The Highest-Rated Christmas Movies of All Time, Ranked

Martha Sorren | Dec 12, 2019 Movies
The Highest-Rated Christmas Movies of All Time, Ranked

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
CBS Entertainment

People are always going to love the Christmas movies that deliver the feels, whether they're critically acclaimed or not. That's one reason Hallmark's holiday films remain so popular. Sure, they can be a little cheesy and predictable at times, but they're also a ton of fun, and people love watching them this time of year. 

Yes, we won't find the latest Candace Cameron Bure movie winning an Oscar or a Golden Globe or anything like that, but critics don't need to love something for viewers to identify with it and love it all the same. However, some critically acclaimed films are also holiday hits with viewers, especially these top 20 beloved Christmas movies.

Rotten Tomatoes compiled a list of 55 total highest ranked Christmas films, but we've included the top 20 for our viewing pleasure. A lot of old school movies made the list (the '40s were a great time for holiday hits), but several more modern holiday films have become instant classics as well. Any score above 60% is considered "fresh," but these films hit scores much higher than that. Nearly all of them are in the high 90%, and several of them have perfect 100% scores.

This list is ranked from low to high according to Rotten Tomatoes, but with their adjustments for amount of reviews given. So, yes, the top movie only has a 94%, whereas the second most popular movie has a 100% rating -- but that's because the 94% movie received more positive reviews. (The adjustments were made to avoid having any movies with only one or two reviews outdoing movies with hundreds of thousands.)

So here we have it: the definitive list of best Christmas movies ever -- according to critics.

  • 20.) 'Little Women' (1994)

    1

    Rated: PG

    Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

    The story about a family of daughters living in post-Civil War America is so popular that it's just been rebooted again. But for many of us, Christian Bale and Winona Ryder from the 1994 version will always be our Laurie and Jo.

  • 19.) 'Klaus' 

    2

    Rated: PG

    Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

    Netflix's new holiday film has already captured critics' and viewers' hearts alike. Klaus tells Santa's origin story through excellent animation and wonderful storytelling.

  • 18.) 'Edward Scissorhands'

    3

    Rated: PG-13

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

    This is a little bit more of an unconventional Christmas movie, but Edward Scissorhands does feature the holiday prominently for a bit. Johnny Depp plays Edward Scissorhands, a man with scissors for hands who just wants to go through life without hurting everyone and everything he touches.

  • 17.) 'Tangerine'

    4

    Rated: R

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

    Filmed entirely on an iPhone, this is another unconventional Christmas movie. Tangerine follows a "between the sheets" worker out for revenge on Christmas Eve against the man who broke her heart. It quickly curried favor with viewers who apparently were craving a new take on the holiday film genre.

  • 16.) 'A Christmas Story'

    5

    Rated: PG

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

    This is one of the most iconic Christmas movies there is, with about a hundred quotable lines. A Christmas Story is about Ralphie's quest to get a BB gun for the holidays. His parents fear he'll "shoot his eye out" but finally cave. And, whaddya know? He does just that.

  • 15.) 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

    6
    A Charlie Brown Christmas
    CBS

    Rated: TV-G

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

    Charlie Brown's holiday special reminds all of us of the true meaning of Christmas. It's not about presents or parties or grand Christmas trees. It's about friends and family and being there for one another.

  • 14.) 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' 

    7

    Rated: TV-G

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

    Sometimes, the Rudolph song can get annoying during the holidays, but the Rudolph TV special never does. It's a charming tale of overcoming adversity and how every one of us is special in our own ways. The perfect Christmas message.

  • 13.) 'Arthur Christmas'

    8

    Rated: PG

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

    When Santa's son loses a little girl's gift, he sets off on a mission to hunt it down in time for Christmas. Viewers enjoy the movie's humor but also its surprising amount of heart.

  • 12.) 'Little Women' (2019)

    9

    Rated: PG

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

    The new Little Women doesn't come out until Christmas Day, but many critics have already seen it and given it a 96% rating. Seems we all have Christmas movie plans now.

  • 11.) 'Die Hard'

    10

    Rated: R

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

    Yes, Die Hard is technically a Christmas movie. But with its R-rating, this is definitely not a holiday film for the whole family to watch.

  • 10.) 'Remember the Night'

    11

    Rated: Not rated

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

    A New York district attorney decides to indulge his Christmas spirit by letting a pretty shoplifter out of jail. The two, played by Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, share a ride home to Indiana and end up falling in love along the way. Remember the Night is like a pre-Hallmark, Hallmark movie -- only with a more bittersweet ending.

  • 9.) 'Carol'

    12

    Rated: R

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

    Two women fall in love during Christmas in the 1950s, but they must suffer the consequences of a society that doesn't accept them. This holiday movie is beautifully told, but it will definitely make the tears flow.

  • 8.) 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' (1966)

    13

    Rated: Not rated

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

    Get out of here Jim Carrey! The OG animated Grinch That Stole Christmas is the one that ranks highest on Rotten Tomatoes. 

  • 7.) 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'

    14

    Rated: PG

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

    It's official: The debate is over. The Nightmare Before Christmas is now a Christmas movie, if just according to this Rotten Tomatoes list.

  • 6.) 'Babes in Toyland' (1934)

    15
    Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel in Babes in Toyland
    John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

    Rated: Not rated

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

    This story has also been retold in new productions over the years, but the 1934 version of Babes in Toyland has a perfect rating. It follows the story of two men trying to help Little Bo Peep's mother pay her rent before the evil villain comes to collect it.

  • 5.) 'Holiday Inn'

    16

    Rated: Not rated

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

    Any movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire is going to be a delight to watch, thanks to the expert singing and dancing. Holiday Inn follows the two men's attempts to win the favor of a pretty singer at their holiday inn.

  • 4.) 'The Shop Around the Corner'

    17
    James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in The Shop Around the Corner
    Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

    Rated: Not rated

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

    This movie went on to inspire the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks classic You've Got Mail. In the original, Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan play gift shop employees who are also anonymous pen pals. They hate each other at work, all while they're falling in love via letters.

  • 3.) 'Miracle on 34th Street' (1947)

    18
    Maureen O'Hara and John Payne in Miracle on 34th Street
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    Rated: Not rated

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

    In Miracle on 34th Street, a little girl and her mother don't believe in Santa Claus ... until the real Kris Kringle shows up to prove them wrong and show them what the holidays are really about.

  • 2.) 'Meet Me in St. Louis'

    19
    Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis
    Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

    Rated: Not rated

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

    This movie covers several holidays, including Halloween, as it follows a family in the early 1900s. But its Christmas scenes are some of the most iconic -- especially when Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

  • 1.) 'It's a Wonderful Life'

    20
    Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life
    CBS via Getty Images

    Rated: PG

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

    Widely considered one of the best Christmas movies, It's a Wonderful Life also tops Rotten Tomatoes' list. The movie follows George Bailey's (Jimmy Stewart) life and struggles and reveals how much one human can impact the world. 

    It has a 94% critics rating but also a 95% viewers rating made up of over 200,000 reviews. When that many people love something, it just has to be good.

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