Celluloid Christmas

Chisholm Country presents its favorite films for the Holidays, offering options for every taste, crossing into every genre

Traditionally, Christmas Day has always been a big box office day for the film industry as family and friends got out of the house and headed to the movie theaters. Others just choose to stay at home and watch some of the classic holiday films. But how do you pick from all of the holiday entertainment to choose from to settle on watching one of the many Christmas movies out there?

With Christmas films crossing over into almost every possible genre imaginable, which direction do you go? Do you want to laugh? Do you want to cry? Do you want to feel all warm and fuzzy? Or have you had it with all the sugar-coated sentiment and just want a kooky, crazy or cynical Yuletide movie?

The lists have become endless, but ChisholmCountry.com narrowed it down for you, coming up with our favorites by splitting them into convenient categories with summaries to help you choose which films to watch, courtesy of the IMDB.com film website.

Pick one from every category, or select them by year. Discuss the pros and cons of each movie with friends and family, rate them and make up your own best-of-the-best holiday season list of films.


Here are the Christmas movies that great-grandma has to see every Christmas, primarily focusing on bringing together people in a profound way during the Christmas season. See them in original Black and White, or the new, computer-colorized versions.

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – from Frank Capra starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.

An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

  1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – from George Seaton, with Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne.

When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

  1. A Christmas Carol (1951) – the classic Charles Dickens story from Brian Desmond Hurst with Alastair Sim, Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison.

Ebenezer Scrooge, a curmudgeonly, miserly businessman, has no time for sentimentality and largely views Christmas as a waste of time. However, this Christmas Eve he will be visited by three spirits who will show him the errors of his ways.

  1. We’re No Angels (1955) – from Michael Curtiz, with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Aldo Ray.

At Christmas Three Devil's Island escapees hide out in the house of a kindly merchant and repay his kindness by helping him and his family out of several crises.

  1. The Bishop’s Wife (1947) – from Henry Koster with Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven.

A debonair angel comes to Earth to help an Episcopalian bishop and his wife in their quest to raise money for the new church.


If you prefer modern movies with contemporary story lines, here are a few films that can be seen over and over again without getting tiring of them.

  1. The Polar Express (2004) this animated movie from Robert Zemeckis, with Tom Hanks, Chris Coppola and Michael Jeter.

On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express, while learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas.

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – an animated movie with all the favorite Charles Shultz characters from Bill Melendez with voices from Ann Altieri, Chris Doan and Sally Drye.

Depressed at the commercialism he sees around him, Charlie Brown tries to find a deeper meaning to Christmas.

  1. Love Actually (2003) – from Richard Curtis, with Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Liam Neeson and many others.

The movie follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.

  1. The Holiday (2006) – from Nancy Meyers with Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law.

Two women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other's countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love.

  1. While You Were Sleeping (1995) – from Jon Turteltaub with Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman and Peter Gallagher.

During the Holiday Season, a hopelessly romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector is mistaken for the fiancée of a coma patient.


With all the serious business surrounding Christmas and the reason why we celebrate it, sometimes you just need a silly laugh, especially after a family meal that requires massive amounts of organization, work and diplomacy.

  1. Scrooged (1998) – from Richard Donner with Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe.

In the comedic version of A Christmas Carol, A selfish, cynical television executive is haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.

  1. Santa Clause (1994) – from John Pasquin with Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson.

When a man inadvertently makes Santa fall off of his roof on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place.

  1. Elf (2003) – from Jon Favreau with Will Ferrell, James Caan and Bob Newhart.

After discovering he is a human, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole decides to travel to New York City to locate his real father.

  1. Trading Places (1983) – from John Landis with Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd and Ralph Bellamy.

A snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires.

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) – from Jeremiah S. Checlhik with Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Juliette Lewis.

The Griswold family's plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.


Although not exactly traditional Christmas tales, these non-conventional holiday movies provide twisting plots full of fun, feats and folly.

  1. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – from Ron Howard with Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen and Kelley.

On the outskirts of Whoville lives a green, revenge-seeking Grinch who plans to ruin Christmas for all of the citizens of the town.

  1. The Night They Saved Christmas (1984) – from Jackie Cooper with Jaclyn Smith, Art Carney and Paul Le Mat.

An oil company is exploring two Arctic sites for oil. The needed blasting at the first site rocks Santa Claus' North Pole village. He realizes that any blasting at the second site will destroy his home. An oil company is exploring two Arctic sites for oil. The needed blasting at the first site rocks Santa Claus' North Pole village.

  1. Gremlins (1984) – from Joe Dante with Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Hoyt Axton.

A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.

  1. Home Alone (1990) – from Chris Columbus, with Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.

  1. Get Santa (2014) – from Christopher Smith with Jim Broadbent, Rafe Spall and Kit Connor.

A father and son who team up to save Christmas once they discover Santa Claus sleeping in their garage after crashing his sleigh and finding himself on the run from the police.


If you’re one of the non-conventional among us who likes something more off the wall, obscure and quirky, here are a few Christmas flicks for you.

  1. The Ref (1994) – from Ted Demme with Denis Leary, Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey.

A cat burglar is forced to take a bickering, dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve.

  1. Bad Santa (2003) – from Terry Zwigoff with Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac and Lauren Graham.

A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid.

  1. Life Of Brian (1979) – from Monty Python’s Terry Jones with Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin.

Born on the original Christmas in the stable next door to Jesus Christ, Brian of Nazareth spends his life being mistaken for a messiah.

  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – the animated story from Tim Burton and Henry Selick with Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara.

Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but his attempts to bring Christmas to his home causes confusion.

  1. Die Hard (1988) – from John McTiernan with Bruce Willis, Alan rickman and Bonnie Bedelia.

An NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.


Around the world, many memorable, critically-acclaimed movies are made, often depicting a certain country’s culture and Christmas traditions.

  1. Fanny and Alexander (Denmark 1982) – from Ingmar Bergman with Bertil Guve, Pernilla Allwin and Kristina Adolphson.

Two young Swedish children experience the many comedies and tragedies of their family, the Ekdahls.

  1. Mon Oncle Antoine (Canada 1971) – from Claude Jutra with Jacques Gagnon, Lyne Champagne and Jean Duceppe.

Set in cold rural Quebec at Christmas time, we follow the coming of age of a young boy and the life of his family which owns the town's general store and undertaking business.

  1. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Japan 1983) – by Nagisa Oshima with David Bowie, Tom Conti and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

During WWII, a British colonel trie2s to bridge the cultural divides between a British POW and the Japanese camp commander in order to avoid bloodshed.

  1. Joyeaux Noel (France 2005) – from Christian Carion with Diane Kruger, Bennor Fürmann and Guillame Canet.

In December 1914, an unofficial Christmas truce on the Western Front allows soldiers from opposing sides of the First World War to gain insight into each other's way of life.

  1. Un Conte de Noel (France 2008) – from Arnaud Desplechin with Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Roussillon and Mathieu Amalric.

The troubled Vuillard family is no stranger to illness, grief, and banishment, but when their matriarch requires a bone-marrow transplant, the estranged clan reunites just in time for Christmas.


Apparently, 2020 had a bumper crop of Christmas movies made. But let’s check out the best films from the past 15 years.

  1. Why Him (2016) – from John Hamburg with Zoey Deutch, James Franco and Bryan Cranston.

A holiday gathering threatens to go off the rails when Ned Fleming realizes that his daughter's Silicon Valley millionaire boyfriend is about to pop the question.

  1. Four Christmases (2008) – from Seth Gordon with Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaugh and Mary Steenburgen.

A couple struggles to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas.

  1. Noelle (2019) – from Marc Lawrence with Anna Kendrick, Shirley MacLaine and Bill Hader.

Santa's daughter must take over the family business when her father retires and her brother, who is supposed to inherit the Santa role, gets cold feet.

  1. Deck The Halls (2006) – from John Whitesell with Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito and Kristin Chenoweth.

Two neighbors have it out after one of them decorates his house for the holidays so brightly that it can be seen from space.

  1. Office Christmas Party (2017) – from Josh Gordon and Will Speck with Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn and T.J. Miller.  

When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand.

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