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The 10 Best Christmas Movies to Watch This Year

Nothing can get you in the Christmas spirit faster than watching your favorite holiday movie. Everyone has their favorite from childhood (or your child’s childhood). Many of us remember the days before streaming when viewers were at the whim of whatever happened to be on. With many stations playing Christmas movies around the clock, we fondly remember catching parts of these movies throughout the holiday season. Thankfully Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and other streaming services let us now watch these classics whenever we want.

Christmas movies can sometimes be kind of cheesy, but fear not, we’ve compiled a list of funny, occasionally dark, totally classic Christmas movies that, yes, sometimes venture into sweet thought without being saccharine.

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From sipping on candy-themed cocktails to carving a delicious honey-baked ham, every family has its own holiday traditions they never skip. After the dishes are washed and the leftovers are put away, there’s nothing better than curling up on the couch with your loved ones and queueing up your favorite Christmas movie on Netflix.

Here are the best Christmas movies to put on your radar, when the time comes:

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Griswold dresses as Santa.

Most of what John Hughes touches turns to gold, which is why he’s on the list twice here. He wrote the screenplay for this 1989 classic, a hilarious holiday misadventure starring Chevy Chase. The best character hand’s down is the delightfully backwoods Cousin Eddy, played by Randy Quaid. Anybody who’s accustomed to the stress and absurdity associated with a giant family Christmas will find comic joy in this movie.

Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged characters in a Taxi.

The world is a better place with Bill Murray. Here, he plays a television executive given the A Christmas Carol treatment. The film basks in Murray’s energy and sheer wit, as it should, given that it came after the actor took a four-year acting hiatus following his filming of Ghostbusters.

Elf (2003)

Elf characters in a classroom.

It’s hard to know if anybody thought this Will Ferrell comedy from 2003 would offer real lasting power but it certainly has. A little heartfelt, plenty funny, and full of seasonal cheer, Elf is a worthy addition to the esteemed list. Its greatest gift is making you feel like a kid again.

Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone characters.

Here, John Hughes plays director, putting together a real masterpiece. Sure, Macauley Culkin is cute and cunning but the best viewing involves the villainy of the wet bandits, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. If you’re looking to incorporate a drinking game while viewing, take a sip every time you notice just how Christmas-y the McCallister home is (spoiler alert: It’s very much so).

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Edward Scissorhands showing off his scissorhands.

Die Hard tends to get most of the credit when it comes to classic movies that just sorta happen to be about Christmas. But Edward Scissorhands is even better, showcasing the cinematic magic Tim Burton is thoroughly capable of. And, given that it dabbles in a lot of late-fall darkness, it’s a good one to ease you into the holiday season.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A Charlie Brown Christmas characters around a tree.

It’s hard to call this one a movie given its short length but the list deserves its presence. Incredibly, the animated special turns 55 this year but it continues to deliver. From the quiet antics of Snoopy and the epic dance party that unfolds during play rehearsal to the flawless Vince Guaraldi soundtrack, this one is perfect for all ages and multiple viewings.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas characters talking.

Another vintage piece of animated greatness, this one never gets old. Given that it’s a Dr. Seuss joint, the writing is wonderful and it has a way of softening up even the least festive among us. There have been many remakes and adaptations but the 1966 original is still the best of the bunch.

White Christmas (1954)

White Christmas cast dancing.

This year especially, we’re pining for the old times when you could just break into song in public without being worried about infecting an entire community. Ah, nostalgia. This 1954 film is warming even if you’re watching it from your COVID-approved bunker. It’s got post-war optimism, lovely sets, and the incessant crooning of Bing Crosby.

Bad Santa (2003)

Bad Santa character smoking at a bar.

Billy Bob Thornton is one of the best actors out there, and he just keeps getting better. This 2003 comedy dodges the stereotypical joy and cheer of the holiday season and instead goes for the darker, more interesting material. It’s a must-watch for all of the Scrooge’s out there, full of not-so-appropriate jokes and general grumpiness.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life characters hugging.

A true classic. A yearly tradition. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor. George Bailey has lived in the same crummy old town all his life when all he wanted was an adventure. Sometimes he thinks it would have been better if he was never born. So, an angel flies down from heaven, and poof, George gets to see an alternate version of the world.

Looking for more? Check out the best Amazon Prime movies that you can stream right now.

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