Top 25 Holiday Movies of All Time
Here at IGN, we like to argue; not about who tracked mud through the kitchen, or which of the editors used all of the toilet paper in the restroom. We like to argue about movies… which is better than which and why. Unfortunately, after the umpteenth shouting match, the higher-ups decided it would be a whole lot cooler to put all of this arguing to positive use.So in honor of the holiday season, we're focusing today on Holiday Movies. Although many may have a preconceived notion of what such a film might be (Christmastime flicks), we opened our minds to all the films that take place on or during holidays.Please note that we only considered feature films so all TV specials and made-for-TV movies didn't qualify for our list.
25. The Polar Express
Initially dismissed unfairly as the creepy CGI counterpart to friendlier kid-oriented holiday adventures of years past, Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of the Chris Van Allsburg book of the same name ultimately celebrates and revives the lost kid in all of us who prays to regain his or her sense of wonder. At the same time, the film is a (sometimes literal) roller coaster ride, twisting and turning through a young boy's imagination as it chugs along towards its North Pole destination; but the film's irrepressible sense of wonder easily outpaces other recent holiday efforts not only by indulging a childlike mentality but melting even the hardest heart and placing it right alongside that of Hero Boy, played by Tom Hanks (in one of five different roles). The Polar Express reminds us that believing is seeing, and our imagination can sustain us long after out intellect has run out.
24. A Muppet Christmas Carol
It's hard not to think about what an odd and difficult time 1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol was produced at, as it was the first movie in the series to be made in the wake of Jim Henson's death. While Henson himself is said to have been interested in the idea of tackling A Christmas Carol with Muppets before he died, it's still a notably dark tale to get the Muppet treatment, given the events that occur before the happy ending. Casting Michael Caine as Scrooge is inspired. Brian Henson directed the feature from a script by Jerry Juhl.
23. The Ref
This 1994 comedy stars Denis Leary as a cat burglar who gets abandoned by his partner during a heist and is forced to take an annoying couple (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) hostage on Christmas Eve. As their dysfunctional family shows up, the insults and sarcasm fly as Leary's character is driven mad by the constantly bickering couple, their smart aleck son, and their despicable in-laws. The comedy's sharp and fast, the actors are perfect in their roles, and The Ref serves as a great non-sappy holiday movie alternative.
22. The Bishop's Wife
Cary Grant in a Christmas movie. Need we really say more? This charming story of a angel (Grant) come down from heaven to give guidance to the local bishop is equally warm and humorous, and the ice skating sequence alone is worth a watch. David Niven's performance as the laced-too-tight bishop is almost uncomfortable to watch, and Grant is smooth as silk, as per usual.
21. Independence Day
"We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!" Sure, it's a film in which Will Smith knocks out evil ET with a right hook and we defeat an alien super-intelligence with an Apple Mac and a computer virus. But Roland Emmerich's spectacular Hollywood invasion blockbuster is packed with seminal pre-9/11 images: dark clouds rolling over the heavens, huge spaceships blotting out the sun, jammed highways, panic on the streets and, of course, The White House obliterated by that searing vertical laser beam.
20. The Book of Life
A charming tribute to Mexican culture and its Day of the Dead holiday, producer Guillermo del Toro's The Book of Life follows three childhood friends – Manolo (Diego Luna), Maria (Zoe Saldana), and Joaquin (Channing Tatum) – whose romantic fates become the subject of a wager between two married deities: La Muerte (Kate del Castillo), who oversees the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba (Ron Perlman), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten. This is one of the most glorious-looking animated movies in recent memory, chock full of vibrant imagery, wit, and nifty song choices. While its story may be by the numbers, it still has plenty of heart and much to offer filmgoers.
19. Holiday Inn
How many movies can claim they spawned a hotel chain? Holiday Inn is a 1942 film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with music by Irving Berlin. The movie introduced the now-classic song "White Christmas" that eventually spawned its own film of the same name.
18. Trick 'R Treat
This Halloween anthology movie is equal parts comedy, slasher, and jump-scare thrills worth a night's viewing. Not only is the film scary good fun, paying homage to the classic anthology horror films and TV shows of yore, but it's got plenty of comic relief and fresh thrills and chills up its sleeve. Also Sam, the creepy trick-or-treater reminiscent of a jack-o'-lantern, is simply terrifying.
17. A Christmas Carol
Long before Robert Zemeckis turned it into a grand, big-budget CG adventure – or long before countless other films referenced the story in their own re-tellings – there was the 1951 rendition of the classic story A Christmas Carol. Adding some material to the Dickens novel, this adaptation, originally released overseas as Scrooge, isn't just a straightforward recreation of the novel, but an artful expansion upon its themes. By providing Scrooge with more backstory, it humanizes him in a way not glimpsed in the original text.
Think twice before you buy any mysterious, but cute little creatures from the Orient this holiday season. Gremlins, the 1984 flick from director Joe Dante and writer Chris Columbus, tells what goes wrong when proper care isn't taken with a Mogwai named Gizmo. A young man buys the exotic pet from a store in Chinatown, and disobeys a few simple rules in caring for the creature: Keep it away from bright light, don't get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. The neglect causes Gizmo to spawn a horde of evil cousins who wreak havoc on the town during the holiday season
15. Home Alone
Macaulay Culkin's claim to fame may be his memorable cheek-slapped scream following a liberal application of aftershave, but this film proves to be far more entertaining than merely adorable. When a couple's young son is left behind during a family vacation, he takes it upon himself to celebrate the holidays in only the way that a 10 year old can: namely, by gorging on junk food, watching adult movies and making trouble for a pair of cat burglars (Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci) who have designs on robbing the place blind. The film's many pratfalls notwithstanding, Culkin was actually a gifted child actor, offering in perfect measures both the enthusiastic thwarting of his adversaries and the wistful loneliness of a kid at Christmas celebrating alone; so if you're home alone yourself and looking for a night of holiday fun, look no further than Home Alone.
14. Love Actually
There has never been a holiday film that so embraces the concept of romantic love. Weaving a panoply of storylines together (some more effective than others), what emerges is a splendid, heart-warming and sometimes heart-breaking account of finding love (and losing it) amidst the most magical season of the year. Stocking stuffed with stars, including Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Laura Linney, and Colin Firth, and directed by longtime scribe Richard Curtis, it is a Valentine to Christmas romance, and should not be missed by couples in love at the holidays.