The Best Christmas Movies: Movies You Need to Watch

The Christmas season is in full swing. Bells are ringing, people are toasting, chesnuts are roasting, Christmas time is here (anyone get that?) But anyway, a common Christmas season tradition for millions is watching a collection of beloved Christmas classics. We all have our favorites, including us here at The TV Ratings Guide. But not everyone knows of all the amazing Christmas movies out there, so let us make you aware with some of contributors' favorite Christmas movies that you have to watch this season!


Honorable Mention: The Polar Express, The Ultimate Christmas Gift, Santa Baby 2, Santa Hunters - all worthy of your viewing this Christmas season.

10. The Year Without a Santa Claus

If you're five or ninety-five, I'm sure you have heard of this one. It's iconic. The plot is in the title, and it doesn't pull out any huge stops to try and draw the viewer in. It's just that likable. From the catchy musical numbers, to the original plot, and the voice acting, I couldn't imagine Christmas without it. A side note - this movie also introduced the iconic Miser brothers, who I adore. Their musical number is amazing, and if you don't know anything about them, I won't spoil, but they should easily be your favorite part of the movie and enough reason alone for you to watch.

9. Krampus

As you may know, I love horror movies and horror themed events. I also just can't get enough of any and everything Christmas! So to find a movie that is a cross between the two, without being too scary (it's PG at worst), I was overjoyed. Krampus is about a family who gathers and reunites for the holidays, and is less than happy. But when a blizzard blows out their power, they find themselves slowly being picked off one by one by evil Christmas characters who work for the ancient legend Krampus. This movie is so good. It's really hilarious (not many Christmas movies are laugh out loud funny, this is), it's got a really cool ending, a really important message about not letting fighting take over the holidays and to love each other, and it is done so well. You feel warm and fuzzy like you are watching a Christmas movie, but also on the edge of your seat. Classic.

View the trailer here

8. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Literally everyone knows who Rudolph is! The bright nosed reindeer from the songs, the reindeer stuffed animal who has a different nose than others near it. Well this movie is his origin story. The cute design and portrayal of Rudolph already pulls at your heartstrings, and his amazing story really brings you down to earth. If you haven't seen it, you better get busy.

7. Prep and Landing / Prep and Landing 2

A few years back, Disney-ABC made an amazing short, Prep & Landing. This was about the people who do the "dirty work" getting the houses ready for Santa to come. I didn't immediately know about this movie, but when I first watched it, I was wondering where it had been all my life. The story takes you inside a place you've always wanted to see, and pulls you in. It makes you feel excited and entertained. I was overjoyed when the sequel movie was released afterwards, and it was equally as good. I can't tell you what it was about 'cause spoilers, but, man, spend an hour watching these two movies and you'll be wanting more.

View the trailer here

6. Frosty the Snowman

Possibly the cutest snowman ever, Frosty the Snowman is a heartwarming tale of some kids who bring the most lovable snowman to life, and the journey he takes them on. Iconic movie right here. Frosty is a Christmas icon. The story is so cute and entertaining, and you may even get the sniffles at any random moment. There's nothing like the relationship between some kids and their snowman, right?

5. Santa Baby

Jenny McCarthy is not the only good thing about this classic. Back in the day when ABC Family (the old name for Freeform) made original movies for the holidays, they produced this gem. Santa Baby is well, about Santa's baby-- Mary, who is forced to take over Christmas duties for the year when her dad falls sick. I really love this movie so much. The premise is SO original. The characters are so likable, the setting is Santa's workshop in the North Pole -- how could a movie get any more Christmas-y? The movie is so entertaining. It has the perfect balance of romance, comedy, drama, and Christmas themes. And then there's Jenny McCarthy. 'Nuff said.

4. Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas

Disney hasn't made many good things in the past decade, but this movie was one of the few things they did well, and not just well, amazingly. Don't be turned off by the name and the fact that this is a Disney movie. It's not at all just for kids, if you give it the chance, it'll easily be something you really enjoy and your whole A18-49 demo family will too. Anyway, onto the movie. You don't have to have seen the TV show to watch and love this. GLCIC is about when the Duncan clan goes across the country to Palm Springs to spend Christmas with relatives. Everything's going according to plan until Teddy, played by the wonderful Bridgit Mendler, decides to give up her plane ticket to get a free ticket to go on vacation during Spring Break. Her mother doesn't let her do this alone, so she also exits the plane. Mishaps ensue, and the movie chronicles the mother and daughter on their hilarious journey across the country to get home to their family in time for Christmas. I really love this movie. It's funny, it's heartwarming, there's never a dull moment, and it's just an all around must watch Christmas movie. You have to watch this before the season ends.

View the trailer here

3. Home Alone

Everyone knows the wonderful story of Kevin McCallister. But for those five of you that don't, Home Alone is an iconic-Christmas classic about a boy who is well, left home alone over the holidays, and has to fend off his house from two dumb burglars. One of the many reasons I love this movie is because it's funny--- no, not funny, hilarious. And as I mentioned above, not many movies can do a good job of making a funny Christmas movie that is balanced with entertainment and Christmas elements. It's also amazing because it's so unique. It's not a love story, it's not a scrooge-esque story, it's the lone movie in its genre, and that's what makes it so enjoyable. It would not be Christmas without watching two idiots get their butts kicked by a tween.

View the trailer here

2. 12 Dates of Christmas

Sadly, this is a more unknown Christmas movie, but that doesn't make it amazing. The 12 Dates of Christmas aired on ABC Family some years back and was about a scrooge woman who would just ignore the holidays and hurt everyone in her past. Until one night, when she goes to bed on Christmas Eve, she doesn't wake up on Christmas the next day. She keeps reliving Christmas Eve (12 times har har), until she makes her life right. This brings about an amazingly funny, entertaining, heartwarming, and Christmas-y feeling journey that will be one of my favorite Christmas movies, and one of my favorite movies forever. Led by the dashing Amy Smart, you have to check out this classic.

View the trailer here

1. The Santa Clause

For as long as I can remember, I spent the better part of the year waiting to watch The Santa Clause. I've always loved this movie so much I had to start one of my many times watching it in October. the Santa Clause is about a scrooge like man who accidentally kills Santa, and is forced to become the new Santa. This movie is just simply magical. It's hard to put my finger on what makes it so amazing, maybe its the Christmas feeling it gives off, maybe it's the great casting, maybe the strong writing, I don't know. But I do know that the Christmas season would not be complete without watching this movie. Plain and simple, you have to check it out before the 25th. The Tim Allen movie is undoubtedly a legacy movie that will be popular for many more decades to come.

Rebecca Bunch:

Honorable Mentions: Scrooged, Disney's A Christmas Carol, Prancer, Christmas in Conway
All four are great movies, and I have watched them faithfully since my first viewings. They're definitely worthy of a try from anyone in the mood for something Christmasy. They didn't quite crack the top 10, but they were all very close.

10- Christmas with the Kranks
This movie gets crapped on by almost all critics, and isn't traditionally known as holiday classic. It's not known as well as most other Christmas films, but I find it to be highly enjoyable. With an all-star cast that includes three of my favorite actors/comedians (Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, and Tim Allen), it's hard not to find something to love in it. It's a silly little film that isn't meant to be taken seriously.

9- The Search for Santa Paws
I'm a big fan of the Air Buddies franchise, even though the films are geared towards a younger audience. This movie is a spin-off of one of the many Buddies films, Santa Buddies. I actually do prefer this one, which has more heart and is all around superior. It's an adorable little film that far too few know about, and I just love it. It really embodies the hope and love of the Christmas holiday.

8- A Heavenly Christmas
A very recent film, first bowing in 2016, A Heavenly Christmas is a new Christmas classic, starring Kristin Davis, Shirley MacLaine and Eric McCormack. I watched it last year on a whim, and was so glad I did. It was so well done, and far exceeded any expectations that I had for a Hallmark film. MacLaine is absolutely fantastic in her role, and I couldn't see anyone else in it. Davis is also great, delivering a strong performance that nearly matches the legendary MacLaine.

7- It's Christmas, Carol!
A Hallmark film starring the late great Carrie Fisher, this film is the network's best, with a strong plot that spoofs on A Christmas Carol. It may not be very well known, but it's very good. The film focuses on a woman who, with the help of her dead boss's ghost, sees the error of her ways. It may sound cliche and overdone, but it's executed perfectly. Also, Carrie Fisher's in it! Of course it's perfect.

6- The Polar Express
Everybody has heard of this film, which combines music (Josh Groban's classic Believe is from the film), heart, the Christmas Spirit, and literally the best person, "America's Dad" Tom Hanks. The plot is one that can inspire hope in the heart of any child, and one that can warm the heart of any adult.

5- The Muppet Christmas Carol
It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and Muppet Christmas Carol are bot fantastic films, but I do slightly prefer this one. Despite the divine Joan Cusack starring in Very Merry, Christmas Carol takes on Dickens' classic holiday story, one of my favorite Christmas tales ever. It's hands down the greatest cinematic take on the story, and it does Dickens proud. While the Muppets are icons on their own and it may be strange to see them portraying other iconic characters, it works very well. The comedic edge of the film, as well as the musical numbers, makes it one that will delight absolutely anyone.

4- Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Grinch in question here is the live action one from 2000, starring Jim Carrey. It's a longer take on the animated special and book, meaning it takes some huge creative liberties and really deviates from the original content. All of this serves the film well, making the film a unique and interesting take on aa true classic. It also makes it absolutely hilarious, with Carrey's goofy physical comedy really serving the character (and the film) well. Also, the dog that plays Max is absolutely adorable.

3- The Santa Clause
Tim Allen is a Christmas king, with the original film of the Santa Clause series being his best Christmas film. While the second is good, the first will always be the best and most iconic. It's a great fantasy film in which Tim Allen's Scott turns into Santa, and then has to prove he's not a total nut job. It's really hilarious, and so, so endearing.

2- Elf
The top two could easily be switched, because I love them both so very much. However, Elf will have to settle for #2 this time. It's still a perfect film for the holidays (or any time), with Will Ferrell bringing the laughs and the rest of the cast also delivering wondrous performances. The plot is just absolutely delightful, and it was executed perfectly. The holiday season just isn't complete with this one.

1- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
The cream of the crop, the best of the rest, the gift that keeps on giving. Christmas Vacation is a truly iconic film, one that's not just the best Christmas movie ever but also one of the best movies ever. It has a wonderful cast of characters and an all-star cast, led by the brilliantly funny Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo. It's also uproariously funny, so don't be surprised if you end up accidentally spitting out your eggnog everywhere. That's just a natural side effect of the film. It also somehow managed to make the Jelly of the Month club hilarious, so props for that, as well.


Here are 5 holiday specials that should be essential viewing.

I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown

When people hear 'Charlie Brown Christmas', most automatically think of the 1965 classic. But, in my opinion, this 2003 special is significantly more entertaining. The plot is straight-forward and simple. Rerun, brother of Linus & Lucy, wants a dog for Christmas. He goes to great lengths to do so, but his mother ultimately doesn't let him. It sounds fairly tedious, but it's the little tidbits that make it really enjoyable. For instance, we get to see a ton of Snoopy's family members. Additionally, Rerun's naive nature makes him fit right into the Peanuts universe. It may always be overshadowed by its predecessor, but it's worthy of yearly viewing in my book.

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

Just like the previous Christmas special, this one is an underrated holiday gem from an established franchise. This 2002 TV film with an unnecessarily long title follows Kermit and the gang trying to raise enough money in order to keep the Muppet theater from being turned into a nightclub. There's a lot of slapstick comedy like a classic Muppet feature alongside some heartwarming moments. It also loosely pays homage to It’s a Wonderful Life which should be a plus for Christmas movie fans. Sure, the celebrity cameos are dated and it's not as cinematic as The Muppet Christmas Carol, but it's still entertaining and deserves a yearly viewing.

Kung Fu Panda Holiday

If you're a fan of the Kung Fu Panda franchise, then this half-hour special may be just the thing to start off the holiday season with. The special follows Po the Panda's predicament on whether he should spend the holidays hosting a very formal Winter Feast or stay at the restaurant with his father Mr. Ping. Like the films, there are a lot of great jokes combined with a very sweet message about family and togetherness. If that's not all, the animation is very appealing and the voice actors from the feature films reprise their roles. It's an underappreciated holiday classic in my book.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Animated)

Hopefully, you've already seen this 51-year old animated classic. The story follows a mean, green man known as the Grinch who wants to stop Christmas from coming. He embarks on a quest to steal everyone's decorations and food with the help of his dog Max. This is simply a timeless special that easily tops the feature-length film. The hand-drawn animation has aged well, the Grinch is a great antagonist, and the final message is very well-done. Watch it so your heart won't be three sizes too small.

Merry Madagascar 

Like Kung Fu Panda, this is another half-hour Christmas special based on a popular Dreamworks film series. After accidentally giving Santa Claus amnesia, the four zoo animals (Alex, Marty, Gloria, and Melman) decide to do his job for him by delivering presents to all the children. Even if you aren't familiar with the Madagascar film series, this special works well as a stand-alone cartoon. Unlike the other ones on this list, there is a greater emphasize on comedy and slapstick comedy. Ultimately, it's a nice, quick holiday treat to add to your list.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? What do you watch each year? Which of these will you now be checking out? They're all worth the watch! Comment below and Merry Christmas!

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