The Top Twelve Christmas Movies of All Time

We love lists. If you have been visiting Rambling Ever On for any time at all, you already knew that. We’ve had lists about candy, pies, Marvel movies, and many, many other things. Today, we have a list of our favorite Christmas movies. Usually, for this sort of list, we do a Top Ten but in honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas, we decided to make this a Top Twelve. If twelve seems like a weird number to you, just start reading at number ten.

Christmas movies are great. Even the less-than-great ones are pretty great during the Christmas season. We aren’t sure if it’s nostalgia or something else, but get us anywhere near the Christmas season, and there is almost nothing that compares to sitting down and watching Christmas movies. So, without further ado, here are the Top Twelve Christmas Movies as voted on by the Rambling Ever On staff.

12. The Preacher’s Wife

There are some movies that have slipped past my radar throughout the years, and this was one of them…at least until I got married. My wife grew up watching this with her family almost every year, so it naturally became a Christmas “usual” for us as well.

Overall, there isn’t anything extra special or profound about the movie. It’s far from a great work of art. At times, the plot slows down or starts to stagnate before picking back up again. But overall, it’s a simple heartwarming story of an angel who is sent to help a struggling minister. It features Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston in their prime, and it features a few good Christmasy gospel songs on the soundtrack. Hollywood doesn’t make movies like this with big talent anymore, but Preacher’s Wife is a good throwback film to the days before the Hallmark channel took over and reduced movies like this to a formula. (Daniel Speer)

11. A Christmas Carol (1984)

Honestly, any number of film and TV adaptations of the Charles Dickens classic could have landed in this list of Christmas movies. The George C. Scott TV version ended up getting the nod, likely because, for many of our voters, it came out when we were children and was incredibly impressionable. The story is the key and there are few greater stories than A Christmas Carol in wonder, power, or impact.

10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Not that I am opposed at all to the current-day adaptations – I thoroughly enjoy the Jim Carrey version and my son loves the 2018 Benedict Cumberbatch modernization – I don’t think anyone could ever top the simplicity of the original half-hour, made-for-TV Grinch movie. It’s so close to the book, and the tweaks to make it better for the screen (making the Grinch green, the music, etc.) are golden.

This is truly one of the best Christmas stories the English-speaking world possesses. It’s a superbly simple tale of knowing joy in the things that really matter, and the subsequent repentance of a classic villain. And it’s not just the nostalgia of watching it in my child-sized rocking chair every year growing up that keeps me returning to it. It’s the way the original cartoon brings the story to life. (Gowdy Cannon)

9. The Santa Clause

It’s not a perfect film by any means but it does enough right to earn a spot on our list of favorite Christmas movies. While the film is flawed, Tim Allen is given enough room to be both snarky and endearing as the new Santa Claus. (His sarcastic shots at his ex-wife’s new husband Neal are the best.) The supporting cast, primarily Judge Reinhold and David Krumholtz, adds plenty of humor as well. And like all good Christmas movies, the film is filled with plenty of classic Christmas songs as well as a timeless original score by Michael Convertino. Special mention to the standout song “The Bells of Christmas” featuring Loreena McKennit.

8. Ernest Saves Christmas

It’s easy to love Jim Varney to me, so his Ernest movies have been and continue to be a delight. The fact we got one set around Christmas is just perfect. Because he always gave us features that are family-friendly and warm. Additionally, Ernest is a genuinely nice guy, borderline naive in the most endearing way possible. He and Christmas just fit. Ernest agrees, saying, “Christmas is just about my favorite time. Ever since I was a little kid, I always felt like it was my own personal holiday.”

And the movie is such that I want to watch it every year. I love Ernest’s quotes, like “Smell those Christmas trees. You can keep your Chanel Number 5, just give me a whiff of the old lonesome pine. That symbol of brotherly love, that centerpiece that all mankind gathers around to share the cranberry sauce shaped like a can.” I love his willingness to sacrifice for the cause, stopping in heavy traffic to save a Christmas tree. I love his rendition of “Oh Christmas Tree”. 

Yes, this is one of the best gifts Jim Varney gave us before he died. Lastly, I can’t talk about this movie without giving a shout-out to David Potete, whose love for this movie only deepened my own. (Gowdy Cannon)

7. The Muppets Christmas Carol

Christmas movies

Jim Henson and his Muppets have never missed on anything they’ve ever attempted, in my humble opinion. In fact, I’d say even more so than “Harry Potter” or “The Lord of the Rings” or even movie series like “Back to the Future”, The Muppets shaped my view of what good fantasy fiction is. Because, as with the 1984 live-action version, they were there for me as a child. Their attempt at retelling Charles Dickens’ Christmas Classic is no exception. Gonzo as Dickens and narrator, Michael Cane as Scrooge, and Kermit as Bob Cratchit are all excellent. As are many other aspects. This film definitely earns its spot on our list. (Gowdy Cannon)

6. A Charlie Brown Christmas

Christmas movies

As far as I’m concerned, there are very few things that feel more like “Christmas” than this movie. As soon as I see commercials for it on television, something in my heart clicks into Christmas gear. The movie is simple, gentle, and incredibly unassuming, with wit to spare and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Very little warms my spirit more than knowing millions of viewers are hearing a recitation of Luke 2 at the climax of the film. “That’s what Christmas is all about” indeed! (Phill Lytle)

5. Elf

There are so many things we can say about this modern Christmas classic, but we think it would be better to let our friend, Jon Forrest, regale you with his insane-yet-believable-Christmas-candy induced theory that connects Elf to The Godfather. Yes. You read that correctly. Elf is a sequel to The Godfather. We’ll let Jon explain.

4. Home Alone

Christmas movies

If you have young children or are young at heart, this film is gold. Pure gold! I don’t live vicariously through my three boys, but watching this movie with them, particularly when they were young, was one of the greatest movie-watching experiences of my life. Seeing them belly laugh with every joke is something I will treasure for my entire life. Plus, this film has tons of heart and actually tells a wonderful story about love, forgiveness, and selflessness. (Phill Lytle)

Similar to Mark’s comment about It’s A Wonderful Life (below), every year I wonder if this is going to be the year I stop laughing at the slapstick humor of Harry and Marv getting it from Kevin’s traps. Every year that year hasn’t arrived yet. I laugh as hard in my 40s as I did when I first watched the movie when I was 12. But it cannot be overlooked that this movie is both funny and fantastic before that. Big laughs come from the sled down the stairs, the pizza delivery guy vs. the mobster movie, Kevin’s face with the aftershave, Gus’s story about the funeral home and so much more.

And there’s a lot of heart, highlighted by the conversation in the church between Old Man Marley and Kevin while the choir sings “O Holy Night”. This is just a sublime Christmas movie in every way, which is amazing considering how big a sleeper it was in 1990. Time has been phenomenal for it. (Gowdy Cannon)

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Christmas movies

I truly fell in love with this movie when I would visit my wife’s family every year for Christmas. It was a family favorite for my in-laws – particularly my wife’s brothers. Seeing my youngest brother-in-law dress up like Cousin Eddie is still one of my favorite Christmas memories. The movie is gloriously ridiculous and much more sentimental and heartfelt than a lot of people give it credit for. (Phill Lytle)

2. A Christmas Story

I feel like I came to this movie much later in life than I should have. I honestly don’t remember watching it as a child. And, I have only faint memories of watching it as a teenager or young adult. It wasn’t until I was dating my future wife that I well and truly remember watching this movie from beginning to end. Make of that what you will.

Since that “first” official viewing, I have completely loved A Christmas Story. I love the technique of having an adult narrator, though from the perspective of a child. The wording and vocabulary are too intelligent and advanced for a child yet the emotion, the passion, and the points of emphasis are 100% childlike. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk but the film nails it.

Moving beyond the narration, the film is filled with so many iconic images and scenes (The Lamp, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”, the curse word, Randy’s winter outfit, the triple dog dare, Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant to name a few) it is no wonder it landed at number 2 for our favorite Christmas movies. (Phill Lytle)

1. It’s A Wonderful Life

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of most older movies. Anything produced more than 50-60 years ago rarely appeals to me. However, I love It’s a Wonderful Life! It’s not Christmas until I’ve seen this movie. I’ve easily watched the film 25+ times. As the season approaches, I often wonder if this will be the year that the movie starts to lose some of its charms. But that has not happened yet!

“It’s a Wonderful Life” has a little bit of everything: drama, romance, humor, and even alternate reality! The themes are similar to those found in most Christmas movies or TV specials. Yet somehow the film doesn’t rely on these to make or break the experience. It’s a Wonderful Life is a great movie that happens to be set at Christmas time. The lead actor, Jimmy Stewart, delivers a fantastic performance. His acting is smooth and natural unlike many of his contemporaries who were over the top or stiff by modern standards. This movie is tops on our list for a reason.

If you’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life or your last view was years ago then before you carve the turkey this year carve out some time to watch this film. (Mark Sass)

Final Thoughts

That’s our list. What about yours? We are sure we left out some really great films, or at the least, we left out one of your favorites. Tell us what we missed in the comments.

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10 thoughts on “The Top Twelve Christmas Movies of All Time

  • December 1, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    White Christmas is my all-time favorite movie. Not just at Christmas. Love it to my core!!

  • December 1, 2022 at 2:10 pm

    Some excellent choices, including number 1. Hard to argue with that one. I would have “A Christmas Carol” with Alistar Sim on the list. And I would definitely have “White Christmas.” Good work, guys, and Merry Christmas!

  • December 1, 2022 at 5:58 pm

    I do not understand how people like White Christmas. It’s so boring. Most of the movie is the “show” the characters put on. I kept waiting for it to get better, for some other major conflict, but I was disappointed. The movie ended. My response: “So that’s it?” It’s a variety show trying to disguise itself in a movie. Please explain why you like it.

    • December 1, 2022 at 7:01 pm

      Amy came ready to fight!

  • December 2, 2022 at 7:33 am

    Amy, it’s fine that you and others don’t like it. I do. The human warmth. The story. The character actors, as much or more than the stars. The songs. The dancing. Danny Kaye’s slapstick. It’s a “feel good” movie, and I like it. Not everyone likes it, however, which is fine.

    • December 2, 2022 at 8:29 am

      Phillip said I dislike it so much because I have no soul or warmth. 🙂 So it makes sense that you like it because you are a heart-warming person!

      • December 2, 2022 at 10:02 am

        I don’t think those were my exact words. 🙂 FWIW, I don’t like it either, so I guess that makes two of us with no soul or warmth.

  • December 5, 2022 at 12:36 am

    The White Christmas is an excellent movie that is funny and just great, however, I believe that people are entitled to their opinions no matter how completely wrong they are.

  • December 6, 2022 at 4:55 am

    The George C Scott Christmas Carol and White Christmas will always be my top 2 because of the music and the emotional response I have when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning realizing that he hasn’t missed Christmas and the tear jerker scene of the General entering the ski lodge in uniform to a standing ovation. I cry every time. It is tradition in our family to watch both of these movies right after Thanksgiving. However, I have grown to love It’s a Wonderful Life in the last few years as well. Great list guys!

  • December 14, 2022 at 8:19 pm

    My family always watches A Muppet Christmas Carol and Prep and Landing around this time. My favorite Christmas movie is probably the live-action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.


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