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The World’s Greatest Christmas Movies

This year I wrote a movie called THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SANTA CLAUS that should be out next Christmas. It’s the first time I’ve written a Christmas movie (even though both THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TREASURE PLANET were released during the holidays.) It’s gotten me thinking about my favorite Christmas movies and I’m a big fan of making lists so here goes. Rob Edwards’s top 10 list of the world’s greatest Christmas movies!

As a confession, I started off thinking I was only going to come up with 7 of these and I was going to make a joke about how it’s impossible to come up with a symmetrical list of 10 movies without having to pad it with crappy ones… then, of course, I came up with exactly 10 movies so the joke’s on me. So here they are, in no particular order, 10 great movies that freeze me in my tracks and make me watch them to the end, reduce me to Knowshon Moreno sized tears (Google it) and remind me what Christmas is all about…

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) - I met Jean Shepherd when he came to Syracuse to read some of his short stories. Afterward, he stuck around and answered the questions of about a dozen of my friends and me for what must have been an eternity. This movie came out shortly after that and it solidified this man’s status as a genius.
ALMOST EVERY VERSION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL (VARIOUS) - A Christmas Carol is, by far, the best story you could ever tell at Christmas. If story dynamics are about fullness of character arcs, then what’s better than taking a Christmas hating miser to a man full of generous Christmas spirit? I burst into tears every time that old geezer wakes up on Christmas morning and throws open the window shades, especially the 1938 version… not so much for the Jim Carrey animated version, hence the “almost”.
ELF (2003) - I’m on the floor laughing every time this thing comes on. It brings out the kid in me and makes me cry.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995) - Lonely girl gets caught in a lie that spirals out of control. Christmas is only tangential to the storytelling (it could easily take place during Arbor Day) but families are on steroids during the holidays and it gives the movie a little magic.
TRADING PLACES (1983) - Again, Christmas is tangential. But it amps up themes of generosity that make Christmas movies great. Also, it’s a tour de force for Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd. And I can’t say enough about Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) - I love this movie so much I’ll watch it until I get sick of it and then I can’t watch it again for a while.
MIRACLE OF 34TH STREET (1947) - Great classic moviemaking. An exercise in seduction that takes the audience and pulls it into its magic. Every time I see that cane by the fireplace, I blither like a baby.
BAD SANTA (2003) - I’m a sucker for cynics who get dragged through the mud until they become enlightened. Here the ultimate cynic sees the light and I’m deep into the box of tissues.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002) - Here’s another one where Christmas is only tangential to the story but they’re front and center with the themes of family, loneliness, generosity and second chances. Great movie.
METROPOLITAN (1990) - There’s something about Whit Stillman’s work that has me rolling on the floor laughing. Maybe it’s because it give me a chance to relive my boarding school days or maybe it’s just the honesty and wry wit in that movie are spellbinding.
HONORABLE MENTIONS:ALL OF THE ANIMATED TV SPECIALSTHE RANKIN-BASS SPECIALS stand toe to toe with every movie out there. They’re synonymous with Christmas to me but they don’t belong on the list because, you know, rules. The same is true of CHARLIE BROWN’S CHRISTMAS (1965). Take a second to think of what balls it took to have Linus stand alone on stage and read about the birth of Christ. Chuck Jones’s HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (1966) is a work of art from start to finish.


HOME ALONE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, LOVE ACTUALLY, GREMLINS and HOLIDAY INN almost made the list but I drew the line at ones that make me cry and compel me to watch to the end. It’s a high bar, I know.

Next time, I’ll answer one of your questions that was frequently asked during the CTN Animation Expo and again in the mail. Until then, which Christmas movies stop you in your tracks?

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  • Anne Marie Boidock

    Whatttttttt where is SERENDIPITY?!?!?! This list was rigged!

    • Rob Edwards

      I know. I had to make some tough choices. SERENDIPITY would have been right up there… 95th or 96th…

  • Christopher Velasquez

    lol!! Serendipity!
    The Christmas movie that stopped me in my tracks was THE SANTA CLAUSE with Tim Allen because I love Tim Allen!
    I also enjoyed CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS because Tim Allen is also in it.
    FOUR CHRISTMASES was also a good one in my book :)
    This list is right on though in that I cannot argue with A CHRISTMAS STORY being first place!

    • Rob Edwards

      They’re in no particular order but A CHRISTMAS STORY belongs up there.

  • Nancy Bates

    WHITE CHRISTMAS and ARTHUR CHRISTMAS are two of my holiday favs. Love the Rankin Bass TV shows, they make me feel like a kid again, and MIRACLE ON 34th STREET and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE will get me glued the to screen. By the end: eyes extra moist and heart full of hope.

    • Rob Edwards

      I really need to watch ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. Everybody says it’s great. And I should probably give WHITE CHRISTMAS another watch. Any excuse to watch these fantastic movies…

  • Jennifer Erzen

    My sister, mother and I hold White Christmas as our all time favorite. However for some reason my mother would watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation every day of the year if we let her.

    • Rob Edwards

      Two classics. LAMPOON was just on and I almost stopped to watch it. Almost. It’s funny too because I think the classics like WHITE CHRISTMAS have an advantage over the new stuff because people actually made non sarcastic Christmas movies back then. What’s your favorite part of WHITE CHRISTMAS?

  • Rob Edwards

    And, after all that, would you believe I forgot DIE HARD?! A classic. It doesn’t make me cry every time I see it but it definitely stops me in my tracks.

  • Tony Nichols

    well played! nice to find another best of Xmas list that includes both Bad Santa and Catch Me If You Can. And thanks for reminding me that I need to re-watch Trading Places.