25. The Polar Express (2004)
Sure, the performance-capture technology may have rendered the children a touch frightening to look at (at least it improved dramatically with ‘Beowulf’), but there’s still plenty of joy to be had in this fast-moving adaptation of the beloved children’s book starring an ensemble of Tom Hankses.
24. We’re No Angels (1955)
This Christmas caper reteaming Humphrey Bogart with his ‘Casablanca’ director was the icon’s rare comedy, and Bogie, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray had a ball playing escaped convicts with hearts of gold (are there any other kind?). But the 1989 remake, starring Robert De Niro and Sean Penn, was just criminal.
23. The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)
Michael Caine is miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and Kermit the Frog is kindly Bob Cratchit in the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational take on the Dickens tale ever to star 99 percent Muppets.
22. Joyeux Noel (2006)
This moving Oscar-nominated drama tells the true story of German, French and Scottish troops in WWI who called a ceasefire for Christmas Eve. If they can find peace on earth for this most special of nights, surely you can grin and bear the in-laws.
21. Gremlins (1984)
If you think this flick about vicious green monsters tearing up a small town during the holidays isn’t very Christmasy, thank your lucky stars they nixed plans for scenes in which Gremlins behead Billy’s mom, eat his dog and chow down on McDonald’s patrons (but strangely not the burgers). Merry Christmas!
20. The Santa Clause (1994)
Tim Allen is actually, uh, jolly in this fun family tale about a guy who accidentally kills Kris Kringle — whoops! — then has to take his job, unwillingly at first but then growing to love it (not coincidentally, how many grown-ups feel about the movie). We will not comment on the two sequels.
19. Bad Santa (2003)
There are two types of movie fans: those who expect their Santa noble and god-fearing, with perhaps a hint of safe Tim Allen-esque humor, and those who’ll allow him the occasional slip into vulgarity, promiscuity and armed burglary. To the latter group, this black comedy’s a classic. To the former, we’re sorry.
18. The Dead (1987)
John Huston directed his daughter Anjelica in this delicately rendered adaptation of a James Joyce short story, set in Ireland at a Christmas dinner. Not your traditional holiday fare, but don’t let that keep you away — it’s a brilliantly bittersweet confection that should be savoured.
17. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Though it inspired You’ve Got Mail, this rom-com classic feels more akin to Love Actually in its unabashed romanticism. James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan are the oblivious couple on a crash-course toward love one X-mas Eve, proving one of film’s best pairings in the process.
16. Die Hard (1988)
There’s no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than watching a wife-beater-clad Bruce Willis single-handedly decimate a skyscraperful of terrorists on Christmas Eve. The classic one liners, the genre-redefining action, the genius use of a Run-DMC holiday tune — it’s like a gift from Jesus himself.
15. Love Actually (2003)
So you love rom-coms? Try eight in one. Though some storylines (Liam Neeson helps his son woo a classmate) work better than others (horny Brit has American threesome), even the grinchiest among us will find something to heart here. It’s a valentine to love all wrapped up in a Christmas bow.
14. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Who WOULDN’T want Cary Grant as their guardian angel? Apparently not David Niven, as a bishop building a church — until his wife rejects a smitten Grant for him. (Suspension of disbelief required.) Witty and charming, ‘Wife’ earned five Oscar noms, and one spot in Christmas classic heaven.
13. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Sleigh bells and shrunken heads? They’re great together! Or so thinks Jack Skellington, who tries to take over Christmas in this awesomely ghoulish Tim Burton movie. With a sweet fable for kids and the torture of Santa for grown-ups, it’s like ‘The Grinch’ on acid. (Um, kid-friendly acid.)
12. Holiday Inn (1942)
Plot? Who cares? Starring the dream team of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and ringing with classic Irving Berlin tunes, the musical resulted in one Oscar (for ‘White Christmas’), two films based on songs from the movie (White Christmas and Easter Parade) and a ginormous hotel chain. Irving would be … proud?
11. A Christmas Carol (1951)
Also known as ‘Scrooge,’ this take is hailed as the best for its definitive Ebenezer Scrooge, fittingly played by a man named Alastair Sim, who gives a superb performance. Though a colourised version exists, we’d recommend kicking it old school and watching it in its original black and white beauty.
10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Chevy Chase is at the top of his game in this sight-gag-and-one-liner-laden homage to the love/hate event that is the family Christmas. Where, besides this list, is there a place big enough for a movie with Yule laughs this huge? As Clark Griswold would say, “Bend over and I’ll show you.”
9. Babes in Toyland (1934)
Mother Goose rhymes come to life in this ’34 classic (reissued in ’52 as ‘March of the Wooden Soldiers’) starring comedy legends Laurel and Hardy as gut-bustingly bumbling toymakers out to save Toyland from the nefarious Barnaby. And if tricking him into a same-sex wedding is what it takes, so much the better.
8. Home Alone (1990)
It made Macaulay Culkin the biggest child star on the planet, reigned at the box office for 12 straight weeks and grossed $533 million worldwide, but the best thing about this holiday staple is watching an 8-year-old kid toss burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern a good old-fashioned Christmas beat-down.
7. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Arnold Schwarzenegger was so enamored with this classic he directed his own TV version in 1992. True story. But for the love of Sinbad, stick to the original, a serene screwball comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck as a food writer who misleads her readers in adorably forgivable ways.
6. Elf (2003)
Frank Ricard. Ron Burgundy. Ricky Bobby. They’re all unforgettable Will Ferrell personas, but the role he might be remembered for most in 50 years is Buddy the Elf (what’s your favorite color?) from ’03′s instant holiday classic. This non-stop laugher exemplifies all-ages entertainment.
5. White Christmas (1954)
Aren’t we all dreaming of a ‘White Christmas’? The movie starring Bing “Mr. Christmas” Crosby and Danny Kaye is as charming as the tune, with all the elements to warm the heart: Two GIs come home from WWII, fall in love with singing-and-dancing sisters and help their general with his failing Vermont inn.
4. Scrooged (1988)
Only Bill Murray could so expertly walk the fine line between pathos and hilarity, as he does playing miserly TV exec Frank Cross. Complete with a taxi-driving Ghost of Christmas Past and a (literally) ball-busting Ghost of Christmas Present, this Dickens send-up is so offbeat and fun, Yule love it!
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3. Miracle on 34th St (1947)
If this ’47 classic doesn’t make you a Santa believer, nothing (especially the ’94 remake) will. It’s dark stuff for a Christmas flick — Kris Kringle is put on trail to determine if he’s legally insane — but the endgame (in which the US Postal Service saves the day!) is utterly heartwarming.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)
A tale of depression and almost-suicide doesn’t exactly scream “Christmas classic” — which is probably why Frank Capra’s flick flopped at the box office. But more than 30 years later, it endures as a beloved testament to everything Christmas embodies: family, friends and the joy of life.
1. A Christmas Story (1983)
There’s nary a scene to forget in this near-perfect nostalgic look at where Americana and Christmastime meet. The story of a young boy’s epic quest to get his hands on a Red Ryder BB gun provides the hilarious backdrop for a timeless tale rife with family hijinks, frozen tongues and, of course, sex-oozing leg lamps.
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