Christmas Movies: The Holiday Must-Sees

Although I absolutely loooooove Christmas, sometimes it’s hard for me to get in the mood at the start of the season. Once I get my Christmas spirit on, I am so into the holidays that I think I sometimes exhaust my family with my enthusiasm (“HAVE ANOTHER SUGAR COOKIE, KIDS! THEY HAVE SANTA SPRINKLES!!!), but at the beginning of the season, I need to jumpstart things. And for me, the best way to flip on my Christmas switch after Thanksgiving is over is to spend a weekend afternoon watching one of  my favorite Christmas movies.

What are these favorite holiday movies, you ask? Well, I have compiled my own list of must-see holiday films for your perusal. Some of these are the iconic Christmas movies that everyone watches, while at least one may not seem like a potential Christmas classics at all. But I like them. And at least one of the movies on my list is wildly profane and not something parents can ever watch with any kids around.

As you browse through my collection, let me know whether these are Christmas viewing favorites for you as well. I’d also love to hear about holiday movies you really adore that aren’t on my list. Maybe I can add a few new films to my seasonal viewing schedule. That would be great.

And now, without further ado… (and these are not in any particular order)

To view the next photo in the slideshow, just click the red arrow to the right of each slide.

  • "Love, Actually" 1 of 7
    "Love, Actually" is my pick for the best Christmas movie of the last 25 years.

    Love, Actually was released during the Christmas season of 2003, and as it happens, I saw it in the theater then. I was going through a brutally painful divorce at the time, and I was so melancholy that I was having a tough time mustering any holiday cheer whatsoever. I was visiting my BFF since high school in Nashville one weekend, and in an attempt to get me to at least get out of my nightgown and off her couch, she insisted that we go out and see a movie. So I did. And it was Love, Actually, with its countdown to Christmas plot setup, and its multiple characters both finding and losing love in overlapping story lines. 

    I laughed. I cried. And I left the theater in love with Love, Actually.

    Since that time, all of the world has fallen in love with the movie as well, and it's now considered a modern Christmas classic. I watch it multiple times each holiday season and it never gets old. In fact, I watched it last night after the kids were in bed. My favorite character in the movie (and that's a tough call with so many to choose from) is Bill Nighy's Billy Mack. He deserves his own spinoff movie. (Paging director Richard Curtis....)

  • "Mean Girls" 2 of 7
    Mean Girls Christmas

    Okay, so Mean Girls isn't a Christmas movie, per se, but it has one of my favorite, funny Christmas-themed scenes - the one where Regina George and The Plastics, with the addition of Lindsay Lohan's character Cady Heron, perform their slutty Santa song and dance routine to "Jingle Bell Rock" at their high school's annual talent show.  

    Mean Girl Gretchen dances with the other Plastics, but she lets us know she actually celebrates a different holiday this time of year, which head Plastic Regina George manages to ruin, saying, "If only you knew how mean she really is, you'd know that I'm not allowed to wear hoop earrings, right? Yeah, two years ago she told me hoops earrings were her thing, and I wasn't allowed to wear them anymore. And then for Hanukkah my parents got this pair of really expensive white gold hoops and I had to pretend like I didn't even like them. It was so sad."

    I love this movie.

    Also, wasn't Lindsay Lohan adorable and fun to watch before she became the Lindsay Lohan? I think this movie marked the end of Lindsay the gorgeous, young, very talented actress. It was right after this movie was released, and she received so many accolades for it that she began to unravel. So sad. But this movie is a good reminder of what she's capable of. And it's a great holiday treat to watch. 

  • "Elf" 3 of 7
    Peter Dinklage Elf

    Oh, how I love the movie Elf.  Our family watches this one at least ten times each holiday season since it was released in 2003 (can you believe it's 10 years old?). Of course, Will Ferrell is beyond fantastic as Buddy the Elf, but this movie also has such terrific supporting cast in character roles, including the now super-famous Zooey Deschanel and Peter Dinklange as respectively, Jovie the sardonic-slash-flaky department store elf and Miles Finch, the egomaniac children's book author. 

  • "Bad Santa" 4 of 7
    Bad Santa

    There are movies you watch before your kids are in bed, and there are movies you only watch after your kids are in bed. Bad Santa is the Christmas movie that falls into the latter category. Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham (playing totally, completely against type) and the late Bernie Mac, this movie will make you laugh until you cry. In it, Billy Bob Thornton plays a mall Santa so grossly profane and vulgar that every time you think he couldn't take it to the next level, he does. This isn't a movie for those who are easily offended because it's entire premise is to offend and shock. But DAMN it's funny. If you haven't seen it, get those kids of yours to sleep early tonight, pour yourself a glass of eggnog, and fire up Bad Santa on Netflix.

  • "Home Alone" 5 of 7
    Home Alone Movie

    The original Home Alone.

    'Nuff said.

  • "Trading Places" 6 of 7
    Trading Places

    This is the movie that taught me that pork bellies matter (those of you who have seen it know what I'd talking about), and it's also the movie that made me covet Jamie Lee Curtis's bod; she takes it all off in the movie, and she looks AH-MAZING (warning: link NSFW). 

    Trading Places is a quintessentially '80s movie that's held up wonderfully. It remains hilarious, and offers a very Christmasey message. It does have that nekkid scene with JLC, but other than that, it's pretty family friendly. It's a good one to watch with your teenagers, who will recognize Eddie Murphy's character in the film as an early human incarnation of the donkey he plays in all those Shrek movies.

  • "It’s a Wonderful Life" 7 of 7
    It's a Wonderful Life

    It's A Wonderful Life is more than just a Christmas movie, although it's probably the most iconic of all Christmas movies. It's a movie that speaks in particular to anyone over the age of 35 who has ever asked him or herself the existential question, "Is that all there is?"  

    Despite its status today as a holiday classic and cultural touchstone, when it was released in 1946, It's A Wonderful Life flopped at the box office. According to AMC's filmsite, the Frank Capra movie only caught on in the 1970s when its copyright expired, meaning it could be shown on television. Which it was. A whole bunch. Apparently, between watching Charlie's Angels and Starsky and Hutch,  Americans watched It's A Wonderful Life, and rediscovered the awesomeness that was Jimmy Stewart (swoon).

    I can't ever get anyone in my family to watch this one with me, but I love it, and make time each holiday season to see it (on TV, natch) at least once. 

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