Our Favorite Holiday Movies


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.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Director George Seaton took a page out of Frank Capra’s book when creating this charming film about love, faith, truth, and Santa Claus. Maureen O’Hara stars as an over-worked single mother raising her daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood in her breakout role), to be a believer of facts, not fantasies. That all changes when they meet a department store Santa Claus who might just be the real deal. Edmund Gwenn set the bar very high in his role as Kris Kringle, even winning an Oscar for his work. From beginning to end, the film is pure Christmas magic and an enduring reminder of the holiday spirit.

The Year Without a Santa Claus, 1974

Seriously, The Year Without A Santa Claus is an amazing Christmas movie that belongs in the claymation canon where generations past and present can enjoy it. For the unaware, it’s claymation and if you’re a claymation hater, give it a chance. (C’mon, these things were made in the ’70s, way before Pixar and James Cameron had the power to animate everything down to human eyelashes). Just revel in its simplicity and let the story distract you from the shaky movements. It’s worth watching just for the Snow & Heat Miser number.

Trading Places (1983)

John Landis, the man behind The Blues Brothers and Animal House, directed this screwball comedy set during the run-up to the holidays. Dan Aykroyd stars as Winthorpe, a Philadelphia banker with a socialite fiancée, while Eddie Murphy plays a street hustler named Valentine. Their paths cross when two commodities brokers embark on a nature vs. nurture wager that involves framing Winthorpe for a crime and installing Valentine in his place. When the two uncover the bet, they team up to turn the tables on everyone. Watching Aykroyd stuff an entire salmon down the front of a Santa suit is hilarious!

Scrooged (1988)

Frank Cross doesn’t really get Christmas and doesn’t see why anyone else should unless there’s an opportunity to up the ratings of his TV channel. Three Dickensian ghosts visit and teaches him a thing or two about seasonal spirit. Murray doing what he does best if you like that sort of thing. And I do!

DIE HARD (1988)

Putting aside the nonsense argument that this somehow isn’t a Christmas movie – even though it’s about an estranged couple working out their differences on December 24 – all the action takes place at a lavish Christmas party that goes south rather quickly. You wouldn’t want to be a guest at this one, what with all the shooting and explosions and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) holding everyone hostage, but watching John McClane (Bruce Willis) save the day is a blast for all seasons.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Christmas classic that holds up perfectly, thanks to a superb lead performance & fantastic direction by Frank Capra. Jimmy Stewart is at his best, once again portraying the classic everyman in George Bailey. Behind the camera, Capra crafts a wonderful film examining what is really important in life. Simply put one of the finest films ever made and a classic worth viewing every Christmas.

Bad Santa (2003)

First and foremost, this one’s not for the kids. A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, and the security boss discovers the plot.

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.

Elf (2003)

Of course, Elf made the list. “This place reminds me of Santa’s Workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”


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