You’ve only got 31 days to pack in as many winter holiday movies as you can. Maximize those feel-good feelings and gut-busting laughs with our carefully curated Christmas movie checklist. We’ve got a little something for whatever mood this holiday season puts you in.
Must-See Holiday Movie Checklist to Cover All Your Bases
From nausea-inducing Christmas horror movies to nostalgia-filled childhood favorites, these are our top movie picks for the holiday season.
Christmas Kids' Movies Even Adults Can Enjoy
As an adult, not every kids' move is tolerable enough to sit through. But these Christmas kids' movies are so perfect, you can enjoy them whether you’re 9 or 99.
The Santa Clause (1994)
The Santa Clause catapults the tired old Santa Claus origin story into the 20th century with hilarious physical gags, incredible set design, and a lovely message about finding your purpose in the most unexpected places.
Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone had the power to make generations of kids hope they’d be left behind so they could Rube Goldberg their way through a battle with cocky burglars. Most Christmas movies only dream of having that kind of impact.
The Polar Express (2004)
The Polar Express, for all its early uncanny valley 2000s digital animation, is one of the most simple and genuine movies on this list. Spend a few hours with this one, and you’ll walk away hoping you too can still hear Santa’s ringing bell.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
A Charlie Brown Christmas is the movie that launched a thousand sad Christmas trees, and for that, it has to make this list.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Given that Charles Dickens' iconic novel has been around for nearly 200 years, there are a ton of adaptations you could watch during the holidays. However, the superior title has to be The Muppet Christmas Carol. Who other than Michael Caine could give that much conviction surrounded by talking puppets?
Barbie’s Nutcracker (2001)
Now, Barbie isn’t something you usually associate with Christmas, but Barbie in the Nutcracker was the first in a series of 40+ digitally animated Barbie films. And in our opinion, it’s still the best one.
Rankin/Bass Christmas Movies That Everyone Will Love
Undoubtedly, Rankin/Bass Christmas movies have shaped how Americans celebrate Christmas. From the Grinch and his rotten theme song to Santa Claus’s backstory, these are the production company’s holiday specials you have to watch this December.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
If you’re feeling a little crabby over the winter festivities, all you’ve got to do is put on How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and your heart will grow 3 sizes as well. Joining the Whos in their Christmas morning carols always brings a tear to our eyes.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Rudolph is the reindeer that made all of us care about Santa’s reindeer. Watch as he learns to love his differences and take that important lesson with you into the new year.
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town has some of the best musical numbers in all of Christmas movie history. From the Winter Warlock’s song about learning to walk again to Burgermeister Meisterberger’s hate song about toys, this movie is chock-full of melodic goodies.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
You can’t close out the winter holidays without finishing Rankin/Bass’s Christmas trifecta. Frosty is the bumbling, fun-loving snowman that makes playing around in the cold and wet snow look magical, and for that he’s got to make this list.
The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
My personal favorite Christmas movie of all time is The Year Without a Santa Claus. Although the movie is slow in parts, Snow Miser and Heat Miser’s family squabbles and jazzy interludes are well-worth the watch.
Classic Christmas Movies for a Nostalgia-Filled Night
There are a handful of classic Hollywood films that’ve become so intertwined with the Christmas season that you can’t not catch their reruns.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Miracle on 34th Street has all the delightful shenanigans you expect from a heavily censored post-code film. But, there are threads of important social themes that make it a Christmas viewing worth scheduling.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Meet Me in St. Louis is one of Judy Garland’s most beautiful and memorable movies. While it’s not strictly a Christmas movie, her resonant voice singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is something you have to behold.
White Christmas (1954)
The quintessential classic Christmas movie musical is White Christmas, helmed by notable voices like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Christmas music makes the season so much better, and so this movie has to make the list.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Personally, Jimmy Stewart is one of my least favorite actors of all time, but It’s a Wonderful Life is one of his only movies I can choke down. But so many other people hold it near and dear, that I’d be remiss if I didn’t give it some time to shine.
Christmas Horror Movies That'll Make You Shiver
If you’re like me, you can only stomach so much of the feel-good family features during the holiday season. Temper the saccharine sentiments with these gut-wrenching Christmas horror movies.
Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas is one of those early 70s horror movies that are really underrated. Before Michael Myers terrorized a holiday, the deadly stalker in Black Christmas took holiday merriment a bit too far.
Violent Night (2022)
Violent Night is a recent horror-comedy that doesn’t skimp on the violence it promises. If you love Home Alone, then this deadly Santa Claus's MacGyver-style killing methods are sure to make you laugh.
Sometimes, the best pairing to the onslaught of feel-good energy in the holidays is a terrifying horror movie that’ll stick with you for days afterward. Inside is a French horror movie full of shocking, violent, and distressing moments that’ll have you double-checking the locks on your door on Christmas Eve.
Gremlins is the gift that keeps on giving. See just how the mogwai tear apart house and home, and you’ll never snap at your pets for pulling the stuffing out of the sofa cushions again.
LTK Staff Recommends Christmas Comedies
In the spirit of holiday sharing, our staff would like to give you some of their top Christmas movie recs as well!
Karen Recommends National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Karen’s family watches National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation every year. According to Karen, "We laugh just as hard as if it’s the first time we saw it.” The Griswolds never fail to make us feel better about our Christmas faux pas. So, if you need a bit of cheering up during the holidays, be sure to work it into your Christmas schedule.
Saleema Recommends Jingle All the Way (1996)
“We watched Jingle All the Way like five times one Christmas break, and it just kind of turned into a family tradition." Anything that can transform into an all-day marathon deserves a place on this list.
Amy Recommends Elf (2003)
What better foil to Will Ferrel’s 'anything for a laugh' attitude than James Caan in 2003’s Elf? Amy recommends you watch it “because it’s funny and fantastic, and I love watching Will Ferrell put syrup on his spaghetti."
Sydney Recommends A Christmas Story (1983)
“My family always watched it on a loop on TBS during the 24-hour showing. It’s a nostalgic thing for sure.” The tongue stuck to a frozen pole. That iconic sexy leg lampshade. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Needless to say, these are only a handful of the many moments that make A Christmas Story a winter must-watch.
Finish the Year on a High Note
Nothing can put us in the holiday spirit faster than a movie marathon with these hit Christmas films. No matter which ones always make your list, finish the year on a high note with an endless queue of iconic Christmas movies.