The halls are decked and the stockings are hung: Christmas season is officially in full swing. Did you get your shopping done early? Congratulations! Enjoy a break from the madness at the stores and curl up on the couch with one of these classic Christmas movies.
Or maybe you put your shopping off and now you’re scrambling. Put this list away for later. Did you know that the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and run through the Epiphany on January 6th? So you’ve got some time to milk the festive spirit.
Here’s a mix of 12 classic American Christmas specials that every fan of movies and/or Christmas should see at least once.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Produced and directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart, this American movie still gets played on screens around the world every Christmas. Considered one of the best movies ever made, It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated for five Academy Awards and is listed on the AFI’s 100 Best American Films Ever Made.
2. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Written and directed by George Seaton and starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street won 3 Academy Awards and has been preserved by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Technically an animated television show, this beloved favorite has been charming Americans for decades. In fact, it’s been broadcast every year since it debuted in 1964, making it the longest running Christmas TV special in history.
4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Who can’t relate to feeling a little down around the holidays? This television special based on Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts cartoon won the hearts of Americans and won both an Emmy and a Peabody Award. The movie soundtrack was an even bigger hit, selling over 4 million copies in the US alone.
5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Directed and co-produced by Chuck Jones and starring Boris Karloff, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is based on the children’s book by Dr. Seuss. Thanks to the Whos down in Whoville, Americans were taught the real meaning of Christmas. Fun fact: Dr. Seuss wrote the lyrics to all the songs.
6. Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Produced by Rankin/Bass, and featuring Jimmy Durante and Jackie Vernon, Frosty the Snowman is another American classic. This story of a snowman and his magic hat was a staple at the holiday season for families all across the USA.
7. Christmas Story (1983)
Directed by Bob Clark, this Christmas film also made the cut for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. If you’ve never seen it, you get your chance pretty much any time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Since 1997, a “24 Hours of A Christmas Story” marathon airs for 12 consecutive screenings both days each year.
8. Scrooged (1988)
Directed by Richard Donner, written by Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue and starring Bill Murray, this modern day Dickens’ Christmas Carol is a cult favorite. It’s found its way onto best Christmas films lists across the country, and IGN even named it the 11th-best holiday movie of all time.
9. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Written by John Hughes, this is the third release in the National Lampoon’s Vacation series. Starring Chevy Chase as the head of the Griswold family, this slapstick comedy is a modern classic. (Fun Fact: the movie was so inspiring to one Texas couple, that just this year their true-to-life Christmas display of Clark Griswold prompted a passer-by to call 911 for help.)
10. Home Alone (1990)
Another John Hughes movie on the list! Starring Macaulay Culkinas a boy left home by accident on Christmas Vacation, this holiday movie enjoyed being the highest-grossing live action comedy film of all time in the United States until it was ousted in 2011. It was so popular it spawned a series of follow-up movies.
11. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Produced and conceived by Tim Burton, this stunningly beautiful magical animated holiday film about the KIng of Halloween Town who ends up in unfamiliar Christmas territory was the first to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
12. Elf (2003)
Starring Will Ferrell, this is another instant classic. It’s already inspired a Broadway musical, and recently it inspired a Boston Firefighter to take to the streets in costume and start pillow fights with strangers. That’s one way to spread some holiday joy!
If you’re curious about what Christmas movie is most popular in your state, CableTV.com took the time to cross reference the top holiday films with Google Trends and released a country-wide analysis. Some states went rogue and claimed their own unique favorite, but these 5 movies got love all across the country.
Home Alone wins the most with District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas and Virginia all declaring it the best.
Next comes Elf with wins from Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was voted by Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Tennessee.
It’s a Wonderful Life won Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas and New York and The Nightmare Before Christmas is most loved in Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico.
The holidays are wonderful, but they can be exhausting! Before we dive into 2019, take a little time out to enjoy some relaxing Christmas magic with a movie marathon of good cheer – and just the right amount of bah humbug. Now you have 12 to choose from!