Whether or not you celebrate with a white Christmas, the holiday season is the perfect time to pop a bowl of popcorn or make a mug of hot chocolate, curl up under a cozy blanket and watch (or re-watch) one of our 12 favorite classic Christmas movies.
Holiday Inn (1942)
Starring: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds
When a vaudeville actor is gypped by love, he decides to retire and open a country inn. This classic introduced the world to the song White Christmas and inspired the name for the popular hotel chain Holiday Inn.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
When a depressed and desperate George Bailey contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve, an angel named Clarence comes to earth to show George what life in Bedford Falls, New York, would be like if he had never been born. Based on the story, “The Greatest Gift,” by Philip Van Doren Stern, the movie was a box office disappointment that gained popularity after receiving five Oscar nominations.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Starring: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn
When Kris Kringle is hired as Santa in Macy’s flagship New York City store (on 34th Street), it quickly becomes clear that he is not just playing the role but believes he IS Santa Claus. When the department store manager threatens to have him locked up, a young lawyer attempts to prove that Kris Kringle is Santa, convincing the doubting judge and the viewer that the department store Santa might just be real.
Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) (1951)
Starring: Alastair Sim, Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison
Based on Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol” tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter, cold-hearted man who hates Christmas. When Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, he is forced to confront and change his miserly ways. The story has been retold starring George C. Scott (1984), Albert Finney (1970) and Jim Carrey (2009), among dozens of others, but the 1951 version remains the best.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Starring (Voices): Billie Mae Richards, Burl Ives, Paul Soles
Shunned by the other reindeer because of his glowing red nose, Rudolph teams up with two other misfits to look for a place where they will fit in. They found the perfect spot in the hearts of children and adults who watch the TV special each year.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Starring (Voices): Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer
Depressed by the over-commercialization of Christmas, Charlie Brown decides to search for the true meaning of Christmas by directing the school Christmas pageant and adopting a scrawny Christmas tree. The first animated TV special based on the popular comic strip by Charles Schulz, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” helped cement Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts as animated American icons.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Starring (Voices): Boris Karloff, Thurl Ravenscroft, June Foray
The grumpy, hermit-like Grinch wants to stop the Whos, the inhabitants of Whoville, from celebrating Christmas, so he dresses up as Santa and attempts to steal Christmas from the village. This short TV film, with its rhyming script and colorful animation, reveals that Christmas isn’t about presents, decorations or candy, but a spirit that lives in hearts of the Whos — and you!
A Christmas Story (1983)
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin
All 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun — but to get it, he’ll have to convince his parents, teacher and others that he won’t shoot his eye out. From the fishnet-clad leg lamp to the dogs devouring the holiday turkey, “A Christmas Story” is a seasonal classic that will have the entire family laughing out loud.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid
Clark Griswold is planning a good, old-fashioned family Christmas, but things go wrong when Cousin Eddie pulls his decrepit RV into the front yard, 25,000 twinkling Christmas lights don’t work and Clark’s bonus check doesn’t arrive. Your family get-together will seem much better after watching the Griswolds suffer through the season.
Home Alone (1990)
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern
What happens when the McCallister family rushes to catch a flight to Paris — and accidentally leaves their 8-year-old son Kevin alone at home? He defends his home from two bumbling burglars with a series of homemade booby traps.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Starring (Voices): Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara
Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween Town, stumbles upon Christmas Town. Tired of celebrating the same old events, Jack decides to bring Christmas into Halloween Town, but it doesn’t quite go as planned.
Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart
When Buddy the Elf realizes that he is not an elf, as he has been raised, but a human, he leaves the North Pole in search of his true identity, wreaking havoc in New York City as he reunites with his human family.