Christmas Movies: The 10 Highest-Grossing Holiday Films of All Time

Christmas movies, like presents, come in all shapes and sizes. From the chocolate box sweetness of Love Actually to the blood-freezing terror of Black Christmas, the holiday season has inspired all manner of filmmakers.

Not all of them, however, have managed that elusive thing of the huge box office success, of the sort that makes a festive film into a holiday staple. In fact, of the 500 highest-grossing movies of all time, only around a dozen have been Christmas themed. Adjusted for inflation, however, here are the biggest ever Christmas movies in the U.S., including two Grinches, two Home Alones, and a lot of snow.

The 10 highest-grossing Christmas movies of all time

10. The Polar Express - $277 million

06 The Polar Express
Still from 'The Polar Express'. The Polar Express: Warner Bros.

The 2004 movie may have become somewhat of a punchline for its dead-eyed, uncanny valley Tom Hanks characters, enough people have found wonder in it to break the top 10 chart—perhaps in part because it was one of the films to take advantage of the mid-00s IMAX trend.

9. The Grinch - $280 million

20 The Grinch
Still from 'The Grinch'. Universal

The most recent movie on the list, not adjusted for inflation, the Benedict Cumberbatch Dr. Seuss adaptation is the highest-grossing movie on the list. More people, however, saw the Jim Carrey version, which swapped the slightly flat CGI of the more recent version for some disturbing prosthetics.

8. The Santa Clause - $324 million

the santa clause
Eric Lloyd and Tim Allen in 'The Santa Clause'. Disney

Nothing says the 1990s quite like the phrase "Tim Allen movie". While the comedian is now mostly known for the sitcom Last Man Standing, the comedian was a genuine box office draw three decades ago. The actor could even kill Santa Claus as he does in this film and still have a hit.

7. Batman Returns - $367 million

09 Batman Returns
Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito in 'Batman Returns'. Warner Bros.

Die Hard gets most of the "is it a Christmas movie" discourse, but Batman Returns is another movie that sees a gruff hero fighting bad guys at Christmas—though the Bruce Willis movie is lacking the festive touch of penguins strapped to candy-striped explosives that this Tim Burton Batman sequel has.

6. Home Alone 2 - $392 million

Donald Trump in Home Alone 2
Macaulay Culkin and Donald Trump in Home Alone 2 20th Century Fox

Kevin McAllister's misfortune at having negligent parents who constantly leave him behind is his loss but viewers' gain, with both the first two Home Alone movies making the top 10 Christmas movies. The second one may even be more festive than the first, set as it is in a New York in full festive splendor. It even has its own Scrooge, in the form of a Donald Trump cameo.

5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - $423 million

lion the witch and the wardrobe
Georgie Henley and James MacAvoy in 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. Disney

The first of The Chronicles of Narnia movies may not be considered part of the Christmas canon, but it should be—it's full of snow and fur coats, and literally features Father Christmas as a supporting character. Plus there's no season not improved by the addition of Tilda Swinton.

4. Gremlins - $426 million

31 Gremlins
Still from 'Gremlins'. Gremlins: Warner Bros.

You may be disappointed with the gifts you get this year, but at least they are not likely to turn into scaly bundles of pure chaotic energy, as in this genuine dark Christmas classic. The sequel might be the better film (it's certainly more out there), but it lacks the festive charm of the 1984 original.

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - $451 million

06 How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Taylor Momsen and Jim Carrey in 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' Universal Pictures

In the most popular retelling of the Grinch story, Jim Carrey got paid a record-breaking $20 million to appear in the movie. However, clearly, this payday was worth it, with the movie becoming a hit not only in the '00s but also on Netflix today.

2. Iron Man 3 - $458 million

Probably the biggest budget Christmas movie of all time, Iron Man 3 was the highpoint of director Shane Black's obsession with setting his films over the holidays, bringing the MCU into December, but one where Santa Claus is not the only one flying through the air.

1. Home Alone - $635 million

16 Home Alone
Macaulay Culkin in 'Home Alone'. Home Alone: Twentieth Century Fox

Many Christmas movies try to warm viewers' hearts or leave them with a feel-good feeling. Home Alone, however, takes another tack, with a clever blend of charm and extreme violence that has made it the only Christmas movie to make the 50 highest-grossing movies of all-time list.

All box office figures courtesy Box Office Mojo.

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