Whip up some Christmas cocktails, bunker down and start your holiday movie marathon right now.
What constitutes a Christmas movie? We emailed fifty movie critics, philosophers and dentists to shed light on the question. No one responded. So, we found ourselves like a man at the bottom of a well: in the dark.
Should it be set primarily during the Christmas season, or even on Christmas day? Should it include a prominent Christmas figure, like Santa or Rudolph? Should it feature themes such as love, hope, generosity and faith? Should the movie only be considered if it appears on the Hallmark channel with a title such as Love is a Christmas Miracle?
Fortunately, the internet can occasionally be kind and when we typed in a whole bunch of Christmas movie-related questions, we were able to come up with 100 Christmas movie ideas – from classics, through to the unconventional. We are sure some of you will curse our name upon reading the list. ‘This isn’t a Christmas movie, stupid’, we hear you mutter. ‘Wow, another Christmas movie list? Yippee, I haven’t seen one of those since yesterday’, grumble grumble. But what would Christmas be without some petty squabbling.
You can’t please everyone. And really, at the end of the day when the cookies run dry and the eggnog comes out, all we really want is to put a little love in your heart. Ho, ho, ho.
*Ratings come from classification.gov.au
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, PG)
Starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, this 1946 film is about an angel sent from Heaven to help a wayward businessman discover what life would have been like had he never existed. While not a hit at first, once in the public domain it became a Christmas classic and is today considered one of the greatest films of all time.
Why it’s on the list: Because according to IMDb, this is the #1 Christmas movie of all time
Extra: There was a long-time rumour (now disproved) that Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie were named after two of the film’s characters
Best accompanied with: Green bean casserole
Arthur Christmas (2011, G)
Godmothered (2020, PG)
Joyeux Noel (2005, M)
The Santa Clause (1994, G)
Jingle All the Way (1996, PG)
Ah, Jingle All the Way. Some may say it’s in the category of ‘so bad, it’s good’. Others just plain love the silliness of it all. Such is the subjectiveness of movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Howard Langston is a dad who keeps missing his kid’s achievements, so when he gets caught in a lie, he is determined to make amends.
Why it’s on the list: Because poor present preparation is something we all know
Extra: Sinbad, who played Myron Larabee, missed his first audition because he was accompanying then-First Lady Hillary Clinton on a visit to Tuzla Air Base.
Best accompanied with: A Turbo Man action figure
Daddy’s Home 2 (2017, M)
Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (2013, M)
Get Santa (2014, PG)
A Bad Moms Christmas (2017, MA)
Rocky IV (1985, PG)
Avenging his friend and former rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) fights the feared Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Even better, he takes him on in Drago’s homeland of Russia. According to the web, Rocky IV is approximately 30 per cent training montage. The rest is also awesome.
Why it’s on the list: Because the fight takes place on Christmas day
Extra: In a Fox Sports article by sports betting analyst Sam Panayotovich, it was speculated Rocky would pay odds of $5.50
Best accompanied with: 50 stars and 13 stripes
The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017, PG)
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020, PG)
Happiest Season (2020, M)
Friday After Next (2002, MA)
Home Alone (1990, PG)
When Kevin McCallister is left, um home alone, he must defend his home against two burglars. Everyone is fantastic in the film – Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and Catherine O’Hara. Not to mention the bit part by John Candy as ‘Polka king of the Midwest’, Gus Polinski. It’s just really good fun.
Why it’s on the list: Because, why do you think, ya filthy animal?
Extra: John Candy was only on set for one day and improvised much of his lines, including the funeral parlour story which took place at 4:30am.
Best Accompanied with: Cheese pizza
Tangerine (2015, MA)
Serendipity (2001, PG)
Noelle (2019, G)
The Family Stone (2005, M)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, G)
Originating from a poem written by Tim Burton, the movie (which arguably sits between Halloween and Christmas) tells the story of Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town, and his newfound obsession with Christmas when he discovers Christmas Town. With a score from Danny Elfman, the stop-motion movie is an imagination wonderland.
Why it’s on the list: Because joy can be found in the new, and the old
Extra: Danny Elfman, who also voiced the singing voice of Jack, wrote the songs before the script was written through snippets Burton told him about the story
Best accompanied with: Oogie Boogie sugar cookies
Batman Returns (1992, M)
The Preacher’s Wife (1996, G)
Santa Hunters (2014, G)
Grumpy Old Men (1993, PG)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992, G)
The fourth theatrical release in The Muppets franchise is a fluffy re-telling of the Charles Dickens novella. Gonzo the Great (playing Dickens) and Rizzo narrate the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), the cold-hearted crank who is visited by spirits of Christmas past, present and future, leading him to become a kinder man.
Why it’s on the list: Because it’s a classic story, with Muppets
Extra: Director Brian Henderson says upon their first meeting, Michael Caine told him: “Brian, I’m going to play Scrooge like I’m acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company.”
Best accompanied with: A turkey dinner
Let it Snow (2019, M)
A Christmas Prince (2017, G)
Steel Magnolias (1989, M)
While You Were Sleeping (1995, PG)
Forget Meg Ryan. Forget Julia Roberts. No one quite melted hearts like Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping, regarded as the pinnacle of Hollywood’s rom-com phase. Sure, she may star as the lovelorn Lucy, who crosses so many lines she should be locked away, but loneliness is tough and the value of family should never be undervalued.
Why it’s on the list: Because holidays are best spent surrounded by family and love
Extra: Screenwriters Fredric Lebow and Daniel G. Sullivan’s original treatment featured a woman in Peter Gallagher’s role and had a working title of Coma Girl
Best accompanied with: A box of tissues
One Magic Christmas (1985, G)
Fred Claus (2007, PG)
Christmas in Connecticut (1945, G)
Bad Santa (2003, MA)
Once the kids are in bed, it’s time to fire up this 2003 black comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton as Willie and Tony Cox as Marcus, two burglars who have worked out a seemingly perfect scam. The movie has more than 170 uses of ‘fuck’, but gosh darn it, it also has some touching moments. And what would a Christmas movie be without those?
Why it’s on the list: Because Christmas can bring out the grump in the best of us
Extra: Bill Murray was apparently in negotiations to take the lead, but would drop out to film Lost in Translation
Best accompanied with: A stuffed pink elephant
Iron Man 3 (2013, M)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940, PG)
Ernest Saves Christmas (1988, G)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, G)
The first TV special based on the comic strip Peanuts finds Charlie Brown feeling depressed despite the holiday season. When Lucy suggests he direct a Christmas play for the neighbourhood, he faces ridicule. That is until Linus teaches everyone about the true meaning of Christmas. The animated special ran annually for 35 years on CBS.
Why it’s on the list: Because a light shining through the darkness is glorious
Extra: A laugh track was standard at the time for TV comedies, but Peanuts creator Charles Schulz refused so viewers could enjoy the show “at their own speed, in their own way”
Best accompanied with: Peanut M&M’s
Tokyo Godfathers (2003, M)
Last Christmas (2019, M)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947, G)
Black Christmas (1974 version, R)
Directed by Bob Clark, a bunch of sorority sisters are terrorised by anonymous phone calls during their Christmas break. It is one of the earliest slasher films and was inspired by urban legend ‘The babysitter and the man upstairs’ (which dates back to the 1960s) and a series of murders that took place in Montreal.
Why it’s on the list: Because there’s nothing wrong with a fright on the holiest of nights
Extra: Black Christmas is Elvis Presley’s favourite horror movie, while Steve Martin has watched the movie more than 25 times.
Best Accompanied with: Caller ID
White Christmas (1954, G)
Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (2020, PG)
Fatman (2020, MA)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, G)
The second-highest-grossing film of 1944 and MGM’s most successful musical of the 1940s is a series of seasonal vignettes, starting with summer of 1903 and leading up to the opening of the World’s Fair in 1904. The film saw Judy Garland debut the standards ‘The Trolley Song’, ‘The Boy Next Door’ and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’.
Why it’s on the list: Because of Judy Garland’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Extra: The original lyric ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last’, was changed after Judy Garland was afraid it would scare young actress Margaret O’Brien
Best accompanied with: Tomato soup
Last Holiday (2006, PG)
Mixed Nuts (1994, M)
Reindeer Games (2000, MA)
About a Boy (2002, M)
Another unconventional Christmas movie, Hugh Grant stars as Will, a detached bachelor living off the royalties of ‘Santa’s Super Sleigh’, a carol penned by his father. Things change when he is befriended by Nicholas Hoult’s Marcus. Two sequential Christmases are used to illustrate the characters’ developments.
Why it’s on the list: Because we all desire human connections
Extra: The website Will searches, supermodelswithseethroughtops.com, brings up a picture of Pope John Paul II in his Pope-mobile
Best accompanied with: A tambourine
Office Christmas Party (2016, MA)
Happy Christmas (2014, M)
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017, MA)
Invasion, U.S.A. (1985, MA)
Okay, admittedly this may be stretching the Christmas movie thing by some margin, but you can take that up with Chuck Norris. Chuck plays retired CIA operative Matt Hunter. All he wants to do is chill out and enjoy the festive season, but a bunch of communist terrorist jerks led by Mikhail Rostov attack a mall where people are busy Christmas shopping.
Why it’s on the list: Because America saved – check, Christmas saved – check
Extra: Chuck wrote the immortal line, ‘If you come back in here, I’m going to hit you with so many rights, you’re going to beg for a left’
Best accompanied with: Double denim
The Holiday (2006, M)
Deck the Halls (2006, PG)
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984, R)
Elf (2003, G)
It’s hard to go past this movie. It’s a delight. Will Ferrell plays Buddy, a human raised by elves who heads for New York City to find his birth father. Elf is very quotable and charming with many memorable scenes, including the one where Peter Dinklage makes an appearance as children’s author, Miles Finch.
Why it’s on the list: Because there’s a little magic in all of us
Extra: In the jack-in-the-box scene, director Jon Favreau was in control of a remote control that would determine when the pop-ups occurred, prompting genuine reactions from Will
Best accompanied with: Spaghetti with mini marshmallows, M&M’s and chocolate syrup
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989, M)
Four Christmases (2008, M)
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972, G)
The Family Man (2000, M)
In a modern-day Frank Capra story, Nicolas Cage plays Jack, a Wall Street bachelor who is given an opportunity to see how the other half lives, taking him back to a familiar face but an unfamiliar life. Have you got everything in life that you could possibly want? Would you take a shot at finding out, and what would you do if you did?
Why it’s on the list: Because Christmas can be a time of reflection
Extra: The song ‘La Donna e’ mobile’ appears in the film, as it does it other Cage films including Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Honeymoon in Vegas and Guarding Tess
Best accompanied with: A $2400 suit
The Night Before (2015, MA)
Scrooged (1988, M)
Prancer (1989, G)
The Ref (1994, M)
Does cynicism have any place at Christmastime? Sure. The festive season is not all lollipops and sunshine. We can just hope the good shines through in the end. Denis Leary’s Gus is a career criminal looking at one last score, who stumbles upon the household of bickering couple Caroline and Lloyd (Judy Davies and Kevin Spacey).
Why it’s on the list: Because it will probably make you feel better about your Christmas
Extra: The film marks the debut of J.K Simmons, who played Siskel. It also marks the final film of Ellie Raab, who played Mary.
Best accompanied with: A traditional Scandinavian Christmas feast
A Christmas Carol (2009, PG)
Krampus (2015, M)
Carol (2015, M)
The Apartment (1960, PG)
Jack Lemmon stars as C.C. “Bud” Baxter, an insurance clerk who lets his co-workers use his Upper West Side apartment for extra-marital affairs to curry favour with the higher-ups. He falls for Shirley MacLaine’s Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator having an affair with Bud’s immediate boss. It won Best Picture at the 33rd Academy Awards.
Why it’s on the list: Because there is always hope
Extra: According to Shirley MacLaine, the film was being written as the film progressed, including the gin rummy game she learned from her friends in the Rat Pack
Best accompanied with: A good fruitcake
Die Hard (1988, M)
Jack Frost (1998, PG)
I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998, G)
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (2011, MA)
Back in the short-lived days when 3-D was king, John Cho, Kal Penn and Neil Patrick Harris starred in the third instalment of the franchise. The story reunites old friends Harold Lee (Cho) and Kumar Patel (Penn) as they hunt for a Christmas tree. A fun slacker/stoner comedy that is a little crude, and a little heart-warming.
Why it’s on the list: Because old friends can start a new friendship together
Extra: A film titled Harold & Kumar and the Legend of Eazy-E’s Stash was originally planned, but difficulty in getting the rights to Eazy-E’s estate changed the direction
Best accompanied with: Waffles
The Polar Express (2004, G)
Santa with Muscles (1996, PG)
A Christmas Story (1983, G)
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983, M)
Little Women (1994 version, G)
“Oh, Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas without any presents” is one of the film’s first lines, spoken by Kirsten Dunst’s Amy. From there, we spend time with the March family during the Civil War-era, where four young women are being raised by their mother while their father leaves as part of the Union Army.
Why it’s on the list: Because Christmas can still be Christmas without presents
Extra: The house depicted in the movie, Orchard House, is the same house in which Little Women author Louisa May Alcott was raised
Best accompanied with: Pickled limes
Edward Scissorhands (1990, PG)
Lethal Weapon (1987, M)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005, MA)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964, G)
Just Friends (2005, M)
In high school, overweight Chris (Ryan Reynolds) had a crush on his best friend, Jamie (Amy Smart), but his declaration took a sour turn. Ten years later, now in shape and highly successful, circumstances lead him to return home and face his demons. Anna Faris also stars as Samantha, the absolute scene stealer of the movie.
Why it’s on the list: Because we all have a moment we’d like to take another shot at
Extra: Ryan Reynold’s knew all the words to All-4-One’s ‘I Swear’, and it was his idea to lip-synch the song in the movie
Best accompanied with: A Sugar Mountain Supreme
Go (1999, MA)
Surviving Christmas (2004, M)
Christmas with the Kranks (2004, PG)
The Ice Harvest (2005, MA)
Gremlins (1984, PG)
While trying to find the perfect gift for his son, a father buys a Mogwai creature – but it comes with strict rules: 1. Don’t get it wet. 2. Keep it away from light. 3. Don’t feed it after midnight. Seriously, don’t feed it after midnight. But wouldn’t you know it, things don’t go according to plans and all hell breaks loose.
Why it’s on the list: Because a pet is for life, not just for Christmas
Extra: An idea to shoot scenes with monkeys in Gremlin outfits (to save stress on the crew) was ruled out when one wrecked director Joe Dante’s office
Best accompanied with: Chicken legs (you know, just not after midnight)
Unaccompanied Minors (2006, PG)
Trapped in Paradise (1994, PG)
Love Actually (2003, M)
All is Bright (2013, M)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000, G)
The Dr. Seuss classic tells the story of the reclusive and grouchy Grinch (Jim Carrey), who decides he wants to ruin Christmas for the residents of Whoville by stealing gifts and decorations. But he didn’t count on the endearing Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Mosmen). Can the spirit of Christmas soften the hardest of hearts?
Why it’s on the list: Because gift-giving should come from the heart
Extra: The Wizard of Oz held a long-standing recording for a movie with so many characters in heavy make-up, until How the Grinch Stole Christmas came along
Best accompanied with: Pudding, fruitcake and fudge
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010, M)
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996, MA)
In Bruges (2008, MA)
Home for the Holidays (1995, M)
Trading Places (1983, M)
Christmas is more a backdrop, but let’s not let that get in the way of a silly little list. Two rich brothers test the ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate by switching the places of the wealthy Louis Winthrope III (Dan Aykroyd) and street hustler Billy Ray (Eddie Murphy). Plus, Dan Aykroyd’s character crashes his old firm’s Christmas party dressed as Santa.
Why it’s on the list: Because we all enjoy a happy ending
Extra: According to studio production notes, at one point Aykroyd and Murphy distracted business activities and six-billion of trading came to a halt
Best accompanied with: A glass of orange juice
And finally, if you’re in the mood for an Aussie Christmas flick, you have A Sunburnt Christmas on Stan (M).
Happy Holidays, folks. Santa has work to do.