Bad Santa (2003)
The Coen Brothers were executive producers on the project. They considered a plethora of actors before they went with Billy Bob Thornton – a perfect choice.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Charlie Brown works to put together a Christmas pageant, but it’s more complicated than he realized. His attempt at a Christmas tree is famously inept, and he needs help from his friends to lift his sagging spirits.
This movie, perhaps more than any other secular piece of art, represents what Americans believe is the True Meaning of Christmas.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1965)
The stop-motion Christmas special has delighted children with its songs and stories for generations. It’s the longest continuously-running Christmas TV special for a good reason – the 55-minute movie packed with characters like the Abominable Snow Monster, Hermey the Dentist, and of course, Rudolph.
These characters struggle to fit in with a North Pole culture that is supposedly based on peace and joy but harbors stereotypes and rewards bullies. The film resonates with millions who relate to their story.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The film won three Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Picture. This includes a Best Supporting Actor Award for Edmund Gwenn, the only person to win an Oscar for playing Santa Claus.
The 1994 remake with Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson is good in its own right.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
This 1966 TV special is by far the best adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s 1957 classic children’s book. It’s not just the stellar voice acting by horror legend Boris Karloff or the class-A animation by legendary director Chuck Jones or even the beautifully evil bass performance of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft. The short film maintains the simplicity and touching beauty of the original story and serves as a corrective to the Grinch in all of us.
Home Alone (1990)
Macaulay Caulkin starred as Kevin McCallister, the youngest member of a large family preparing to vacation in Paris for the holidays. But the family rushes to the airport too quickly and leaves Kevin (wait for it…) home alone.
Kevin defends his house from burglars with his homemade booby traps straight out of childhood fantasies. And, of course, he learns a little lesson about Christmas along the way.
Die Hard (1988)
The answer, of course, is yes. Die Hard is set at a holiday party, for crying out loud. Christmas decor, music, and themes are all over this film. It even has a heartwarming ending. Just because it’s an action film doesn’t mean it’s not as holly jolly as the other movies on this list.
Bruce Willis stars as a cop who visits his wife at Nakatomi Plaza. Terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman in one of his best roles) and Willis’s character must stop them.
White Christmas (1954)
Although it’s best known for the titular song, White Christmas includes many standards. Some of those were previously most recognizable from their association with blackface. (Blue Skies, Minstrel Number)
The film was the biggest box office hit of 1954. Bing Crosby and composer Irving Berlin got a quarter of the profits each.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
Griswold wants to create the perfect Christmas for his family, but it never really works out. And when Cousin Eddie pulls up in an RV, things get even worse. At least he has that Christmas bonus coming?
The film encapsulates the feelings of pressure and lack of control that hit most of us at holiday time. And it gave us a way to describe that neighbor who — every year — goes just a little overboard with the Christmas lights.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life is the paragon of James Stewart’s everyman “aw, shucks” heroism. It also tempers Frank Capra’s signature sentimentality with enough bitterness and realism that the fantasy resolution rings true with emotion.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Ralphie wants just one thing for Christmas, a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun. His parents’ response? “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
Ralphie participates in holiday festivities. But like most children, those presents under the Christmas tree are always at the top of his mind. He fantasizes about the BB gun and how he could use it to catch the bad guys. But will Ralphie’s Christmas dream actually come true?
The real world never lives up to our Christmas expectations, and Buddy learns this lesson the hard way. He refuses to let go of his optimism and hope, no matter how much it annoys his dad. Can Buddy rally New York into celebrating Christmas the way it is meant to be celebrated?