The 20 best Christmas movies of all time, ranked

15 December 2023, 11:10

Xmas movies
Picture: 20th Century Fox/Disney/Universal

By Tom Eames

You probably don't religiously watch certain films at least once a year, unless it's a Christmas movie.

There have been many festive flicks over the years, but only a handful of stood the test of time.

Here are our favourite Christmas movies ever made that always make us feel all warm and cosy, is yours in there?

  1. Scrooged

    Scrooged - Trailer

    Bill Murray stars as the titular Scrooge in this modern retelling of the Christmas Carol story.

    Frank Cross is a selfish TV executive who learns the error of his ways via a series of ghosts on Christmas Eve, and it has one of the most uplifting ends to a movie you're ever likely to see.

  2. Jingle All the Way

    Jingle All the Way (1996) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

    It's Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrating the commercialisation of Christmas and he wears a ridiculous superhero outfit. What more do you want?

  3. Bad Santa

    Bad Santa Official Trailer #1 - (2003) HD

    Billy Bob Thornton stars as a constantly intoxicated criminal mastermind who gets a job as a store Santa in order to pull off his next big heist.

    It was a surprisingly decent Christmas movie with a healthy amount of heart, and eventually led to a not-as-good sequel in 2016.

  4. Christmas Vacation

    Christmas Vacation Official Trailer #1 - (1989) HD

    The Griswolds may be the world's most dysfunctional family, but they are determined to have a great Christmas, dammit.

    It's a totally barmy movie, complete with SWAT teams, dodgy wigs and health and safety nightmares. If you find Christmas get-togethers stressful, at least you're not this lot.

  5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

    Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas Trailer

    Benedict Cumberbatch currently stars in a new animated version of the classic Dr Seuss tale, but many people will no doubt prefer the Jim Carrey version from 2000.

    If you find yourself a bit of a Grinch at Christmas time, maybe this caper will help you out.

  6. Gremlins

    Gremlins (1984) Official Trailer #1 - Horror Comedy

    Yes, Gremlins is technically a Christmas movie. Or at least we say it is.

    Billy receives a strange creature called a mogwai as a pet, which then spawns other creatures who transform into small, evil monsters. What more could you ask for?

  7. The Holiday

    The Holiday (2006) Official Trailer 1 - Kate Winslet Movie

    This romcom is like a budget Love Actually, but it's rather sweet and makes you feel all soppy about love at Christmas time.

    Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz swap homes for the holidays and fall in love with Jack Black and Jude Law, respectively, as you do.

  8. Scrooge / A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol 1951 Trailer 1 (1080p)

    There have been many adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, from The Muppets to Jim Carrey to Ross Kemp.

    But for many this 1951 version starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge is the definitive.

  9. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

    Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

    You know a movie is going to be good when someone wins an Oscar for playing Santa Claus. Well done, Edmund Gwenn.

    If you love the 1994 remake but haven't seen this version yet, you're in for a real festive treat.

  10. A Christmas Story

    A Christmas Story (1983) Official Trailer #1 - Family Comedy

    It's not so well known here in the UK, but this 1983 movie is a Christmas staple over in the States, and that's because it's awesome.

    It's a simple movie about a young boy named Ralphie and his family in the lead-up to Christmas, and how all he wants for Christmas is an air rifle (they gave such things to kids as presents back then).

    It's incredibly warm and merry, and takes you back to the excitement of Christmas you felt while growing up.

  11. White Christmas

    White Christmas - Trailer

    Holiday Inn introduced the world to Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas', and this 1954 film upped the festive ante.

    Also starring Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as travelling entertainers, this is the ultimate Christmas musical romcom for the ages.

  12. The Polar Express

    The Polar Express (2004) Official Trailer - Tom Hanks, Robert Zemeckis Movie HD

    This impressive CGI movie stars Tom Hanks in multiple roles (including Santa Claus himself), in a retelling of the 1985 children's book of the same name.

    The film follows a young boy who is starting to lose his belief in the magic of Christmas. But once you're on a train to the North Pole to meet Santa with all the hot chocolate you can drink, surely we'd all jump on board?

  13. The Santa Clause

    The Santa Clause (1994) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

    Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa and takes his job in this film. On paper, that sounds more like a horror movie than a comedy romp, but it somehow works.

    The film spawned two not-so-great sequels, but the 1994 original is a funk take on the Santa mythos.

  14. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

    Miracle On 34th Street Trailer 1994

    Richard Attenborough stars in this '90s remake of the 1947 classic tale, in which a department store Santa who claims to be the real Saint Nick.

    Critics were unsure of a remake at the time, but it was a surprisingly great modern update while staying faithful to the original.

  15. It's a Wonderful Life

    It's A Wonderful Life Trailer

    You don't get more iconic or classic than this 1946 drama starring James Stewart.

    In it, George Bailey decides to end his life on Christmas Eve, before an angel shows him what life would be like if he never existed. That might sound pretty dour on paper, but it's actually one of the most uplifting movies of all time.

    It only loses a few points for us in this poll, as a large majority of the film doesn't actually take place at Christmas!

  16. Die Hard

    Die Hard - Official® Trailer [HD]

    You can say what you like about whether this is a Christmas film or not (including Bruce Willis himself), but we're counting it.

    Any excuse to see one of, if not the, greatest action movie of all time, particularly when you're full of Christmas pud and feeling a wee bit tipsy.

  17. Love Actually

    Love Actually - Trailer

    The romcom to beat all romcoms? Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley and so many more star in this epic ensemble that we might admit to watching all year round.

    Hugh Grant dancing, Andrew Lincoln's text boards, Billy Mack in general, what's not to love, eh?

    OK, it might make London seem like a magical fairyland and is pretty darn cheesy at times, but that's what Christmas is all about...

  18. Elf

    Elf (2003) Official Trailer #1 - Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel Christmas Movie HD

    Will Ferrell stars in this heartwarming and hilarious tale about an out-of-place elf from the North Pole trying to find his real father in the States.

    This movie is so festive that you'll feel like you've eaten a whole vat of Buddy's favourite spaghetti and syrup by the end.

  19. Home Alone

    Home Alone (1990) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

    Right up there is this 1990 Christmas staple starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin, the kid stuck at home while his (frankly awful) family accidentally leave him there after heading away for a festive trip.

    It has comedy, slapstick action, thrills, and some genuinely heartwarming moments from start to finish. Keep the change, ya filthy animal.

  20. The Muppet Christmas Carol

    The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) Original Trailer

    But our pick goes to this. The idea of The Muppets taking on the iconic Charles Dickens novel must have sounded so incredibly daft at the time, but somehow they not only pulled it off but made one of the greatest adaptations of all time.

    Michael Caine stars as Scrooge in this musical retelling, which has a whole lot of heart without losing all the grim parts of the novel.

    With Gonzo the Great as Charles himself, Kermit as Bob Cratchit and Miss Piggy as his loyal wife, it's a surprisingly beautiful movie.