Our Must-Watch Christmas Movies

We can’t begin the holiday season without the defining question of your Christmas spirit – “When is it acceptable to begin playing Christmas music, before or after Thanksgiving?” I’m sure there’s been a debate or two around the dinner table, but I’m here to tell you that there is a more important question you should be asking to really gauge the Christmas cheer:

“When is it acceptable to start watching Christmas movies?”

It's worth noting that It's A Wonderful Life received the most votes.
Thankfully, It’s A Wonderful Life received the most votes. I have hope for us. 

And if you really want to know more about the person, you ask them for their all-time favorite Christmas movie, which is exactly what I set out to do in our office. What better way to get to know my co-workers? Plus, if we’re going to be choosing films for you to enjoy at the Knickerbocker Theatre, then we should be equipped to recommend some holiday classics as well. Right?

First thing I found out: no one can pick just one favorite. That’s fair.

However, most of us can agree on a few you should definitely be watching this holiday season.

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) is a must. The heartwarming classic has become a Christmas tradition in many households, and can you blame them? Capra said it was the greatest film he ever made, the greatest film anyone ever made, and it was also James Stewart’s favorite of all his feature films. It gets at the heart of Christmas, as a frustrated George Bailey learns from an angel just how wonderful life is. It will leave you smiling every time you hear a bell ring.

"Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind." - Kris Kringle
“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”    -Kris Kringle

Still loving on the classics, we’re all about Miracle on 34th Street. I’m talking Edmund Gwenn’s timeless Santa Claus in the 1947 original, but if I’m being honest, a couple of us won’t let a year go by without watching the 1994 version as well (it’s the ‘90s children loving on our decade’s childhood star). You can’t help but be in the Christmas spirit after watching this, and mostly, you’ll be wondering why you ever stopped believing in Santa Claus in the first place .

You’ll find some kind of comedy in just about every holiday film, but our office is goofy and fun, so we also have some suggestions for an extra dose of laughter. Will Ferrell’s Buddy will teach you about the food groups that matter in Elf (2003), while Bill Murray’s Scrooged (1988) will give you a perfect balance of touching moments and off-beat humor with the modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Will Ferrell isn't your ordinary elf!
Will Ferrell isn’t your ordinary elf!

And just about everyone agrees that you cannot go without National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). It’s a classic of its own – it’s everything Christmas shouldn’t be, but simultaneously, it’s so much of what you can relate to during a time when family get-togethers become a constant.

Matchmaker Santa is my current Hallmark favorite.
Matchmaker Santa is my current Hallmark favorite, because Santa always knows best.

Forget binge watching Netflix shows during the holidays. It’s all about the Hallmark holiday movie specials here. Even if over-the-top, predictable rom-coms aren’t your thing, you must dedicate one day (preferably an entire weekend) to the channel. It’s your typical boy meets girl, girl falls in love, boy and girl live happily ever after storyline, except in a Christmas setting, making it 100% better. Ignore the mediocre acting, I’m not praising cinematic value here, and go for it – you’ll have all the Christmas feel goods in no time.

Finally, we have Joyeux Noël (2005). We are the Knickerbocker Theatre blog after all, so there has to be a foreign film recommendation. This 2005 film features the true story of the World War I Christmas truce, an unofficial agreement on the Western Front where soldiers on opposing sides stopped fighting and came together to celebrate Christmas of 1914. It’s both sweet and sad, but ultimately, it tugs at the heart of what this time of year is all about.

Honorable mentions include White Christmas (1954), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Love Actually (2003), but really, you can’t go wrong with any of them to get in the spirit.

White Christmas is truly a classic.
White Christmas truly is a classic.

These are our favorites, but we want to know yours! What are your must-watch Christmas films?

-Odille Parker

Join the Conversation


  1. Modern favorites are “A Christmas Story” and “Polar Express”. For timeless classics I go back to “Holiday Inn” and “A Christmas Carol” with Alistair Sim.

  2. Awww, Christmas holidays have to include a dose of digging out those VHS tapes/discs (or whatever name you know them by) like “Home Alone,” “Polar Bear Express,” and “Fantasia.” Watching them with whatever children (adults count as kids too) you can, snuggled together with a plate of holiday cookies — that’s bringing a lot of JOY to the season. Thanks for asking about some of our favorites.

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