For Christmas, etc. While these modern takes are fun, it takes a lot to be named among the best Christmas movies of all time, and most of the best are tried and true classics.

Related

30 Best Christmas Movies On Disney+, Ranked

Disney+ is ready for the holiday season. These movies are the best choices for Christmas viewing on the streamer for the whole family.


Best Family Christmas Movies

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The Grinch stealing a train in the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Release Date
December 18, 1966

Director
Chuck Jones , Ben Washam

Cast
Boris Karloff , June Foray , Dal McKennon , Thurl Ravenscroft

Runtime
26 Minutes

Originally airing in 1966, How The Grinch Stole Christmas has since spawned an animated and a live-action full-length feature film, but the original remains the most iconic. It is based on the 1957 children’s book by Dr. Seuss, and is narrated throughout by the incomparable Boris Karloff (who also voices the Grinch). In many ways, this is a deceptively simple story: the Grinch is a mean old thing who hates Christmas, and attempts to steal it, only to learn that Christmas is something that cannot be stolen, and has a change of heart. However, the animation manages to imbue that story with so much emotion that there is rarely a dry eye to be found when the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes.

This is also an ideal movie for the whole family, as any age can watch it, and has a message that becomes more and more resonant each year – that presents, food, and things that can be bought are lovely, but they are not what matters at Christmastime.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Cratchit family in The Muppet Christmas Carol

This adaptation of A Christmas Carol stands out in a slew of adaptations of the Dickens novel (including the 1938 version made in the golden age of Hollywood, the TV movie starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge (1999), and the most recent version, starring Jim Carrey). Combining the classic tale with these beloved puppets, this film sees Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang up against Michael Caine as Scrooge.

There are plenty of songs (that many probably know by heart), hilarious quips from favorite characters, and nods to the audience that make this production truly unique and special. Seeing Kermit and Miss Piggy together again will have long-time fans sighing with nostalgia, and even family members who rarely watched The Muppet Show will appreciate this cute and colorful take on the classic.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Charlie Brown and Snoopy looking at a small christmas tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Release Date
December 9, 1965

Director
Bill Melendez

Cast
Peter Robbins , Christopher Shea

Runtime
25mins

This 1965 Christmas short has become one of the most iconic Christmas movies ever made, even for those who are not familiar with (or big fans of) the original Peanuts comic strips and cartoons. A Charlie Brown Christmas hits all the big Christmas beats: the importance of heart and intention over expensive things and consumerism as a whole, friends and family coming together, and a central character learning a lesson about how loved he truly is.

The animation style is distinctive, and the characters may be caricatures or personality traits, but that is all part of what makes this short film so beloved – its cultural familiarity. Some modern viewers may, however, be less impressed with the clear religious overtones of the film. When Linus takes center stage to talk about the ‘true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown’, he talks about the annunciation to the shepherds in the Nativity of Jesus. Unlike most modern Christmas films, that put the focus on a more secular coming-together of friends and family, this is a clear Christian message. However, it is a classic, even for secular households.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Technically a stop-motion animated TV Special, rather than a feature film, this is still one of a handful of Christmas specials from the ’60s that have remained yearly classics for decades. Based (very loosely) on the iconic song of the same name, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer expands on the Christmas ditty, explaining Rudolph’s childhood as an outcast due to his nose, his family and friends, the reindeer training to pull Santa’s sleigh, and how Rudolph came to save the day. The special also goes beyond the song, to create a world where he runs away with an elf, and crosses paths with colorful characters including misfit toys, an abominable snowman, and a gold prospector.

The quirks of the film are what make it so memorable; while there is plenty of seasonal schmaltz to enjoy, it’s moments like meeting an elf who wants to be a dentist, and a monster with a sore tooth, that elevate the humor – and real emotional pull to the idea of so many different characters who feel unwanted in their own ways, and who find their own way home.

Klaus (2019)

Klaus

Release Date
November 8, 2019

Director
Sergio Pablos

Cast
Sergio Pablos , Jason Schwartzman , J.K. Simmons , Rashida Jones , Will Sasso , Norm Macdonald , Joan Cusack , Neda Margrethe Labba

Runtime
97 Minutes

Klaus is a beautiful, and truly unique take on the usual Christmas tales. Set in 19th century Norway, it follows Jesper Johansen (the spoiled son of a rich man) as he is sent to a remote Northern town – and in the process of trying to save his inheritance, discovers the meaning of Christmas – with the help of a reclusive toymaker named Klaus. While this could so easily be another trite holiday tale, the story is handled with delicacy, and it shines as a result. The animation style is captivating and unique, and of course, the focus remains on stories of kindness and empathy in an appropriately snowy setting.

The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, and won a collection of other awards on release.

Home Alone (1990)

Macaulay Culkin and Catherine O'Hara in Home Alone

Home Alone

Release Date
November 16, 1990

Director
Chris Columbus

Cast
Macaulay Culkin , Joe Pesci , John Heard , Daniel Stern , Catherine O’Hara

Runtime
103 minutes

One of the most iconic Christmas movies of the 90s, Home Alone continues to be a particularly ridiculous Christmas classic – even if not all of it holds up today. The first in the Home Alone franchise, this 1990 family flick starts with a young Kevin McCallister being accidentally left behind when his extended family take off for a Paris vacation together. In and of itself, it’s a premise that promises wish fulfillment for kids who would love to have ultimate freedom over the holiday season. However, the movie really gets going with the introduction of two hapless burglars, who are no match for Kevin’s mousetrap-style booby-traps and gleeful violence in aid of protecting himself and his home.

Home Alone is slapstick perfection, with traps that should cause major injury only leading to hilarious scrapes, and of course, a plucky kid who gets the best of all the grown-ups. It’s a great comedy for families who prefer a little less cheese with their Christmas movies, and the follow-up, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York is another hilarious addition to the holiday rotation.

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Santa standing by his sleigh in The Christmas Chronicles. 

The Christmas Chronicles

Release Date
November 22, 2018

Director
Clay Kaytis

Cast
Lamorne Morris , Darby Camp , Judah Lewis , Kimberly Williams-Paisley , Kurt Russell , Oliver Hudson

Runtime
104 minutes

Kurt Russel stars in this fun Christmas romp with a classic premise – something has gone wrong, and now it’s up to Santa and some charming children to save Christmas! In this case, the thing that has gone wrong is actually down to the children themselves, as their attempt to capture video footage of Santa causes him to lose his hat and several presents. It’s a twist that speaks to the approach The Christmas Chronicles takes – one that is a little more irreverent than most, and that includes some eyebrow raising moments, like Santa stealing a car!

Despite some of the borderline dark humor, The Christmas Chronicles is still absolutely appropriate for the whole family, and captures the usual charm of saving Christmas spirit. It was followed in 2020 by The Christmas Chronicles 2, which brings Russel’s Claus back to remind the older, more cynical kids from the original about the joys of the holiday season.

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Arthur Christmas

Release Date
December 22, 2011

Director
Sarah Smith

Cast
Sarah Smith , James McAvoy

Runtime
97minutes

Arthur Christmas is not the only movie to suggest that ‘Santa’ is a hereditary title, and turns this premise into a bid for succession and (of course) a lesson about what’s really important in a Santa Claus. The film introduces a Christmas family – with a reigning Claus, a son who wants to succeed him, an elderly (and now deposed) GrandSanta, and of course, the titular younger son who is the only one who seems to actually care about making children happy. The backdrop is a refreshing change from the usual twee depictions of the North Pole, with a version that is incredibly high-tech and run like a huge corporation – it’s not a particularly charming take on the location, but it’s a great take that makes this movie stand out.

The Santa Claus (1994)

Tim Allen giving a thumbs up in The Santa Clause

The Santa Clause

Release Date
November 11, 1994

Director
John Pasquin

Cast
Wendy Crewson , Judge Reinhold , David Krumholtz , Eric Lloyd , Tim Allen

Runtime
97 minutes

Another ’90s classic that spawned a franchise, Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause has led to a further two feature films, a short film, and an ongoing TV series – all based on the same concept: that if Santa dies, the person who finds him will become the new Santa Claus. While killing Santa may seem a little dark for a kid-friendly Christmas movie, it’s quickly glossed over, and the real fun begins as the unhappy Scott Calvin discovers that he can’t get out of his new festive responsibility. Over the course of a year, he battles his new reality, and nearly loses his son in the process, but eventually finds a way to embrace being Santa (and yes, save Christmas). While a lot of the beats in the film are predictable, that’s not a bad thing – and the comedy delivers, as does the cuteness.

Best Classic Christmas Movies

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

George Bailey is drunk in It's A Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life

Release Date
January 7, 1947

Director
Frank Capra

Cast
James Stewart , Thomas Mitchell , Lionel Barrymore , Donna Reed , Henry Travers

Runtime
130 minutes

Another Christmas classic, this black and white film from the Golden Age of Hollywood is guaranteed to give the audience the warm and fuzzies. Jimmy Stewart stars as George Bailey, with a further cast that includes Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, and Henry Travers. The story of George Bailey (James Stewart) begins and ends on Christmas Eve, when an angel comes to Earth to help him find his way and show him the incredible difference that every life makes to the world.

Henry Travers as Clarence (the angel) is the perfect comedic relief to balance out the darker moments in the film (and there are some very dark moments!), winning the hearts of viewers as they root for George to realize what his life is worth, and Clarence to earn his wings at the end of the film. While It’s A Wonderful Life wasn’t a hit on release, it has since become iconic, after it fell into the public domain and became the go-to Christmas movie for TV stations to air. Now, the movie is one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time – and with good reason.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Ralphie and his dad in A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

Release Date
November 18, 1983

Director
Bob Clark

Cast
Darren McGavin , Zack Ward , Peter Billingsley , Scott Schwartz , Melinda Dillon

Runtime
94 minutes

One for everyone’s inner child, this story of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his burning need to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas will remind the audience of the days when a single gift might make or break their Christmas morning. This classic will definitely put some things in perspective, although the idea of giving a child a gun (even a toy one) for Christmas hasn’t aged well. The imagination sequences are perfect examples of what it was to daydream, and while the film shows its age, it includes some of the most iconic (and parodied) scenes in Christmas movies – the boy with his tongue stuck to a pole, the ugliest lamp of all time, and more. It is so iconic that it was added to the National Film Registry in 2012.

White Christmas (1954)

The cast of the musical within White Christmas posing as they sing in red and white outfits

white christmas

Release Date
October 14, 1954

Director
Michael Curtiz

Cast
Bing Crosby , Danny Kaye , Rosemary Clooney , Vera-Ellen

Runtime
120 Minutes

This romantic musical comedy from the ’50s may lay it on a little thick at times, but what else is Christmas for? Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen star in this showbiz tale of new love and crossed wires, as two producers attempt to help their old army General during the holidays. Expect lots of old-school romance and gentle Crosby crooning as the audience waits for the snow to fall and bring the title to life. The film is full of old Hollywood glamor – including over the top costumes and big song and dance numbers.

This can also be seen as a proto-Hallmark movie, with a lot of the elements that have since become beloved tropes – romance that blossoms when saving a snowy small town Inn at the holiday season!

White Christmas was also adapted for the stage, with the first performance in 2004.

Miracle On 34th Street

Three scenes from Miracle on 34th street - with the iconic Santa Claus in the center.

Miracle on 34th Street

Release Date
May 2, 1947

Director
George Seaton

Cast
Edmund Gwenn , John Payne , Natalie Wood , Maureen O’Hara , Gene Lockhart

Rating
pg-13

Miracle on 34th Street was the movie that launched a whole sub-genre of films that question whether or not the main character is the ‘real’ Santa – and as such, deserves a place on any holiday watch list. This black and white film centers on a department store Santa Claus who believes that he is the ‘real’ Santa, even if he can’t convince the other grown-ups around him. Adding to this, one of the most interesting things about this film is that by the end, the audience is still unaware if it was ‘real’, an elaborate hoax, or a man with delusions – which is, of course, the true magic of it.

Since release, Miracle on 34th Street has been colorized, remade (in 1994), turned into a radio drama, a stage show, more than one TV series, and even makes an appearance in another Christmas movie – Home Alone!

Best Christmas Movies That Aren’t Really Christmas Movies

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Release Date
October 29, 1993

Director
Henry Selick

Cast
Catherine O’Hara , Glenn Shadix , Ken Page , William Hickey , Chris Sarandon , Paul Reubens , Danny Elfman

Runtime
76 minutes

The Nightmare Before Christmas has a foot in both Halloween and Christmas, with Christmastown and Santa featuring heavily, but with a central cast who live in Halloweentown. Tim Burton brings his special brand of gothic whimsy to this musical animation about Jack Skellington, and his misguided attempts to have Halloween take over Christmas. (A message that seems to gain meaning each year, as Christmas and Halloween celebrations and plans increasingly bleed into each other in stores.)

The music is the biggest standout in the film, and there are even cover versions of the songs in the album ‘Nightmare Revisited’ from artists including Evanescence vocalist Amy Lee, Korn, and The Plain White T’s. Beyond the songs, the story itself has found long-lasting appeal due to relatable characters who feel stuck, or trapped, who want more out of life, and who are seeking love – and finding that they are exactly where they should be.

Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis crawling through the duct in Die Hard with a Christmas hat on

Die Hard

Release Date
July 20, 1988

Cast
Alan Rickman , Bruce Willis , Bonnie Bedelia , Hart Bochner , Reginald VelJohnson

Runtime
132 minutes

Die Hard is an iconic action movie in its own right, spawning a huge franchise of five movies, comics, video games, and parodies – but it is also famous for sparking debate over whether or not it ‘counts’ as a Christmas movie. The movie is set on Christmas Eve, at a Christmas Party, and ends with the hero getting the girl, all of which points to a Christmas classic. However, the actual meat of the movie has nothing to do with Christmas, as John McClane (Bruce Willis) faces off against Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his henchmen as they attempt to steal the contents of the vault. It is, in essence, a pure action flick (with all the explosions and high-octane moments expected) that just so happens to take place at Christmas.

Ironically, it seems that the debate about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie is what has cemented it as an iconic Christmas movie – and now, many will argue that it’s not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza.

Harry Potter (2001 – 2011)

Harry Potter
Cast
Daniel Radcliffe , Emma Watson , Rupert Grint , Tom Felton , Alan Rickman , Matthew Lewis , Bonnie Wright , Evanna Lynch , Maggie Smith , Michael Gambon , Richard Harris , Ralph Fiennes , Helena Bonham Carter , Alfred Enoch , Harry Melling , Gary Oldman , Robert Pattinson , Warwick Davis , Oliver Phelps , James Phelps , David Bradley , David Thewlis , Katie Leung , Jason Isaacs , Imelda Staunton , David Tennant , Jamie Campbell Bower , Timothy Spall , Robbie Coltrane , Eddie Redmayne , Jude Law , Katherine Waterston , Ezra Miller , Dan Fogler , Alison Sudol , Johnny Depp , Mads Mikkelsen

Character(s)
Harry Potter , Hermione Granger , Ron Weasley , Albus Dumbledore , Minerva McGonagall , Rubeus Hagrid , Dobby the House Elf , Draco Malfoy , Sirius Black , Ginny Weasley , Voldemort

The Harry Potter franchise is synonymous with Christmas for many, although the central plot of the films are not in any way focused on the holiday. However, each of the films does include a Christmas scene, or series of scenes, that are often particularly meaningful. In addition, the wizarding world is one that suits the holiday, with its emphasis on magic and spectacle, and the scenes of the Hogwarts Great Hall are the stuff that Christmas dreams are made of. From the Yule Ball to Christmas at the Burrow, this is a holiday that is incredibly important to Harry Potter, and it’s no surprise that the franchise has become a holiday tradition. In addition to the obvious magical elements and snow-covered scenes, Harry Potter is a family-friendly series, and with eight films in total, is a perfect binge-watch over the holiday season.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Winona Ryder as Kim in Edward Scissorhands, dancing in the 'snow'

This Oscar-nominated Gothic romance does have a climax at Christmas, and an iconic snowy scene, but otherwise doesn’t include any of the hallmarks of a Christmas movie – but it is a truly beautiful film, and one that is perfect for anyone who wants some Christmas magic without the corniness of a traditional Hallmark movie or rom-com. The film is a love story, between a teenage girl and a lab-created humanoid with scissors instead of hands – and the movie steers into all the weirdness that comes with it. The titular character is an outcast, living in a decrepit mansion where he was created, until he is brought into a small town that has never seen snow. His journey goes from outcast to local celebrity and back again, with a doomed love story in the center of it all. The lack of snow in the town over Christmas prevents it from feeling very festive, but that’s what makes the iconic ‘snow’ scene (where Edward is creating an ice sculpture, causing ‘snow’ to fall) becomes all the more impactful as a result.

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

Collage of the Christmas scenes in Bridget Jones Diary

Bridget Jones’ Diary takes place over the course of a year, so the Christmas theme isn’t present throughout, however, a few well-known scenes, and the fact that it starts and ends during the holiday, are what make this an honorary Christmas classic. Based on the book of the same name, the movie chronicles a year in the life of Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) as she tries to improve herself and navigate love. It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, with the holiday twist of meeting Mr Darcy at a New Year party (in the movie – in the book, this is a post-Christmas turkey curry buffet), and making a New Years Resolution based on his unflattering appraisal of her.

Bridget Jones Diary stands out among rom-coms as hugely popular, thanks in no small part to the particularly relatable Bridget. The movie was award winning and Oscar-nominated, and followed up by two sequels and reports of a stage musical adaptation.

Best Christmas Comedies

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

The Griswold family standing outside in Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Release Date
December 1, 1989

Director
Jeremiah S. Chechik

Cast
Chevy Chase , Beverly D’Angelo , Randy Quaid , Juliette Lewis , Johnny Galecki , John Randolph , Diane Ladd , E.G. Marshall , Miriam Flynn

Runtime
97 minutes

Not everyone would consider the National Lampoon series of movies to be family-friendly, and the comedy definitely gets raunchier in the modern era, but this particular movie can be enjoyed by a variety of ages. That’s especially true for anyone who wants a snapshot of what celebrating the holidays might have been like in the 1980s, if everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.

The movie features comedy legends Beverly D’Angelo and Chevy Chase in the lead roles, and it’s got plenty of slapstick to keep people laughing. Aspects of it might appear a little dated over 30 years later, but at its heart, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is really about a family who just wants to enjoy their time together.

Bad Santa (2003)

bad santa movie poster

Bad Santa

Release Date
November 26, 2003

Director
Terry Zwigoff

Cast
Billy Bob Thornton , Bernie Mac , Lauren Graham

Runtime
1h32m

Billy Bob Thornton is a standout in this hilarious, adult-oriented Christmas comedy about a professional thief who poses as a mall Santa each year to rob the store. It’s a phenomenally black and cynical take on the idea of consumerism at Christmas and a character who hates the entire performance – but of course, who finds the true meaning of Christmas through a connection with a troubled and lonely kid. While absolutely nothing about this film is family-friendly (and it has an R-rating for the copious swearing, sex, and violence), it still manages to tug on the Christmas heartstrings and has a surprisingly sweet and inspiring conclusion.

While there are definitely some jokes in the film that do not stand the test of time, the brilliant performances and dark comedy of the film save it, and keep it watchable year after year.

Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged

Release Date
November 23, 1988

Cast
Bill Murray , Carol Kane , Karen Allen , Alfre Woodard , Bobcat Goldthwait , Robert Mitchum , Michael J. Pollard , John Forsythe , John Glover , David Johansen

Runtime
100 Minutes

One of dozens of movies inspired by A Christmas Carol is this ’80s classic starring Bill Murray as a bitter and selfish TV executive in need of a lesson in kindness. Scrooged is one of the few variations on this tale that rearranges it to keep the spirit of the story, but brings it fully into the present day, making the point that the core lesson of A Christmas Carol is still one we need to hear. Of course, by this point, the film is far from ‘modern’, and much of it is outdated, but the central story continues to work, and Murray manages to make everything he does incredible, with Scrooged being no exception.

The film is funny, poignant, and filled with amazing shots of New York at Christmastime, and is a perfect choice for anyone who wants to enjoy the magic of the original without the period setting. It’s also a slightly less family-friendly version, than some. It is rated PG-13, especially for the spirits who are a little more frightening than in most adaptations – however, the FX don’t quite hold up these days, making some of the ‘scarier’ parts more amusing than frightening.

Elf (2003)

Will Ferrell, James Caan, and Amy Sedaris in Elf

Elf

Release Date
November 7, 2003

Runtime
97 minutes

This hilarious slapstick comedy starring Will Ferrell has spawned generations of memes that still do the rounds every December, and is guaranteed to have the audience rolling on the floor with laughter. Ferrell is perfect as Buddy, a boy raised as an elf at the North Pole and now on a journey into the human world to find his father.

Buddy may be completely over the top at times, but his naïveté is utterly charming, and Elf is intensely quotable. Seeing his completely unfettered joy and excitement over the holiday season will remind viewers not to get too jaded at this time of year. After all, Santa’s coming!

The Family Stone (2005)

This holiday rom-com taps beautifully into the hilarity (and stress) of the family dynamic at Christmastime, and does a beautiful job of balancing the romantic elements against the family connections to create something truly funny and heartfelt, that avoids too many obvious cliches. Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Meredith Morton, a successful woman who is going to meet her boyfriend’s family for the first time, and who is deeply anxious and stiff about spending the holidays with them. Her boyfriend wants to get an heirloom ring from his mother to propose to her, but his family doesn’t take to her, and her tense behavior does her no favors with them, with things quickly spiraling out of control in a ridiculous way.

The Family Stone has plenty of slapstick humor and relies on second-hand embarrassment at times, but it also proves a deeply relatable look at the stresses of Christmas and meeting ‘the parents’ over the holiday season. The film also stands out for featuring two Deaf main characters and LGBTQ representation, although neither of these are the focus.

The Night Before (2015)

Chris, Issac and Ethan from The Night Before

The Night Before

Release Date
November 25, 2015

Director
Jonathan Levine

Runtime
101minutes

While The Night Before is a stoner comedy that received mixed reviews, but it includes a few elements that make it worthy of inclusion – especially as an R-Rated comedy that is perfect for adults who want something that isn’t focused on romance or the True Meaning of Christmas. Instead, this comedy is all about friendship, following three life-long best friends who always spend Christmas Eve together, searching for the infamous Nutcracker Ball. The movie takes place as all of their lives are changing, and their Christmas tradition is coming to a close – and their drug-fuelled hijinks finally lead them to the Nutcracker Ball, and to a deeper friendship and awareness of themselves.

While the laughs may be uneven, one of the most refreshing things about this Seth Rogen comedy is that unlike so many Christmas comedies, it’s about people who enjoy the holiday, and who actually want to spend time together. It manages to be hilarious and heartwarming, and it does it with a focus on friends as chosen family.

Best Christmas Rom Coms

The Holiday (2006)

Jack Black and Kate Winslet talking in The Holiday

The Holiday

Release Date
December 14, 2006

Director
Nancy Meyers

Runtime
138minutes

As much a rom-com as a Christmas movie, The Holiday has a lot to offer beyond the tropes of the Hallmark Channel (enjoyable as they are). The film stars Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz as Iris and Amanda, two women who find themselves facing Christmas with broken hearts. Instead of staying home for the holidays, they decide to swap homes, with Iris going to stay in Amanda’s stunning LA mansion, and Amanda coming to a small English cottage. Jude Law appears as Iris’s brother, who is the love interest for Amanda, while Jack Black proves that he is more than capable of playing a romantic lead himself, as Miles.

The movie has plenty of charming twists and misunderstandings, great comedy, and a side-plot involving Iris and a retired Hollywood legend, all of which make it so much more than a simple double romance. The Holiday is satisfying, charming, and uplifting, without being trite, and of course, it wraps up with a perfect Christmas for everyone.

A Christmas Prince (2017)

A Christmas Prince

Release Date
November 17, 2017

Director
Alex Zamm

Cast
Rose McIver , Ben Lamb

Runtime
1h32m

When Netflix released A Christmas Prince in 2017, most assumed that this would be a small-scale Christmas movie in the Hallmark tradition, watched by a few and forgotten by most. Instead, it became a cultural phenomenon, with huge success that has since spawned two sequels, with talk of more to come. The incredible popularity of the film is in large part because it does not attempt to do anything wild or unexpected – it is a purely sweet and predictable Christmas romance, with a Prince, an enemies-to-lovers style central trope, a family mystery, and a relatable heroine. Realism doesn’t have much of a place in the film, and lovingly pointing out errors and plot holes (not to mention half-finished sets) has become a favorite pastime of rewatchers.

However, that is part of the charm. A Christmas Prince doesn’t exist to challenge viewers, but to charm them, and to create some Christmassy magic of everything going exactly as expected, and everyone getting a happy ending.

Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually

Release Date
November 14, 2003

Director
Richard Curtis

Runtime
135 minutes

When a holiday movie fan can’t decide which kind of Christmas movie to watch, they can just watch them all at once! This collection of interwoven stories about love at Christmastime brings together friends, family, new loves, married couples, and missed chances into a beautiful collection that is the cinematic version of a big warm hug. Set in London over the six weeks leading up to Christmas, this is an emotional rollercoaster ride, balancing happy and funny love stories with moments of heart-wrenching sorrow.

While some tales are a little ridiculous or not entirely kid-friendly, it’s all part of the holiday fun. A perfect film for couples, this should do a solid job of reminding viewers that love is actually all around…

The Holidate (2020)Holidate Emma Roberts Luke bracey

Holidate

Release Date
October 28, 2020

Director
John Whitesell

Cast
Emma Roberts

Runtime
104minutes

After a disastrous Christmas at her parent’s house, Sloane decides that what she needs is a ‘holidate’ – a man to spend the holidays with, throughout the year, in order to avoid the stresses of having to do them single. When she happens to meet a stunning man in the mall (returning terrible gifts, of course), she puts her purely platonic, holiday-only plan into action. The movie takes place over the course of the year, as they celebrate everything from St Patrick’s Day to Valentine’s Day to the 4th of July together – and no one is surprised when this slowly becomes romantic.

The Holidate is an exercise in how to make tropes enjoyable, with a twist on the typical ‘fake couple’ trope (as they are not trying to deceive anyone), and a grand gesture at the end of the movie. While it’s not Christmassy throughout, it’s a light and charming rom com that is just Christmassy enough.

Happiest Season (2020)

Happiest Season

Release Date
November 25, 2020

Director
Clea DuVall

Runtime
102minutes

Happiest Season is one of the best holiday rom-coms to feature a lesbian couple, with the usual comedy of errors that are to be expected with a Christmas romance and a big secret. Kristen Stewart stars as Abby, who is going to be spending Christmas with her girlfriend, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), and Harper’s family. Initially, it seems like a set up for a straightforward rom-com about one partner who hates the holidays and one who loves them, but it quickly becomes more complex when Harper reveals that she isn’t actually out to her family.

What follows is a brilliant twist on the usual ‘meet the parents’ Christmas movie, which deals beautifully with the issues of homophobia and fears around coming out, as well as the pressure to love the holiday season. The movie has a great balance of romantic plots as well as ones that are more concerned with family relationships (and secrets), and Dan Levy shines as the witty best friend.



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