What makes a good Christmas movie? The definition seems simple, but the debate about whether some movies deserve to be classified as such shows that it is not so clear. Should the plot be light and cheerful, filling us with joy and holiday spirit, or should it lead us to deeper thoughts and reflections on the importance of family and friends? There is no right answer. Each of us has experienced a different year that has evoked a different mood. That’s why, in this list about the best Christmas movies, we’ve considered the full range of emotions – some funny, some sad, and some downright cynical.
Table of Contents
- The best Christmas movies of all time – Elf (2003)
- Bad Santa (2003) with Billy Bob Thornton
- Edward Scissorhands (1990) with Johnny Depp & Winona Ryder
- Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) with Renée Zellweger
- The best Christmas movies of all time – Home Alone (1990)
- The Holiday (2006) with Kate Winslet & Cameron Diaz
- Love Actually (2003) – Lovestories from London
- The Best Christmas Movies on Netflix – The Christmas Chronicles (2018).
- Best Christmas Movie of 2022 on Amazon Prime – Something From Tiffany’s
Best Christmas Movies of All Time – Elf (2003).
This is probably the ultimate Christmas movie of the last decades that you can watch with the whole family. Will Ferrell’s role as an overgrown kid is a great fit for this comedy, which is about a giant elf searching for his father in New York. However, the film doesn’t just focus on the laughs. There is a lot of heart and soul in it and a great appreciation for the holidays. This is a timeless Christmas movie that is really sweet.
Bad Santa (2003) with Billy Bob Thornton.
He drinks like a fish, curses like a sailor and the less said about his sexual proclivities the better. As Nicholas, Billy Bob Thornton is anything but a saint. The fact that Terry Zwigoff’s misanthropic comedy transforms this pathetic guy into a sympathetic hero and turns the film into a foul-mouthed ode to the good in people is tantamount to a Christmas miracle.
Edward Scissorhands (1990) with Johnny Depp & Winona Ryder.
One of Johnny Depp’s first roles that showed he was more than just a pair of cheekbones. The actor’s unhinged title character is a study in pain and pathos. Tim Burton’s suburban fantasy wouldn’t be nearly as touching without Depp’s sad-eyed hero at the center, Winona Ryder dancing around ice sculptures, and the connection to Christmas, a time of acceptance and charity.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) with Renée Zellweger.
Ugly Christmas sweaters weren’t always considered as cool as they are today. So we can’t blame main character Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) for not reacting with delight when she sees her potential lover Mark Darcy (a wonderfully stuffy Colin Firth) wearing a sweater with a giant reindeer face. But that’s a prelude to this sharp-witted romantic comedy about dating in the 21st century and the pitfalls of an affair with an outrageously handsome Hugh Grant.
Best Christmas Movies of All Time – Home Alone (1990)
John Hughes is the author of this hilarious holiday classic that remains unique to this day. Never mind that everyone here is on the naughty list, from the neglectful mother (Catherine O’Hara) to the sadistic boy (Macauley Culkin) to the vengeful crooks (Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci). As soon as the music of John Williams is heard, even the coldest hearts are warmed and healed.
The Holiday (2006) with Kate Winslet & Cameron Diaz.
There’s something deeply charming and irresistible about this festive romantic comedy, in which Jude Law romances Cameron Diaz in a cute country house. Maybe it’s because we’ve been made docile by numerous viewings of the film, or maybe it’s the LA subplot, in which Kate Winslet is in top form as a spurned British reporter who flirts with Jack Black and befriends a forgotten but famous screenwriter from Hollywood’s Golden Age (played by the late Eli Wallach). In any case, this is one of the best Christmas movies of all time.
Love Actually (2003) – Lovestories from London.
Since its release, “Love Actually” has generated a lot of comments. Some consider it a bit strange, while for others it is the best Christmas movie ever. The rational mind may lie somewhere in the middle. The movie offers some strange things, but it is also one of the most important Christmas movies of the new millennium. That last point is indisputable.
The best Christmas movies on Netflix – The Christmas Chronicles (2018).
It’s a mystery why Kurt Russell wouldn’t take on the role of Santa until 2018, but thanks to Netflix, it happens in this sweet story about two kids who want to film St. Nicholas. The 2020 sequel adds Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus to this inspiring cast. Somewhere, a Netflix executive must be thinking about how to lure Wyatt Russell and Kate Hudson for a sequel in elf costumes.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) with Jim Carrey.
This movie is a Christmas classic based on the beloved story of the Christmas season’s most notorious grouch, the Grinch. Whether you’ve seen the movie a million times or are seeing it for the first time, there’s nothing quite like it. The Grinch, played by Jim Carrey, hates Christmas and wants to steal it from the Whos of Whoville. But when a little girl makes him see the magic of Christmas, all is well in the world again.
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Dash & Lily (2020) – A Christmas Romance in New York.
Ah, to be young and beautiful in a fetishistically idealized New York City at Christmastime, and to have a prolonged courtship with someone you’ve never seen in real life via notes exchanged in a secret notebook at the Strand Bookstore. That kind of thing can go pretty wrong. But in the end, Dash (Austin Abrams) and Lily (Midori Francis) come up with a solution. This romantic comedy series is really adorable, especially if you watch it during the Christmas season.
Best Christmas Movies on Netflix – Love Hard (2021) with Nina Dobrev
No, it’s not a “Die Hard” prequel where John McClane meets his wife, though that’s not a bad idea. The premise is a little crazier than that. A woman (Nina Dobrev) flies across the country to surprise the man she met online for Christmas, only to discover he’s not the good-looking guy from his dating profile pictures, but Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O Yang. But instead of jumping on the next plane home in horror, she agrees to let her fake beau set her up with the guy she thought was texting her and who happens to live in town.
Best Christmas Movie of 2022 on Amazon Prime – Something From Tiffany’s.
The big Christmas movie of the year on Prime Video is a classic “Oops, my engagement ring for my girlfriend got switched with another man’s gift and now his girlfriend has the ring so I have to get it back from her, but maybe I should just fall in love with her instead” plot. So understandable, right? Anyway, Zoey Deutch is really great in her role and the plot captures the magic of Christmas.