Ho ho ho! Welcome to the family section of the winter wonderland of cinematic history!
This is a special funfair featuring the best family Christmas movies ever made. Each film of this collection is 100% child-safe, but they also come with the assurance, that the whole family will enjoy the ride. This is a “live-action only” list, so no animated films are included.
We made you a list, we checked it twice,
Just to find out which movies are nice.
But before we dive into the list, we feel the need to clarify the very definition of a Christmas movie.
Traits of a true Christmas movie
A true Christmas movie is actually centred around Christmas, and it channels the mood of the holiday season, with all the joy, anxiety and surprises.
Let’s clarify that a bit further. A movie that happens to be set during the holiday season does not necessarily qualify as a Christmas movie. Falling snow and the occasional Santa hat are just background decoration, if the movie is not about evoking the spirit of the holiday in one way or another.
Now, that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the definition of “Best”.
So how did we pick the Top 13 Family Christmas Movies Ever Made?
Well, it wasn’t simple, and it wasn’t easy! “Best” is a relative term, but there are certain factors that can be used as guidelines, such as Critical Acclaim, Audience Feedback, Box Office Performance, Awards and Nominations, Iconic Status, Popularity, Watchability, etc.
There are loads of family Christmas movies out there, but according to our research, very few of them are actually good. Maybe it’s a side effect of the holiday spirit, but we tend to be a bit too indulgent, when it comes to Christmas movies.
Crappy family Christmas movies like Deck the Halls (2006), Christmas with the Kranks (2004) or even Jingle All the Way (1996) are popping up on “Best Christmas Movies” lists all around the internet. Well, if we want to be honest with our own sense of quality, than the rightful place of these films should actually be the naughty list.
Too harsh? Not at all! Just think about it. If you find the perfect time to watch something with your loved ones, than you don’t want to settle for anything less than the best, right?
That’s the spirit we embraced while composing this list of the Best Family Christmas movies of all time. Every film featured here has a minimum FrameClass of 3 stars, so they are at least in the “Worth a Watch” category. If you want to find out how we calculate the FrameClass of each film, just visit our FrameClass page.
We believe that the movies that made the cut should not compete with one another any further, so we will just present them in the order they were released in.
And now let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Buckle up, and let the best family Christmas movies of all time carry you to the Cinematic Wonderland of Santa Claus!
Revealing the Top 13 Family Christmas Movies of All Time
A Chronological Presentation
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Directed by Frank Capra
Starring James Stewart
The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is It’s a Wonderful Life among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list
✓ Ranked as the #1 Most Inspirational Movie of All Time, and the #20 Greatest Movie of All Time by the American Film Institute
✓ Selected by the Vatican in the “values” category of its list of 45 “great films.”
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Irrefutable proof that gentle sentimentalism can be the chief ingredient in a wonderful film, Miracle on 34th Street delivers a warm holiday message without resorting to treacle.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Miracle on 34th Street among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ Winner of 3 Oscars, and nominee for the ‘Best Picture of the Year’ Academy Award
✓ Ranked #9 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time
✓ Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”
A Christmas Carol (1951)
The 1951 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic is perhaps the most faithful film version – and Alastair Sim’s performance as Scrooge is not to be missed.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is A Christmas Carol among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ Widely considered the best adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic tale
✓ One of the most iconic and influential Christmas classics ever made
A Christmas Story (1983)
Both warmly nostalgic and darkly humorous, A Christmas Story deserves its status as a holiday perennial.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is A Christmas Story among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list
✓ Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”
✓ One of the most popular and influential Christmas movies ever made
Scrooged gets by with Bill Murray and a dash of holiday spirit, although it’s hampered by a markedly conflicted tone and an undercurrent of mean-spiritedness.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Scrooged among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ Since its release, it has become a cult classic and a regular feature on television at Christmas, with some critics citing it as an alternative to more traditional Christmas films
✓ Empire listed it as the seventh-best Christmas film and IGN named it the 11th-best holiday movie of all time
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
While Christmas Vacation may not be the most disciplined comedy, it’s got enough laughs and good cheer to make for a solid seasonal treat.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ Since its release, it has often been labelled as a modern Christmas classic
✓ One of the highest grossing movies of 1989
*National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is part of the Vacation Franchise, although this is the only movie in the series centred around the holiday season.
Prancer’s good-natured holiday cheer – and a terrific performance from its young star – are enough to make this yuletide adventure a moderately rewarding watch.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Prancer among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ The film’s young lead actress, Rebecca Harrell, garnered a nomination for a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress
✓ One of the lesser-known Christmas movies, but arguably a charming and disarming holiday classic
Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone uneven but frequently funny premise stretched unreasonably thin is buoyed by Macaulay Culkin’s cute performance and strong supporting stars.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Home Alone among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ One of the highest grossing movies of the 1990s
✓ Nominated for two Academy Awards and one Golden Globe
✓ Hailed as a holiday classic among audiences and is often ranked as one of the best Christmas films of all time
*This is the first and best movie of the Home Alone Franchise. The other instalments of the series didn’t make the cut, but you might still want to check out the full collection, so here it is:
|Home Alone (1990)|
|Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)|
|Home Alone 3 (1997)|
|Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)|
|Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (2012)|
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Starring Michael Caine
It may not be the finest version of Charles Dickens’ tale to grace the screen, but The Muppet Christmas Carol is funny and heartwarming, and serves as a good introduction to the story for young viewers.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is The Muppet Christmas Carol among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ Upon its release, it became a critical success, and a moderate Box Office success
✓ It was one of the most popular movies of 1992’s holiday season, and eventually it became a Christmas classic
✓ Sir Michael Caine considers the role of Scrooge to be one of his most memorable
The Santa Clause (1994)
Starring Tim Allen
The Santa Clause is utterly undemanding, but it’s firmly rooted in the sort of good old-fashioned holiday spirit missing from too many modern yuletide films.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is The Santa Clause among the best family Christmas movies of all time ?
✓ Upon its release, in 1994, The Santa Clause became a box-office hit, a critical success, and has since gone on to become a Christmas classic
*This is the first and best movie of the Santa Clause Trilogy. The other instalments of the series didn’t make the cut, but you might still want to check out the full collection, so here it is:
|The Santa Clause (1994)|
|The Santa Clause 2 (2002)|
|The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)|
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (2000)
Oscar winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer go to Whoville to bring the world’s best-loved grump to life in this hilarious celebration of the true holiday spirit, starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch.
Why is How the Grinch Stole Christmas! among the best family Christmas movies of all time?
✓ Winner of 1 Oscars, and nominee for another 2
✓ During its theatrical run, it became the second highest-grossing holiday film of all-time
✓ The musical score, Carrey’s performance, visual aspects, and production values (particularly the makeup effects) are favourably praised by critics
A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Elf among the best family christmas movies of all time?
✓ Upon its release, it instantly became a critical and commercial success and since then, it become an influential Christmas classic, that airs annually on television during the holiday season.
The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
Starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus
Viewers seeking a fresh holiday viewing option – or those simply in the mood for Santa Kurt Russell – should find The Christmas Chronicles well worth a yuletide stream.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
The story of sister and brother, Kate and Teddy Pierce, whose Christmas Eve plan to catch Santa Claus on camera turns into an unexpected journey that most kids could only dream about.
…end of the reel…
So there you have it: The 13 Greatest Family Christmas Movies of All Time
If you want to take a look at the ‘Top 13 Best Family Christmas Movies Ever Made’ list without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:
|It's a Wonderful Life (1946)|
|Miracle on 34th Street (1947)|
|A Christmas Carol (1951)|
|A Christmas Story (1983)|
|National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
*Part of the Collection: Vacation Franchise
|Home Alone (1990)
*Part of the Collection: Home Alone Franchise
|The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)|
|The Santa Clause (1994)
*Part of the Collection: Santa Clause Trilogy
|How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (2000)|
|The Christmas Chronicles (2018)|
Is there a movie you believe should be on this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!