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My Favorite Christmas Movies

Updated: Aug 25, 2018

(Originally published 12/12/2014)

I love Christmas movies. Even (most) TV Christmas movies. I think it's because they have a fairy-tale quality to them– magic and kindness and a hope that things will end better than they began.

Over the years, I've a collected movies that I watch over and over. Most of them are old or not so well known, and I adore them. (The titles are links to IMDb, so you can learn more if you want.) These movies are worth hunting down, even if they aren't streaming, though I bet you could get a disk from Netflix.

So here are some of my favorite Christmas classics, in no particular order. Except for #1, which really is my favorite, I think: 

) The Shop Around the Corner, (1940). This is the other Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie. And it's also the original You've Got Mail. (Meg Ryan's bookstore in YGM was named after this movie.) The Shop Around the Corner is charming and sweet and romantic, but deals with some pretty intense subject matter, too. You can't help rooting for Klara and Alfred, and the supporting cast is amazing. But then, so was the director, Ernst Lubitsch. 

2) Desk Set, (1957). This isn't an overtly Christmas movie, but some of the best scenes include Christmas presents and multiple recitations of Santa's reindeer. But mainly, it has Spencer Tracy trying to replace Katharine Hepburn with a room-sized computer. Hilarious dialog, incredible chemistry, and a heroine that gives the guy a run for his money– and a guy who appreciates that. (I'd watch this movie just for the scene where Tracy gives Hepburn the intelligence test.) 

3) While You Were Sleeping, (1995). Because Sandra Bullock thinks she loves the guy in a coma, but she really loves his brother. Because the family's dinner conversations are like my family's conversations. Because it explains "leaning". Because we ALL know a Joe Jr. I almost didn't mention WYWS, and then I realized it's almost twenty years old and it's possible people don't know about it anymore. This one is streaming on Netflix. Go watch it. 

4) Pocketful of Miracles, (1961). If Guys and Dolls was a Christmas movie. No, Really. This is based on a short story by Damon Runyon. Guys and Dolls was also based on Runyon stories. In this, a gangster dresses up an alcoholic beggar and puts her in a penthouse– all because he needs her lucky apples and she needs  her newly engaged daughter to think she's part of New York society. It has Bette Davis and Peter Falk and dark jeeters and scenes that make me laugh out loud or tear up every single time. It's long, but it's worth it. 

5) Christmas in the Clouds, (2001). This independent film isn't the most nuanced movie I've ever seen, but it IS fun. The folks who run a ski resort on a Native-American reservation are trying to get a good rating in a travel guide. It has comedy and romance and Magua from Last of the Mohicans calling bingo while wearing a kilt. (Yes, you read that right.) Most of all, it has this hilarious plot line that centers around a romance novel. I think I watch this movie just for Buffalo Thunder. Don't ask, just watch. 

6) Christmas in Connecticutt, (1945). Imagine discovering that Martha Stewart couldn't cook. That's what can't happen here. To save her job and her lifestyle column, Elizabeth Lane (who can't cook!) pretends to be married and stages Christmas at a farm in Connecticut- then ends up falling for the sailer she and her "husband" are hosting. Awesome classic comedy, and if you've never seen a Barbara Stanwyck movie, well, you need to fix that. This movie is hunky-dunky.

7) Little Women, (1994). The theme music starts playing, and I get misty-eyed. Because I have two sisters, because Jo wants to write. Because Professor Bhaer doesn't have empty hands anymore!! However, I have never, ever, finished a manuscript, then tied it with twine and tucked a flower into it. (I normally just shower for the first time in days.) But this is Jo March we're talking about, so of course there is a flower. And a very young Christian Bale. 

8) We're No Angels, (1955). Christmas on a sweltering prison colony in French Guiana with Humphrey Bogart, and Peter Ustinov. (You may not know these actors, but I associated Bogart with gangster flicks, and Ustinov with Nero.) This movie is so good! Three (and a half!) escaped convicts hide with a kind, if naïve, shopkeeper's family. Once they decide not to rob the family, they determine to make the family's Christmas perfect. Even if they have to steal money to buy a Christmas turkey. Even if they have to deal with the truly awful Cousin Felix.

9) White Christmas, (1954). I wanted a red satin dress with a puffy skirt and sparkly snowflakes because of this movie. And my teenaged self had a bit of a crush on Danny Kaye. White Christmas is colorful and sweet, and it has Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas". And snow. I love this movie. I'm sure you've heard of it, but I had to include this in the list.

10) Holiday Affair (1949). You know those moments when a couple kisses, and you think oh-my-word-THAT-was-a-kiss!? Well here you go. Apparently, this movie wasn't super popular, because folks couldn't imagine the lead actor, Robert Michum, in a romance. But I think he does just fine, thank you very much. The story is about a single mother who has almost rebuilt her life. She has a darling son, a decent job, and a platonic relationship with a truly good guy. Then she meets Steve. This movie may have a love triangle, but this is how it should be done. You like (and respect!) each person involved. Go watch this. 

I could go on and on, but ten movies are more than enough. I hope I've listed a few you haven't seen, and I'd love it if you'd leave your favorite Christmas movies in the comments. It is the weekend, after all...

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