Back to IndieWire

The 25 Best Christmas Movies, from ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ to ‘Carol’

Black-and-white classics appear alongside crowd-pleasing comedies, animated TV specials, well-loved romances, high-stakes action movies, ho-ho-horror flicks, and more in IndieWire's gilded guide to seasonal cinema.

The Best Christmas Movies - December 2022

(Clockwise from bottom left): “Elf,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “Carol”

Courtesy Everett Collection

Rockin’ around the Christmas tree at the Christmas movie stop! That’s right: You’ve reached the North Pole of movie recommendations, where our toymakers (read: film critics) have been hard at work sifting through titles all 2022 long.

It’s easy to think of holiday movies as the one area of cinema audiences have permission to practically forget about the rest of the year. With a limited window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most film lovers can only make time for a handful of seasonally appropriate screenings before New Year’s snaps our attention back to awards season and the big Best Picture contenders. Plus, with new yuletide offerings hitting theaters and streaming platforms in a steady flurry throughout December, there’s only so much time to enjoy Christmas classics while staying current on new holiday fare.

Selection is made even more complex when you get into the Christmas genre’s inexplicable tendency toward gatekeeping. It’s a frustrating reality of the movie machine that some titles, for no real discernible reason, get saddled with debates that have relatively little to do with their stories. Such is the case with John McTiernan’s “Die Hard”: the 1988 action-packed crowdpleaser starring Bruce Willis that’s become synonymous with the contentious classification of so-called “Christmas movies” and the separately defined “movies set at Christmas.”

In curating this list, we’ve disregarded that delineation, allowing Stanley Kubrick’s psychosexual thriller “Eyes Wide Shut” and Bob Clark’s slasher “Black Christmas” their rightful spots alongside traditional TV specials, from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The 25 best Christmas movies, as defined here, make up a collection of films celebrating and/or challenging the holiday while using its motifs and themes to explore the light and dark sides of the human spirit. Selections have been ranked with both Christmas relevance and overall film quality in mind.

Honorable mentions include the following, listed chronologically: “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940); “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944); “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945); “Scrooged” (1988); “Batman Returns” (1992); “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993); “The Ref” (1994); “Enemy of the State” (1998); “Serendipity” (2001); “Four Christmases” (2008); and “Klaus” (2019).

Check out IndieWire’s guide to 15 of the best Thanksgiving movies.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , , , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox