With the Thanksgiving leftovers finally finished and cold weather already nipping at our heels, it’s now safe to move on to Christmas. Even if there’s no snow on the ground yet at your house, there’s no better way to get in the mood than watching some Christmas classics. There are plenty to choose from, but here are a few favorites to put you in the holiday spirit.
(List notes when movies are available to stream from popular subscription services.)
10. A Christmas Carol
The Dickens classic has been brought to the big screen many times and in many different forms. Whether its Kermit and Miss Piggy as the Cratchits in The Muppet Christmas Carol (currently on Amazon Prime and HBO) or Bill Murray in a very ’80s take on the story with Scrooged or a revisited animation with Jim Carrey in Disney’s A Christmas Carol, the reminder to rejoice and be happy is timeless.
9. Home Alone
John Hughes was at his peak when he penned this family favorite about unlucky Kevin, who was forgotten by his family and now has to defend his home from a couple of hapless burglars.
8. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
After a European misstep, the Griswold’s next Vacation is more like a staycation. All the relatives have made themselves at home and Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid are firing on all cylinders in this holiday funfest that culminates in the jelly-of-the-month club.
7. Love Actually
A romantic comedy that needs a diagram chart to untangle the relationships, Love Actually takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s star-studded and a touching good time that emphasizes that Love is All Around.
Christmas has its fair share of horror movies too. Although we don’t feel like Silent Night, Deadly Night or Krampus or Santa Claws are necessarily family fare, Gremlins (available on Netflix) certainly is. When dad brings home a mogwai for his son, Billy, on Christmas, things take a turn for the very not nice. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder why pets make bad presents.
5. Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg has written and illustrated some fantastic stories, but none that fit this list as well as The Polar Express. The book was adapted for the big screen in 2004, with stunning animation that still stands up to today’s standards.
4. A Christmas Story
Between the flagpole, the Red Ryder, and a big crate marked Fra-gil-e, A Christmas Story has forced its way into a rite of December. It’s on television so much, you might have a tough time missing it, but that’s OK. You may want to watch it serval times this month.
3. Die Hard
HO! HO! HO! Now I have a machine gun. Yes, Christmas is about a lot of things, but at our house, it’s not truly Christmas until Hans Gruber falls in slow-mo from the Nakatomi Tower. (Available on Cinemax.)
Will Ferrell plays a boy raised by elves. Upon learning he’s human, he journeys to find his father in New York. Ferrell’s turn as Buddy is hilarious and does a great job capturing the joy of Christmas.
1. A Trio of Great Black & White Films
OK, this is cheating a bit, but at our house, we try to watch these three on a cold night every December. For us, nothing says Christmas like Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life. Holiday Inn has both Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby and gave us the song White Christmas. Kris Kringle is put on trial in Miracle on 34th Street, a classic affirming the authenticity of Santa Claus, if even just in our hearts. And we always finish with It’s a Wonderful Life. In our busy lives, it’s easy to minimize or forget the things that are truly important. It’s a Wonderful Life is a simple recalibration of those things that are meaningful–with bells!