Holidays & Seasonal

Top 20 Classic Christmas Movies

So good it’s worth repeating – From the “must watch” movie list this Christmas season, clips from our Top 20 list of Christmas-themed films. Did your favorite make the list?

21. Black Christmas (1974) – Just kidding folks, this horror/thriller is definitely NOT a Christmas movie, but I’m including it here as a bonus flick. Black Christmas stars Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea & John Saxon, and had earned a cult following in the years since it’s release.

20. Little Women is based on Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel, and has been made into TV series & feature films multiple times, beginning in 1917. The 1933 film featured Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, and Paul Lukas, with music by movie composer Max Steiner. The 1949 movie version of Little Women features a star-studded cast that includes June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Margaret O’Brien, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, Rossano Brazzi, Mary Astor, and Ellen Corby (among others). The March sisters weather life’s trials and triumphs in the 1800s. 

19. The Bishop’s Wife (1947) – Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young still light up the screen more than 70 years later.

18. Die Hard (1988) – It may seem like a stretch, but most men will tell you that Die Hard is the closest thing to a Christmas movie that they’ll willingly watch. Bruce Willis plays cop John McClane, who is trying to reunited with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) over the holidays; bad guy Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) has his own plans. 

17. Susan Slept Here (1954), a romantic comedy filmed in glorious technicolor starring Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds.

Struggling movie screenwriter Mark Christopher (Dick Powell) hosts an unwelcome house guest when wanna-be actress Susan (Debbie Reynolds), is dumped at his apartment by friendly police officers on Christmas Eve, so she won’t have to spend the holiday in jail for vagrancy. Anne Francis plays Mark’s erstwhile girlfriend & Alvy Moore appears as his sidekick/gofer Virgil

Susan Slept Here was Dick Powell’s last onscreen movie role, although he produced and directed other 1950s films and was active in front of and behind the scenes of television until his death in 1963.

16. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – Jim Carrey IS the Grinch, for all generations…a modern classic. Taylor Momsen is Cindy Lou Who and Molly Shannon is Betty Lou Who.

15. The Santa Clause (1994) – Tim Allen has to step in for Santa after a roof mishap.

14. Scrooged (1988) – Bill Murray updates a classic for baby boomers and their children. Carol Kane is the Ghost of Christmas Present; Murray’s real-life brothers John and Brian Doyle-Murray also have roles in the film.

13. Love Actually (2003). A stellar cast (Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightly, Bill Nighy and others) navigate the aspects of love in parallel stories that take place before, during & after the holiday season.

12. Holiday Inn (1942). This was the first time Bing Crosby sang his classic song, White Christmas. His co-stars in Holiday Inn include Fred Astaire & Marjorie Reynolds. Although Holiday Inn may be a little dated, Fred Astaire’s fantastic footwork and of course Bing Crosby singing, will never grow old.

11. Elf  (2003) – Will Ferrell knows he doesn’t fit in with the other elves. Ed Asner is Santa and Bob Newhart is Papa Elf. Asner has said Will Ferrell is brilliant in the film, and Elf is just one of several films Asner has played Santa in.

10. Trading Places (1983) – Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, & Jamie Lee Curtis are down on their luck and join forces to restore right from the wrong done by bad rich guys (Ralph Bellamy & Don Ameche). Trading Places is a great holiday comedy and it’s hard to find a bad performance in the cast.

9. The Shop Around The Corner (1940) / In the Good Old Summertime (1949) / You’ve Got Mail (1998) – These 3 films are all versions of the same story (two people exchanging mail/email without knowing who the other person is), and all had great casts. In the Good Old Summertime is a musical with Van Johnson & Judy Garland; The Shop Around the Corner stars Jimmy Stewart & Margaret Sullivan, and You’ve Got Mail reunited Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan on screen for the 3rd time. All 3 movies are holiday magic. 

8. Home Alone (1990) – Macaulay Culkin fends for himself as Kevin when his family (Mom played by Catherine O’Hara and Dad by John Heard) leaves on a Christmas vacation without him. Bumbling thieves played by  Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern try to ruin his Christmas.

7. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) – Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is just one of the highlights of a “feel good” old-fashioned Christmas family flick. Garland sings The Trolley Song in this clip from Meet Me in St. Louis, below.

6. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) – Chevy Chase demonstrates “how not to” put up Christmas lights. His wife (Beverly D’Angelo) puts up with him in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation..

5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn (as Kris Kringle) in a timeless classic loved by seniors and baby boomers. A very young Natalie Wood plays jaded tot Susan Walker, while handsome John Payne is the friendly neighbour next door. The 1994 re-make of Miracle on 34th Street features Richard Attenborough as Kris, Elizabeth Perkins, and Dylan McDermott, and is almost as good as the original.  

4. A Christmas Carol (1938) – Dicken’s classic tale has been remade many times; this one starred Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit (Lockhart’s wife Kathleen Lockhart played Mrs. Cratchit).

3. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) – John Candy and Steve Martin are at the top of their funny game in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, managing to tug at the heartstrings and make you laugh out loud, as they try to get home for Christmas.

2. A Christmas Story (1983) – Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants a gun for Christmas. His dad (Darren McGavin) and mom (Melinda Dillon) are disagreed about the merits of a leg-shaped lamp. 

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) gets help from angel Harry (Henry Travers) at Christmas. Donna Reed plays George’s wife (and sweetheart in flashbacks), while Lionel Barrymore plays the Scrooge-like figure of Mr. Potter

Happy holiday film watching!

And if you like this list of Top Christmas Movies, you may like my Top New Year’s Eve Movies & Clips and these other seasonal favorites too!

Top Christmas Songs (in Classic Clips)

Best Christmas Commercials

Planning a Christmas / Holiday Menu? – Hits and Misses

Top New Year’s Eve Songs

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (song and the story behind it)

Remaking It’s a Wonderful Life

A Vintage Magazine Cover Christmas

Vintage Movie Star Holiday Greetings

Happy Holidays Greeting Cards

The 12 Best Secrets of Christmas

Anita Hamilton

50+ World editor & writer Anita Hamilton's articles are inspired by real historical events, places, and people. Her travel experiences, a lifelong keen interest in history, art, vintage music, books, silent films, classic movies, "golden age" television shows, fashion, & entertainment in general - combined with years of research - make her a subject matter expert with acquired knowledge & expertise on these topics. This, and a loving and supportive family complete with 3 mini-dachshund minions, keeps her busy.

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