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The 50 best Christmas movies of all time

From ‘Love Actually’ to ‘Die Hard’, there’s a festive flick for everyone here

Christmas is well and truly upon us. It’s such an evocative time of year that it even has its own film genre – a varied one comprising everything from cutesy stories about believing in magic to violent rebellions against all things merry and bright. We’ve rounded up the 50 best films about Christmas – or at least set during the holiday season – to carry you through to the New Year. Feliz Navidad!

50- Love Actually (2003)


This divisive romantic comedy hasn’t aged particularly well: almost every character seems to decorate their tree with various red flags. Still, the interwoven narrative, range of Hollywood talent involved and many happy endings make Love, Actually a flawed festive treat. Plus, Bill Nighy as a cynical rock icon and the use of Girls Aloud‘s ‘Jump’? Inspired.

Where to watch: Prime Video

49- Tangerine (2015)

There’s not a whole bunch of tinsel in this indie gem about trans sex workers, but it does a brilliant job of subverting festive expectations. Sure, one of Tangerine‘s most memorable scenes involves oral sex in a car wash and the closest it gets to a happy ever after is a heartbreaking musical number in a club, but this film really celebrates the importance of chosen family.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

48- Black Christmas (2006)


This festive slasher follows a group of sorority sisters as they’re stalked and murdered in the days leading up to Christmas. Who needs five gold rings, eh? A follow-up to the 1974 film of the same name (which pretty much created the slasher genre), Black Christmas puts iconic villain Billy very much in the spotlight.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

47- Christmas with The Kranks (2004)


A holiday comedy set in a suitably over-the-top American suburb, Christmas with The Kranks finds married couple Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen trying to throw the ultimate Christmas at the very last minute. Alongside the bulging stocking of hijinks, there’s a touching message of neighbourly love.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

46- Carol (2015)

Set during Christmas 1952, this romantic drama tells the slow-burning story of a forbidden love affair between Rooney Mara’s aspiring photographer Therese and Cate Blanchett’s affluent, older Carol. Full of stolen glances, difficult decisions and the occasional burst of romance, Carol is ultimately warmer than a mug of mulled wine.

Where to watch: Prime Video

45- Krampus (2015)


A family squabble causes a young boy to lose his Christmas spirit. But, instead of a cheering visit from Santa Claus, Krampus involves the unleashing of a demonic beast that forces a family to come together. It isn’t the most conventional festive film, but its dark edge makes it stand out.

Where to watch: Netflix

44- Deck the Halls (2006)


This Christmas comedy finds competitive neighbours Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick trying to best one another in a display of festive might. Along the way, they lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, but by the time the credits roll, all is merry and bright in the fictional town of Cloverdale. Just as you always knew it would be.

Where to watch: Netflix

43- Christmas Evil (1980)


Taking The Jackson 5’s ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ to dark new places, Christmas Evil is a psychological horror film that really leans into St. Nick’s dark side. Featuring a disgruntled factory worker who’s convinced he’s been trained by Santa’s reindeer along with some terrible gifts and brutal murders, Christmas Evil is a properly bleak watch.

Where to watch: Shudder via Prime Video

42- Silent Night (2021)


A horror comedy set on the edge of an apocalypse, Silent Night follows a group of friends reuniting for one final Christmas party before the end. A film driven by paranoia, it’s consistently funny but also unsettling as uncomfortable conversations about life and death take place next to final goodbyes.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

41- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)


Part buddy detective movie, part dark comedy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang sees Robert Downey Jr.’s Harry Lockhart thrust headfirst into the underbelly of a Hollywood Christmas. It features villainous actors and extravagantly awkward parties alongside a dark mystery, but in a show of true festive spirit, there’s also a sense of transformation to proceedings.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

40- The Lodge (2019)


This psychological thriller starts with a suicide and ends with a loaded gun, which should give you an idea about how Christmassy it really is. Featuring suicide cults, dickhead children and a thin, hazy line between reality and nightmare, The Lodge is the perfect anti-Christmas film.

Where to watch: NOW

39- A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (2011)


Stoner comedy A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas may be the third and final installment in the series, but it’s certainly not predictable. Alongside overbearing in-laws and a quest for the perfect Christmas tree, this film also features the second coming of Neil Patrick Harris, a bong-smoking Santa and a life-saving wafflebot. Ridiculous but charming.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

38- Iron Man 3 (2013)


After the epic comic-book team-up The Avengers, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark returned to standalone Iron Man movies a broken man. Wrestling with PTSD, addiction and insomnia, this was the first time Marvel really allowed its heroes to suffer the consequences of their actions. And in the process, it gently nudged the MCU in a very welcome darker direction.

Where to watch: Disney+

37- Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)


Pretty much anyone who’s returned to their hometown for the holidays will relate to the title character (Ella Hunt)’s desire for escape. The zombie musical elements are less grounded in reality, but this wonderfully over-the-top British film is as gory, charming and funny as they come.

Where to watch: Prime Video

36- Scrooged (1988)


Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has probably inspired more festive films than any other book. This (once) contemporary retelling sees a trio of ghosts help TV executive Bill Murray rediscover some Christmas spirit while he puts on an extravagant version of A Christmas Carol. That’s two Carols for the price of one.

Where to watch: NowTV

35- You’ve Got Mail (1998)


Reuniting Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan with their Sleepless in Seattle director Nora Ephron, this iconic rom-com follows a pair of bookshop-owning rivals as they accidentally begin an online romance. The whole film could be sorted in less than a minute if everyone was just honest with each other, but that way we’d be denied the sprawling shenanigans and gloriously infuriating will-they/won’t-theys.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

34- Die Hard 2 (1990)


All Bruce Willis’ John McClane wants for Christmas is to pick up wife Holly from the airport. International terrorists have other ideas, though, meaning McClane (wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time) has to save the day again using nothing but grit and a disdain for the proper chain of command.

Where to watch: Disney+

33- Edward Scissorhands (1990)


Tim Burton’s fantasy romance is about an unfinished humanoid (Johnny Depp) struggling to come to terms with life in suburban America. Fair enough, really. Part monster film, part stylistic Christmas adventure, this gorgeous-looking flick is among the bleakest but most charming films you can watch.

Where to watch: Disney+

32- Happiest Season (2020)


A thoroughly modern Christmas film, Happiest Season has Mackenzie Davis’ Harper coming out to her conservative parents while placating a girlfriend (Kristen Steward) who hates the holidays. Add in a big family get-together and it’s the sort of chaotic, politically-charged Christmas that many people experience every year.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

31- Bad Santa (2003)


A classic black comedy in which Billy Bob Thornton’s mall Santa really leans into the bad that’s promised in the title. There’s a happy ending to be found, but only after a whole lot of law-breaking and deception. Its a lot of fun, but not for the faint-hearted.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

30- Spirited (2022)


Pairing Will Ferrell with Ryan Reynolds was always going to pop, but this musical comedy really has no right to be this excellent. Riffing on A Christmas Carol with songs written by La La Land’s Pasek and Paul, Spirited is an all-singing, all-dancing romp with just the right amount of grit.

Where to watch: Apple TV+

29- In Bruges (2008)


A wonderfully depressing film about redemption. Following two hitmen laying low after a botched job, In Bruges is shocking, blood-soaked and oddly hilarious with Ralph Fiennes at his furious best and Colin Farrell delivering some absolutely classic lines. It’s a festive crime caper that relishes the unexpected.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

28- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)


This festive TV special helped to solidify Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang as icons. Though it’s essentially a warning about the commercialisation of Christmas, it does away with any preaching and focuses instead on the power of friendship (and a well-decorated Christmas tree).

Where to watch: Apple TV+

27- Last Christmas (2019)


A romcom with the most obvious yet unexpected plot twist in the history of fesyive films, Last Christmas is inspired by the music of George Michael and Wham!. Starring Emilia Clarke as a disillusioned shop worker and Henry Golding as a too-good-to-be-true love interest, it’s mushy and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

26- Nativity! (2009)


A very British Christmas film that’s as chaotic as it is cute. Martin Freeman plays a former dreamer who now hates the festive season; Marc Wootton is an over-enthusiastic classroom assistant driven by Christmas spirit. This odd couple bicker and bitch as they put on a Nativity play while a glorious ensemble of children do their best to steal every scene. And generally succeed.

Where to watch: Netflix

25- It’s A Wonderful Life (1947)


It might be an absolute classic, but It’s A Wonderful Life is a pretty depressing watch for much of its duration. Another movie that riffs on A Christmas Carol, James Stewart’s George Bailey does his best to lead a good life, but still finds himself suicidal and down-on-his-luck. One quick look into an alternative timeline, though, and it’s “Merry Christmas” all round.

Where to watch: Prime Video

24- The Christmas Chronicles (2018)


Two bickering siblings hitch a ride in Santa’s sleigh before it crashes and they have to help Kurt Russell to save the holidays. A race against time and belief, this giddy, feel-good adventure is pure festive spirit amped up by a well-timed musical number.

Where to watch: Netflix

23- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)


The third chapter in National Lampoon’s Vacation series explores the age-old difficulties of spending time with your extended family. With classic mishaps involving trees, lights, presents and money, this comedy takes the basics of every festive flick and elevates them using National Lampoon’s family-friend brand of chaos.

Where to watch: NowTV

22- The Apartment (1960)


An introspective festive film that trades in the bright lights and sparkly presents for something more mundane. A complex and sympathetic story about loneliness, The Apartment somehow manages to offer hope in even the bleakest of midwinters; it’s a compelling watch that’s unlike anything else on this list.

Where to watch: Prime Video (via MGM)

21- Klaus (2019)


A wonderful alternative origin story to the legend of Father Christmas, Klaus is a delightful animation set in 19th-century Norway. It follows a spoiled heir who teams up with a heartbroken toymaker to unite two warring families – and naturally, they learn a thing or two about the holiday season along the way.

Where to watch: Netflix

20- Office Christmas Party (2016)


The annual office get-together is usually an awkward affair, but this ensemble comedy dials up the drama thanks to the potential closure of the workplace in question. Shenanigans ensue as grumpy bosses clash with outlandish employees, and almost everyone works together to save their jobs (and the spirit of Christmas).

Where to watch: Netflix

19- Bad Moms At Christmas (2017)


The three parents from 2016’s Bad Moms (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) reunite and this time, they have to deal with visits from their own mothers. This raunchy, unorthodox and cringe-inducing caper is sheer festive chaos and probably best watched well away from your own parents.

Where to watch: Prime Video

18- Violent Night (2022)


David Harbour stars in this new action-comedy film about a Santa exacting revenge on mercenaries who’ve taken a family hostage. With all the intricate traps of Home Alone alongside the brutality of John Wick, it’s fearsome stuff.

Where to watch: In cinemas

17- Batman Returns (1992)


This film opens with an abandoned child raised by a family of sewer penguins, but that’s only the beginning of the weirdness that is Tim Burton’s second Batman film. Intense, stylistic and brooding, Batman Returns manages to blend the gritty reality of the caped crusader with the ridiculousness of his rogues’ gallery.

Where to watch: NowTV

16- Home Alone 2: Lost in New York(1992)


Following the same format as the original, but making everything bigger, Home Alone 2 is a darker, more violent tale than the first. With Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister accidentally catching the wrong flight and Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) free from jail, it’s the ultimate festive revenge film.

Where to watch: Disney+

15- Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)


In this modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Renée Zellweger’s title character is torn between two men: Hugh Grant’s overly charming Daniel Cleaver and Colin Firth’s standoffish Mark Darcy. With overbearing parents, several dating disasters and a smooch in the snow, this superior romcom never shies away from the relatably awkward.

Where to watch: ITV Hub

14- Trading Places (1983)


A crash course in insider trading, a nature versus nurture debate and a gorilla stopping a murder, Trading Places has it all. Featuring a then-relatively unknown Eddie Murphy alongside Saturday Night Live superstar Dan Aykroyd, it’s a screwball comedy about wealth. There’s no moral message (money=power is the main takeaway) but the good guys still come out on top.

Where to watch: NOW

13- 8-Bit Christmas (2021)


A nostalgic comedy in which Neil Patrick Harris’s Jake Doyle recounts his attempts to get hold of a Nintendo Entertainment System back in the ‘80s. With a side order of paranoid parents convinced that video games are bad for the brain, 8-Bit Christmas will chime with anyone who grew up never getting that year’s must-have present.

Where to watch: NowTV

12- Lethal Weapon (1987)


The ultimate buddy cop movie is also an essential festive watch. Opening with ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs about to shoot himself in the head, this action flick ticks a lot of the darker festive boxes – including Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh being “too old for this shit”. There’s even a miraculous ending where all the good guys live happily ever after… until Lethal Weapon 2, anyway.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

11- The Santa Clause (1994)


Adding some legal shenanigans to the festive season, The Santa Clause has Tim Allen’s everyday dad tasked with becoming Father Christmas after his predecessor falls off his roof. Whimsical but with just the right amount of cynicism, The Santa Clause went on to inspire two sequels and a new TV series.

Where to watch: Disney+

10- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)


This stop-motion animation leans into the weird and wild world of festive mascots. With an incredible soundtrack and the most alternative Santa imaginable in the form of Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), it’s a musical masterpiece that gives the season an emo edge.

Where to watch: Disney+

9- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The most faithful retelling of A Christmas Carol has Michael Caine treating the whole thing like a Shakespearean epic, while the rest of the cast are, well, actual Muppets. Full of emotional highs, catchy songs and the unique chaos that Kermit and co. provide, The Muppet Christmas Carol is ridiculous and heartwarming.

Where to watch: Disney+

8- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)


A fairytale fantasy with a villainous performance from Jim Carrey, How the Grinch Stole Christmas isn’t afraid to get dark. The candy-coated Whoville setting looks absolutely gorgeous and Carrey is allowed to be as weird, wacky and wonderful as he likes. The result: an outlandish festive favourite.

Where to watch: Netflix

7- Miracle on 34th Street (1994)


A movie to warm the coldest of hearts, this remake of Miracle on 34th Street features Richard Attenborough as the ultimate live-action Santa. Charming and with a glint in his eye, he really captures the magic of Christmas; even the most cynical of viewers will come away wishing they still believed.

Where to watch: Disney+

6- Jingle All the Way (1996)


Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to get his son the most sought-after toy of the year? Absolute chaos, in the best way possible. With the same swaggering charm that saw him take down Skynet, Jingle All the Way puts the hulking action star in everyday America without ever seeming ridiculous. As he takes on reindeer, bouncing balls and scamming Santas, it snowballs into gloriously unhinged viewing.

Where to watch: Disney+

5- Gremlins (1984)


Hinging on why someone hates Christmas as well as the adorable mogwais, Gremlins is a wonderfully grim festive flick that’s both self-aware and wacky. When the cute Gizmo accidentally spawns an army of anarchic gremlins, it’s up to the residents of Kingston Falls to destroy them with creative glee. You’ll never look at a microwave the same way again.

Where to watch: Prime Video (to rent)

4- The Holiday (2006)


Starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet as single women who swap houses on either side of the Atlantic, The Holiday is a moreish slice of rose-tinted romance. Slow-burning and free from the usual hackneyed miscommunications of the romcom genre, this film is full of heart and proud of it.

Where to watch: Prime Video

3- Elf (2003)


With an incredibly quotable script and a career-best performance from Will Ferrell, this film takes Buddy the Elf from the safety of the North Pole and drops him into the everyday chaos of New York. There, he tries to teach others the true meaning of Christmas while getting his head around newfangled concepts such as carbs. It’s cute, schwaltzy and never takes itself too seriously.

Where to watch: NowTV

2- Home Alone (1990)


Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister gets exactly what he wants for Christmas – his annoying family out of his life. Being home alone is pretty sweet for a while, until two burglars roll into the neighbourhood and Kevin decides to see how much torture the human body can take. Perfect for reigniting the age-old festive debate: would you rather step on a nail, or get hit in the face with an iron?

Where to watch: Disney+

1- Die Hard (1988)


The timeless festive story of one dad trying to get home for Christmas while battling a building full of terrorists. Bruce Willis’ John McClane is the perfect reluctant hero, while Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is the ultimate slimy supervillain. Die Hard never lets up on the violence, with Willis delivering iconic line after iconic line as McClane plays by his own rules to save the day. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!

Where to watch: Disney+

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