Our favorites, in no particular order, of reverent holiday fare that has brought joy for generations, plus some picks that skewer the traditions (either through irony or, say, a Christmas Party gone very wrong at Nakatomi Plaza). Avoid thinking about all you have to do to get ready for the holiday (such as wrapping presents) and instead embrace the joy and cheer as we head into the final days of the year.
Will Ferrell is a clownish orphan raised by Santa and his elves in the North Pole who journeys to New York City to locate his biological father–a cynical book publisher played by James Caan–in this absurd (and surprisingly sweet) fish-out-of-water fantasy.
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard is the greatest Christmas story ever told, according to the newly recut trailer released by Fox. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Die Hard, in case anybody didn't know, tells the story of John McClane. Attempting to visit his family for the holidays, the New York police officer finds himself embroiled in a terrorist plot at his estranged wife's office building. The film broke the 80's action-movie mold, delivering a less superhuman, more relatable protagonist than those embodied by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. The film made an action star out of Bruce Willis and, even decades after its release, it continues to be hailed by many as the greatest action movie of all time.
Check out the remixed trailer for Die Hard as 'The Greatest Christmas Story' ever told
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
Rarely has a series' third installment been the equal of its two predecessors, but such is the case with this threequel involving Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), Audrey (Juliette Lewis), and Rusty Griswold's (Johnny Galecki) mishap-besieged family get-together.
Miracle on 34th St. (1947)
You can't go wrong with this perennial Christmas staple about the trial of a man claiming to be Santa Claus (the original is great, but the 1994 remake starring Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson is pretty good, too).
Riffing on Dickens, Bill Murray is an arrogant and thoughtless TV executive who, while planning to stage a live production of A Christmas Carol, winds up living out a crazed variation of that very story in Richard Donner's amusing update.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Nine years after Black Christmas, director Bob Clark made another holiday classic—albeit of a very different sort—with this beloved nostalgia-soaked saga of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who wants nothing more for Christmas than an air rifle. If you have cable, it'll no doubt be playing on a 24-hour loop on some Turner network this December 25.
Batman Returns (1992)
Sure, it's the kind of action movie that isn't really about Christmas despite being set during the holiday season. Tim Burton's second chance at a Batman film has all of the trimmings of his similarly gothy Christmas tale, The Nightmare Before Christmas—only this one is violent, dangerous, and sexy (we dare you to name a more memorable mistletoe moment on screen).
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
This list would not be complete without a Rankin Bass masterpiece. My personal favorite is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph is a legend, and as an adult in these trying times, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer feels a bit like the underdog story we need. There’s clearly some social justice themes going on, but at the core of this story of Rudolph and his dental-savvy friends is a time-tested tale that proves that being different isn’t something to be ashamed of—it’s something to embrace.