Top 10 best Christmas movies of all time

Santa watching movies

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted December 14, 2021


From the classics to the contemporary, here’s the definitive top 10 Christmas movies for you and the family to enjoy during the festive season. 

If it’s December and you haven’t watched Love Actually, is it even Christmas? While the holidays are the season to deck the halls, sing carols and decorate the Christmas tree, it’s also the time of year to dust off the old favourites, or experience the reboot of your favourites. 

Whether they’re black-and-white classics, daggy rom-coms, or just some family fun, we’ve got  the list - and have checked it twice - of the best Christmas movies (as rated by us!) that will get you into that festive feeling.  

The best Christmas movies

Home Alone (1990)

“Keep the change, ya filthy animal.” 

You’d be hard-pressed to meet someone who has not seen Home Alone at some point in their lives. The film, starring 90’s child-star Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, is a family comedy about a boy (Kevin) who is left at home by accident when his family goes away on holiday at Christmas time. Kevin has to learn how to fend for himself against two robbers, and chaos and hilarity ensue. With memorable one-liners, a fun cast and classic slapstick humour, Home Alone remains a firm Christmas favourite, 30 plus years later.  

Fun fact: Macaulay Culkin’s younger brother, Kieran Culkin, stars as Fuller. You know him - “he wets the bed.”

 

Home Alone. Image: Alamy.

Macaulay Culkin as Kevin in Home Alone. Image: Alamy. 


 

Love Actually (2003)

“Love actually is all around.”

This British rom-com has become a staple for Christmas movie lovers and TV stations alike. Featuring an all-star cast with the likes of Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson and Keira Knightley to name a few, the film focuses on interweaving storylines of the characters’ love lives in the lead up to Christmas. 

With stories like an ageing rocker looking for redemption, a dapper Prime Minister, gift wrapping gone wrong and a Spiderman in a Christmas play, - not to mention the mandatory singalong to All I Want For Christmas Is You - Love Actually manages to wrap you in all the feels, every year. 

Fun fact: The actress who plays young Joanna, Olivia Olson, sang Mariah Carey’s above-mentioned song so well that it needed to be toned down in the editing process to make it sound ‘more believable’ that a child was actually singing. 

 

Love Actually. Image: Alamy.

Bill Nighy as Billy Mack in Love Actually. Image: Alamy. 


 

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

“Had enough, or are you thirsty for more?” 

Kevin is back, and would you believe it, this is one sequel that is just as good as the original. This time, Kevin’s family are all set for a Christmas holiday to Miami – but plans are derailed when Kevin accidentally boards the wrong plane to New York by himself.

With his dad's credit card, Kevin comes up with a range of schemes to again thwart the robbers who are seeking revenge by stealing money from a toy store, Home Alone 2 brings back all the punch and mischief from the original - with a swanky stay at the famed Plaza Hotel to boot. 

Fun fact: If you look closely, you’ll note that robber Marv steals many items throughout the film, including mittens, a scarf, earmuffs, a cowboy hat, one wrapped present, and some loose change. Seems the 'Sticky Bandit' did not learn his lesson the first time around.

 

Home Alone 2. Image: Alamy.

Macauley Culkin reprises his role as Kevin in Home Alone 2, along with a cameo from Donald Trump. Image: Alamy. 


 

Die Hard (1988)

“It’s a good day to die hard.”

The debate rages on as to whether Die Hard is truly a Christmas movie, but considering it is one of the only action films that will run on free-to-air TV in December, it makes the cut. 

The action-thriller features Bruce Willis in his now-iconic role as NYPD officer John McClane, who gets in a game of cat and mouse with German terrorists who take his wife and others hostage at an office Christmas party. 

Fun fact: Allegedly, the action-hero role was offered to many A-listers before it became Bruce Willis' signature role, including Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Charles Bronson, Nick Nolte, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Burt Reynolds, and Richard Dean Anderson - who all declined. Yippee-ki-yay, Bruce. 

 

Die Hard. Image: Alamy.

Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard. Image: Alamy. 


 

The Holiday (2006)

“I’m looking for corny in my life.” 

This loveable Christmas rom-com is the perfect film for a relaxing night in during the holiday season. Starring Cameron Diaz as a fast-living movie producer from LA, and Kate Winslet as a British writer, The Holiday focuses on two women who switch homes and lives over Christmas to mend their broken hearts – and might just meet a great love on the way. With leading men Jack Black and Jude Law rounding out the cast, this is one holiday favourite that can be watched over and over 

Fun fact: The website the lead characters uses to switch houses in the film can be used in real life. We’ll take Diaz’s character's Hollywood mansion, thanks! 

 

The Holiday. Image: Alamy.

Kate Winslet and Jack Black both star in the 2006 film The Holiday. Image: Alamy. 


 

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

“Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”

Whether it’s the 1947 original or 1994 remake, this heartwarming tail comes back to the true meaning of Christmas. The story of Miracle on 34th Street revolves around a young girl who, upon meeting the real Kris Kringle, needs the help of a lawyer to prove that he is in fact the real deal. 

Fun fact: The original was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film – a feat no Christmas movie has been able to do since.  

 

Miracle on 34th Street. Image: Alamy.

Mara Wilson as Susan Walker in the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street. Image: Alamy. 


 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

“Inside a snowflake, like the one on your sleeve, there happened a story you must see to believe.” 

Although there have been remakes, we are going with the Jim Carrey iteration here. Based on the famed Dr. Seuss book of the same name, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is fun for the whole family. Set inside a town on a snowflake, Carrey stars as The Grinch, a grump who gets annoyed by the cheery nature of festivities in nearby Whoville – and sets about destroying Christmas. It’ a lot of fun while still having an underlying message of inclusivity, friendship, and the spirit of Christmas. 

Fun fact: The original Grinch costume, including make-up and prosthetics, initially took Jim Carrey eight and half hours to put on. They managed to shorten this – to three. 

 

The Grinch. Image: Alamy.

Jim Carrey as The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Image: Alamy.  


 

Elf (2003) 

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”

A relatively new one to hit the Christmas classics list, the popular Christmas favourite Elf stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human raised as an elf at the North Pole. When he realises he is not really an elf, he travels to meet his biological father in New York City.

An endearing comedy that puts Ferrell in a lighter role than some of his more adult fanfare, families will take delight in this comedy of ‘elf-ish proportions.’ 

Fun fact: Jim Carrey was originally slated to play Buddy the Christmas-loving Elf – what would have been a far cry from Carrey's previous role as The Grinch.

 

Elf. Image: Alamy.

Will Ferrell as Buddy in Elf. Image: Alamy. 


 

The Santa Clause (1994) 

“I believe in Santa Claus. I'm not a baby.”

This fun family flick stars Tim Allen as a man who accidentally enters into ‘The Santa Clause’ – an agreement to become the next Santa. Havoc ensues as he learns to navigate his new look (beard, belly and blushing cheeks), the North Pole, and his son’s unwavering belief in the magic of Christmas.  

Fun fact: When Santa brings out his list of those who were naughty or nice, you may recognise some of the names – actor Armand Assante and tennis player Andre Agassi make the list!   

 

The Santa Clause. Image: Alamy.

Tim Allen in The Santa Clause. Image: Alamy. 


 

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) 

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

It’s just not a Christmas list without this enchanting film. It’s a Wonderful Life is a soul-searching tale of loss and loss, and the impact we can have on others. A viewing tradition for many around the globe, the film is centered on a businessman who, believing his family would be better off without him, is visited by an angel from heaven showing him what life would be like if he had never existed. Heart-warming, brilliantly acted and a true classic, it’s a reminder that “ each man's life touches so many other lives.” 

Fun fact: The movie performed poorly at the box office - but had a resurgence when it was played on television in the 70s, and gained a new life as a Christmas classic. 

 

It's A Wonderful Life. Image: Alamy.

James Stewart and Donna Reed star in the 1946 classic It's A Wonderful Life. Image: Alamy. 


 

Honourable mentions:  A Christmas Carol, The Polar Express, Gremlins, Muppets Christmas Carol, Meet Me In St Louis, The Nightmare Before Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Bad Santa. 

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