It’s that time of year again! The holiday season generally prompts hustle and bustle between shopping for loved ones and venturing out to see the beautiful lights and sounds of Christmas. It is also a time for us to slow down and enjoy each other’s company. Whether it’s around a fire for two or at a holiday party full of friends and family, there’s nothing quite like watching a favorite holiday movie this time of year! We’ve been treated to no shortage of instant classics over the years, but which is the best Christmas movie of all time?
From whimsical children’s picks to classic and funny movies for the whole family, there are many great holiday films to make the festive season even more meaningful. StudyFinds wanted to know which were the most favored Christmas movies according to the so-called “experts.” According to a 2019 fan survey of 2,000 Americans, A Christmas Story (1983) was the top pick, followed by A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), and the all-time classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) by Frank Capra. Many others also made the fan-picked list, including Home Alone (1990), and the magical Polar Express (2004).
Would those titles land on the pros’ lists, though? What really makes someone an expert of Christmas movies anyhow? That’s a whole ‘nother question worthy of its own study, but we’ll take their word for it in the meantime. After all, the one thing all of these movies have in common is their ability to bring more cheer to our faces and a greater appreciation for the holidays. (In case you were wondering, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is the consensus best Thanksgiving movie, according to the experts.)
So, without further ado, we present to you our list of best Christmas movies, according to the experts. To do so, we visited 10 leading review websites to see which titles they recommended the most. We used the top recommendations from each site to determine the overall top five films, plus a few honorable mentions.
The List: Best Christmas Movies Of All-Time, According To Experts
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
This 1947 Christmas movie, written and directed by George Seaton, has become a regular Christmas classic. The film is about a New York department store Santa Claus who professes to be the genuine Santa.
“A film stuck in time, place and temperament, Miracle on 34th Street is one of the two heavy favorites, along ith It’s a Wonderful Life, in the battle for the title of “greatest Christmas movie ever,” adds Paste Magazine.
4. Home Alone (1990)
People Magazine lists both Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York as two of the “best Christmas movies to stream.”
Both 1990s classics, written by John Hughes, star Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister — a young boy whose parents unknowingly leave him “home alone.” Of
“Eight-year-old Kevin McAllister has to defend his house against a pair of goofy burglars, and the antics he pulls will crack you up,” adds Seventeen. There’s a reason this movie was so beloved when it came out and is still so beloved today: it will make you laugh out loud while providing a warm and fuzzy appreciation for family during this time of year.
Did we mention the legendary Joe Pesci plays one of those goofy burglars, alongside the always-funny Daniel Stern?
3. Elf (2003)
“Buddy the elf” is sure to please the whole family in this whimsical film about a boy who was raised as an elf. Will Ferrell delivers one of his best performances to date as he portrays the hysterically funny, but innocent human elf.
“Even though this hilarious but heartwarming movie, about a human man raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole, was released less than 20 years ago, it’s quickly become a holiday classic,” says Good Housekeeping.
As he travels to New York City to find his biological father, Buddy discovers many new customs and traditions in his own hilarious way.
Timeout Adds: “Ferrell’s overgrown-child persona hilariously complements this comedy about a guileless giant elf searching for his dad in NYC, but the film’s focus isn’t just on the funny bone. There’s an abundance of heart and soul in the way the story cherishes holiday cheer; in a genre that’s become generically saccharine, this is one modern Christmas movie that’s genuinely sweet.”
2. A Christmas Story (1983)
Entertainment Weekly lists this classic film as the #2 Christmas movie of all-time on their list, and that’s where it falls on ours.
The story, set in the 1940s, follows Ralphie Parker, a young boy who tries to persuade his parents and Santa Claus that a Red Ryder Range BB gun is the best Christmas present.
“Director Bob Clark mines writer Jean Shepherd’s nostalgic tales of growing up in Indiana for goofy laughs, heartfelt moments, and bleak scares. The leg lamp, the pole-licking, the trip to see Santa at the mall, and the eye-shooting-out finale all have a slightly grotesque, Norman Rockwell-meets-David Cronenberg edge to them. Ralphie isn’t just fighting for a Red Ryder BB gun; he’s fighting for survival,” explains Thrillist.
And in case you somehow weren’t aware at this point, the legendary film runs for 24 hours on Christmas Eve night into Christmas Day on TBS and TNT.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Topping the list at #1 for the all-time best Christmas movie is the cult classic It’s a Wonderful Life.
“The hard-won uplift and triumph of director Frank Capra’s fantasy drama hasn’t lost a bit of its power over the decades. James Stewart gives his most iconic performance as George Bailey, a banker who discovers the value of his life thanks to a visit from his guardian angel,” says Parade.
As Esquire notes, “few films define Christmas” as It’s a Wonderful Life.
This feel-good movie will inspire the whole family and give a new meaning to the “ringing of the bells.” And these days, watching an iconic black-and-white film also shows viewers of all ages that you don’t need to have a fancy, digital, modern-day take to still win over an audience. Simple and traditional is always the way to go for Christmas.
Though these awesome picks made the top 5 list, there are a few honorable mentions, such as The Grinch and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Dr.Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas is a favorite for many. The 1966 animated version was brought to life by Jim Carrey in 2000. The 2018 animated version has also become a fan favorite as it takes a slightly different approach to the story of Cindy Lou Who.
And who can resist Clark Griswold and his cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? Rarely has a series’ third installment been the equal of its two predecessors, but such is the case with this [movie],” adds Esquire.
- Entertainment Weekly
- Good Housekeeping
- People Magazine
- Paste Magazine
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.