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The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

All these films remind us how wonderful, or at least interesting, this time of year can be

greatest xmas movie
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    Editor’s Note: While we know many of you are having to forgo your usual holiday traditions this season, we hope our annual Christmas Movies list is one tradition you’ll be able to maintain and enjoy this year. Happy holidays from Consequence of Sound.

    If nothing else, we know this: Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Songs sing it to us, ads sell it to us, and those credit card bills that arrive in January remind us all over again. So, with all the hubbub, it’s no wonder that Hollywood and television have a long tradition of joining in that holiday spirit. But that doesn’t mean it’s all Santa, snowmen, and chestnuts roasting on open fires.

    Sure, there’s plenty of traditional fare out there, some of which have become classics and must-sees each and every holiday season. But there are also plenty of alternative takes on this festive season and even films that, like the song goes, don’t even seem to know that it’s Christmas. So, here are our very favorite movies set around the Christmas holiday. And whether there are yuletide lessons to be learned, laughs to be had, or even murders to be covered up, all of the movies on this list remind us just how wonderful, or at least interesting, this time of the year really can be.

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    Fidelio.

    –Matt Melis
    Editorial Director


    25. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

    grinch The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Dr. Seuss’ despicable, green-furred, red-eyed, cardiovascularly challenged, Christmas-hating Grinch implements a diabolical plot to disguise himself as Santa and steal the holiday from his Christmas-adoring neighbors in Whoville.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Not only does the Grinch learn that you can’t stop a good thing like Christmas, but we see him transform, like Ebeneezer Scrooge before him, into a goodhearted soul — a reminder that Christmas truly is a time for miracles. Now, pass the roast beast. Actually, what’s the vegan option?

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Matt Melis


    24. Toys (1992)

    toys 1992 e1511999152674 The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Toys brings war to a landscape of joy and innocence: a toy factory, where Robin Williams has to stop his evil uncle from jump-starting drone warfare. Barry Levinson’s surreal fable is as eerie in its precognition as it is beautiful.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Christmas, in all its idyllic FAO Schwartz glory, frames Toys and is key to ushering viewers into the film’s left-of-reality world. This visually stunning black comedy also houses a spectacular score/soundtrack, crowned by Wendy and Lisa’s goosebump-inducing holiday single “Closing of the Year”.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Cap Blackard


    23. Scrooged (1988)

    scrooged The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Bill Murray finds his inner Ebenezer Scrooge in this incredibly ’80s black comedy that further embellishes the eccentricities of Richard Donner’s filmography. Guy has done every genre.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… It’s funny, it’s spooky, and it’s a little macabre, but Scrooged still holds up as a go-to Christmas classic, if only to watch Murray go toe to toe with a bedlam of ’80s ghosts — literally and metaphorically.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Michael Roffman


    22. In Bruges (2008)

    in bruges The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… After a hit goes about as horribly wrong as a hit possibly can, two contract killers (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell) are instructed to lay low in the picturesque town of Bruges, Belgium, during the most wonderful time of the year. Soon, restlessness and the specter of Ralph Fiennes’ foulmouthed crime boss rear their heads to bring chaos to the idyllic town.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Martin McDonagh’s directorial debut is one of astounding quality and the kind of skewed take on the aesthetics of Christmastime that some will find themselves craving after so many carols and so much tinsel. It’s a violent, profane, lonely movie, and somehow it’s also funny as hell without ever caving on any of those other traits.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    21. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

    rudolph the red nosed reindeer The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Sam the Snowman recalls the year that Christmas almost got cancelled due to a terrible snowstorm. Luckily, a certain red-nosed reindeer and his misfit friends saved the day and allowed Santa to ring in Christmas on schedule. Ho ho ho.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… It’s the pinnacle achievement of the Rankin/Bass claymation specials, featuring now-classic songs sung by the likes of Burl Ives, unforgettable characters from Hermey (an aspiring elf dentist) to Yukon Cornelius (a kind, oafish prospector), and the timeless message that our differences should be embraced and serve to bring us together, not cast us apart.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Matt Melis


    20. A Christmas Tale (2008)

    achristmastale The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… A French family overseen by an assured matriarch returns under one roof for the first time in years to celebrate Christmas, and as is usually the case with dysfunctional families, this unearths all manner of long-held secrets, resentments, and vendettas.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Arnaud Desplechin’s story of forgiveness, contempt, and death might not exactly instill the kind of warm fuzzies that many chase in their holiday movies, but A Christmas Tale stands as one of the best-ever holiday-centric stories of the ties that bind. Nobody’s ever capable of being more loving or more truly cruel to you than your family, something that the film understands well. And Catherine Deneuve is absolutely exceptional, as is her custom.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    19. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

    miracle on 34th street 1947 The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) takes over as the Santa at the Macy’s flagship store in New York, only to find himself embroiled in legal turmoil when his insistence that he is in fact the real Santa Claus leads to his being forced to stand trial for his alleged insanity.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… One of the original Christmas movies also remains one of the best, from Gwenn’s unforgettable performance as an iconic Santa to the film’s message of laying aside skepticism in favor of mirth and magic. There’s a serious case to be made that the subgenre of the Christmas movie wouldn’t exist at all without Miracle on 34th Street paving the way, and in a list full of movies that take an odder glance at the season, we can’t help but succumb to its idealistic charms all over again.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    18. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

    kiss kiss bang bang kilmer monaghan downey The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Shane Black takes us back to Los Angeles in this neo-noir black comedy that sends Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer, and a fiery Michelle Monaghan through one warped holiday whodunnit.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… With Christmas once again his backdrop, Black wraps all of his taped-together action into a razor-sharp script that matches the 120 mph mannerisms of Downey, Jr. and the cutting stoicism of Kilmer.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Michael Roffman


    17. Elf (2003)

     The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) knows he’s not like the other elves at the North Pole. His voice is lower, he’s terrible at toymaking, and he’s several feet taller than anyone else. So Buddy takes off for the magical land of New York City in hopes of finding his real father and bringing his own brand of Christmas cheer to a jaded modern world.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Ferrell’s joyous delivery of every Buddy line is as infectious as the film itself, which remains one of Jon Favreau’s better directorial outings. It’s a movie that not only understands how singularly creepy “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is, but that the most earnest Christmas warmth comes from the most cynical among us setting aside their adult bitterness in favor of seasonal kindness.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    16. Trading Places (1983)

    trading places The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… The Duke brothers, a couple of white-collar “bookies,” run a social experiment with a one-dollar wager riding on whether they can turn a rich man to crime and send a poor man to the penthouse all for their holiday amusement. These old fogies are some festive fucks, aren’t they?

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Of course, some yuletide justice gets dished out when the unknowing pawns in their game — a snobby Dan Aykroyd, a hustling Eddie Murphy, and a street-walking Jamie Lee Curtis — find out they’re being manipulated and develop their own plan to bankrupt the rich bastards. So, what do you want for Christmas this year, little boys? Um, we’ll take some revenge, Santa!

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Matt Melis


    15. A Christmas Carol (1951)

    carol 1951 The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… It’s hard to imagine Brian Desmond Hurst’s Scrooge, known as A Christmas Carol in the United States, will ever entirely fade from the hearts of those who truly love Charles Dickens’ tale. For more than three decades, it reigned as the quintessential popular adaptation of the classic, and many argue that it’s never been surpassed. Much of that credit must go to Alastair Sim, who delivers perhaps the most realistic portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in cinematic history.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… This Scrooge, and therefore this adaptation of A Christmas Carol, endures because it’s so easy to see how we sometimes fall into the same traps of indifference. In this film, Scrooge’s intervention feels like our own, as does his giddy redemption.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Matt Melis


    14. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

    nightmare before xmas The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… From the then-magical mind of Tim Burton comes this twisted stop-motion masterpiece that’s equal parts musical, monster movie, and holiday stunner. You’ll sing, you’ll cringe, you’ll … want candy.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Apart from being downright gorgeous — those scenes in Christmas Town alone should elicit visceral reactions to the eyes and belly — The Nightmare Before Christmas is a timeless gem of seasonal juxtapositions.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Michael Roffman


    13. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1977)

    emmet otters jug band christmas 1977 The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… The Muppet Christmas Carol and A Muppet Family Christmas are also deserving, but if we’re only going to pick one holiday film featuring Jim Henson’s creations, we’ll opt for the earlier classic Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which tells the tale of a widow otter and her son risking all they have in order to buy each other the perfect Christmas present.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… While these one-off characters aren’t as popular as their Muppet counterparts, Henson’s team, including the great Paul Williams penning songs, brings to life a charming tale of how selflessness can lead to a rare occurrence: good things happening to good people, well, otters anyway. Plus, “Golly, they got mashed potatoes!”

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Matt Melis


    12. Black Christmas (1974)

    black christmas The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Long before he won the holiday with A Christmas Story, director Bob Clark turned the chummy season into an unnerving event with the still-terrifying slasher flick Black Christmas.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Whereas Halloween gave us The Shape to run away from on All Hallow’s Eve, Black Christmas offers up an inhuman voice, one that dwells in the shadows where the candy-colored lights don’t shine.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Michael Roffman


    11. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

    a charlie brown christmas 1965 e1511986942871 The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Christmastime is a magical time for everyone in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang — everyone, that is, except for Charlie Brown, who struggles to understand the true meaning of the holiday season through all the lights, bells, and ricketa-racketa.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… It’s got skating, dancing, and amateur psychiatry — pretty much all anyone could want in a holiday special — but also that beautiful moment where even a crummy, little tree (let’s say the Charlie Brown of Christmas trees) ends up looking worthy and beautiful. Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Matt Melis


    10. Batman Returns (1992)

    batman returns e1511987406814 The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Tim Burton writes his signature in dark, black ink with this deeply controversial sequel to his 1989 juggernaut hit Batman. It’s a wonder this gift ever made it under the proverbial Christmas tree.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Michelle Pfeiffer claws her way to the top of this freakish ensemble film with arguably her greatest performance to date as Catwoman. It’s the most aesthetically pleasing Batman film to ever hit the silver screen.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Michael Roffman


    09. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

    christmas vacation The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) always wants the very best for his family. Unfortunately, when he tries to give them the perfect anything, including the ultimate, old-fashioned family Christmas, one hilarious disaster after another ensues.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… It’s an endlessly quotable annual classic that registers on both the naughty and nice lists, unleashes enough gags to last all 12 days of Christmas, and features so many yuletide mishaps that somehow it all turns out alright in the end. And, really, isn’t that about the best most of our family Christmases can hope for? Damn, shitter’s full.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Matt Melis


    08. Tangerine (2015)

    tangerine The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… On Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, a pair of trans best friends navigate the perils of shady ex-boyfriends, crack-binging mistresses, and the difficulties of getting people to show up for a club performance so close to the holidays. Elsewhere, a lonely Armenian cab driver finds his own life forever changed by his connection with the duo.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Sean Baker’s deeply empathetic movie gets a lot of well-deserved praise for chronicling people on the fringes of “polite” society with candor and love, but Tangerine is also just a great, utterly wild Christmas movie. It’s funny, it’s occasionally devastating, and it speaks endless truth to how when the world is at its cruelest, sometimes you just need a friend.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    07. Home Alone (1990)

    home alone The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… After a holiday fallout, snotty Kevin McCallister wishes that his entire family would disappear. When he gets his wish, he quickly discovers that the more the merrier beats being home alone for Christmas, especially when two bumbling burglars have targeted his house. Woof!

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Sure, its sequel was a beat-for-beat copy and cash grab, but the original, miraculously carried by Macauley Culkin on his narrow, nine-year-old shoulders, deftly combined childhood fantasies, madcap slapstick, and heartfelt holiday charm to go along with its be-careful-what-you-wish-for message. It’s a frudga-fridga-frudgin’ good time and now a holiday classic.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Matt Melis


    06. Die Hard (1988)

    die hard original The 25 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… It’s Christmastime in Los Angeles (and also Hollis, Queens), and John McClane (Bruce Willis) decides to come out to the coast, get together with his wife, and have a few laughs inside the lavish Nakatomi Plaza. That is, until Hans Gruber and his coalition of terrorists take the party hostage and McClane has to save the day.

    It’s the Most Wonderful Film… Okay, we know, WE KNOW. Die Hard is a movie that takes place during Christmas, more than a “Christmas movie,” as many would argue. But it’s also a staple of the season by this point, and its dryly sarcastic optimism even works well within the holiday milieu, at least as much as a movie can when it ends with a terrorist ringleader slowly plummeting to his doom.

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    Greatest Gift to Cinema:

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


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