The Best Christmas Movies To Get You Into The Holiday Spirit

November 28, 2023
Elf Picture

With Thanksgiving and Black Friday coming to pass, the holiday season has officially begun. It is time for families to sit around the campfire and tell stories, play games, and create cherished memories together as they get ready for the conclusion of the year and the beginning of another.

Every year, tons of Christmas movies are released, many of which become synonymous with the holiday. However, there are the lucky few who become so iconic that they’re widely seen in thousands of households on Christmas Eve. With streaming services becoming more widely used, these movies have become less theatrical. While these new modern takes are fun, the nostalgia of many of the “A Christmas Carol” renditions just can not be beaten.

15. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Release DateNovember 17, 2000
DirectorRon Howard
CastJim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Christine Baranski
Runtime1 hour 55 minutes

Jim Carrey has quite a few films in his Christmas movie catalog. His How The Grinch Stole Christmas live-action remake is one of the more popular ones. The timeless Dr. Seuss classic was once again brought to life through impressive set pieces, character designs, and the impeccable physical comedy that Carrey is known for during the dawn of the 21st century. Carrey perfectly captured the essence of the rowdy, abrasive, and sinister Grinch, which elevated the movie to greater heights of family enjoyability. Carrey, famously, had to endure hours of makeup to take on the role of the titular character, which we all are grateful for, as it truly allowed Carrey’s playful facial expressions to help him on the persona of The Grinch.

14. Love Actually

Release DateNovember 6, 2003
DirectorRichard Curtis
CastHugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth
Runtime2 hours 9 minutes

A beloved yet strongly critiqued film, Love Actually, has found its way to become a Christmas classic and a staple holiday enjoyment in many households across the world. A collection of interwoven stories with different romantic settings for a pair of lovers around Christmastime. Comedic, happy love stories to tear-jerking ones, Love Actually presents an engaging, emotional roller-coaster of a ride throughout it’s runtime.

Despite having its fair share of ridiculous moments, it only adds to the holiday fun that this film presents to its audience. A perfect reminder, around Christmas time, that Love Actually matters.

13. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Release DateOctober 29, 1993
DirectorHenry Selick
CastDanny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Paul Reubens
Runtime1 hour 16 minutes

While many debate whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie, it has an overwhelming amount of Christmas elements incorporated in it (there is LITERALLY ‘Christmas’ in the title) as compared to Halloween. However, Tim Burton’s stop-motion Disney classic has left a mark on both near year-end Holidays. Brilliant Gothic animation, a brilliant score, and music composition bring even more meaning to the story the film presents, with Jack Skellington attempting to allow Halloween to take over Christmas.

The music throughout the film elevates the film as it creates a goose-bump-inducing atmosphere that pulls you into the motion picture. The story itself presents relatable character archetypes, with them often feeling stuck, drowned, trapped, and purposeless, all feelings that many of us experience every now and then, and how these characters realize they are exactly where they are meant to be.

12. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Release DateDecember 11, 1992
DirectorBrian Henson
CastDave Goelz, Michael Caine, Frank Oz
Runtime1 hour 25 minutes

The first of the many adaptations of Charles Dicken’s acclaimed novel “A Christmas Carol” that have made the list. While so many adaptations of the same story may cause a case of fatigue for many eventually, this isn’t the case with this version of the famous Christmas tale. Combining the beloved tale with the likes of the beloved Muppets, including Kermit The Frog, may cause an impeccable sense of nostalgia and nuance that may be all the difference between this and any other Christmas movie.

Seeing the puppets that so many children have grown up loving and adoring gang up against Old Scrooge, along with many unforgettable musical numbers and funny quirks, is what makes this Christmas movie as refreshing as it gets.

11. The Holiday

Release DateNovember 29, 2006
DirectorNancy Meyers
CastCameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black
Runtime2 hours 18 minutes

A rom-com Christmas movie with a fair share of twists and turns, a star-studded cast, and an intriguing plot is all one needs to make Christmas Eve as enjoyable as possible. Luckily for us, ‘The Holiday’ is exactly that. The film involves two recently heartbroken women, Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz), who decide to switch homes for the holidays, as they both look to make their ‘holiday’ somewhat exciting.

Iris’s brother, Graham (Jude Law), acts as Amanda’s love interest while Jack Black dazzles as Miles, showing that even he is capable of showcasing himself as a romantic. A great, uplifting story that provides us with tons of laughter, ‘The Holiday’ makes a solid case for itself as a perfect Christmas movie.

10. A Christmas Carol

Release DateNovember 6, 2009
DirectorRobert Zemeckis
CastJim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth
Runtime1 hour 36 minutes

The 2nd A Christmas Carol adaptation as well as the 2nd Jim Carrey movie on this list, Robert Zemeckis’ take on Ebenezer Scrooge, proves to be both engaging as well as terrifying. Jim Carrey, this time taking on the role of yet another Christmas-hating protagonist, acts as miserly, old Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve, as well as the three fabled ghosts that come to visit him that night.

The liveliness of Carrey adds multiple new dimensions to the character and allows the terrifying yet modest setting of the movie to really set in with the viewer. The architecture of the movie is visibly striking and is dramatically lit by only candlelight. The haunting score of the film acts beautifully with the film’s vision and produces yet another Christmas classic from the same old children’s tale, doing it in its own unique style.

9. A Charlie Brown Christmas

Release DateDecember 9, 1965
DirectorBill Melendez
CastPeter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Kathy Steinberg
Runtime30 minutes

Almost 60 years on, this Christmas special based on the comic strip Peanuts has proved to stand the test of time and stands high as one of the most iconic Christmas films ever. This short story perfectly encompassed everything that Christmas is all about: helping each other, the intentions of the heart, not material goods, and the religious values that founded the momentous holiday.

The movie perfectly en-captures everything that makes Christmas so beloved, today and yesterday, as well as putting strain on the Christian values associated with the holiday, making it a help in religious education of many children as well as improvements in moral values. Despite this, the movie is widely watched, even in non-Christian households.

8. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Release DateNovember 5, 1992
DirectorChris Columbus
CastMacaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern
Runtime1 hour 53 minutes

Ahh, yes! The oh-so-beloved adventures of Kevin McCallister. The 2nd Home Alone movie is a classic of similar stature to its predecessor as far as Christmas filmography goes. While not as iconic as the first part, it earns its name and has just as many funny, witty moments of brilliance from its young, troublesome protagonist.

A new Home Alone movie means yet another McCallister family Holiday disaster. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York recreates what the first movie did so well without making the viewers feel fatigued and also flexes a ton of Kevin McCallister shenanigans but in the setting of New York City.

7. Fantasia

Release DateNovember 13, 1940
DirectorBen Sharpsteen and more
Music Composed byLudwig Van Beethoven and more
Runtime2 hours 5 minutes

A revolutionary animated motion picture provided by those who do animated motion pictures best. For many children at the time and even today, Fantasia acts as a first introduction to the orchestra. It was a bold experiment that no other entertainment conglomerate has been able to replicate, besides Disney themselves, with a remake in 2000.

An anthology of 8 unrelated animated sequences synced with classical music, ‘Fantasia’ is a beautiful symphony of multiple forms of artistry in one. Mickey Mouse’s career was blasted into the stratosphere with this movie, even further improved with the Christmas elements incorporated throughout the film.

6. It’s A Wonderful Life

Release DateJanuary 7, 1947
DirectorFrank Capra
CastJames Stewart, Donna Reed, Karolyn Grimes
Runtime2 hours 10 minutes

The enduring wonder of Capra’s magnum opus, the timeless classic that is It’s A Wonderful Life, is still alive today. This black and white film from Hollywood’s Golden Era of American Cinema is a ‘wonderful’ watch and the perfect movie to see with your family on Christmas Eve, next to the fireplace, all warm and cozy.

The story involves George Bailey, who is contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve and encounters an angel sent from heaven for him. From the dark moments that our suicidal protagonist is faced with to the comedic relief of the angel, Clarence, the story helps us realize how precious life really is in the true Christmas spirit.

5. Die Hard

Release DateJuly 22, 1988
DirectorJohn McTiernan
CastBruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
Runtime2 hours 12 minutes

Now, you could argue all day about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not, but as far as we at Estrakt are concerned, Die Hard is all Christmas. Off-the-chart action, with comedy incorporated every now and then, in a cold Christmas setting, Die Hard is the perfect action movie for a night with the boys.

A high-stakes action movie with a quality plot, multiple layers, a flawed protagonist in Bruce Willis, and a compelling villain in Alan Rickman is bound to be a great film, and that is exactly what Die Hard is. It keeps your heart racing while giving you a healthy dose of comedy between rounds of action.

4. Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Release DateDecember 18, 1966
DirectorChuck Jones
CastBoris Karloff, June Foray, Dal McKennon
Runtime26 minutes

While Carrey did an amazing job at bringing The Grinch to live-action, it just doesn’t beat the original. It is just so much more iconic and sticks to Dr. Seuss’ 1957 children’s book of the same name. Sometimes, a simple short story is what makes a perfect Christmas movie, and that is precisely the case with this film. The Grinch hates Christmas, tries to steal it, and has a change of heart as he realizes Christmas can’t be stolen.

It’s a simple story narrated in an awe-inspiring way, along with brilliant animation to convey the emotional depth of the story, which touches the heart in numerous ways.

3. Elf

Release DateNovember 7, 2003
DirectorJon Favreau
CastWill Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel
Runtime1 hour 37 minutes

A meme-machine of a movie that will have you laughing, holding your stomach on the floor halfway through the movie. Elf is a charmingly comical story starring Will Ferrell, who owns the role of “Buddy”, a human boy who was adopted and raised as an elf and makes it his own.

The movie is hilarious, and Buddy’s naivety makes the movie even funnier as he learns the ways of the human world while trying to convince his dad that he is his son. Cameos from Peter Dinklage and other actors really take this movie over the top as a ridiculous slapstick Christmas comedy film.

2. Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Release DateDecember 16, 1983
DirectorBurny Mattinson
CastAlan Young, Wayne Allwine, Clarence Nash
Runtime26 minutes

Yet another Christmas Carol movie, in our eyes, is the best Christmas Carol movie. Mickey’s Christmas Carol does everything a Christmas Carol movie intends to do, all with that special Disney Mickey Mouse magical touch that makes everything better.

Scrooge McDuck, Ebenezer Scrooge’s Duck counterpart, perfectly embodies his bitterness and misery. A man who lost so much due to greed and a change of heart, a heartfelt redemption after encountering the three ghosts of Christmas. The use of classic Disney characters to play characters in the fabled Dickens’ tale was a move of pure brilliance that paid off in so many ways and recreated the story in the most perfect manner.

1. Home Alone

Release DateNovember 16, 1990
DirectorChris Columbus
CastMacaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern
Runtime1 hour 43 minutes

The greatest Christmas movie ever. An instant classic since its release in 1990, Home Alone showcases a young boy, Kevin, who is left home alone when his family forgets him during their trip to France. Full of iconic moments, witty dialogue and comedic violence, Home Alone is a timeless film that can be seen anywhere, anytime.

I saw Kevin going from wrecking the house to cleaning clothes, buying groceries, and pulling tricks on the ‘Sticky Bandits’. We saw it all, and we loved every bit of it. However, one question remains. What is more ridiculous? The fact that Kevin was able to come up with those elaborate tricks by himself, or how the bandits somehow survived them?

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