Best Family Christmas Movies
1: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Who’s in it: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor
This musical is about four sisters learning about life and love before the 1904 World’s Fair. We guarantee you’ll be listening to Garland’s rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas all season long.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Music, Song (Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin for The Trolley Song). Margaret O’Brien received an Academy Juvenile Award for her work in Meet Me in St. Louis and several other films of the same year.
2: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Director: Frank Capra
Who’s in it: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
When George Bailey wishes aloud that he had never been born, an angel appears to show him exactly how life would be without him.
Today, It’s a Wonderful Life is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Capra revealed that it was his favourite among the films he directed and that he screened it for his family every Christmas season. It was also one of Stewart’s favourite films.
3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Director: George Seaton
Who’s in it? Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Gene Lockhart
Kris Kringle steps in to replace a drunken Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and people love him—that is, until he starts going around town claiming to be the real deal. Once institutionalised as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is, in fact, real.
The film was shot on location in New York City, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade sequences filmed live while the 1946 parade was happening. “It was a mad scramble to get all the shots we needed, and we got to do each scene only once,” Maureen O’Hara recalled in her memoir. “It was bitterly cold that day, and Edmund and I envied Natalie (Wood) and John Payne, who were watching the parade from a window.”
4. White Christmas (1954)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Who’s in it? Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen
For a real-deal Christmas classic, look no further than the one filmed specifically around Bing Crosby’s hall-of-fame holiday tune. It’s about a song-and-dance duo that takes their show on the road to Vermont. Plus, it stars George Clooney’s aunt.
The film was intended to reunite Crosby and Fred Astaire for their third Irving Berlin showcase musical. Crosby and Astaire had previously co-starred in Holiday Inn (1942) – where the song White Christmas first appeared – and Blue Skies (1946). Astaire declined the project after reading the original script.
5: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Director: Bill Melendez
Who’s in it: Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer (voices)
Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a neighbourhood Christmas play, but his best efforts are ignored and mocked by his peers when he chooses a real, but puny, Christmas tree as a centrepiece.
After the comic strip’s debut in 1950, Peanuts had become a phenomenon worldwide by the mid-1960s. The special was commissioned and sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, and was written over a period of several weeks, and produced on a small budget in six months.
6: The Snowman (1982)
Directed by Dianne Jackson
Who’s in it? Raymond Briggs (voice)
This gentle adventure tale is based on the book by Raymond Briggs. Following a night of heavy snowfall, a young boy named James wakes up and plays in the snow, eventually building a large snowman. At the stroke of midnight, he sneaks downstairs to find the snowman magically comes to life.
The production team contacted composer Howard Blake early in the production, as they were having difficulties finding the right tone for adapting the wordless picture book. Blake suggested that the film should not feature dialogue, but instead a through-composed orchestral soundtrack. He recalls the song Walking in the Air was written some years earlier during a difficult period in his life, and the song formed the main theme for the work.
7: Home Alone (1990)
Director: Chris Columbus
Who’s in it? Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara
After 8-year-old Kevin acts out the night before a family vacation to Paris, his mother makes him sleep in the attic. When he’s accidentally left (you guessed it) home alone by his family the next day, he’s happy to have the house to himself. However, it’s not long before he must protect his family’s house from a pair of evil (and clumsy) burglars.
The film is listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever and held the record until it was overtaken by The Hangover Part II in 2011.
The brick family home so well-known from the movie is located in Winnetka, Illinois, outside of Chicago, but while some scenes were filmed on location, most of the movie was filmed on a set built in a gym at New Trier Township High School nearby.
8: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Director: Jim Henson
Who’s in it? Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire (voices)
Another adaptation of A Christmas Carol, this time reimagined by a set of beloved characters – aka the Muppets. This feature-length film also includes original songs, so be prepared for them to be stuck in your (and your family’s) head all day.
Caine, a two-time Oscar winner and acting legend, brought a considerable amount of prestige to the production, which was the first Muppet movie to focus on its human characters. Perhaps as a sign of thanks, the production design team added a nod to Caine’s given name, Maurice Micklewhite, to Scrooge’s 19th-century London. In the film’s finale, keep your eyes peeled for a shop named Micklewhite’s.
9: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Director: Henry Selick
Who’s in it? Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey (voices)
Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, has become bored with the spooky holiday. One day he stumbles into Christmas Town, and becomes so infatuated with the idea of Christmas that he decides to try and create his own version.
The film was originally going to be released under Walt Disney Pictures as part of the Walt Disney Feature Animation lineup, but Disney decided to release the film under the studio’s adult-oriented Touchstone Pictures banner, because the studio thought the film would be too dark and scary for kids.
10: The Santa Clause (1994)
Director: John Pasquin
Who’s in it? Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Eric Lloyd
It’s Tim Allen at his finest. When he accidentally kills a man in a Santa suit, he’s transported to the North Pole to assume the role before the following Christmas arrives, much to the delight of his son.
Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were offered the role of Scott Calvin, but both turned it down; Chase declined due to scheduling conflicts, and Murray did not want to do another holiday-themed movie after doing Scrooged. Tom Selleck, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, and Mel Gibson were also considered for the role.
11: Jack Frost (1998)
Director: Troy Miller
in it? Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Joseph Cross, Mark Addy
A father who can’t keep his promises to his son dies in a car accident. But one year later, he’s back as, um, a snowman. Now that they can do all the things they’ve missed when Jack was human, can he make things right with his son before he’s gone forever?
The costume for Jack Frost’s snowman form was created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. George Clooney was originally set to star as Jack Frost and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop made the character look like Clooney before Clooney left the project.
12: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Director: Ron Howard
Who’s in it? Jim Carrey, Molly Shannon, Anthony Hopkins
Dr. Seuss’s Christmas tale comes to life with an all-star cast, special effects and laugh-out-loud comedy. A bitter and hateful Grinch becomes increasingly irritated at the thought of the nearby village planning their big Christmas celebrations. To ruin their holiday, he disguises himself as Santa Claus (and his dog to look like a reindeer) and travels to the village to raid it of all of the presents, trees and decorations.
Before his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss refused offers to sell the film rights to his books. After his death, his widow Audrey Geisel agreed to several merchandising deals. In July 1998, her agents announced that she would auction the film rights of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
13. Elf (2003)
Director: Jon Favreau
Who’s in it? Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschanel
As a toddler, Buddy was mysteriously transported to the North Pole and raised by Santa’s elves. Now, he’s on a mission to find his real dad – Walter Hobbs – in New York City. But Walter is on the naughty list? As you can imagine, things don’t go well.
Having sold 695,000 copies in the United States, it is the second-highest selling soundtrack album for a Christmas-themed film, behind only The Polar Express.
1: Pennies from Heaven – Louis Prima
2: Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald and the Frank De Vol Orchestra
3: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Lena Horne
4: Sleigh Ride/Santa Claus’ Party – Ferrante and Teicher/Les Baxter
5: Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel
6: Jingle Bells – Jim Reeves
7: The Nutcracker Suite – Brian Setzer
8: Christmas Island – Leon Redbone
9: Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt and the Henri René Orchestra
10: Winter Wonderland – Ray Charles
11: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – Eddy Arnold
12: Nothing from Nothing – Billy Preston
14: The Polar Express (2004)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Who’s s in it? Tom Hanks, Leslie Zemeckis, Eddie Deezen, Nona Gaye (voices)
Based on Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book, a young boy with little belief in Santa Claus takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole. After meeting some friends along the way and Santa himself, he quickly learns that the magic of Christmas comes to those who believe.
Hanks optioned the book in 1999 with the hopes of playing the conductor and Santa Claus. One of the conditions of the sale was that the resulting film not be animated. Zemeckis, however, felt that a live-action version was unfeasible, claiming that it “would look awful, and it would be impossible – it would cost $1 billion instead of $160 million.”
15: Frozen (2013)
Director: Jim Buck & Jennifer Lee
Who’s in it? Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad (voices)
Drawing inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. The film follows Princess Anna as she teams up with Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf to find her estranged sister Elsa, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped their kingdom in eternal winter. Thematically, it explores feminism and sisterly bonds over romance, challenging traditional gender norms and Disney fairytale conventions.
In early 2014, many children around the world became captivated by Frozen to an extraordinary extent. They watched the film repeatedly, memorising all the songs and singing them incessantly, causing some distress to parents, teachers, and classmates!
White Christmas (song)
White Christmas is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting.
The song was written by Berlin for the 1942 musical film Holiday Inn and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 15th Academy Awards.
Crosby’s record topped the Billboard chart for 11 weeks in 1942 and returned to the number one position again in December of 1943 and 1944. His version would return to the top 40 a dozen times in subsequent years.
Since its release, White Christmas has been covered by many artists, the version sung by Bing Crosby being the world’s best-selling single (in terms of sales of physical media) with estimated sales in excess of 50 million physical copies worldwide. When the figures for other versions of the song are added to Crosby’s, sales of the song exceed 100 million.
The first public performance of the song was by Bing Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941, a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Crosby subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers at Radio Recorders for Decca Records in 18 minutes on May 29, 1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm discs from the musical film Holiday Inn.
What’s the most popular Christmas song of all time?
The most recorded Christmas song of all time is Silent Night, whereas White Christmas by Bing Crosby holds the Guinness World Record for the best-selling single.
When was the term “Xmas” invented?
While you might think the shortened version of Christmas is a modern creation, it actually harkens back all the way to the mid-1500s and the Greek letter X, which is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ.