It’s that time of year again. The time of eggnog, shopping, family, and of course, lists. From Santa to kids to awards to yes, even stuffy old critics, we spend that last month creating lists of just about everything. Christmas movie favorites are rather common around this time of year, so I felt it only right to create one of my own before the award recaps really get into full swing. Everyone’s favorite Christmas movies vary wildly, so I don’t expect anyone to agree. And there’s a massive variety to choose from, so much like traditions, favorites will have a healthy dose of subjectivity.
Additionally, as much as I have some favorites, I’m actually not that high on Christmas movies in general. But it is Christmas time, so here are some of my favorite holiday movies that I watch every year.
“A Christmas Story “
Yeah, I know. How cliche. But I’ve loved this film ever since I was a kid, and I can’t imagine Christmas without it. The quotability and memorable moments of “A Christmas Story” truly stand the test of time, even if (having grown up in Southern California) a snow covered December doesn’t have any resemblance of my actual childhood. It’s a film that probably works best the earlier in life it’s viewed, and I don’t know that it holds the same level of intrigue and favoritism if your first interaction with the film is later in life. For me, it has been a staple of Christmas for as far back as I can remember, and remains one of my favorites that completes the holiday season.
Catch it and “A Christmas Story Christmas” on HBO Max.
Yes, you read that right. And no, I’m not kidding. I stumbled across this little b-movie during my search for some of the worst horror Amazon Prime has to offer, and “Santa Jaws” seemed like perfect fit. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like “Santa Jaws” is a good movie. it isn’t. But it’s a ton of fun, completely aware of its ridiculousness and beautifully blends horror and holiday genre tropes. How can you not be down for a horrible CGI shark in a Santa hat in what I can only understand to be a bay not actually attached to the ocean attacking citizens of a small town? “Santa Jaws” is just downright fun, a film that’s damn near perfect for some spiked egg nog drinking games to be enjoyed with friends. I will not be swayed and I stand by this choice. My list, my rules, my Christmas!
Catch it on Amazon and Hulu.
I am acutely aware of how poorly this film has aged, the controversies surrounding many of its characters, and yes, even the fact that most of the people in the film hate it. But “Love Actually” manages to be one of my favorites in two genres I’m not particularly fond of: Christmas movies and romcoms. I don’t know what it is about this emotionally manipulative, absolutely batshit insane holiday film, but I adore it flaws and all and will not remove it from my list. There are some truly terrible stories here, but “Love Actually” has some decent ones too, and despite their retrospective takes on their work, everyone in the film is pretty charming. Who doesn’t love vintage Hugh Grant dancing around as the Prime Minister after telling the President to shove it in the most British way possible? And with “Jump For My Love” by the Pointer Sisters blaring? And Bill Nighy as every washed up British rocker? C’mon, there’s still a lot to love in “Love Actually.”
Catch it on Amazon.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
I was probably too young to understand everything in this movie, but “Christmas Vacation” marks in my introduction to National Lampoon’s and the “Vacation” franchise. Nevertheless, my young mind found what I could understand hilarious, and that laughter and joy only grew the older I got and the more I understood. Another everlasting quotable, “Christmas Vacation” sports one of my favorite Randy Quaid performances, and reminds me that before he went completely nuts he was a comedic genius and pairs hilariously with Chevy Chase, who is also giving everything he’s got here in a role he doesn’t really need to. It captures the true chaos that ensues with big family gatherings, and though exaggerated, touches on most if not all of our familiar family traditions and Christmas faux pas. With a stacked cast and classic scenes, “Christmas Vacation” firmly cements itself as a favorite.
Catch it on HBO Max.
“Home Alone “
The entire film could be solved in 30 seconds if adults just acted like adults ONCE in all of “Home Alone.” It’s easy to watch this one and pick a part for implausibility, but then that would deprive us of a Christmas classic. And we’d never get to see Joe Pesci doing his BEST trying to not curse despite the film giving Harry every single reason to shout profanities. And if any adult acted their age in “Home Alone,” we’d ever be able to watch a young sociopath hunt criminals and go out of his way to cause them irreparable harm. Whatever reality you want to try and impart onto “Home Alone,” it still stands as one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. Every kid poorly booby trapped their house after watching it, and it really never stops being refreshingly funny and quotable. I think most lists include “Home Alone,” and those lists are right. And how can you keep a powerhouse John Candy cameo (completely improvised by the way) off your list?
Catch it on Disney+.
I was very late to the party on this one. I finally watched “Krampus” during the pandemic, nearly 5 years after its release, and instantly shot up to one of my favorites. A nice little departure from the typical traditional Christian story and delivering a fresh take on a different but connected mythology, “Krampus” is the perfect Christmas black comedy. I highly encourage you to check this one out. It’s a solid blend of horror, dark comedy, and a genuine Christmas spirit that’s sure to satisfy any fan of any one of these genres. Don’t sleep on “Krampus,” or ya know, he’ll drag to hell and all that.
Catch it on Peacock and Hulu.
“The Santa Clause”
There is no logical reason for “The Santa Clause” to make my list of favorites. It’s about as run of the mill Christmas as you can possibly get, and gets pretty twisted when you stop and think about it. Plus, Tim Allen isn’t really my cup of tea these days. But dammit if the kid in me doesn’t still adore “The Santa Clause.” I don’t know why I feel I need to defend my love this movie. Maybe because it’s so out of sorts from my other selections, and follows the typical choices of Christmas favorites for children. But I genuinely love “The Santa Clause,” and I will watch it every single Christmas no matter what new hot take about how problematic it all is comes out year after year.
Catch all “The Santa Clause” films, as well as the new series, on Disney+.
I don’t want to hear it. “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie and your argument for it not being one is baseless. “But you could make this movie without Christmas and it would be the same” is a bad argument that can literally be applied to most Christmas films. Just because it’s an action film doesn’t suddenly exclude it from being a Christmas one, and the idea that a film can be one genre is a pretty bad argument. The line in the sand is often drawn subconsciously but the inclusion of Santa Claus. “Die Hard” has everything else in the holiday spirit; Christmas music, Christmas setting, Christmas lines, CHRISTMAS FUCKING PARTY. The only Christmas thing not included in “Die Hard” is a jolly old Saint Nick, and that’s not a good enough reason to exclude a movie from a Christmas list that has quite literally everything else. It’s a Christmas movie, always has been always will be and it will never NOT be on my Christmas favorite list. Welcome to the party, pal!
Catch “Die Hard” via STARZ.
[Editor’s note: we also highly suggest other classics, like “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (Disney+), “Trading Places” (which also happens to be a New Years film too!), “Batman Returns” (HBO Max), “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (Paramount+), “Gremlins” (HBO Max), “Lethal Weapon,” “12 Monkeys” (Hulu), “Brazil” (Amazon), “Eyes Wide Shut” (Netflix), and of course, “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” both on Disney+.]
So there you have it. 8 Christmas films I watch every holiday season!