1.) A Christmas Story – Based on the hilarious short stories by the great Jean Shepherd, A Christmas Story takes place in the idyllic 1950’s when punishments involved washing your mouth out with soap and entertainment revolved around radio programs and triple dog dares. This holiday classic runs for a 24-hour marathon every year on TBS between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so you won’t miss Ralphie’s dedicated quest for a Red Ryder BB gun and his father’s never-ending battle with their house’s furnace. The spot-on narration by Jean Shepherd himself will have you laughing so hard eggnog may come out of your nose.
2.) Elf – Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel — what more could you ask for? A comedy about a grown man who was raised in the North Pole and then thrown in the the harsh reality of New York City to find his real father, Elf became an instant fan favorite in 2003. Beloved by parents and children alike, you can’t go wrong spending some quality time with Buddy the Elf who takes his spaghetti with maple syrup.
3.) Home Alone – A staple of the 90’s, Home Alone introduced the adorable Macaulay Culkin to the world and secured John Hughes in the hearts of American film-lovers. Watch Kevin McCallister outsmart two bad guys the way any clever kid would after his parents accidentally leave him behind — booby traps and slick moves. Don’t leave this iconic movie off your December watchlist. Children will find new inspiration in the heroic efforts and the timeless face of a young Macaulay Culkin.
4.) The Muppet Christmas Carol – The Muppets make everything better, especially this Dickensian tale of holiday warning, which, let’s be honest, is a bit bleak. Batman’s Michael Caine stars in the film as Ebenezer Scrooge alongside Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and the rest of the Muppets gang brightens up poor 19th century London with songs and comedic interjections. If you want to be inspired by A Christmas Carol without being entirely bored, check out the Muppets version; you won’t be disappointed.
5.) Jingle All The Way – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent coupled with funny guy sidekicks, Sinbad and Phil Hartman, lends itself hilariously to an off-beat Christmas movie critiquing the over-commercialization and high stress of the season. Jingle All The Way is a ridiculous story of con-men dressed as Santa, a hijacked parade float, and a postman gone postal. There’s no real moral to the story, just that if you’re in the right place at the right time, you could end up saving Christmas for your neglected son who you’ve repeatedly let down by being too busy with your career to show up at his karate lessons or remember the only present he asked for this year.
6.) A Charlie Brown Christmas – It wouldn’t be Christmas without Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang. Dating back to 1965, this Charlie Brown special has become a tradition in homes all across the country. It has since won an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award with its jazzy soundtrack becoming just as popular and successful. If you haven’t seen this moving cartoon story, tune in this year to A Charlie Brown Christmas or introduce the family custom to your little ones.
7.) The Polar Express – Based on the beautiful children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express is a motion capture computer-animated film that feels as if you’ve jumped into the storybook itself. Tom Hanks plays an astonishing six roles, and the movie made the Guinness World Book of Records in 2006 as the first all-digital capture film. There’s nothing as magical as a train ride to the North Pole, and for the first time ever in a Christmas movie, that experience is visceral, capturing both the joy and fear that a child would have on a journey of such magnitude.
8.) Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas – While the animated version is a classic, Jim Carrey’s portrayal of the Grinch is one of the funniest in Christmas cinema history, and it is, in fact, the highest-grossing holiday film to date. Nominated for several Academy Awards, How The Grinch Stole Christmas is also the first Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a feature film. All in all, it is a good lesson on not ostracizing the Other, and that this time of year should be about inclusion, not exclusion.
9.) Love Actually – With an all-star cast including Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, and Harry Potter’s Alan Rickman, Love Actually tells several interlocking stories about various aspects of love and loss around the holidays. This British comedy is a feel-good film that manages to shine a positive light on subjects as dark as divorce, death, and infidelity to remind us all that love actually does exist, even if it’s in places we hadn’t previously realized.
10.) The Nightmare Before Christmas – If you love Halloween just as much as Christmas, then this Tim Burton blockbuster is destined to make your playlist. Jack Skellington is curious about other seasons and wants to bring a little Santa spirit back home. It proves more difficult than he originally thought though, and Sally must intervene to save her love and the holidays. With a killer soundtrack and amazing stop motion animation, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a must-see for all Disney fans.