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The 25 best Christmas movies to watch this festive season

Looking for something to watch over the holidays? Take your pick from the best Christmas movies ever made and enjoy a little festive cheer with your family and friends. You'll find our top picks of the best Christmas movies of all time below, including everything from the Yuletide classics you know and love (like The Snowman and Miracle on 34th Street), to more modern takes on the holiday season (such as Bad Santa and Krampus).

If you want to keep the kids quiet, stop the family arguments, or scare everyone half to death (because, why not?), there's a festive film for you below. The best Christmas movies come in all shapes and forms, from thrillers and comedies, to horror films and those movies that feel like a warm blanket of nostalgia on a cold winter’s day.

There's even a few hotly contested entries on our list. Is Batman Returns really a Christmas movie? Is Die Hard for that matter?! Maybe you can finally settle the age-old debate while you watch them. Either way, there's no denying every film on this list is excellent so no matter what you pick, you're in for a treat.

Go on, you can’t resist, can you? Add a sprinkling of movie magic to your holidays, a dusting of snow-covered festive flicks, and give the gift of one of the best Christmas movies of all time to those you love. Gather round the television this holiday season and have a very Merry Christmas. 

25. 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 Xmas, too. Despite the almost laughable premise, Jack Frost will pull on your heartstrings in a way you never thought possible (who knew a talking CGI snowman could be this emotional?), and although it’s sad in places, it’s a fun-loving movie that’s perfect for lazy afternoon watching during the holidays. 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 small childrens’ faces. Brilliant.

24. 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 the long, winding train and the mysterious point of the journey (which won’t become clear until long into the movie), but, if you can get past the slightly-off CGI, The Polar Express is entertaining enough for all ages. While not quite the smash hit everyone expected, it’s now widely-considered a bit of a 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. Let us know how you get on if you surprise your little darling with one this Xmas, rather than a PS4 Pro.

23. 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”. It’s a bit weird, to be honest, with Burton’s trademark eccentric fare, but it does have Michelle Pfeiffer’s unforgettable performance as the indestructible Catwoman, with her skin-tight 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.

Read more: Is it just me, or is Batman Returns the best Bat-movie?

22. Scrooged (1988)

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’ 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 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.

21. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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 whimsical, cookie-cutter town. But then it all goes wrong… of course! While Edward Scissorhands is technically just set during the holidays and not really about Christmas, it’s worth adding to your festive watch list for the hopeful message of acceptance (despite how things turn out for Ed) - maybe it’ll even convince your Aunt Prudence to share the last mince pie. Much like Burton’s other creations, this a dark festive tale that’s the perfect watch if you’re already sick of Hallmark movie moments.

Its most Christmassy moment: While his adopted family prepare for the festivities, Edward uses his scissorhands 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.

20. 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 your weeping with laughter. Think your Christmas shopping is bad? Even the Terminator knows now why you cry.

Its most Christmassy moment: Honestly? Probably 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.

19. White Christmas (1954)

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 actually 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’s certainly better films on this list - the storyline is very straightforward and predictable - not many are this… well, Christmassy (the clue is in the name). 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-WW2 holiday full of joy and laughter. It’s oldie but a goodie. 

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-along at the end of the film. All together now: "I'm dreaming of a whiiiiite Chriiiiistmas."

18. The Holiday (2006)

The movie: In a time before Airbnb, there was house-swapping, which is at the centre of this festive romcom which sees two stuck in a rut singletons (Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz) impulsively decide on a transatlantic switcheroo holiday. But this is a Nancy Meyers film (What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give), so of course 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 bit 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.

17. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

The movie: Ok, this is another animated short rather than a full-length feature film, but A Charlie Brown Christmas was recently ranked #1of 45 - yes, forty five - Charlie Brown special TV shows between 1965 and 2011 by entertainment website Vulture; hailing Charlie Brown’s festive 1965 debut as “one of the most moving programs that mainstream television has produced”. The perennially introspective Charlie Brown struggles to find meaning in the festive season, questioning the nature of friendship, commercialism and happiness. Yet, the show resolves in one of the most uplifting scenes of any Christmas movie - with Chuck’s chums rallying around to decorate his sagging tree. The show is perhaps best remembered for Linus’ heartfelt, scripture-quoting, speech about the nativity. "It’s very dangerous for us to start talking about religion now," the show’s producers originally told Charlie Brown creator Charles Schulz. "If we don’t, who will?", he replied, with Linus’s famous oratory radiating a humanity that transcends secular boundaries.

Its most Christmassy moment: When the title music kicks in and Charlie Brown’s pals are all skating on the lake… goddammit, we’re choking up just thinking about it. 

16. 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 all-round Santa fan, who accidentally summons the demonic, horned Krampus when he tears up his Christmas letter after a fight with his nasty cousins. Krampus 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?

Continue to Page 2 for more of the best Christmas movies