After careful research, and a polling of our great contributors here at Tail Slate, I have put together an official top ten list of Christmas movies. One of the things that I really wanted with this list was to try and include films that may not always be seen as a Christmas movie, but actually are since the story either includes or takes place during Christmas. The other requirement, of course, is that the movie is actually good.
Now, I’m more than certain you may find a film missing from this list that you consider great, or that one of our choices were wrong. If that’s the case, then feel free to post your comments below. There are some untraditional choices here, and that was a conscious effort, as it was my goal to make a more dynamic Top Ten list than what you may find in a traditional compilation. Whether or not I actually accomplished that is up to you.
And now, I offer you Tail Slate’s Top Ten Christmas Films:
10. Die Hard — This one is quite simply here because it’s not only a great film, but it adds a little spice to the holidays. Die Hard does take place at a Christmas party, making it an official Christmas movie, although it places at number 10 because Christmas is not really integral to the plot.
9. Santa Claus: The Movie — I remember this one as a kid, and I’ve actually never seen it, but it was a unique mention in our poll and I felt worthy to be on the list. Plus, it’s actually called Santa Claus, so seemed kind of a bad idea not to have it on the list. (You get that, Santa?) It was a 1980s spectacle, as I remember, and while not critically praised at the time it is often found on cable during the holidays.
8. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — Hands down the best of the Vacation movies since the original, and Chevy Chase’s last good movie. It’s one flick I can watch over and over and still get a laugh.
7. Trading Places — Similar to Die Hard, Trading Places is not really a Christmas movie, but it does take places during Christmas and New Years Eve, and both holidays do get integrated into the plot. Plus, it’s a very funny movie, with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akyroyd at their prime.
6. Home Alone — Regardless of what you may think of Macaulay Culkin at this point, the original Home Alone was clever and funny, with some great performances by both Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
5. A Christmas Story — Sure, they show this movie repeatedly on the holidays, and most people are probably so sick of it that they avoid TNT like the plague when they do 24 hours of it on Christmas day. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a great film, wonderfully capturing the spirit and joy of the holiday from the child’s perspective.
4. Scrooged — One of Bill Murray’s best films and easily the most imaginative take on the Christmas Carol story. A modern retelling that features some nice visuals and great humor and heart. Strangely enough, this film started lower on this list, but slowly moved its way up to the number four slot the more I thought about it and remembered just how much I liked it.
3. White Christmas — Now, it’s important to note that I do not like movie musicals. Yet, I love this movie. It’s really the story that draws me in every time, regardless of the song and dance numbers, which are actually quite enjoyable. Doesn’t hurt that you have Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby here, because the two of them have great chemistry as two old war buddies who become song and dance men.
2. A Christmas Carol (1951) — Now, this one will likely draw some criticisms. Seems to me everyone has their favorite Christmas Carol film, but this one is mine. I grew up watching the Alastair Sim film — and was disgusted by the colorized version like any good red-blooded American should have been. Sim captures not only the cold bitterness of Scrooge, but his joyous rebirth with the perfect tone and expression. For me, everyone else who has embodied the role turns to him for the standard, because he set the bar.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life — Hands down, undeniable, this film has to be number one (it was the only film that every contributor included in their suggestions). When it was shown dozens of times during the holidays back in the 1980s and very early 1990s, people grumbled and complained. Then NBC grabbed the rights and showed it only once — and people grumbled and complained. Unappreciated in its time, It’s a Wonderful Life is as its title suggests — wonderful. Jimmy Stewart is iconic in the role that defined his public image for the rest of his life. It is no doubt a true classic, and its message speaks volumes about the importance and relevance of the Christmas holiday.
Now, these are a few Christmas films that didn’t make the Top Ten, but I thought were worth mentioning regardless.
— Babes in Toyland (a.k.a., March of the Wooden Soldiers) — The main reason this film was not included in the Top Ten is because it’s not really a Christmas movie. It’s a great classic, don’t get me wrong, and is a staple shown every Christmas, which is why I’m giving it a mention. But it really has nothing to do with the holiday. Still, Laurel and Hardy are at their best here and it’s a wonderful family film.
— The Snowman — This was another film which was a unique mention, and something I felt worth bringing attention to. I’ve seen it a few times and it really is a beautiful film, with stunning animation. It is like a book that comes to life, yet the story is very quiet and peaceful.
— A Charlie Brown Christmas — Although not a theatrically released film, this is a television classic, and definitely worth noting. It’s a tender story, and the best of all the Peanuts TV movies. I don’t think there was a single Christmas that went by growing up where I didn’t watch it.
— Miracle on 34th Street (1994) — Now most people would include Miracle on 34th Street in their top ten, and most would point to the original, but I’m not doing either of those things. Instead, I’m putting it in the honorable mention, not because it’s a bad movie, but because its one stable on a Christmas list that I just didn’t want to include. But the 1994 remake, while not necessarily popular, does feature Elizabeth Perkins in one of her career’s best performances.
Thanks for reading, and have a very Merry Christmas!