It’s finally Christmas and after discussing the movies we hate around this time of year we thought it was only fair to discuss the Christmas movies we love to watch. These movies make us feel the warmth and heart of the season. If you haven’t seen them, go discover them, and if you love them as much as we do hopefully you’ll watch them again. Feel free to leave your Christmas recommendations in the comments below. The Citizen Dames wish you a Merry Christmas!
I have A LOT of favorite Christmas movies of nearly every genre, so paring down this list to five was tough. Looking at the lists that are already filled out I want to mix mine up and include some movies others didn’t.
Joyeux Noel (2005)
I don’t often rewatch foreign films, particularly of the historical variety. I watch them, but the replay value is often non-existent. I can’t remember why I took a chance on Joyeux Noel, but I did and I love this movie so much. Set in WWI, the Oscar-nominated feature is set on Christmas Eve with German, Scottish, and French troops establishing a tenuous truce for the holiday. As the night wears one the three different groups of people decide to lay down their arms and celebrate together, leading to unique questions when the war is meant to resume in the morning. I absolutely adore how this movie presents a true story – numerous troops throughout the war actually did do this on Christmas Eve – and uses that same concept to explore the futility of war. As the three generals and their men learn more about each other they come to realize how similar they are, and wonder if this war is truly being fought for the right reasons. As the hours tick away, you start to worry for all these people because they’re going to have to kill each other at some point. There’s a beautiful performance of “Silent Night” here that gives me chills, too.
The Children (2008)
Oh, yes, there are Christmas horror films and I enjoy them to bits. I could have put Child’s Play (1988) or Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) on here, but decided to go with this little British film that makes me thankful everyday that I don’t have kids. The movie follows two families who come together for the holiday, but when their small children all come down with an illness that turns them violent, the night ain’t so silent. Kids get put down hard in this movie! The two sets of parents react very differently to their children turning into murderers and I love it because I’ve known for years that small children are the devil’s minions. This movie is all kinds of gory fun, mixing Village of the Damned (1960) with 28 Days Later (2002) and it’s great! If your family is unconventional, this is right up your alley.
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Another British holiday film I adore is Arthur Christmas. Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) is the youngest son of Santa Claus (voiced by Jim Broadbent). When he finds out a child has been forgotten on Christmas he becomes determined to deliver the little girl’s present. Arthur Christmas has so many interesting avenues to examine, from the concept of Santa as just a figurehead to the dichotomy between wanting to be an adult and retaining the spirit of magic children possess. I quote this movie a lot, from Briony’s declaration she can wrap everything with “three pieces of sticky tape” to “It’s the detachable milk maid!!” And Bill Nighy’s GrandSanta is a joy!
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
This brief TV movie is all about finding the spirit of Christmas in a haze of presents and wrapping paper. The kids around Charlie Brown are all pretty dickish in their quest for presents, but it’s fantastic to notice your own connection to the movie. You know you’ve become an adult when Charlie Brown’s anti-commercialism rhetoric makes sense. Not to mention, every year I look at this movie’s dance sequence and pick out a kid whose dance moves are the best. This year it’s the kid above.
My family says this doesn’t count as a Christmas movie, but AMC shows it during this time and there’s ice and snow so it’s a Christmas movie goddammit! Gavin O’Connor will always get my mild appreciation as a director for making this Disney movie. Yes, it’s about the 1980 Olympic hockey team where America defeated Russia. I can’t REALLY explain why I love this movie. I remember going to see it back in 2004 purely for thirst reasons but that’s segued into actual appreciation for it. It’s a well-done sports movie, Kurt Russell is fantastic, and there’s a really great sense of time and place (and the reminder that the late ’70s sucked ass). I watch this movie every year and weep at the end. Don’t judge me.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
My mom and I watch this together every year. It’s not only my favorite Christmas movie, it’s one of my favorite movies, period.
As I was watching the other night, I realized this movie gets funnier every single time.
The Family Stone (2005)
I can’t really explain why I love this movie so much. Everyone is kind of horrible and mean, and not for any particular reason. Eventually they get through the holiday and remember that they all love and care about one another. This would feel a bit like spying on someone’s actual Christmas with their family, save for the really silly, over-the-top things that happen. But for the most part, I like it because it’s about a family that loves each other, even when they’re mad at each other.
Home Alone (1990)
It’s silly, yes. And if you think about any part of it for 5 seconds, you find all kinds of reasons this story doesn’t make any sense. But this isn’t a movie made for scrutiny. It is childhood wish fulfillment and it rocks. And I love that Macaulay Culkin has a good sense of humor and made those Google Home commercials because they have been cracking me up all week long.
Love Actually (2003)
It’s not just you, Kim! Love for Love Actually IS actually all around. Or, at least, over here too. This is a movie that exists purely to make us happy. And dammit, it makes me happy.
White Christmas (1954)
White Christmas has always been one of my favorite holiday movies. It’s got everything: sexy dances, Bing Crosby singing, Danny Kaye dancing, and a heartwarming story of honoring the men who fought in World War II. It’s just all the warm and fuzzy things that Christmas is all about.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1994)
Watching episodes of Poirot on the holidays has become a tradition in my family, mostly a result of a Christmas spent in Edinburgh when ITV reran all the episodes, one after the other. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is also loads of fun, with cozy fires and a clever murder and Inspector Japp giving Poirot an adorable present.
Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street (1947)
I think everyone loves this movie. If you don’t, you obviously hate joy and beauty (so I presume that Kristen doesn’t like it). Santa Claus is real, and he looks exactly like Edmund Gwenn.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
I said this on our last list, but this short film is my absolute favorite. I get all choked up at the end.
A more recent addition that again taps into all the warm fuzzies, with humor and irony and a refreshing lack of cynicism for a contemporary film.
White Christmas (1954)
This movie has already been mentioned once, and I echo everything that’s already been said. The singing! The dancing! I first watched this movie a bit later in my film-going career, but from the first time it established itself as my favorite holiday movie. You don’t get much better than this cast performing this material.
Love Actually (2003)
Hell, as I’ve said. This isn’t just a holiday movie for me. This is a year round movie. Love Actually brings together one of my all-time favorite casts in a story which never fails to wreck me. This is a movie which makes me legitimately happy, and I will stop to watch it every time I find it on.
March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
This is a big nostalgia choice for yours truly. This is one of the first Christmas movies I remember truly gaining an appreciation for. Heck, this is one of the first classic films I remember loving. The Laurel and Hardy movie is set in an ultra-accessible fairy tale land and sees the boys helping Little Bo Peep not only find her sheep, but hook up with the Nelson Eddy wanna-be Tom Tom the Pipers Son. It’s adorably delightful, and be sure to check it out if you haven’t.
The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)
My family’s Christmas Eve routine is to go out to dinner, and go see a movie. One of the first Christmas’ which is truly clear in my memory is the year we saw The Muppet Christmas Carol. The movie brings together a completely gelled tone, with some of the most earnest and well-crafted human performances. I don’t think I’ve ever liked Michael Caine more than I have as Mr. Scrooge. This is a great movie for kids, and the tone of the humor makes it just as effective as an adult.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
This movie is another for me which I could watch any time of the year, not just over the holidays. This may or may not have anything to do with my fondness for Bill Pullman. In all seriousness, this is an adorable movie, featuring Sandra Bullock and Pullman at their most likable. You just want to see these two kids make it work, despite all the obstacles (both self-imposed and otherwise) standing in their way.