A Christmas Story (1983)
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Classic Holiday Movies That Still Hold Up

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A Christmas Story (1983)
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Movies Making Merry

For many of us, Christmas just isn’t complete without watching — and rewatching — our favorite holiday movies. And there are so many good ones to choose from: black-and-white classics, contemporary comedies, animation, and even action movies. We took a deep dive into Hollywood history to assemble this wish list of beloved Christmas movies. (And in case you're thinking of gifting some of these classics, we've included links to purchase them.)

Prices and availability are subject to change.

Related: Vintage Christmas Photos: A Century of Celebrating the Holidays

Scrooge Watching Tiny Tim Open Gifts
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A Christmas Carol (1938)

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Charles Dickens wrote the book on Christmas classics (literally), and his tale has served as the inspiration for countless interpretations on stage, radio, TV, and film. MGM’s 1938 version, starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge and Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim, was the first big Hollywood adaptation. According to the American Film Institute, Owen spent two hours daily being made up for the role.

The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
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The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

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Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart star in this film directed by Ernst Lubitsch about two Hungarian shop clerks who find themselves enmeshed in romantic intrigue and workplace drama in the days before Christmas Eve.

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Holiday Inn (1942)
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Holiday Inn (1942)

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This film, starring Marjorie Reynolds, Bing Crosby, Virginia Dale, and Fred Astaire, is perhaps best remembered for the song “White Christmas,” which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1943 and has become a holiday classic in its own right. 

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
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It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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If you’re old enough to remember the 1970s and ’80s, you’ll recall how this film seemed to be on every TV channel, every night from Thanksgiving until Christmas. And it was, thanks to a copyright loophole that let this film slip into the public domain from 1974. That changed in the 1990s, following considerable legal wrangling that ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, and today NBC controls the broadcast rights to this holiday classic.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

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When the real Kris Kringle is hired to play Santa Claus at Macy’s in New York City, will anyone believe who he is? Little Susan Walker (played by a young Natalie Wood) believes Kris, much to the consternation of her mother (Maureen O’Hara). Throw in a bit of romance, some courtroom drama, and a hopeful holiday message amid the crass commercialism, and you’ve got the makings of a holiday classic. Fun fact: Unlike most Christmas movies, which premiered in late fall, this one was released in May to capitalize on summer crowds.

White Christmas (1954)
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White Christmas (1954)

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The song “White Christmas” had become such a popular holiday hit that MGM decided to build a film around it. Bing Crosby, who appeared in “Holiday Inn,” was joined by Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen for this sentimental musical about two Army buddies who rally to save their former commander’s New England inn from bankruptcy and find romance along the way to TV fame.

Related: The Most Christmas-y Towns in All 50 States

A Christmas Story (1983)
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A Christmas Story (1983)

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“A Christmas Story” gained its holiday classic status thanks to TNT’s annual tradition of broadcasting it for 24 hours in a row during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Irreverent, yet sincerely sentimental, this tale of a young boy’s quest for a BB gun for Christmas (and a certain limb-shaped lamp) has spawned a cottage industry in Cleveland, where the movie was filmed and you can visit the house where Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) and his family lived.

Related: 21 Famous Movie Homes That Will Bring Back Memories

Die Hard (1988)
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Scrooged (1988)
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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

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All Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants to do is provide his extended family with a merry Christmas. Add a house full of squabbling relatives (including the delightfully repulsive Randy Quaid), a couple of nasty next-door neighbors, a flammable Christmas tree, and great expectations of a fat bonus check. What could possibly go wrong? 

Related: 20 Most Iconic RVs From Movies and TV Shows

Home Alone (1990)
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Home Alone (1990)

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Macaulay Culkin will never, ever surpass his epic performance as young Kevin McCallister, who must thwart a pair of bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern) after his parents (Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy) accidentally leave him at home for the Christmas break. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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Director Tim Burton took a decidedly dark approach to Christmas, imagining how the holiday would look to Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween and all things macabre. The stop-motion animation earned the film an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects.

 

The Santa Clause (1994)
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The Santa Clause (1994)

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Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a businessman who finds himself with the seemingly impossible task of impersonating Santa Claus on the night before Christmas. Although a minor hit at the time of its release, the film’s popularity grew over time, thanks in part to two sequels and endless repeat airings on AMC and other networks.

The Preacher's Wife (1996)
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The Preacher's Wife (1996)

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Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington were the stars of this modern take on a 1947 holiday film “The Bishop’s Wife.” Houston plays the title role of Julia Biggs, whose husband (Courtney B. Vance) struggles to protect his church and congregation from a developer’s scheming, and Washington is the angel who arrives in answer to their prayers.

Elf (2003)
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Elf (2003)

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What would happen if a human child were adopted by Santa’s elves and raised as one of their own, then returns to New York City? Only Will Ferrell, with his unique brand of physical comedy, could make this role — and wearing yellow tights — as memorable as it is.

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More Christmas Classics to Consider

No list of Christmas classics would be complete without three beloved made-for-TV programs that are rebroadcast yearly: “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964), “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965), and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (1967). Contemporary cinema classics include “Love Actually” (2003), “The Polar Express” (2004), and pretty much anything ever produced by the Hallmark Channel. Even Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn got into the Christmas spirit in 2018 with “The Christmas Chronicles," and this year, they've returned with "The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two."