Christmas is all about traditions, nostalgia and childhood memories (among other things), and for some (especially those of us who grew up as only children) that meant watching lots and lots of Christmas movies. Most are completely forgettable, but a few have risen above to become totally timeless classics. Whether you’re looking to introduce a new tradition to your little one, or want a good laugh after the kids have gone to bed mamas, here’s our all-time top 10, expertly handpicked after many, many hours in front of the TV. Happy viewing!
10. Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town
There’s so much to love about this nostalgic classic: the jolly narration from Fred Astaire, the retro Claymation look, snappy musical numbers, and all-time awesome Christmas movie villain THE BURGERMEISTER. There’s even backstory on how Santa and Mrs. Claus met and fell in love! To this day I still assume Santa was a slender redhead in his youth.
9. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
I’m not sure if this cartoon can be found anywhere besides YouTube, but it made such an impression on me as little girl – and was inspired by such a wonderful real-life story – that I just had to include it. Perfect for your little primary schooler who’s beginning to wonder if Santa Claus really exists.
8. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Kids will love Chevy Chase’s trademark slapstick comedy (and all the ridiculous Christmas lights), while mamas will nod along to the stress of hosting relatives, the suspense of the ever-elusive Christmas bonus, and the odyssey that can be picking out a Christmas tree. My husband and I always identified with the villainous yuppie neighbours, until we had a child of our own.
7. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Michael Caine can make anything classy, even if he’s interacting with a bunch of rat puppets! With original musical numbers and star turns from Muppet faves like Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear, alongside Caine as the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge, this high-quality production actually stays quite close to the plot of Charles Dickens’s paradigmatic Christmas tale. Be sure to check it out this Saturday at our free Christmas movie morning!
6. White Christmas
Worth watching if only for Bing Crosby’s amazing rendition of the timeless song in the big finale, though with its gorgeous costumes, elaborate song-and-dance numbers, and 1940’s leading ladies Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, this movie evokes Hollywood’s Golden Age. The only downside is I’m always epically disappointed when it doesn’t snow on Christmas.
“Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” “Smiling’s my favorite!” “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody!” I could go on, but suffice to say this hilarious Will Ferrell vehicle is filled to the brim with quotable lines. Ferrell’s sweetly naïve and happy elf will charm little ones, while the stellar and cynical supporting cast will keep mamas cracking up.
4. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version)
Based on Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas book, The Grinch features great songs, adorably hapless sidekick Max the dog disguised as a reindeer, and the always-wonderful lesson that “maybe Christmas…means a little bit more” than just presents under the tree. Bonus points for the brilliant casting of horror actor Boris Karloff in the title role.
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
This black-and-white standard bearer is best remembered for the line “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings” and the sight of Jimmy Stewart running through the streets of his hometown like a mad man wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. It’s a lovely reminder that we don’t need presents and things, but rather friends and loved ones, to feel truly rich.
2. Home Alone (+ Home Alone 2: Lost in New York)
Poor Macaulay Culkin totally peaked at age 8, but man was he funny and precocious. Yet another stellar cast (Joe Pesci! John Candy! Catherine O’Hara!) in a film filled with great lines and legendary slapstick. For me, Home Alone perfectly captures what Christmas is like in the American suburbs. And while the sequel is definitely a drop in quality, it’s actually held up well over the years, because there’s nothing like Christmas in New York.
1. A Christmas Story
There’s a reason they show this 1983 movie on 24-hour repeat each Christmas Eve in America. Author Jean Shepherd narrates the film version of his own short story, recalling one particular Christmas in the 1940s when all he really wanted was a Red Rider B.B. Gun. Throw in wacky parents, school bullies, nostalgic department store Santas, and a refrain of “You’ll shoot your eye out!” and it somehow all comes together to create the perfect Christmas movie. A little bit sweet, a little bit sarcastic, and still so funny after hundreds and hundreds of viewings.
Honourable Mention: Love Actually, Die Hard, Miracle on 34th Street, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and every cheesy made-for-TV movie on Lifetime and DIVA.