It’s that time of year. The Christmas tree is up, the stockings are hung, and the hot chocolate is flowing. The holidays are the perfect time to gather with family, and nothing is better than gathering around the TV to watch your favorite holiday classics. But what are the best Christmas movies to watch during the holiday season?
We asked our agents, who gave us the list of the top five movies that are sure to delight during the holidays.
5. It’s A Wonderful Life
The 1946 film directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart has become an all-time classic. The film actually suffered through a disappointing original opening in December of 1946, barely scraping by its $3.18 million production budget. That didn’t stop the film from being nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and becoming one of the most viewed movies of all time.
The film follows George Bailey (played masterfully by Jimmy Stewart), who is contemplating suicide after a series of professional and personal failures. He is visited by a guardian angel, who walks George through his life and shows him how things would be different without him around. After the journey, George realizes he is truly blessed with a wonderful life and eventually reconnects with his loving family.
The movie now ranks eleventh on the American Film Institute’s Greatest Movie List (2008) and is number one on its list of most inspirational American films of all time.
4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
This television classic was produced and distributed by NBC Universal Television in 1964 and contained cutting-edge stop-motion animation that wowed audiences at the time. It first aired on December 6 as a part of the General Electric Fantasy Hour during the holidays.
The show brings the original Christmas carol to life as it follows Rudolph, who has left the North Pole after suffering ridicule from the other reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh. He is joined on his journey by a wisecracking elf who has also left Santa’s workshop because he wants to become a dentist and a crazy gold prospector. The three escape the Abominable Snow Monster, wander through the Island of Misfit Toys, and eventually save Christmas when the weather threatens Santa’s big toy run on Christmas eve.
The voice of Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman leads the audience through this incredibly innocent and fun-loving movie that has become a constant rewatch during the holiday season.
3. Home Alone
There is nothing better than watching this hilarious romp through the suburban midwestern Christmas classic starring McCauley Caulkin, Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern. The production of the film was famous for its wacky shoot and lucky breaks. It premiered on November 10, 1990, and made its child star an instant sensation. It would spawn two sequels (which, as usual, did not live up to the original) and become synonymous with the Christmas season.
The delightful film follows young Kevin McCallister (Caulkin) who, after a bratty temper tantrum the night before he and his family are slated to leave for Christmas in Paris, is forgotten at home by his mom and dad, and left to his own devices until they can return. Unbeknownst to him, there are two burglars (Pesci and Stern) who have been canvassing his neighborhood and can’t wait to get their hands on his house. Hilarity ensues as they try (and fail) to break in and force Kevin to defend his family home.
There are heartfelt family moments sprinkled throughout this chaotic romp that are sure to make your family laugh and reflect at the same time.
2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
There is no movie that better reflects the chaos that comes from having family over at Christmas time. The constant passive-aggressive competition between siblings, dealing with in-laws that get on your nerves, and keeping up with the neighbor's lighting talents are all on display in this 1988 comedy starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, and Randy Quaid. The film is written by John Hughes, who would go on to direct Home Alone, and has become one of the most iconic Christmas films of all time.
The movie follows the insane life of Clark Griswold, who plots the best way to have an all-time Christmas with his family. Every step of the way presents obstacles, which lead to some of the funniest moments ever put on film. The film culminates in a raiding of the Griswold house by a SWAT team, an incredible angry monologue by Clark, and an eventual celebration with the whole family…including the SWAT team.
The film can hit on some adult themes and humor but is overall a fantastic watch for the whole family.
The adorable film directed by Jon Favreau and starring Will Ferrell is the most modern movie on this list but has quickly become one of the most beloved holiday films of any Christmas rotation.
The film follows Buddy the Elf, an orphaned human who is rescued by the lead elf at the North Pole (played with brilliant dry comedic timing from Bob Newhart). As Buddy grows up, he realizes that he doesn’t quite fit in and leaves to find his biological father (played by James Caan). After finding him, Buddy realizes that he isn’t the festive guy he was hoping but using his own Christmas spirit (and a boost from Santa), Buddy helps his father, and the rest of the world, regain their love for Christmas.
This is a modern holiday classic that is perfect for viewers of any age and will surely entertain the family.