The 50 Best Christmas Movies, Ranked

Samantha Sutton | Nov 30, 2018 Movies
The 50 Best Christmas Movies, Ranked
Image: Warner Bros.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacatio
Warner Bros.

To be honest, it doesn’t quite feel like the holiday season until we pull on our cutest, coziest set of pajamas, wrap ourselves in a warm blanket, reach for the remote, and dive right into a classic seasonal movie. We’re talking kid-friendly Santa adventures, sappy, snow-filled rom-coms (spoiler: they always end up together at the end), and musicals full of old, familiar songs that are bound to get stuck in our heads -- we honestly love it all. We’re even game for a creepy holiday horror movie (just as long as there are no young kids nearby). Yep, these films, which usually come complete with a sweet message, are part of what makes this time of year so special.
Still, we understand how hard it can be to settle on a single flick when so many options are readily available. (We're not even talking about the current hits coming from Hallmark and Lifetime, just whatever's on Netflix, Hulu, and the like.) This is one of the reasons why we're so grateful that Rotten Tomatoes released a full, somewhat condensed list of the best Christmas movies ever. It's not like they made this stuff up, either: The whole thing is based on reviews and overall ratings, so it's actually pretty official. The list also happens to contain a little something for everyone -- so whether we're in the mood for an old-school cartoon, or want to watch a mushy, romantic tale, we can likely find a good option somewhere in the mix.

We're counting down to Rotten Tomatoes’s top-rated Christmas film, while including trailers and descriptions for all 50 of the must-watch titles. 

  • 50. 'Frosty the Snowman'

    1

    Rated: TV-G

    This story is such a classic and childhood staple for so many people. Fans of the song can't help but sing along whenever it's on!

  • 49. 'The Snowman'

    2

    Rated: G

    Even without dialogue, this movie is heartwarming, heartbreaking, and captivating, all at the same time.

  • 48. 'Mickey's Christmas Carol'

    3

    Rated: G

    A clever cartoon twist on a well-known tale -- and it's only 25 minutes long!

  • 47. 'The Preacher's Wife'

    4

    Rated: PG

    This holiday remake is about an angel who comes to Earth to help a preacher ... only to fall in love with his wife. Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston are in it, so there's obviously singing involved, too.

  • 46. 'Home Alone'

    5

    Rated: PG

    It's pretty surprising that Home Alone isn't higher up on the holiday movie list! We'll forever be fans of Kevin McAllister, who was forgotten by his family and then has to (hilariously) defend his home from burglars.

  • 45. 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'

    6

    Rated: PG-13

    Holiday disasters, slapstick comedy, and a sweet, sappy message? Really, what more could we want?

  • 44. 'Love Actually'

    7

    Rated: R

    There are multiple stories about love and loss in Love Actually. And now that we think of it, none of them really have to do with the holidays -- which means the popular rom-com can be watched year-round.

  • 43. 'Krampus'

    8

    Rated: PG-13

    Krampus, "a demonic force of ancient evil," punishes people who have lost their Christmas spirit. So, yeah, this one is not really one for the kids.

  • 42. 'The Night Before'

    9

    Rated: R

    Before their lives change and things get serious, a group of friends spend one last wild, party-filled Christmas Eve together. It's like the grown-up, holiday-friendly Superbad.

  • 41. 'A Very Harold and Kumar (3D) Christmas'

    10

    Rated: R

    Sure, it's a laugh-inducing stoner movie mixed complete with adventure. But, surprisingly, there's a heartwarming message in there somewhere.

  • 40. 'Scrooged'

    11

    Rated: PG-13

    Scrooged is a more modern (well, '80s) take on the Dickens classic. And while it gets a little wacky at times, Bill Murray makes it a must-watch.

  • 39. 'The Best Man Holiday'

    12

    Rated: R

    As a sequel to The Best Man, this movie produces laughs, tears, and is a lighthearted, festive rom-com.

  • 38. 'Black Christmas'

    13

    Rated: R

    Murders. Suspense. Here's a holiday movie for those who love horror movies.

  • 37. 'The Ref'

    14

    Rated: R

    Foul-mouthed with tons of dark, "adult humor," The Ref is not a typical Christmas film -- which, according to critics, gives us all the more reason to watch.

  • 36. 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'

    15

    Rated: G

    The Muppets always manage to bring cheer, so while this isn't the most brilliant version of A Christmas Carol out there, it's perfect to watch with the family.

  • 35. 'Joyeux Noël' (Merry Christmas)

    16

    Rated: PG-13

    This holiday film meets history lesson teaches us to have faith in humanity, even in the darkest of times.

  • 34. 'Happy Christmas'

    17

    Rated: R

    Anna Kendrick forgot she was in Twilight, so we can't imagine what she thinks of this indie-dramedy, which is about a woman who moves in with her brother and his wife post-breakup. The improvised style of acting is pretty interesting to watch, and makes the whole thing seem a bit like a documentary.

  • 33. 'The Santa Clause'

    18

    Rated: PG

    We're willing to bet '90s kids love this story about a divorced dad and his son, who bond when the dad (accidentally) becomes Santa. There's conflict (no one believes in Santa) but the movie ultimately brings the Christmas spirit.

  • 32. 'White Christmas'

    19

    Rated: Not Rated

    This cheerful musical checks all the boxes: catchy songs, entertaining dance numbers, humor, and that warm, fuzzy feeling.

  • 31. 'Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas'

    20

    Rated: Not Rated

    Cute, short, and super sweet, Jim Henson's underrated TV special follows Emmet and Ma Otter. Both make plans to compete in a local talent show, in hopes of winning $50 to buy the other a present.

  • 30. 'While You Were Sleeping'

    21

    Rated: PG

    A silly, cheesy story of misidentification that stars the ever-so-lovable Sandra Bullock.

  • 29. 'Bad Santa'

    22

    Rated: R

    When the sentimental films get to be a bit much, this raunchy, kind of messed-up comedy about a con man is a great way to switch things up.

  • 28. 'Batman Returns'

    23

    Rated: PG-13

    Christmas turns creepy in this eccentric, action-packed Tim Burton sequel, which some say is even better than the original film.

  • 27. 'The Bishop's Wife'

    24

    Rating: Not Rated

    Overall, critics labeled this Cary Grant movie --  about an angel sent to help a bishop with his church and marriage -- charming, sentimental, and a great comedic fantasy.

  • 26. 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

    25

    Rated: PG

    Want a fresh, different take on A Christmas Carol? How about the story about the man who wrote it?! Thankfully, this side of things is still just as magical.

  • 25. 'Elf'

    26

    Rated: PG

    When Buddy the Elf reunites with his dad in New York City, the whimsical result contains jokes for both kids and adults -- so there's a good chance everyone will be laughing from start to finish.

    Seriously, we love Elf.
  • 24. 'A Christmas Carol'

    27

    Rating: Not Rated

    Some claim that the 1951 film is the best adaption of Charles Dickens's timeless tale. Alastair Sim was praised for his brilliant acting skills while playing Scrooge.

  • 23. 'Gremlins'

    28

    Rated: PG

    A cute and fuzzy Christmas gift turns horrifying -- thanks, in part, to a late-night snack -- in this dark comedy, which many say is a statement on consumer culture.

  • 22. 'Better Watch Out'

    29

    Rated: R

    Intruders break into a house in this holiday horror movie, and it's a lot more sinister and bloodier than Home Alone.

  • 21. 'Trading Places'

    30

    Rated: R

    Inspired by Mark Twain's Prince and the Pauper, Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd trade places and see how the other half lives. It's a lighthearted, edgy '80s comedy that still holds up today.

  • 20. 'Christmas in Connecticut'

    31

    Rated: Not Rated

    Sure, it's a bit dated. (There's a whole "1940s housewife" plot, which makes sense since it was made in the '40s.) But the elaborate lies that lead to love make it a funny, sweet must-watch.

  • 19. 'Un Conte de Noël' (A Christmas Tale)

    32

    Rated: Not Rated

    We get a good look at a dysfunctional family in this smart, French dramedy.

  • 18. 'Tokyo Godfathers'

    33

    Rated: PG-13

    A dramatic, unconventional anime that's ultimately about finding family. There are dark points, but it's pretty touching by the end.

  • 17. 'Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale'

    34

    Rated: R

    A twisted, cynical Finnish film about Santa Claus that's funny at the same time.

  • 16. 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'

    35

    Rated: TV-G

    Sure, it recently received some backlash (the themes are considered "disturbing"), but those who enjoy the song and the old school animation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will definitely want to revisit this classic.

  • 15. 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

    36

    Rated: TV-G

    A holiday favorite that teaches viewers the true meaning of Christmas.

  • 14. 'Edward Scissorhands'

    37

    Rated: PG-13

    This gothic holiday fairytale from director Tim Burton stars Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. Is it a little bizarre? Yes, but it's delightfully romantic, too.

  • 13. 'A Christmas Story'

    38

    Rated: PG

    Nostalgia, dark humor, and an eccentric family. With a combo like that, no wonder A Christmas Story is iconic!

  • 12. 'Arthur Christmas'

    39

    Rated: PG

    An unlikely hero is front and center in this witty cartoon, which is well-written enough for parents to enjoy -- while being funny and visually appealing for the little ones.

  • 11. 'Die Hard'

    40

    Rated: R

    The sequels can't compete with this exciting and action-packed holiday original.

  • 10. 'Remember the Night'

    41

    Rated: Not Rated

    An attorney and the shoplifter he's prosecuting unexpectedly find love in this sweet '40s rom-com.

  • 9. 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'

    42

    Rated: Not Rated

    Yes, there's a remake in theaters now, but nothing beats the clever, kid-friendly original, where a holiday hater learns to love love.

  • 8. 'The Apartment'

    43

    Rated: Not Rated

    The overall story may be tragic -- a lonely office worker is loaning out his apartment to colleagues in order to get ahead -- but there are enough laughs and a love story to keep people entertained.

  • 7. 'Babes in Toyland'

    44

    Rated: Not Rated

    A childhood favorite for many, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's adventure involves nursery rhyme characters, revenge, and slapstick humor.

  • 6. 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'

    45

    Rated: PG

    This Halloween-slash-Christmas fairy tale is full of fantasy and catchy musical numbers. And the visuals in The Nightmare Before Christmas make it even more spectacular.

  • 5. 'The Shop Around the Corner'

    46

    Rated: Not Rated

    It's the original You've Got Mail! Co-workers fall in love with their pen pals, not realizing they've been communicating with each other the whole time!

  • 4. 'The Holiday Inn'

    47

    Rated: Not Rated

    There's a lot of singing and dancing in Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire's timeless musical, which introduced the world to "White Christmas" in 1942.

  • 3. 'Miracle on 34th Street'

    48

    Rated: Not Rated

    What happens when the guy pretending to be Santa turns out to actually be Santa? Well, according to this movie, lots of denial (until the end, of course).

  • 2. 'Meet Me in St. Louis'

    49

    Rated: Not Rated

    Another iconic musical from Judy Garland that's half romance, half sentimental family story.

  • 1. 'It's a Wonderful Life'

    50

    Rated: PG

    This movie's main message? To appreciate what we have, and not be concerned with the future or failing -- especially since we'll never fail as long as we have people who love us!

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