Ranked: The Best Christmas Movies of All Time

00
Ranked: The Best Christmas Movies of All Time Newsweek

Alongside gift-giving and eating, watching a Christmas movie is one of the great bonding activities of the holidays. As well as providing a soothing couple of hours without the pressure of entertaining anyone, they serve to retune everyone to the Christmas spirit, which is easily forgotten in the stresses of the season.

Christmas movies have their own value system. They don't have to be good in the way that we usually demand films to be, but rather their success is judged on how well they can entertain audiences of all ages, while successfully hitting us in a sentimental sweet spot associated with the holiday season.

Many Christmas favorites are much-loved oldies, showing that the formula for a good Yuletide movie has never needed much of an update. Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol remains a popular tale; according to the British Library, it is the most filmed story of his entire catalog.

There are films that operate on the boundary between Christmas movies and regular movies, as demonstrated by the famously heated dispute over whether Die Hard qualifies as a Christmas movie or not. While it unfolds during a Christmas party, the violent, action-led plot make some doubt whether it can really be classed alongside movies such as A Christmas Carol or The Snowman.

Not even the people who made Die Hard can agree. The film's star Bruce Willis firmly stated that it is not a Christmas movie, but screenwriter Steven E. de Souza told The Washington Post: "If Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, then White Christmas is not a Christmas movie."

Read more: The Best Hallmark Christmas Movies

We find in de Souza's favor, and have included Die Hard in our list of Christmas classics. Using data from critical review aggregation websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, as well as user-submitted reviews from IMDb, we've made a handy holiday list of the best Yuletide movies ever made.

01 Prancer
Prancer: Orion Pictures

50. Prancer (1989). Total score: 62.5%. IMDb users: 6.4. Metacritic: (n/a). Rotten Tomatoes: 6.2. Directed by: John D. Hancock. Starring: Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman, Rutanya Alda. 
Plot summary: A farm girl nurses a wounded reindeer she believes is one of Santa's, hoping to bring it back to health in time for Christmas. Her holiday spirit inspires those around her, something her disheartened father is having trouble understanding.
What the critics said: "Smaller kids will identify with Jessica's fierce resolve to get Prancer back into action, and older viewers will appreciate the fact that the movie takes place in an approximation of the real world." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

02 Miracle on 34th Street
Miracle on 34th Street: Twentieth Century Fox

49. Miracle on 34th Street (1994). Total score: 62.8%. IMDb users: 6.5. Metacritic: (n/a). Rotten Tomatoes: 6.2. Directed by: Les Mayfield. Starring: Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson. 
Plot summary: A lawyer and a little girl must prove that a man claiming to be Santa Claus is the real thing.
What the critics said: "There will never really be a movie to replace the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, nor a performance to replace Edmund Gwenn's, but this modern update is a sweet, gentle, good-hearted film that stays true to the spirit of the original and doesn't try to make everything slick and exploitative." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

03 The Fitzgerald Family Christmas
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas: Tribeca Film

48. The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012). Total score: 63%. IMDb users: 6.3. Metacritic: 62. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.4. Directed by: Edward Burns. Starring: Kerry Bishé, Edward Burns, Heather Burns. 
Plot summary: The adult siblings of the Fitzgerald family prepare for their estranged father to return home for Christmas for the first time since he walked out on his family 20 years ago.
What the critics said: "A genuine charmer with appealingly natural performances and the kind of holiday warmth that can't be manufactured." Rafer Guzman, Newsday.

04 The Best Man Holiday
The Best Man Holiday: Universal Pictures

47. The Best Man Holiday (2013). Total score: 63.3%. IMDb users: 6.7. Metacritic: 59. Rotten Tomatoes: 6. Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee. Starring: Monica Calhoun, Morris Chestnut, Melissa De Sousa, Tase Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard. 
Plot summary: When college friends reunite after 15 years over the Christmas holidays, they discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be reignited.
What the critics said: "It's probably too much: the throwaway lines, the priceless reaction shots, the weeping. You leave emotionally exhausted, but there's a lot of care in this movie." Wesley Morris, Grantland.

05  Lovely, Still
Lovely, Still: Monterey Media

=45. Lovely, Still (2008). Total score: 64.3%. IMDb users: 7.2. Metacritic: 57. Rotten Tomatoes: 5.6. Directed by: Nicholas Fackler. Starring: Martin Landau, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Banks, Adam Scott. 
Plot summary: A holiday fable that tells the story of an elderly man discovering love for the first time.
What the critics said: "A haunting duet for two great actors who haven't lost a step and have gained the most exquisite lyricism." David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture.
 

06 The Polar Express
The Polar Express: Warner Bros.

=45. The Polar Express (2004). Total score: 64.3%. IMDb users: 6.6. Metacritic: 61. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.4. Directed by: Robert Zemeckis. Starring: Tom Hanks, Chris Coppola, Michael Jeter. 
Plot summary: On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express, while learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas.
What the critics said: "Tom Hanks (in a number of roles) and the other actors do a nice job of voicing their parts, but the waxy animated faces they've been given are off-putting." Bruce Diones, New Yorker.

07 The Christmas Chronicles
The Christmas Chronicles: Netflix

44. The Christmas Chronicles (2018). Total score: 65%. IMDb users: 7.6. Metacritic: 52. Rotten Tomatoes: 5.6. Directed by: Clay Kaytis. Starring: Kurt Russell, Darby Camp, Judah Lewis. 
Plot summary: The story of sister and brother, Kate and Teddy Pierce, whose Christmas Eve plan to catch Santa Claus on camera turns into an unexpected journey that most kids could only dream about.
What the critics said: "Make some cocoa for the family, and spike yours if you have to, but remember what the holiday is about: watching mediocre, predictable movies with the people you love." Dana Schwartz, Entertainment Weekly.

08 National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: Warner Bros.

=42. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989). Total score: 65.8%. IMDb users: 7.6. Metacritic: 49. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.2. Directed by: Jeremiah S. Chechik. Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Juliette Lewis. 

Plot summary: The Griswold family's plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.

What the critics said: "Christmas Vacation may not be a fancy package, but it is a diverting stocking stuffer." Rita Kempley, Washington Post.