• Eric Spitz

Top Ten Holiday Films of All Time

Just under two weeks ago I applied for the "Ho-Ho-Holiday Movie Dream Job" at Reviews.org. In short, the lucky person selected for this job would get paid $2,500 to watch 25 holiday movies in 25 days. Sounds like a true dream job, right?


Unfortunately I wasn't selected for the position, but in all fairness, 450,000 people applied. They announced the winner on their YouTube channel last Monday, where they also gave away prizes to lucky participants, and had eager viewers vote on the greatest Christmas movie of all time, March Madness style.


However, instead of 68 films going head-to-head, this bracket essentially skipped to the Sweet 16. Films such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Klaus were pit against each other, with the film receiving more votes advancing to the next round to have the process repeat again.


Out of the 16 films, voters determined Home Alone to take the title as the best Christmas movie of all-time (spoiler alert, it ranks tenth on my all time list for the holidays). The entire exercise made me think of my own rankings for holiday films, as I was a bit bothered that my all time favorite didn't even make the bracket.


I'll admit, I haven't seen every holiday film ever created. I try to span the genres and decades as much as possible, but out of the ones I've seen, I've determined the below list to be the top ten holiday films of all time, in my humble opinion.


10)

Home Alone (1990)

Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern

Platform: Streaming on Disney+






9)

Die Hard (1988)

Director: John McTiernan

Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson

Platform: Streaming on HBO Max






8)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Director: Larry Roemer

Cast: Burl Ives, Billie Mae Richards, Larry D. Mann

Platform: Streaming on IndieFlix






7)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Juliette Lewis

Platform: Streaming on FuboTV






6)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

Director: Chuck Jones, Ben Washam

Cast: Boris Karloff, June Foray, Thurl Ravenscroft, Dal McKennon

Platform: Available to rent on Amazon Prime Video





5)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Director: Henry Selick

Cast: Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara

Platform: Streaming on Disney+



Delicately balancing Halloween and Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas remains a mainstay for holiday films. While the imagery should be off-putting as a wholesome family Christmas story, it still has a way of being heartwarming in its execution, and has since stood the test of time. Much like how people often debate Die Hard being a Christmas movie, the same can be said on if The Nightmare Before Christmas fits better in the realm of Halloween or Christmas. While a strong case can be made in either direction, it ultimately comes down to preference on which time of year you decide to watch it. Being a big fan of the horror genre, I can't help but gravitate towards the nontraditional narrative every year to get into the holiday spirit.





4)

The Apartment (1960)

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray

Platform: Available to rent on Apple TV



I already gushed over The Apartment in last week's post as a great option for a nontraditional holiday film, but it still remains one of my all time favorites for the category. With the plot centered around C.C. Baxter, who agrees to lend out his apartment to the executives at his work for them to take their mistresses, I'll admit that it's hard to find a whole lot of Christmas in that synopsis. The parallels between the holidays can be found in the timing rather than the message, as the story for The Apartment unfolds between November and New Year's Eve. While Baxter's intentions for lending out his apartment was to climb the corporate ladder, one could argue that he was feeling a bit of the generous holiday spirit as well. This romantic-fueled farce has a lot of truth and sincerity beneath its exaggerated exterior, and is much more heartwarming than the shallow summary makes it seem.





3)

A Christmas Story (1983)

Director: Bob Clark

Cast: Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley

Platform: Streaming on Sling TV



From the evening of Christmas Eve to the evening of Christmas Day, TBS runs "24 Hours of A Christmas Story," consisting of 12 consecutive airings of the beloved Christmas classic. Does that make the film any less enjoyable? Certainly not. Every year I still give it at least one honest watch where I give it my full attention, and have it playing in the background while my family and I exchange gifts on Christmas day. Even after all these years, I still smile whenever Ralphie daydreams about his Red Ryder BB Gun, laugh when the Old Man exclaims "notafinga" and get anxious when Ralphie blurts out the f-bomb. I've probably seen A Christmas Story more than any other film in my life, but the holiday spirit in the Parker's dysfunctionality still hasn't faded over the years.





2)

Brazil (1985)

Director: Terry Gilliam

Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond

Platform: Available to rent on Amazon Prime Video



Once again, my love for Brazil was already touched on in last week's post, but it still remains among an all-time favorite around the holidays. Brazil isn't exactly warm and cozy. It's a dystopian comedy that displays the hypocrisies of bureaucracy that's both hilarious and terrifying. It's wacky, clever and offers a very unique viewing experience that stays with you long after the credits roll. The film initially flopped in the US when it was released, but has since aged like a fine wine and has been regarded as a cult classic by film buffs, and is still widely overlooked in the conversation of holiday films





1)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

Platform: Streaming on Prime Video



With a depth expanding past the holiday season, It's a Wonderful Life is a powerhouse both as a standalone film and as an honest Christmas narrative. On paper, our protagonist George Bailey has the elements of a great life: a loving wife, adoring children and a modest living from the building and loan company he inherited. However, it's not the path he envisioned for himself as a kid. Due to unforeseen and external circumstances, George has felt a constant tie to his hometown of Bedford Falls, a town he was so desperate to "shake the dust" of off his feet. What makes George's character so powerful is how relatable he is. Often times, the way our life unfolds is much different than we originally envision it. Despite it being different, there's still a lot to be grateful for that we often take for granted. Sometimes we all need reminders (in this case, Clarence the guardian angel), to help us remember that.





To view the complete list of holiday films outside of the top ten, check it out on Letterboxd. Was your favorite holiday film on the list? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!