31 Essential Christmas Movies

I’ve done two lists now of essential Halloween movies, but somehow have not yet put together a list of my all-time essential Christmas movies. A crying shame!

As I’m sure you’ve figured by now, I’m completely obsessed with Christmas, and a connoisseur of Christmas movies. Here’s my (first) list of

essential christmas movies31 Essential Christmas Movies!

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles– It’s technically a Thanksgiving movie, a flick that will transition you nicely from Turkey day to All Things Christmas.

The Muppet Christmas Carol– My absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time, I can recite it word for word and watch it at least three times a year (and not always at Yuletide time)

Opus & Bill’s A Wish for Wings That Work– The creator, Berkeley Breathed, doesn’t like this movie, but I think it’s fantastic. Pay attention for voiceover work from the late Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. You can watch the whole cartoon on YouTube.

Scrooged- I might skip the Bill Murray Christmas special on Netflix, but this is a given.

Christmas in Connecticut- I still think my home state was made for beautiful Christmases.

White Christmas– I love how, in its heart, this is a traditional screwball comedy of miscommunication.

Santa Clause Conquers the Martians– Straight up or with the commentary of Cinematic Titanic (the people behind MST3k), this is a horrible/wonderful movie that must be watched.

The Night They Saved Christmas– I hadn’t seen this one, but David introduced me a few years ago. Art Carney (!) plays Santa and June Lockhart plays Mrs. Claus and they have to to enlist the help of Jaclyn Smith (!!) and her kids to save the North Pole from oil drillers. Not even joking.

A Muppet Family Christmas- I mean, it incorporated the Fraggles!


Prancer – I love reindeer and I love Sam Elliott, so this is a no-brainer.

The Nutcracker– I love the ballet, but Macauley Culkin makes this just horrible and perfect.

Miracle on 34th St.- I prefer the original, but Mara Wilson’s gotten so cool as an adult that I find the remake also as endearing.

Frosty Returns– You know the original, but the sequel is voiced by John Goodman and is a delightful morality tale about global warming. Again, Not even joking.

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too– Is there anything more wholesome than Winnie the Pooh?

Love Actually– It’s kind of terrible, but instead of watching Hallmark Christmas movies, I just watch this, which is somehow better.

A Disney Christmas Gift– A Disney Christmas special that premiered in 1983, I grew up watching this every single year. It’s basically a clip show that recycles Disney content, but I can’t help but love the Chip & Dale segment. But if you really love your Disney, a user put together an AWESOME supercut of Disney Christmas cartoons that’s even better, here:

Santa Claus is Coming To Town– I feel like this is the forgotten Christmas movie in the Rankin-Bass canon.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang– Not for the kids, mind, but Gay Perry is just about one of my favorite characters in movie history.


Die Hard– I know there’s a lot of snark about how people say this is their favorite Christmas movie, but I say this every year: We should all be so lucky to have someone love us the way John loves Holly.

The Polar Express– Y’all, I do actually like this movie. Tom Hanks will always be charming AF.

The Ref– As an Emerson alumna, I have a soft spot in my heart for anything Denis Leary

The Thin Man– Set at Christmas time and New Year’s, I think Nick & Nora Charles are just about the most wonderful couple in movie history.

The Year Without Santa Claus– It’s just too precious. I routinely sing the Heatmiser song whenever it gets to be over 90* in LA. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas- I never realized as a kid just how angry and violent the Peanuts gang actually are. But skipping over how much they fight, it’s a cute movie. Linus is my spirit animal.

I Want a Dog for Christmas Charlie Brown– Just in case kidlets want more Charlie Brown and Snoopy, there’s this little-known option.

John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together- I mean, I love anything with the Muppets and it starts off with their version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which is my favorite version.

The Star Wars Holiday Special– The “owner” doesn’t allow embedding, but yes, the whole movie is on YouTube.

The Hebrew Hammer– Hanukkah movies are few and far between, and this one is *so* stupid, but it has a lot of fantastic jokes. Fancy Schmancy.

The Snowman- An important classic, also fantastic if you need to conk out your kids on Christmas Eve so “Santa” can put out some presents.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation– For me, it’s the tree cutting scene that makes this movie. I have lived the tree cutting scene in this movie.

A Rugrats Chanukah- This came out when I was still a kid-ish, and I remember thinking how weird it was that no one ever made Chanukah specials. Or how weird it was that they never again mentioned that all the Rugrats were, apparently, Jewish.

I know I left off some biggies– what are YOUR essential Christmas movies?

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