December 5, 2020

Favorite Christmas Movies

My kids wonder at times why I bother to have a color TV. “Dad, all you want to watch are black and white movies.” That is fairly accurate. And their point is what?

At Christmas, I somehow find more time to sit and watch a whole movie. And I do enjoy the old ones, I must admit. And yes, I do believe there is a special level in hell for whoever it is who colorized the classic black and white films I love so much. But I will still watch them. What I won’t watch are any movies with country music stars in them. Or movies with articles of clothing in the title. (The Christmas Shoes. The Christmas Sweater. The Christmas Boxers. You get the idea.) And I know I am in a very small minority, but I am not a fan of National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation. Sorry, not my cup of hot chocolate.

I found it hard to identify more than three Christmas books I like, and I only came up with four Christmas TV specials. But I have no trouble naming quite a few Christmas movies that I will watch over and over. I’ll start with a few Honorable Mentions, then move to my top five. As always, your suggestions in the comments are always welcome. And, as always, if you want to look into buying any of these, please click on the links provided. If you purchase through our affiliates, part of your purchase price comes to the Internet Monk. Thank you!

A Christmas Story C’mon, Ralphie. I double-dog dare you.  This is a movie made up of memorable snapshots: Ralphie’s brother dressed as a giant tick. The tongue frozen to the metal pole. Sliding down from Santa Claus. The f-bomb loosed when changing the tire. The decoder ring. The leg lamp. And, of couse, Ralphie actually putting his eye out—or coming awfully close, anyway—with his Red Ryder BB gun. This is the holiday photo album we love to get out each Christmas.

Christmas in Connecticut Barbara Stanwyck is a magazine writer living a lie. When she is forced to actually become the person she has pretended to be, she must come face to face with who she says she is, who she really is, and who she wants to be. Hmmm…this could preach, you know?

The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe As much as I did not like the latest installment in the Chronicles of Narnia movie series is how much I did like the first. Here we are first taken into Narnia where, because of a curse laid upon the land, it is always winter but never Christmas. That is, until four children from our world enter into Narnia at the same time Aslan has returned. And, of course, we meet Father Christmas who hands out good gifts. This is the one to see over and over again.

It’s a Wonderful Life A classic. But not quite classic enough to break out of Honorable Mention for me. Maybe because I have watched it so, so many times.

Now, onto the top five.

5. Elf “Is there sugar in syrup? Then Yes!” “Congratulations! You did it! World’s best cup of coffee!” “Buddy the Elf. What’s your favorite color?” These and other lines make Will Ferrell perfect as the world’s largest elf. This is just plain fun. Anyone want to guess who makes a cameo as Ming Ming the Elf in the North Pole?

4. Holiday Inn /White Christmas I am combining these two as they are very similar films. Bing Crosby stars in each, with Fred Astaire his co-star in Holiday Inn, and Danny Kaye in White Christmas. Both are set in New England. Both are set in inns that are massive enough to house an entire Broadway musical troupe. If I had to choose between the two, I would go with Holiday Inn just for the fact that Fred Astaire is the greatest dancer of all time. Oh, and the Irving Berlin song “White Christmas” was introduced in Holiday Inn. But watch them both.

3. Miracle on 34th Street The original, not the remake. How would you prove you were Santa Claus if you really believed you were? I’m sure you could get some great philosophical and religious discussions going from this, but I just watch it because it’s fun. And I do love the court scene at the end with the bags of mail.

2. The Polar Express I like this more each time I watch it. Tom Hanks plays a bunch of roles in this movie about faith. And this is most definitely a film that leads to discussions about faith—specifically, faith in Jesus in whom we must choose to trust before we can hear the bell ring. The animation is spectacular. The hot chocolate scene is incredible. See if you know what “elfin’ rock ‘n roll” band is playing after Santa’s liftoff.

1. A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott.  Ok, I’m fudging a bit here. This was a made-for-Hallmark TV special, not a theatrical release like the others. But it is easily the best Christmas movie I have ever seen. Scott is Scrooge like no one before him has ever been. Extremely faithful to Dickens’ novel, this is the one to watch.

Ok, now it’s your turn to tell me what movies I left out. Pop some corn, get your Snugglie, and enjoy some holiday classics this year.


  1. Nat. Lampoon is fantastic can’t believe you snubbed them, but then again you hated Dawn Treader which I saw two days ago and thougth was great.

    I agree with a Christmas Carol.

    You overlooked Bill Murry in Scrooged, shame on you.

    And I’m not sure how you forgot the best Christmas movie ever- How Earnest Saved Christmas “YO Bob, Breaks over.”

    but seriously what are your thoughts on The Nativity, the new one that came out a few years back,?

  2. Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what movie you left out:

  3. The band is Aerosmith, or at least the elf is Steve Tyler. Did I get it? What do I win?

  4. Ralphie’s brother getting dressed for a trip to school through the snowy streets always reminds me of my own early childhood, spent in western Montana. Yes, you really did have to dress like that in order to go outdoors to play for, oh, 30 minutes or so, before it got too cold. Layers were the thing.

    I wore undershirts, then regular clothes, then perhaps a sweater. I had a sweet little woolen coat with red embroidery and a peplum bottom, and matching leggings to wear under dresses or over pants, with the bottom half of me finished off with cute red snow boots with black buckles. On top, a hat to cover the ears and a muffler long enough to wind around your neck and face both were necessary, as were gloves or mittens. Unlike Randy, I would have been able to get up had I fallen in the snow, but it was still awkward trying to move very much. It was absolutely essential that one make every effort to be thoroughly emptied out in the bathroom before donning all the outdoor paraphernalia.

    The best thirst

  5. ‘Come to the Stable’ made in the 1940’s with Loretta Young. So good.

  6. My family loves to quote Elf, but the funniest is hearing my three-year-old daughter pull out “I wish I had a million dollars. HOT dog!” from It’s A Wonderful Life.

    Does the “Festivus” episode of Seinfeld count as a Christmas classic? Because the wife and I sure do love it.

    • We bought our house partly because the finial on the top of the stair bannister came off in my hand when I went to look upstairs. It had to be a sign! And yes, the house is drafty, but it doesn’t leak, fortunately.

  7. Denise Spencer says

    “Holiday Inn?” Michael could never get past the guys singing in blackface. I’ll stick with “White Christmas” of those two. And how about the musical “A Christmas Carol” starring Kelsey Grammer and Jason Alexander? Lots of fun, that one.

  8. Dan Allison says

    I’ll stick with the original Miracle on 34th with John Payne and Natalie Wood. Of course, I might feel differently if I’d seen it as many times as I’ve seen “Wonderful Life,” which, like many of us, I almost have memorized.

  9. Well, I’ve have to look for the George C. Scott “Christmas Carol,” Jeff– haven’t seen it in awhile– but my favorite is the 1951 version with Alastair Sim. I also kind of like Patrick Stewart’s 1999 tv movie version (although his “Scrooge laughter” at the end borders on the creepy)….

    • Francisco, Sim’s is THE version when you’re considering theatrical releases, but Scott’s is really something. One of the great things about it is that Scott is cast against type; Ebenezer is usually depicted as thin, scrawny, and not much of a man physically. Scott imbues the character not just with cruelty but menace, making the transformation into a compassionate man all the more meaningful.

      Scott’s version is also my favorite.

      Also, let me just say “Bless you!” for not including National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in the original list. When viewed without nostalgia or excuses, it’s a really, really bad film.

  10. Yes to the George C. Scott Christmas Carol. My wife and I kick off the Christmas season every year by watching it together.

    We used to have a tape recorded on the VCR from a live broadcast and right at the climactic moment when Scrooge comes to his senses, there was a commercial break about a feminine hygiene product. We’re very happy now to have a no-commercial DVD version!

  11. I was always partial to Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol. I guess I first saw it at an impressionable age, but I always expect whoever’s playing Scrooge to dangle by his toes from the window sill on Christmas morning, just like Mr Magoo did.

    • Even as a kid that one set my teeth on edge, especially the ghost of Christmas past with that irritating lisp. THE absolute worst version EVER!!!

  12. Random thoughts:

    Two of your honorable mentions– Wonderful Life and Christmas Story –probably do crack my top five. Though I, too, can practically recite the former, Capra’s genius never gets old. When George finally decides to live and is so thrilled to find that he’s bleeding.. well, that’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? As for the latter, two words: Darren McGavin.

    For my money, Michael Caine is the Scrooge to beat, in The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). I remember liking some aspects of Geo. C. Scott’s portrayal of the character when I saw that version in the UK– where it did play in cinemas– in 1985, but I recall remarking to a friend at the time that perhaps Scott did too good a job as evil Scrooge. He seemed so self-aware and comfortable in his miserly skin that I didn’t quite believe his conversion.

    Elf— so much to enjoy, except for the creepy central premise. Child-in-a-man’s-body who (without growing up) gets the girl? Ick.

    My favorite movie-set-at-Christmas-that-has-nothing-to-do-with-Christmas is The Thin Man (1934).

    And can I get some love for “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947)? 🙂

    • Yes, you can get plenty of love for Bishop’s Wife from me–very good, though it has been years since I have seen it. And I, too, love the Thin Man movies, although I feel I need to go to an AA meeting after watching them…

    • Denise Spencer says

      Oh, “The Bishop’s Wife.” I forgot about that one. Definitely love it! I think it’s much better than the later “The Preacher’s Wife.”

  13. Jim Carrey was surprisingly good in last year’s edition of A Christmas Carol. I almost didn’t see it after the way he murdered the Grinch. But he really did a faithful rendering of Scrooge. I’ve never seen him in a serious role before, and he really did great!

  14. Wasn’t the Elf Min Ming in the movie “Elf” was played by Peter Billingsley, AKA Ralphie Parker from “Christmas Story”.

  15. I know it’s not a movie, but you left out “A Charlie Brown Christmas”!

  16. There are two things I want each Christmas.
    !. A Charlie Brown Christmas
    2. Christmas Eve or Christmas morning at church.

  17. Wonderful Life, of course. But for something slightly different, there’s the 1935 Tale of Two Cities – it weaves a Christmas theme into the story of Carton’s redemption, and there’s no beating Ronald Colman in the role.

  18. What? No Die hard? The Lion in Winter? Home Alone? Just kidding.

    You, sir, are a buffoon and clearly know little about movies.

    The greatest version of Dicken’s Christmas tale is clearly the Alistair Sim 1951 version. (That, and Mr. Magoo’s version.)

    The Polar Express symbolizes everything that’s wrong with Christmas today–the wounded and lonely are healed by getting the THING they always wanted. And, come on, hearing the bell has nothing to do with Jesus, just with being old and Santa, who’s the boy’s father in disguise (as is the conductor, hobo, etc.). I’m very glad, however, that Zemeckis went on to make a pretty good version of Dickens (with a few 3D indulgences).

    LWW? Really? Really?

    You missed The Apartment, Joyeux Noel, A Midnight Clear, and Catherine Hardwicke’s imperfect but interesting 2006 The Nativity Story

    I’ll agree with you on A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and the original Miracle on 34th Street.

  19. Pastor John says

    Die Hard! Justice is done, evil is vanquished, relationships restored. Just don’t watch it with the kids.