Let’s keep it a buck: At this point in pop culture, damn near any sign of Christmas makes a film a “Christmas film.” There are also tons of them; what started out as catching classics like A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve (or even Christmas night!) has turned into Hallmark and other like-minded content providers churning out dozens of films annually, giving Christmas movie lovers varying degrees of mid-to-decent Christmas flavor. With all of these films out there, it begs the question: What Christmas films stand out?
Which ones are certified classics? Do the classics hold up to the modern holiday hits? Has the holiday film been perfected? Hardly, but out of that sea of Christmas cheer are these standouts. Movies that embody the Christmas spirit in their own unique way and give us a reason to get festive, regardless of what time of year it is. Here are some of the best Christmas movies of all time; debate this with Santa Claus (or a certain Mr. Skellington).
'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946)
'Miracle on 34th Street' (1947)
'White Christmas' (1954)
'A Christmas Story' (1983)
'Die Hard' (1988)
'National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation' (1989)
'Home Alone' (1990)
'The Muppet Christmas Carol' (1992)
‘Batman Returns’ (1992)
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993)
‘The Santa Clause’ (1994)
‘Jingle All the Way’ (1996)
‘Jack Frost’ (1998)
‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ (2000)
‘The Polar Express’ (2004)
‘The Night Before’ (2015)
‘Happiest Season’ (2020)
Director: Clea DuVall
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Dan Levy
Where to Stream: Hulu
Happiest Season, among numerous other praiseworthy qualities, simply feels really good to watch. That’s not to say there aren’t palpable moments of tension—there are plenty, in fact, and each of them serve the story in expert fashion—but it’s a testament to the well-crafted sentiment at the center of this story about love, expectations, and unjust family pressure. When the three collide, you’re often surprised by the characters’ collective and individual revelations.