15 Best Christmas Movies (From the Oft-Watched to the Overlooked)

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Are you lining up your Christmas movies for this holiday season? Then be sure to check out my list of best ever Christmas movies. These films have stood the test of time and are sure to please all members of the family. And you might just discover a treasure you’ve never seen before.

So—in no particular order—here are my top picks for Christmas family viewing this year!

  1. The Christmas Wish (1998)
    This Christmas movie has become one of my all-time favorites! Few have seen this beautiful story of family, forgiveness, and second chances—so you just may surprise your own family with something new this year.

    Here’s the basic plot: “Wall Street businessman Will Martin returns home to his recently widowed grandmother to look after her and the family real estate business. But when she discovers several entries in her late husband’s diary about Lillian—a woman that neither she nor Will know—he tries to uncover this Christmas mystery. Will he find Lillian—and himself? Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Debbie Reynolds, and Naomi Watts. Dove-approved.”

  1. The House without a Christmas Tree (1972)
    This movie is based on the first book in the Addie Mills series for tweens. Set in 1940’s Nebraska, the story centers around 10-year-old Addie as she struggles to bring the warmth of family and Christmas to the home she shares with her embittered widower father and her timid grandmother. Readers & viewers have called the film funny, nostalgic, and heartwarming.

  1. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, and Sydney Greenstreet, this 1945 romantic comedy of errors will brighten your day.

    Movie summary: “While recovering in a hospital, war hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) grows familiar with the Diary of a Housewife column written by Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck). Jeff’s nurse arranges with Elizabeth’s publisher, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), for Jeff to spend the holiday at Elizabeth’s bucolic Connecticut farm with her husband and child. But the column is a sham, so Yardley hastens to arrange a publicity ploy by setting up single, nondomestic Elizabeth on a country farm.”

  1. Holiday Affair (1949)
    This charming movie from 1949 stars Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh is just the type of movie you’d find on the Hallmark channel. Fun, sweet, and nostalgic.

    Movie summary: “Charming seasonal clerk Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) catches beautiful Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) in a fraudulent shopping scheme during the busy Christmas rush. But when he discovers that Ennis is a war widow and single mother, Mason takes pity on her and can’t bring himself to turn her in. His supervisor takes notice and fires him on the spot. Mason befriends Connie and her young son, Timmy (Gordon Gebert), and may complicate her plans to marry boring nice guy Carl Davis (Wendell Corey).”

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
    In our house, we re-watch this Frank Capra classic film each year, and rarely do we not shed a few tears before the final credits roll. If you’ve never succumbed to Jimmy Stewart’s and Henry Travers’ charms, you may need to give this magical film one more chance this year!

    Movie summary: “After George Bailey (James Stewart) wishes he had never been born, an angel (Henry Travers) is sent to earth to make George’s wish come true. George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there.”

  1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
    What’s so great about this movie? Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and the 1940’s New York City scenery.

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
    Hopefully, this holiday favorite needs no introduction. Who can top it for snappy dialogue, humor, memorable music, and an on-point holiday message?

    Oh, good grief, it’s Christmas, Charlie Brown!

  1. Little Women (1945 or 1994)
    While technically not a Christmas movie, several beautiful key scenes take place during one March family Christmas or another. Set during the Civil War, this wonderful coming-of-age story of four sweet—yet completely different—sisters never loses its magic, no matter how many times it’s revisited.

  1. It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
    This 1947 Christmas comedy is filled with all the optimism and goodwill of a world newly at peace and thankful for ordinary life. A feel-good film.

    Movie summary: “While rich businessman Mike O’Connor (Charles Ruggles) resides in Virginia, his luxury townhouse in New York City appears vacant. However, in reality, drifter Aloysius ‘Mac’ McKeever (Victor Moore) has been staying there. Mac invites Jim (Don DeFore), an unemployed veteran who has just been evicted from a building owned by O’Connor, to stay at the house without revealing he’s squatting. When O’Connor’s daughter, Trudy (Gale Storm), shows up as well, she falls for Jim and tries to help him.”

  2. The Bishop and His Wife (1947)
    This wonderfully acted film stars Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. Here’s what the New York Times said about its debut . . .

    From the 1947 New York Times Reviews: “Communion with angels is traditional at Christmastime, which is the season when most of us mortals need angelic reassurance anyhow. So there is nothing especially surprising about the miracle that occurs in Samuel Goldwyn’s ‘The Bishop’s Wife,’ which opened last night at the Astor—except that it is superb.”

    Movie summary: “Dejected by his efforts to raise money to build a cathedral, Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) beseeches heaven for guidance, and is visited immediately by Dudley (Cary Grant), who claims to be an angel. Henry is skeptical, then annoyed when Dudley ingratiates himself into the household as his assistant — and worse, wins the attentions of Henry’s long-suffering and kindly wife (Loretta Young). When Dudley continues to intervene in Henry’s struggles, the bishop decides to challenge heaven.”

  3. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
    Judy Garland heads an all-star cast (Margaret O’Brien, June Lockhart, Mary Astor, John Truett), wears beautiful Victorian gowns, and sings some unforgettable songs. This film features the classic, “Have Yourself a Merry, Little Christmas.”

    Movie summary: “A classic MGM romantic musical comedy that focuses on four sisters on the cusp of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The film spotlights the sisters’ education in the ways of the world, which includes, but isn’t limited to, learning about life and love, courtesy of the prototypical boy next door. In the end, love — accompanied by song, dance and period costumes, all in glorious Technicolor — conquers all.”

  4. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
    A timeless story, endearing songs, the Muppets—Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as Mrs. Cratchit, and the Great Gonzo as Charles Dickens—plus consummate British actor Michael Caine, what else do you need?

  5. The Polar Express (2004)
    This haunting film tells of a young boy who takes a mysterious journey with Santa. Beautifully filmed and animated and featuring Tom Hanks. A must-see!

  6. A Christmas Carol (1984)
    A classic that needs little introduction, A Christmas Carol has it all—ghosts, mystery, futuristic visions, unrequited love, heartbreak, and healing. This nostalgic tale of redemption is worth experiencing anew every year.

    This version features George C. Scott. It’s my personal favorite!

  7. Holiday Inn (1942)
    The story line of this movie doesn’t matter a bit. It features Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire singing and dancing to the music of Irving Berlin. If you only know the sister film White Christmas, it’s time for you to pull out this iconic movie!


Renee Ann Smith teaches literature in a Christian high school by day and writes stories by night. She reviews books and shares inspirational posts on her blog Doorkeeper at http://reneeannsmith.com/. You can also find her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ReneeAnnSmith.


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