An Admittedly Offbeat List of My Top-10 Christmas Movies of All Time

When it comes to Christmas movies, everyone has a list of personal favorites.  For your reading pleasure, I have decided to offer you a few of mine.  Be warned.  Some of the “classics” are not on this list because, truth be told, I loathe them.  As for some of the other more … offbeat selections, what can I say?  It’s my list.  If you want to argue with me, feel free to do so in the comments below.


10.       Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Clause Conquers the Martians (1989).  If you’ve never heard of Mystery Science 3000, all I can say is this: get thee to Netflix!  The conceit is simple.  A man and two robots are trapped on a spaceship hurtling through the cosmos.  To pass the time, they watch amazingly bad movies while offering up satiric commentary of the highest caliber.  Truly, a work of art.

9.         Die Hard (1988).  While technically not really a “Christmas” movie, per se, the terrorists do strike while the office workers are enjoying a holiday party.  And if you can’t find some measure of joy in John McClane gunnin’ down some European baddies, well … perhaps you just don’t see the slightly less-than-obvious connections between fighting terrorists and Christmas.

8.         The Nativity Story (2006).  If you watch this film, and I sincerely hope that you do, you’re probably going to be struck by two impressions.  First, you’re going to really appreciate what they were able to communicate about the lives of Joseph and Mary in a Roman-occupied Israel.  Secondly, you’re going to wish this movie was so much more than it really is.

7.         Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).   To be clear, we’re talking about the work of the one an only Theodore Geisel as interpreted by the animation of the incomparably awesome, Chuck Jones.  If you don’t care for this masterpiece, all I can offer you is this simple warning:you may be in danger of having a heart that is “two sizes too small.”

6.         A Midnight Clear (1992).  Set in 1944 France, an American Intelligence Squad locates a German Platoon wishing to surrender rather than die in Germany’s final and futile offensive push. Isolated from the concerns of the politicians that control their fate, these two groups of men agree to put aside their differences for the sake of spending one Christmas together.  The only question is, can the truce last?

5.         The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).  This is the very best semi-deranged, stop-motion filmmaking you are likely to see this Christmas season.  When Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, discovers Christmastown, he enlists the aide of some rather unusual ghouls, ghosts and goblins to help him celebrate a new kind of Christmas, in a decidedly Halloween kind of way.

4.         Gremlins (1984).  There is something beautifully subversive about a Christmas movie that so gleefully embraces the notion that the things we so desperately want are often the things that come back to terrorize and haunt us.  Materialists and consumerists beware.  This surprisingly well-crafted satire is looking right at you and your wanton consumption.

3.         Love Actually (2003).  Some will find fault with me for including this film on the list.  And there is no doubt that one particular storyline requires the viewer to look away rather frequently.  But there is something that I absolutely love about this film and its quest to explore the roots of love.  And to not include it would be dishonest as it truly is a favorite of mine.   In fact, it may just be my favorite dramedy of all time.

2.         Elf (2003).  Buddy was a baby in an orphanage who stowed away in Santa’s sack and ended up at the North Pole. Later, as an adult human who happened to be raised by elves, Santa allows him to go to New York City to find his birth father, a man confined to the naughty-list.  Of all this films on this list, this may be the most quotable.  In fact, I dare you to “Say elf one more time!”

1.         A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).  Repelled by the blatant commercialism that he sees all around him, Charlie Brown seeks in vein to find a single soul that understands the true meaning of Christmas.  From sad-sack Christmas trees to Linus’ triumphant teaching in the end, this is unquestionably the single most note-perfect Christmas movie of all time.


The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992).  Oddly enough, not one single version of the classic Dickens’ tale was able to crack my Top-10.  And in spite of it’s slightly manipulative tugging at the heart strings, I really do like the story.  In fact, the Patrick Stewart production is probably my favorite version.  But in the end, how can you give the nod to Stewart when this version has Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit?

A Christmas Story (1983).  This film’s inability to crack my personal Top-10 truly surprised me.  I have always said that this is a personal favorite around the holidays, but when it came time to craft the list, “double-dog daring” and tongues stuck to frozen lamp posts just couldn’t propel this film across the finish line.  Still, a fun film worthy of an honorable mention.

Joyeux Noel (2006).  On Christmas Eve during World War I, the Germans, French, and Scottish fraternize and get to know the men who live on the opposite side of a brutal war, in what became a true lesson of humanity.  When it came down to putting a wartime flick in the Top-10, it was a toss-up between this and A Midnight Clear.  And for whatever it’s worth, I’m not sure I made the right call.

ABOMINATIONS OF THE WORST ORDER (from the merely ghastly and grotesque to the apocalyptically awful!):

2.         How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000).  I may never forgive either Ron Howard or Jim Carrey for the inane psychobabble and screechy noise that they needlessly injected into this most whimsical of Christmas tales.  They had a wondrous short-story and an even more-inspired animated adaptation to build upon.  And what did they do?   They strip-mined it of any joy or ability to charm.  Shame on both of you, gentlemen.  Shame on both of you …

1.         It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).  Ah yes.  Here at last, at the very end of our Christmas list, beneath such “classics” as Santa Slay and Silent Night, Deadly Night lays this sentimental mess of a film.  If Dickens’ original tale already teetered on the edge of sappy, mawkishness, this film takes the source material and swan dives right over the edge of the cliff into the very depths of sanctimonious, saccharine goo.

Care to comment?  Care to argue?  The boards are now open …

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28 Responses to An Admittedly Offbeat List of My Top-10 Christmas Movies of All Time

  1. Bob Bryant says:

    You are missing a classic brother….Edward Scissorhands. Clearly a Christmas film, well with all the snow that falls during its unfolding plot of a strange Frankenstein like creature that clips hedges with speed and eventually captures the heart of the town. Nothing says Christmas like it, nothing!

    • I am SO with you on your selection, Bob. “Edward Scissorhands” is a film I often watch during the holidays. In fact, Sarah was surprised that it didn’t make the list. But in the end, there is absolutely nothing that ties it to Christmas other than snow.

      Hmm … I may have to go back and add this in as an honorable mention.

  2. Josh The Younger says:

    Mr. Bryant… I have no problem with the quirky, but I have three problems in particular with your list (one of which about 99% of humanity probably agrees with me on). First, why Die Hard? Bruce Willis shooters do not belong in Christmas movie lists, whatever the time of year they are set in. Second, Grinch (the good one) should be higher. No doubt about it ;)Thirdly, whether or not you actually like It’s a Wonderful Life is irrelevant. It makes honorable mentions at least for simply being a universally acknowledged classic.

    Oh, and a final note. I notice the Star Wars Christmas special is nowhere on your list…..

    • Josh! How could I have forgotten the Star Wars Christmas special?! Unbelievable. That would have paired beautifully with Mystery Science Theater 3000. By the way, have you ever seen MST3000? If not, I think you would really enjoy it. The commentary on the awful movies they watch is nothing short of brilliant. It’s almost as sharp as “The Simpsons” back when “The Simpsons” were still funny.

      As for “Die Hard,” I can see your point. And I will even grant you that “The Grinch” could have moved up as many as three slots on this list. But I will not bend – NOT ONE INCH – on “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That movie epitomizes everything that is wrong with Christmas films.

  3. Mary DeVries Yager says:

    You have crossed the line, dear ex-friend. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the greatest movie of all time. And Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is the second greatest Christmas movie of all time. You your reader away from classics that make one desire to go make the world a better place at the holidays. Where is your Christmas spirit, and why is SCROOGED not on your list? Have you lost you social work roots??? I appreciate that you steer us toward Jesus with ONE of your movies…but then you point us to alines, death and love scenes? Shame on you, Ebeneezer!!! You cleanse yourself with a viewing of “Its a Wonderful Life.”

    • Mary DeVries Yager says:

      That was supposed to say, “You STEER your reader away from….:

      • Mary DeVries Yager says:

        And ALIENS not Alines. Wow, Just for the record I had major surgery 4 days ago and an now living on Percocet…

    • I thought about “Scrooged,” but I hadn’t seen it in years. And I couldn’t honestly remember enough about it, which made me think that it didn’t have staying power. You telling me I need to go back and give it a shot?

      As for over-the-top claims about “It’s a Wonderful Life,” all I can say is this: you forced me to watch “Grand Canyon,” another “amazing social work film.” Sound familiar? I guess it’s not terribly surprising though. Both films could be fairly categorized as overly sentimental fantasies.

      P.S. Tried to call you the other day. Will do so again sometime this weekend. Hope you’re beginning to rebound.

  4. Bill Radford says:

    Enjoyed your Christmas list of movies with some exceptions, but I will only comment on one. Elf is just a bad movie. Of course almost anything with Will Ferrell in it is bad. If there is proof that some people sell their souls to the devil in order to attain fame it is WF. There is no other possible explanation for his success. If you say some people think he is funny – that is part of the deal with the devil too. There will be otherwise sane people who think awful is good. Merry Christmas.

    • Hey Bill. Great to hear from you. I actually don’t disagree with your overall assessment of Will Farrell. In fact, the only other flick of his that I’ve ever truly enjoyed was a really offbeat picture called “Stranger Than Fiction.” He plays completely against type in the film; and it really is an interesting little movie. You should check it out if you haven’t already.

      As for “Elf,” it’s the role of a lifetime for Farrell; and I love every inane, silly, over-the-top moment in the movie.

      • Bill Radford says:

        I agree with you about “Stranger than Fiction” I thought it was a good movie and that he did a good job in it. I thought he might be going in the direction of Jim Carrey,away from “Ace Ventura” and in the direction of “The Truman Show” or “The Majestic”. But he didn’t.

  5. Santa's Head Elf (aka Brad) says:

    Scott, it is an intriguing list, for sure. I am a bit concerned by the inclusion of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but I will just chalk that up to an overload of candy canes for you before writing the list. However, I must strongly encourage a viewing of “Muppets Family Christmas”, if you can find it – it’s funny (the running icy patch gag is wonderful), heartwarming, and quite the family reunion when even the Sesame Street crew shows up. Sure, the Fraggles are a bit disconcerting, but their role is limited. To top it all off, a cameo by Jim Henson himself. I’ll look forward to that addition next year, along with “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Small One”…

    • Great to hear from you Brad. You need to go back and check the heading under which “It’s a Wonderful Life” appeared. I believe it reads: “ABOMINATIONS OF THE WORST ORDER (from the merely ghastly and grotesque to the apocalyptically awful!).” Lest I still be a tad unclear, let me just say that I absolutely loathe that film to the very core of my being.

      As for “The Muppet’s Family Christmas,” it is solid for all the reasons you listed above. But it still can’t match the “Muppet’s Christmas Carol.” There’s just something about Kermit as Bob Cratchit that gets me every time.

      Lastly, in terms of “The Small One,” I had to go look that up on I’ve never seen it or even heard of it until now. I’ll have give it a shot on Netflix. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. David Jones says:

    One of my Christmas favorites is Albert Finney’s musical version of Scrooge. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend it. But judging from your list here, you probably wouldn’t like it. Not enough mayhem.

    I will go on record as supporting your selection of Charlie Brown Christmas, however.

    • Hey David. I’ve never seen Finney’s version of Scrooge. And I’ve seen many versions as I really enjoy the basic story. Any chance you’ve seen Patrick Stewart’s version? I think it was originally aired on television, and it’s really solid take.

      As for the mayhem that characterizes my list … I can’t really argue with you. There’s just something about most “classic” Christmas movies that leaves me really cold. Maybe I just resent being manipulated like that. Who knows?

      If I don’t see you before than, have a great Christmas. And while you’re at it, give one of the war flicks on this list a shot. I think you might actually like them.

    • mahoneyrm5150 says:

      Agreed; that was the easiest choice to support and defend.

  7. Where’s The Christmas Carol??? I would agree with you on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000 version). But why on earth is “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the bad list?!

    • Rebecca … what can I say? I am SO glad to hear that you are wise enough to know that Jim Carrey’s butchering of “The Grinch” is an abomination. As for “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I dont’ know what to tell you. I have a friend who has bought me multiple versions of the film in an all-out bid to get me to enjoy it. In the end, I just can’t. Everything about that film is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Can we still be friends? 🙂

  8. Can’t even believe it, Mr. Bryant! What, specifically, don’t you like about that movie?? And about still being friends, that’s a hard one. Maybe….;).

  9. mahoneyrm5150 says:

    You suck…It’s a Wonderful Life rocks.

  10. Josh The Younger says:

    Ok, all this talk about the ‘manipulative’ nature and ‘nail on a chalkboard’ sentimentality of It’s a Wonderful Life is making me want to watch the movie again. Haven’t done so in a long time. Congratulations, Mr. B, you have successfully persuaded someone to watch your least favorite holiday movie. I’ll get back to you on the sentimental manipulation sometime 😉

  11. Josh The Younger says:

    Yes well… you’ve got a point there….

  12. Sarah Bryant says:

    Usually, my husband has a pretty good taste in movies. I often appreciate the variety of movies we watch. However, his Christmas list is pretty close to an abomination of Christmas movies. Here’s a much better list of the top 10 Christmas movies:

    10. Christmas Story (but barely on the list and can’t think of another one to replace this one)
    9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carey version)
    8. Love Actually
    7. The Polar Express
    6. Charlie Brown Christmas
    5. Frosty the Snowman
    4. The Grinch that Stole Christmas
    3. Little Women
    2. Miracle on 34th Street
    1. It’s A Wonderful Life

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