The best Christmas movies of all time

Santa watching movies

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted December 14, 2022

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

While the holidays are the season to go to Christmas events, sing carols and decorate the Christmas tree, it’s also the time of year to watch your favourite festive movies - whether it’s the latest releases on the big screen, daggy Hallmark-style favourites like A Christmas Story or Eve’s Christmas, newbies like Falling for Christmas or Spirited, or arguing over whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is really a Christmas or Halloween movie - all from the comfort of your home couch.

From black-and-white classics, merry 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 hasn’t seen Home Alone. The film, starring 90’s child-star Macaulay Culkin, is a family comedy about a boy left at home by accident when his family goes away for Christmas.

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, where the mandatory singalong to All I Want For Christmas Is You manages to wrap you in all the feels every year. 

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. 

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, his 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!

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. Yippee-ki-yay.

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: Bruce Willis' signature role was firstly offered to many A-listers before, including Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro and Richard Gere.


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 - especially with the news that the sequel is now on its way!

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. 

Fun fact: The website the lead characters use to switch houses can be used in real life. 


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 heart-warming tail comes back to the true meaning of Christmas. Revolving around a young girl who meets the real Kris Kringle, she enlists the help of a lawyer to prove that he is real.

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.” 

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, Jim 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!”

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.

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. The film is cantered 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 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 is set to have a remake, starring Brendan Fraser and Christina Applegate. 


It's A Wonderful Life. Image: Alamy.

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

Noelle (2019)

“Traditions change, new ones are great!”

A new one with a modern message to enter the Christmas viewing list, Noelle stars Anna Kendrick as Santa's sister, whose job has been to spread cheer at the North Pole. When her brother (Santa) goes missing, it's up to Noelle to find him in 'the real world' and save Christmas. 

Fun fact: The film, a tongue-in-cheek look at life at the North Pole, was adapted from an unused premise for The Santa Clause 4.


Movie still from Noelle

Disney's new addition to the Christmas genre will entertain the whole family. Image: Alamy. 

A Christmas Story (1983)

“You'll shoot your eye out, kid!”

A big one in the northern hemisphere, A Christmas Story is set in the 1940s in a series of vignettes, where a boy named Ralphie Parker tries to convince all the grown up around him – at home, at school, and even in the North Pole – that all he wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder Ranger Model Air Rifle.

Fun fact: The film shows for 24 hours from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day on the TBS cable channel in the USA. 


A Christmas Story movie still

Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker in A Christmas Story. Image: Alamy. 

Bad Santa (2003)

“He doesn’t care if you’re naughty or nice.”

The dark comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton is one for those who will definitely end up on the naughty list.

A department store Santa and his Little Helper plan to rob the malls they work in on Christmas Eve – until a young boy comes along and ruins everything.

Fun fact: Leonardo DiCaprio gets a thanks in the closing credits.


Bad Santa film still.

It doesn't exactly look like this Christmas duo bring the festive cheer in Bad Santa. Image: Alamy. 

The Night Before (2015)

“Three best friends. One epic party.”

A relative newcomer to the Christmas comedy game, Seth Rogen’s take on the festive genre sees three friends having one last big night on Christmas Eve. Crazy shenanigans ensue as they find themselves on the road to the party to end all parties.

Fun fact: The film has plenty of nods to other Christmas classics on this list, including Home Alone and Die Hard.


Movie still from The Night Before

This trio entertain themselves in a kids' toy shop in The Night Before. Image: Alamy. 

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

“Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, Meet me at the fair…”

The classic Christmas musical starring silver screen legend Judy Garland follows the lives of four sisters on the cusp of the 1904 World Fair.

The story with song, dance, romance, tragedy and comedy was the recipient of many accolades, from Academy Award nomination to being preserved by the US National Film Industry.

Fun fact: Meet Me in St. Louis launched the beloved Christmas carol Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.


Movie still from Meet Me in St. Louis

A scene from the holiday classic Meet Me in St. Louis. Image: Alamy. 

Honourable mentions

A Christmas Carol, The Polar Express, Gremlins, Muppets Christmas Carol, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Spirited, Jingle All The Way, Last Christmas, The Family Stone, Reindeer Games, Long Kiss Goodnight.


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