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The 35 best Christmas movies to watch this festive season

Muppets Christmas Carol is one of the best Christmas movies of all time

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, Christmas is just around the corner, and we've already got festive films on our minds. As is tradition, the GamesRadar+ and Total Film teams are already debating (read: arguing) over which are best Christmas movies of all time – and which movies count as Christmas movies at all (yes, we're talking about Die Hard).

Luckily, there's been some consensus on the issue. Well, not quite a consensus, but a general discussion that included a few dozen individual lists being counted up in order to give you this selection of the best Christmas movies ever. They're a tinselly bunch. Some are funny, others are heartwarming, and a few are action-packed (yes, we did come to an agreement on). So, if you're in the mood for festive cheer, look no further than the best Christmas movies to watch this fall.

35. Jack Frost (1998)

The movie: It might not be the most sophisticated festive film ever, but you can’t deny that Jack Frost is loads of fun. A touring musician Jack (Michael Keaton) gets a second chance at a relationship with his son when he’s reincarnated as a snowman a year after tragically dying in a car crash… look, screenwriters need Christmas, too. 

Despite the almost laughable premise, Jack Frost will pull on your heartstrings in a way you never thought possible. Although it’s sad in places, it’s a fun-loving movie that’s perfect for a lazy afternoon post-Christmas lunch. Watch it with your family and you’ll be hugging each other and crying in no time… and that’s what Christmas is all about, right?

Its most Christmassy moment: When snowman Jack absolutely obliterates a group of children in a snowball fight in order to save his son from being cornered. There’s nothing like watching him use his little twiglet arms to launch perfectly crafted snowballs into the faces of small children...

34. Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)

Home Alone 2

(Image credit: Fox)

The movie: You do really have to question the parenting skills of people who accidentally abandon their son not once, but twice. Poor little Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) ends up on a flight to the Big Apple, while the rest of his family are headed to sunny Florida for the holidays. While he waits to be rescued, the little tyke once more causes grievous injuries to a pair of robbers (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s Harry and Marv) and gets directions from a certain former US President. 

Its most Christmassy moment: Most Christmassy Moment: Kevin McCallister (Macauley Culkin) is reunited with his mom under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

33. The Holiday (2006)

The movie: In a time before Airbnb, there was house-swapping. That now old-fashioned practice is at the centre of The Holiday, a festive romcom which sees two stuck in a rut singletons (Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz) impulsively decide on a transatlantic switcheroo holiday. 

This is, of course, a Nancy Meyers film (What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give), so both of our female leads find love where they least expected it – more specifically in the form of Jack Black and Jude Law. It’s very, very mushy stuff, and there’s a moment where Jude Law uses the word “problematical” without a hint of irony, but The Holiday is easygoing romcom material with a subtle Christmas tinge that will keep everyone content and quiet after dinner. 

Its most Christmassy moment: After spending the entire movie apart, the two happy couples are seen celebrating New Year’s Eve together in England. No, it’s not technically Christmas Day, but there’s presents, nibbles, and dancing, so it might as well be.

32. Love Actually (2003)

(Image credit: StudioCanal)

The movie: Love Actually might be a paint-by-numbers rom-com, but, love it or loathe it, you can’t deny that Richard Curtis's modern British classic has a special something about it. One of the most-watched Christmas movies of modern times, it's easy to knock its overwhelming cheesiness. However, buried beneath all of the sentiment and sap, there's a sweet always-relevant tale of goodwill to all men. Love Actually sums up the spirit of Christmas and, we promise, we won't tell your mates you watch it every year.

Its most Christmassy moment: Take your pick. All permutations are here, from grand romantic gestures (cue card-laden Andrew Lincoln in the snow), to quiet family bonds (Laura Linney and her mentally ill brother), to the raucous singletons' Christmas of Bill Nighy and Gregor Fisher spending the big day together getting drunk and watching porn.

31. Babes in Toyland (1961)

Babes in Toyland

(Image credit: Disney)

The movie: Although Disney’s version, with Annette Funicello and Ray Bolger, is the most famous version of this story, Babes in Toyland was originally a 1903 operetta written by Victor Herbert. Although Herbert’s story is a fairly dense one, concerning the villainous Barnaby’s attempts to acquire a young woman’s fortune, it takes place against the most magical of backdrops. Babes in Toyland features a fairytale world rendered with all the scale and flair of a Golden Age Hollywood musical, as the screen fills up with all kinds of colours, music, and dancing. 

Its most Christmassy moment: One particularly inventive scene sees stop-motion toy soldiers head out on a triumphant march. 

30. Klaus

Klaus

(Image credit: Netflix)

The movie: Klaus has the honour of being Netflix’s first original animated feature. It makes sense that they’d go for a Christmas film, since there’s always been such a time-honoured tradition of holiday-themed animations – think 1964’s stop-motion version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or 1982’s The Snowman. This film offers a new origin story for Santa Claus, dealing with a postman who befriends a reclusive toymaker. Klaus really does have the makings of a future classic. It’s a traditionally-animated film that looks absolutely gorgeous, with a sweet sentimentality that harkens back to the Disney Renaissance of the '90s. 

29. Krampus (2015)

The movie: This dark Christmas fairytale is the perfect movie to watch when the family is bloated, on their 17th sweet sherry, and making passive-aggressive comments about the scented candle you bought them. 

Max Engel (Emjay Anthony) is a good kid and an all-round Santa stan. After tearing up his Christmas letter after a fight with his nasty cousins, Max accidentally summons the horned Krampus. The demon and his army of twisted toys then terrorize Max's awful family, which will give you some much needed emotional catharsis when your own festive spirit is wearing thin.

Its most Christmassy moment: When Max and the Krampus come face to furry face. Look, this isn't a film with a lot of happy, jolly moments OK?

28. Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

The movie: Successfully giving the Father Christmas mythos an upgrade, Aardman and Sony’s CG animation brims with invention, detailing the demands of the big night on the Clauses. The S-1 spacecraft operates with military precision, but it’s down to gawky grandson Arthur (James McAvoy) to save the day – and the spirit of the season – when one present remains undelivered. Multigenerational Santas voiced by a best-of-British voice cast (Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie) add sparkle to a delightful caper as colourful and warm as Arthur’s sweater.

Its most Christmassy moment: A family squabble outside a girl's home about who will deliver a present is resolved when everybody remembers that it should be down to the person most eager to make the child happy, i.e. Arthur.

27. Jingle All the Way (1996)

The movie: We all know the pain of desperately trying to get your Christmas shopping done in time for the big day, but for parents, the pressure is really on get their kids the exact thing they want from Santa. That’s the premise of Jingle All the Way, which sees Schwarzenegger take on the role of a Dad who just wants to make his child happy by presenting him with a Turbo Man – the hottest toy around – on Christmas Day. 

This is a fun, slapstick comedy without much depth, but Schwarzenegger is often at his best when his big, muscle-bound physic is put in tandem with a mushy, emotional storyline, and the dangerous lengths he goes to get a Turbo Man will have you weeping with laughter. Think your Christmas shopping is bad? Even the Terminator knows now why you cry.

Its most Christmassy moment: The scene where the store clerks laugh in Schwarzenegger’s face when he asks for a Turbo Man… It may not be very jolly, but it’s definitely an accurate depiction of the Christmas period.

26. The Santa Clause (1994)

The Santa Clause

(Image credit: Disney)

The movie: It doesn’t get much better than your Dad turning into Santa Claus, does it? That’s what happens to young Charlie (Eric Lloyd) when his father Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) accidentally kills Santa Claus and has to take his place. It doesn’t happen overnight though... According to The Santa Clause – as in, the clause in a contract which states that whoever kills Santa becomes the new Santa – Scott has a year to get his affairs in order before he must leave for the North Pole permanently. The only problem is, he thinks it’s all dream, which means it’s up to Charlie to convince him he’s really Santa in time for Christmas. 

The heart-warming storyline and Allen’s excellent turn as the cynical Scott are both brilliant, but it’s really the set and costume design that makes The Santa Clause one of the best Christmas movies ever. We challenge you to find a more magical depiction of the North Pole.

Its most Christmassy moment: After returning Charlie to his Mom Laura and Step-Dad Neil, Santa leaves for his Christmas deliveries. But not before giving Laura and Neil their presents – the gifts they wanted as kids that never arrived and led them to believe Santa wasn’t real in the first place...

25. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Shop Around The Corner

(Image credit: MGM)

The movie: It's easy to forget that James Stewart has move than one Christmas movie to his name when It's A Wonderful Life has such a grip over the festive pantheon of movies. Yet, The Shop Around the Corner is one of Stewart's most touching roles. It's the busiest time of the year at a Budapest gift shop, and tensions are high between co-workers Alfred Kralik (Stewart) and Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan). Little do they realise that they are also secret pen-pals who have fallen in love via pen and paper. Sound like a familiar plot? that's because You've Got Mail would later borrow heavily from the movie – so much so, that the bookstore in the movie is called "The Shop Around the Corner".

Its most Christmassy moment: A declaration of love on Christmas Eve. Doesn't get much more weepy than that.

24. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The movie: Eyes Wide Shut has a Christmas tree in every scene, yet there's not much festive about this one. Stanley Kubrick's swan-song provides an ironic reflection on gift-giving, as even man-who-has-everything Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) wanders off to find a little extra. Nicole Kidman is ace as Alice Harford, yet the most memorable thing about Eyes Wide Shut is the seedy masked party that Cruise's Bill goes to. Pure cinematic iconography.

Its most Christmassy moment: The punchline as Alice tells Bill what she's going to give him while they're out Christmas shopping.

23. The Apartment (1960)

The Apartment

(Image credit: United Artists)

The movie: Billy Wilder's poison pen letter to the modern world turns the Christmas period into a hotbed of adultery and attempted suicide. The Apartment centres on a lonely office worker who lets out his New York City home to co-workers for nefarious purposes. One thing leads to another, and a few mix-ups have Jack Lemmon's character in a twisted situation. Not much cheer – but a classic movie nonetheless.

Its most Christmassy moment: Brought low with the Christmas blues, C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) is picked up by fellow lonely heart Margie MacDougall (Hope Holiday) for a Christmas bonus – only to find an even more depressed character, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) has attempted suicide in Baxter's apartment.

22. The Polar Express (2004)

The movie: Step aboard The Polar Express! A grandiose CGI animation that features a cracking motion-capture performance from Tom Hanks, who also leads the voice cast as the jolly conductor of The Express, an enormous train embarking on a journey to the North Pole. 

It’s a bit schmaltzy, and has a strange element of dream logic to it with its long, winding train, and the mysterious point of the journey. But, once you're past he slightly uncanny CGI, The Polar Express is entertaining for all ages. While not quite the smash hit everyone expected, it’s now widely-considered a minor classic and, if you’re looking for something to keep everyone, from the kids to your Grandma happy, you won’t go wrong with this.

Its most Christmassy moment: The encounter with Santa, where the nameless Hero Boy is presented with a bell as the first gift of Christmas.

21. Batman Returns (1992)

The movie: Tim Burton's second and last Batman movie, Batman Returns is a flamboyant parody of Christmas movie conventions, with The Penguin (Danny DeVito) preying on seasonal goodwill to become Mayor and crooked businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) described as “Gotham's own Santa Claus”. 

While perhaps not the Christmas movie for everyone, with Burton’s trademark eccentric fare being a little divisive, Batman Returns does have Michelle Pfeiffer’s unforgettable performance as the indestructible Catwoman, with her latex costume and neon-drenched apartment. One of the more violent movies on this list, it’s warped and weird in all the right ways, and you’re unlikely to forget the stretched buildings of Gotham or the grotesque Penguin any time soon.

Its most Christmassy moment: Catwoman gets Batman (Michael Keaton) where she wants him – under the mistletoe. "You know, mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it," he warns. "But a kiss can be even deadlier... if you mean it," she replies, licking him from chin to masked forehead.

20. Scrooge (1951)

Alastair Sim in Scrooge

(Image credit: Renown Pictures)

The movie: Querulous, cowering, and more than a little camp, Alastair Sim is many people’s definitive Ebenezer in what’s generally considered the most authoritative rendering of Dickens’ 1843 novella. Later versions of the classic tale of the unlikeable Scrooge have all been held up to Sim's version – including the actors very own reprisal in the role, as the voice of Scrooge in the 1971 animated version. Unlike later versions, there are no songs here, and the ghost of Christmas future may be a little scary for some. Festive fact: George Cole plays young Scrooge.

Its most Christmassy moment: Scrooge orders Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) into his office – and then confounds him by raising the clerk's salary, and then bursts into uncontrollable laughter.

19. Fanny And Alexander (1982)

Fanny And Alexander (1982)

(Image credit: Gaumont)

The movie: Sit down Christmas Day to watch this one and you may find yourself still sitting in front of the TV come Boxing Day. Such is the length of Ingmar Bergman's epic chronicle of a Swedish family in the early 20th century, which views the world through the eyes of the titular children. Inevitably, we come to see what kids remember most is Christmas and family. This is one of the few movies here that was nominated for six Oscars (winning four). Though, you may want to watch the theatrical version at 182 minutes rather than the stonking TV version, which runs over five hours.

Its most Christmassy moment: The opening Christmas celebrations, as Bergman maps out the family relationships against the backdrop of an astonishing, extravagant Yuletide feast.

18. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Edward Scissorhands

(Image credit: Fox)

The movie: A classic fairytale from Tim Burton. Johnny Depp is the man with scissors for hands, created by Vincent Price in his gothic mansion. He falls for Winona Ryder's Kim and is, at first, accepted by the residents of her bland town. But then it all goes wrong... It's easy to forget that the events of Edward Scissorhands take place around Christmas, but Burton does love the festive season – even if his movies aren't exactly the most classically "festive" films. 

Its most Christmassy moment: While his adopted family prepare for the festivities, Edward uses his hands to whittle a block of ice into an enormous sculpture of his beloved. The shavings of ice fall like snow around Kim as he carves. With Danny Elfman's haunting score soaring, it's a genuinely moving moment.

17. Carol (2015)

Carol

(Image credit: StudioCanal)

The film: Todd Haynes’ lush, gorgeous lesbian romance unfolds over the Christmas season of 1952. Carol (Cate Blanchett) first meets Therese (Rooney Mara) when she – accidentally or intentionally – leaves a pair of gloves behind while shopping for presents. Carol is going through a difficult divorce, with husband threatening to use the “morality clause” and expose her homosexuality so he can have full custody of their son. Carol and Therese are forced to keep their relationship a secret. 

Carol more than deserves its status as a modern Christmas classic. Not only is it devastatingly romantic, but it possesses the kind of rich, warm glow and simple elegance which always feels reminiscent of department stores dressed up for the season. Considering every Christmas at home inevitably descends into chaos, it’s nice to daydream about spending the holidays dressed up to the nines and drinking martinis under the mistletoe. 

Its most Christmassy moment: Carol buying a model train set and leaving behind her glove is wonderfully flirty.

16. A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story

(Image credit: MGM)

The movie: In 1974, director Bob Clark made Christmas scary with proto-slasher Black Christmas. Nine years on, his ’40s-set adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s growing-up tales offered a more nostalgic, family-centric perspective, sharpened by bracing satire. Peter Billingsley leads endearingly as Ralphie, a nine-year-old who desperately wants an air-rifle from Santa. With Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin giving steadfast support as the parents, Clark’s kid’s-eye vignettes nail children’s seasonally heightened emotions: sometimes erratic, sometimes plump with cheer, Clark’s self-styled “low-budget fluke” is Christmas bottled. This one's an annual event in America, but strangely it's never taken off in Britain despite its wry realism.

Its most Christmassy moment: Despite nearly blinding himself with the gun, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) contentedly goes to bed with his prize present by his side.

15. Black Christmas (1974)

The movie: You know what really makes it feel like Christmas? A good old-fashioned slasher – if only to have you pulling loved ones that little bit closer. You certainly don’t want to watch Black Christmas with the kids or your grandparents, but this cult horror flick combines edge-of-seats scares with bold amorality (one of the first victims is pregnant), leaving every character is at risk. 

Kicking off the festive stalk ‘n’ slash tradition in style, Black Christmas remains the best of its kind, as a masked killer terrorises the girls of a sorority house during their annual holiday party. While the trail of corpses the killer leaves behind might dampen the spirit of the remaining survivors, it’ll make your Christmas a memorable one.

Its most Christmassy moment: A victim's screams are drowned out by the jolly sound of Christmas carollers outside. Really festive, that. 

14. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

The movie: Consummate family man Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is nearly undone by his own delusions of grandeur, not to mention his dysfunctional extended family, in this cracking Christmas comedy from '80s hitmaker John Hughes. With ample physical hijinks - admire the athleticism on display as Clark clings for dear life to an icy gutter - alongside wry, relatable humor for anyone who's ever wrangled a room full of "loving" family members, Christmas Vacation stands alongside Animal House as one of the best films to bear the National Lampoon's hallmark. And we must admit, the eternal torment of the Griswold family's yuppie neighbors remains satisfying almost three decades later.

Its most Christmassy moment: Clark gets the best Christmas show on the street, by virtue of a sewer gas explosion propelling his little plastic Santa and eight tiny reindeer into the stratosphere.

13. Bad Santa (2003)

Bad Santa

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

The movie: There’s plenty of family-friendly Christmas films on this list, so how about some NSFW festive flicks for the adults in the room? Look no further than Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa, which declares all-out war on Christmas schmaltz with its feel-bad parable about an alcoholic thief Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton). 

Dressing up and doing shifts as a stand-in Santa in order to rob department stores, Willie does not represent the Christmas spirit. One kid (Brett Kelly), though, doesn’t question Stokes' foul mouth and bad behaviour, and instead accepts him as Santa. Despite the thief's best efforts, they form a bond. It's almost heart-warming. Depraved, disgusting, and degrading, Bad Santa is the anti-Christmas movie, which is also why it’s one of the best Christmas movies around.

Its most Christmassy moment: Having seen the light, Willie races home, cops in pursuit, to hand the kid a Christmas present… before collapsing from the eight bullets riddling his body.

12. White Christmas (1954)

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The movie: Surprisingly, Michael Curtiz’s White Christmas isn’t the first film to feature Bing Crosby's perennial classic – that would be 1942's Holiday Inn – but this is the better-loved movie thanks to the fact that the storyline is built around the title song. And when it comes to looking for the best Christmas movies to watch this festive season, you won’t find much better than this. 

While there are certainly better films on this list – the storyline is very straightforward and predictable – not many are this Christmassy. Plus, while the plot is questionable, the chemistry between the cast is not. Crosby is joined by Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen, and Rosemary Clooney for a rip-roaring post-World War Two holiday full of joy and laughter. 

Its most Christmassy moment: Do we even need to say it? Even if you haven’t seen White Christmas, you can probably picture the moment the quartet don their red and white festive costumes for a good old sing-a-long at the end of the film. All together now: "I'm dreaming of a whiiiiite Chriiiiistmas."

11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

The movie: The Dr. Seuss classic gets a live-action, Jim Carrey-packed adaptation that has everything you want from a Christmas movie – unforgettable songs, jokes that will wring a smirk from even your most cynical cousin, and a baby Jenny Humphrey from Gossip Girl as Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen). 

The Grinch hates Christmas – with good reason it turns out – and plans to ruin it for everyone in Whoville. After partnering up with Cindy Lou, the eponymous creature ends up teaching everyone an important lesson about the real meaning of the festive season. This is a twist on the grumpy Scrooge-like character who realises the true meaning of Christmas and does some good in his community. Albeit with a moody demeanor… 

Its most Christmassy moment: The finale sees a massive Whoville sing-a-long after the consumerist, emotionally stunted Whovillians realize that Christmas isn't just about presents and pretty lights. 

10. The Snowman (1982)

The Snowman

(Image credit: Channel 4)

The movie: While only a short at 30 minutes long, The Snowman is a must-watch every Christmas day. Based on a picture book, it's is entirely dialogue-free – save for the live-action, David Bowie-starring intro that is tacked on to some versions – and features a beautiful tale of a snowman coming to life and taking his creator, a young boy, to meet Father Christmas. 

The music tells you everything you need to know as that trademark “I’m Walking in the Air” tugs on your heartstrings, and it’s helped along by the paint-effect animation that gives it its distinctive look. The ending, as the sun comes up, is perfectly pitched and utterly heartbreaking.

Its most Christmassy moment: The Snowman takes flight for the first time and Welsh warbler Aled Jones begins to belt out Walking in the Air. Truly magical.

9. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

The movie: While this may be a remake, the 1994 version of Miracle on 34th Street is a superior Christmas movie. For one thing, it stars Mara Wilson – of Matilda fame – as Susan Walker who has been raised to believe Christmas is not a thing! Wilson is perfect as the smart young child who wants to believe but has been taught to be wary of getting hurt. Add to that, Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle himself and you’ve got a match made in heaven. 

The storyline is simple enough, as Kris tries to convince Susan to believe in him, but when word gets out, he finds himself in bother with the law. Full of warm-hearted magic and childlike wonder, Miracle on 34th Street is a must-watch this festive season. 

Its most Christmassy moment: When Susan convinces the judge presiding over Kris’s case that he can let him off using a Christmas card (and a dollar bill) that leads him to declare: “Santa Claus does exist! And he exists in the person of Kris Kringle! Case dismissed.”

8. Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged

(Image credit: Paramount pictures)

The movie: It doesn't matter whether it's 19th Century London or 1980s Manhattan, there will always be humbugs like Frank Cross (Bill Murray) who need to have their worldview changed by Christmas ghosts. A cantankerous TV executive, Cross gets served a big ole piece of humble pie when that infamous trio of spirits pay him a visit (Ghost of Christmas Present, Carol Kane, is deliciously violent). 

This take on Dickens’ famous tale isn’t as feel-good as The Muppets Christmas Carol, instead being noted for its cynicism and frankly unsettling sections where Cross’s temper gets the better of him, so if you’re looking for a movie that isn’t saccharine-sweet, Scrooged is the one for you. There are members of the GR+ team who still cry when Cross gives his closing festive monologue. 

Its most Christmassy moment: Frank goes mad with joy, live on air, by preaching to his audience to switch off their sets and spend Christmas with their loved ones.

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas

(Image credit: Disney)

The movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those rare movies that you can watch at Christmas or Halloween. Ok, it’s probably the only movie that works for both Christmas and Halloween, but it’s an excellent watch no matter the season. 

Tim Burton-created, but directed by Henry Selick, the stop-motion classic sees a horror-style takeover of Christmas as Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon/Danny Elfman) yearns to break away from the predictability of Halloween. His heart is in the right place, but Jack doesn’t really get what Christmas is all about and ends up kidnapping Santa and giving children decapitated heads as presentsIt’s an unusually dark Crimbo flick, but certainly one of the best in no small part thanks to its incredible songs.

Its most Christmassy moment: Jack Skellington, disillusioned with Halloween, discovers Christmas Town. "What's this?" He sing-asks, as every festive clich comes to life in joyous fashion.

6. Gremlins (1984)

The movie: Young Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives Gizmo, a little furry Mogwai, for Christmas and proceeds to ignore all of the safety warnings. the results are dangerous, as there's suddenly an outbreak of Gremlins in his area. The horde of malicious critters are surprisingly vicious considering the ever-cute Gizmo they spawned from and proceed to destroy Billy’s picture-postcard hometown just in time for Christmas. 

Moral of the story: from mythical pets to Ikea Billy bookcases, it’s worth reading the instructions. Gremlins straddles the gap between a family-friendly film and horror movie, but that’s one of the reasons it works so well – just use your discretion before you pop it on the TV this Christmas.

Its most Christmassy moment: Where else is the final battle between cuddly Mogwai Gizmo and chief Gremlin Stripe going to take place at this time of year? In a department store, as would-be stocking fillers are put to uses their manufacturers never anticipated.

5. Elf (2003)

The movie: There are not many modern festive films that deserve a top five spot in the best Christmas movies list, but Elf has all the hallmarks of an enduring classic. There’s a twinkle-eyed, uncynical, charm to Will Ferrel’s performance as Buddy, an irrepressibly upbeat Elf at odds with the harsh modern-day streets of New York. A human raised by one of Santa's elves, Buddy is no ordinary elf and when he finally realises why, he sets off for the big city to find his biological family. 

Gifting Ferrell with his mainstream break-out role as the daft-yet-loveable elf, Buddy’s amiable goofiness bristles against his curmudgeonly real dad, Walter (James Caan), who he eventually finds. This is Ferrell at his absolute finest, and the reason why Elf is one of the best Christmas movies is because his character reminds us all what it was like to be this excited about Christmas. 

Its most Christmassy moment: The finale sees Buddy’s love interest Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) leads New York in a rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town to restore the Christmas Spirit needed to power Santa's sleigh.

4. Die Hard (1988)

The movie: Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie! We don't care that Bruce Willis said it's not – you cannot set a movie at Christmas, have the story begin with a man looking to get together with his estranged wife at a Christmas party, and say it's not a Christmas movie. Admittedly, the '80s action doesn't scream, "I'm having a festive time," but that's why this isn't number one...

Explosions, shoot outs, dead bodies falling from the sky… Die Hard has it all as a Christmas Eve party in the Nakatomi Plaza is rudely interrupted by Alan Rickman's crew of thieves-disguised-as-terrorists. Only Willis' vacationing cop John McClane can stop them and – ho ho ho – now he has a machine gun.

Its most Christmassy moment: Yuletide, L.A. style as McClane's chauffeur Argyle (De'voreaux White) plays rap in the limo. "Don't you got any Christmas music?" asks McClane. "This is Christmas music!" replies Argyle, cranking up Run DMC's Christmas in Hollis.

3. Home Alone (1990)

The movie: A festive staple since its release in the ‘90s, Home Alone is genius in its simplicity. The McCallister family are going away for the holidays and, like all well-organised families with a ridiculous amount of children, they have a checklist to make sure they don’t forget anything. Tickets? Check. Presents? Check. Children? Oh damn, they forgot Kevin. 

Don’t worry though, abandoned kid Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is too busy having a great time jumping on the bed and trashing his brother’s room to let a couple of would-be burglars ruin his Christmas – cue dangerous hijinks and slapstick accidents to hilarious effect. Home Alone is laced with iconic moments, from Kevin’s aftershave horror to Marv’s full-face iron burn.

Its most Christmassy moment: The Kenosha Kickers, a musical troupe led by jovial Gus Polinski (John Candy) offer Kevin's mom Kate (Catherine O'Hara) a lift home on Christmas Eve so she can be with her son on the big day.

2. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The movie: Who would have thought that one of the best Christmas movies of all time would be a Muppets movie? If you’ve never seen The Muppet Christmas Carol you’ll probably need some convincing, but Michael Caine’s superb performance as the bad tempered Scrooge, mixed with the ridiculous jokes and clever songs of the Muppets, make for excellent Christmas viewing. 

Arguably the best adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, it’s also surprisingly faithful to the original novel... Except Dickens is Gonzo and Tiny Tim is a frog... A perfect family Christmas movie that's utterly heartwarming.

Its most Christmassy moment: The Ghost of Christmas Present has a crack at persuading Scrooge of the joys of the festive season with a jolly rendition of "It Feels Like Christmas". We dare you to watch and not feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

The movie: It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic for the ages. Frank Capra's fable of redemption, parallel universes, and small-town life tells the tale of the suicidal George Bailey (James Stewart) who’s run of bad luck leads him to believe the world would be a better place if he had never been born. 

Little does he know, God is watching his downward spiral and sends an angel-in-training, Clarence (Henry Travers), to show George exactly what would happen to his friends and family without him. True, the majority of the movie isn’t a laugh a minute, but it’s the uplifting and life-affirming ending that makes It's A Wonderful Life the best Christmas movie.

Its most Christmassy moment: George runs home on Christmas Eve to be with his family before he’s sent to jail, only to discover that his friends and family have banded together to help bail out the "greatest man" in town. *Jingle* What's that? Oh, an angel getting their wings. Cue tears.