The 19 Best Holiday Movies to Watch This December


Margaret Holmes

The holiday season is always a magical time. This year especially is the perfect time to stay inside for a holiday movie marathon. Here are my top picks for a magical movie experience. 

#19: It’s a Wonderful Life

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a great story about family and taking what life gives you and making the most of it. It is heartwarming, and festive– what any holiday movie should be. The only reason it’s rated so low on the list is because there are a lot of depressing parts to it, and many scenes have not aged well. Despite this, it is a must see for the holiday season. 

#18: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Who doesn’t remember being enthralled by the animation and unique storyline as a kid? Not to mention the recess-long debates about whether it is a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie. On this list we are counting it as Christmas, but it does have many Halloween-y themes so it isn’t listed too high. 

#17: Home Alone

This movie made kids everywhere ask the question: What would happen if my parents forgot about me? In this movie it includes thieves, mischief, and of course, Christmas joy. 

#16: The Polar Express

As a kid “The Polar Express” was not on my ‘must see every year’ list, so I cannot say that I adore it as much as my other picks, but it is an excellent adventure movie that you can never be too old to enjoy. I know I’m not! 

#15: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

This is the kind of movie that you MUST see every year. The animation is deliciously old, the message is surprisingly modern, and the abominable snowman only gets more adorable with age. My only criticism of this movie is that Santa is a pretty mean character for a kids movie. 

#14: Gremlins

A Christmas movie often overlooked, “Gremlins” is such a fun movie for the holidays! Who doesn’t love a band of underdogs coming together to save Christmas from a band of evil, demon-like creatures to stop them from killing everyone before they can open their presents. Okay, maybe it’s a little dark, but the Gremlins are hilarious and Gizmo will never not be adorable. 

#13: Miracle On 34th Street (1994)

There are two kinds of holiday movies: fun ones, and heartwarming ones. “Miracle On 34th Street” definitely falls into the second category. Richard Attenborough is such a believable Santa Claus, and the plot is so well thought out that each time I watch it I am still amazed by the ending. This movie is definitely a must see. 

#12: Elf

Without a doubt “Elf” is definitely one of the fun holiday movies. It is full of so many jokes and ridiculous stunts that you will forget that it really is about family and finding where you belong. Plus, no one could forget Will Ferrell’s excellent performance. 

#11: A Christmas Story

This is just the kind of movie that I feel like you either get, or you don’t. Maybe it’s just the abundance of 80s nostalgia, but “A Christmas Story” is the funniest holiday movie I have seen yet. I feel like words can’t even describe this movie so go and watch it. 

#10: Holiday Inn

Although the oldest film on this list (beating “It’s a Wonderful Life” by six years), “Holiday Inn” hasn’t lost any of its charm. Bing Crosby is to this day an amazing performer, and you will be singing the songs long after New Years. Plus, the movie had an entire hotel chain named after it. I would call that success. 

#9: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Okay, let’s all be honest here for a second. Did anyone have a favorite holiday movie that wasn’t “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as a kid? In this cartoon original, the Grinch was deliciously evil and Max was the dog we all wanted. The songs were an added bonus, and were my personal favorite as a kid. 

#8: Frosty the Snowman

Although I have my problems with “Frosty the Snowman” (weren’t they a little harsh on the magician? I mean it was his hat after all), it is such a great movie! Frosty is a relatable protagonist, and I will still to this day cry at the end when he melts. 

#7: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Let’s be honest, is there any Charlie Brown special that isn’t amazing? It also takes place in St. Paul so we can all take some Minnesotan pride in the fact that this movie is such a hit. There’s just something about Charlie Brown that gets you in the holiday spirit. 

#6: While You Were Sleeping

 This underrated rom com follows a young woman named Lucy who saves a handsome stranger, Jack, from getting run over by a subway. Jack suffers a coma as a result and Lucy has to deal with the consequences of Jack’s family thinking they are engaged. It sounds kind of crazy, but at its heart it is a movie about togetherness.  

#5: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

By some miracle, the directors of the live-adaptation “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” managed to make a movie even better than the original. This movie seems to have the perfect blend of funniness and heartwarming moments. I love it’s uniqueness and fresh spin on a classic.

#4: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

“Christmas Vacation” is the kind of movie that has something for everyone. This is a great movie to watch with the family, which is fitting because family is kind of the whole point of Christmas. Likewise this is a great film to watch to instill that message while getting a barrel of laughs as well. 

#3: The Last Holiday

“The Last Holiday” is one of the few really good New Years movies. It’s about a woman who finds out she only has a few weeks to live, quits her job, and vacations in Europe while she does all the things she’s always wanted to do before she dies. It’s a bit goofier than it sounds, but a great movie overall. 

#2: The Holiday

Like “While You Were Sleeping,” “The Holiday” isn’t as well-known a movie, but it has an excellent plot and cast. The movie is about two women who switch houses for the holiday season in Los Angeles and England. 

#1: Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) (1951)

Widely known as the best Christmas Carol adaptation, “Scrooge” is a must see every year. Who doesn’t love this story? It’s so much fun seeing the special effects from the fifties and watching Scrooge learn the errors of his ways. Plus, the ghosts are spot on for their creepiness factor.