REVEALED: The top 10 most popular Christmas movies of all time – so did you favorite festive film make the cut?
- Consulting IMDb, FEMAIL has compiled a list of most popular Christmas films
- These films are considered modern-day classics – the oldest released in 1988
- Entries include Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Die Hard, and Love Actually
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – and it means it’s time to get cozy and snuggle up with a holiday classic.
To help you pick the perfect movie to get into the festive spirit, FEMAIL has consulted IMDb to see what the most popular Christmas movies are out there.
At first glance, the films in the top 10 are what we would consider modern-day classics – the oldest movie to make this list was released in 1988.
Controversially it’s the same motion picture that some holiday purists wouldn’t consider a Christmas movie at all.
So here are the 10 most popular festive movies, based on IMDb data.
Elf has become a holiday classic that families come together to share as a viewing experience come the festive season. Pictured are Will Ferrell and Zoey Deschanel in the film
10. The Polar Express (2004)
The Robert Zemeckis-directed animated film has become a Christmas staple for young and old since it was released in 2004.
This holiday classic – with Tom Hanks getting top billing for lending his voice to the adventure movie – is based on children’s fantasy picture book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg.
It tells the tale of a young boy who embarks on an incredible train journey to the North Pole and his adventures on the way.
Though it has a lukewarm rating, with the film receiving a 56 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, it has still been able to win the hearts of viewers – despite it’s poor visual execution.
‘People in Hollywood should never work with children or animals, W.C. Fields once said. Maybe that should be expanded to hyper-realistic computer-generated children and reindeer, too,’ The Associated Press’s David Germain wrote at the time of its release.
But one audience critic, who gave it five stars, said: ‘Always a great Christmas movie no matter your age. This came out when my daughter was two, she is now 21 and being able to see it at the theater together this year was a treat! So glad they screened it at our favorite theater Look Cinemas.’
‘The movie is pretty good. Great Soundtrack. The Christmas spirit is on it and full of adventures, exploration and action. But the only thing that this movie fails is on the face expression of the characters,’ one three-and-a-half star reviewer added.
Really proving it’s a bit of mixed bag for this movie, one person wrote, despite giving it three-and-a-half stars as well: ‘I wanna puke after the CGI characters.’
The Robert Zemeckis-directed animated film has become a Christmas staple for young and old since it was released in 2004, and Tom Hanks lent his voice-acting chops to the movie
This holiday classic is based on children’s fantasy picture book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg
9. Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)
For those who are fans of the original, spoiler alert, don’t worry it will be making an entry on this list.
But the sequel is still a firm favorite with movie-goers.
We once again drop in on Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) and his family during the holiday period, but this time it’s set in New York City.
His sworn enemies, bumbling burglars Marv and Harry are back, and they’re dead-set on revenge on the precocious kid.
The premise of Home Alone 2 is much the same as the first – but this time Kevin finds himself alone in the Big Apple and he has to fend off the criminal duo with his elaborate – and sometimes violent – traps.
Former President and then owner of The Plaza hotel Donald Trump also makes a brief cameo in the movie, giving directions to Kevin in the lobby.
It has a 35 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but a 62 per cent audience score.
Home Alone 2 picks up with the same characters of Kevin McCallister and his sworn enemies, burglars Marv and Harry – but this time they’re taking on the big city
The premise of Home Alone 2 is much the same as the first – but this time Kevin finds himself alone in New York City
The New York Times’s Janet Maslin wrote: ‘It’s much more violent than the first film’s comparable set of dirty tricks. And Kevin, removed from his embattled home, seems much more cavalier, possibly even meaner than his bullying older brother, Buzz (Devin Ratray).’
But fans didn’t seem to mind the pitfalls pointed out by critics.
‘Best Home Alone movie. Does do some things that the first does, but better,’ one audience reviewer wrote.
‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is a delightful sequel that captures the essence of its predecessor’s charm (even if it copies the formula too closely).
‘Macaulay Culkin reprises his role as Kevin McCallister, once again finding himself in a series of hilarious misadventures – this time, in the Big Apple,’ one movie-goer wrote, giving it three-and-a-half stars.
‘Culkin’s comedic timing and the film’s slapstick elements contribute to its nostalgic appeal, making it a must-watch, every holiday season.’
8. Die Hard (1988)
Yippee-ki-yay! For the haters out there who moan about this not being a festive movie, I’ll tell you what many proponents who firmly declare that it is: it’s set during a holiday office party.
In fact it appears to be a common opinion these days, The Denver Gazette’s Terry Terrones conducted a Twitter poll in 2018 and 79 per cent of the 100 people who voted agreed the Bruce Willis-led film was a Christmas movie.
Other reasons the writer listed as for why it deserved this categorization was that the soundtrack heavily features Christmas hits and it was watched by 1.3 million people on Christmas Eve in 2016.
And on Rotten Tomatoes, where it has both a critic and audience score of 94 per cent, people agree with this sentiment.
For the haters out there who moan about Die Hard not being a festive movie, I’ll tell you what many proponents who firmly declare that it is: it’s set during a holiday office party
Die Hard follows the story of police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) who seeks to save his estranged wife and her colleagues who are taken hostage during their Christmas party
For those who don’t know, Die Hard follows the story of police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) who seeks to save his estranged wife and her colleagues who are taken hostage during their Christmas party at Nakatomi Plaza.
One five-star reviewer wrote: ‘It’s not only an action classic and a Christmas movie, but it’s one of the best action movies period. I didn’t get to see it on the big screen as a kid and it makes it so much better!’
‘Die Hard is an action-comedy classic and is arguably the best Christmas movie ever. Great hero, great villain, great supporting characters. Still holds up and I suspect it always will,’ a second fan gushed.
Another viewer added: ‘Third Best Christmas Movie ever made, right behind A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim) and A Christmas Story but just ahead of Scrooged and Christmas Vacation!’
7. The Santa Clause (1994)
Tim Allen stars as everyday man Scott Calvin who takes the place of Kris Kringle after he falls off a roof.
It has a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with a critics score of 73 per cent, but its audience rating is 66 per cent.
With some positive reviews, it’s still not a completely rousing success, as one critic writes, The Santa Clause is ‘a perfectly watchable yet entirely unmemorable family-friendly’ movie.
But Jeff Shannon, of the Seattle Times, reflected at the time of its release: ‘This is Allen’s movie debut, and it’s easy to see why his show is a ratings smash. There’s an effortless quality to his humor, but it’s also got a quietly urgent edge to it.’
Tim Allen stars as everyday man Scott Calvin who takes the place of Kris Kringle after he falls off a roof
One person sums up why The Santa Clause makes it into the festive viewing rotation: ‘This movie is so nostalgic and magical’
Meanwhile audience viewers were less enthusiastic about the movie, with one two-and-a-half-star reviewer critiquing: ‘”The Santa Clause” is a mixed bag of holiday cheer and frustration wrapped in tinsel.
‘The whimsical world of the North Pole is pure Disney magic, albeit with elves that resemble pint-sized children sporting elf ears; part of its quirky charm.
‘Tim Allen’s comedic brilliance shines through, adding a sprinkle of laughter in this Christmas classic. The plot weaves a solid tale, laced with nostalgia for those who grew up watching it.
‘The movie’s soundtrack hits all the right festive notes, but unfortunately, the annoying child protagonist and the ex-wife’s character can land as awful and frustratingly antagonistic.
‘While Tim Allen makes a great Santa, the constant focus on the divorced parents’ turmoil overshadows the North Pole’s potential adventures, leaving a bittersweet taste of missed opportunities. Instead of warmth, the film evokes more sadness and frustration, making it a nostalgic but conflicted holiday watch.’
But one person sums up why The Santa Clause makes it into the festive viewing rotation: ‘This movie is so nostalgic and magical. The Christmas season just isn’t the same without watching this movie. When I was a kid, this movie is what created how I pictured the North Pole. The characters are so lovable and has a great end!’
6. The Grinch (2018)
This is the animated movie we’re talking about, not the Jim Carrey version.
It’s actually one of two Grinch films that make this list.
Based on the popular Dr. Seuss book, this interpretation has Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones and Pharrell Williams lending their voices to the production.
It follows the titular green-haired Grinch whose main mission is to ruin Christmas for the residents of Whoville.
On Rotten Tomatoes, critics and audience viewers alike were left with an unfavorable impression of the film, despite its place on this list as a popular Christmas classic.
Based on the popular Dr. Seuss book, this interpretation has Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones and Pharrell Williams lending their voices to the production
But many reviews detailed the reason why it had won them over.
One parent wrote about how it was ‘a hit for our family.’
‘I don’t really like the other versions of the Grinch but this one was great for our almost three year old. It was funny, the Grinch wasn’t as scary looking, and he is much nicer to his dog throughout (which was important to me).
‘We rarely stray from Disney movies but this one was a hit for our family!’ the viewer wrote, giving it five stars.
A second wrote: ‘My children and I love watching this version of The Grinch at Christmas time. While not a perfect movie, it has become part of our tradition and I’m certain we will be watching it at Christmas time for many decades to come.’
5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Coming in hot at number five is the live-action iteration of the Dr. Seuss classic.
Like the one mentioned above, it’s based on the children’s book that has captured the imagination of generations, but this time it stars Jim Carrey as the Grinch and a young Taylor Momsen, of Gossip Girl fame, as Cindy Lou.
Again it wasn’t critically beloved, according to Rotten Tomatoes, but people still gushed over it.
‘One of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. Honestly shocked it has such mixed reviews. I love this movie to this day. The grumpy Grinch learns how to love. It’s a classic,’ one audience viewer wrote.
Another simply described it as an ‘absolute cinematic masterpiece.’
‘Not a Jim Carrey fan but I love his portrayal of the Grinch! We watch it every Christmas,’ a third viewer added.
‘Unironically one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s endlessly entertaining and ultra-rewatchable,’ someone else said.
Like the one mentioned above, it’s based on the children’s book but this time it stars Jim Carrey as the Grinch and a young Taylor Momsen, of Gossip Girl fame, as Cindy Lou
4. Elf (2003)
Another Christmas movie with a comedic genius – this time in the form of Will Ferrell as Buddy the elf.
This true modern-day classic also stars an up-and-coming Zooey Deschanel as love interest Jovie.
Buddy has been raised as an elf in the North Pole despite being human, but finds out his biological father (James Caan) lives in New York City.
He then embarks on a journey of self discovery to figure out who he really is while trying to learn the ropes and pitfalls of the real world.
It has a Certified Fresh score of 86 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 79 per cent audience rating.
So it’s no surprise that viewers give it a spin every holiday season.
This true modern-day classic stars Will Ferrell as Buddy and an up-and-coming Zooey Deschanel as love interest Jovie
Buddy has been raised as an elf in the North Pole despite being human, but finds out his biological father lives in New York City
‘One of the best Christmas movies ever! So funny, and a totally must see every year!’ one person wrote.
‘This is the definitive Christmas Movie King. Used to attribute that to the old classics, but no more. We can’t get enough of this movie even 20 years later. It’s Christmas perfection,’ another fan raved.
‘The story, the writing, the direction, the acting; superb. Every line, every facial expression, every reaction; sublime, perfection.
‘The little lines and nuances that add to the flair and feel; perfection. Every single actor’s performance; perfection. Even the ones with little roles like the supervisor at Gimbles; perfection. His looks, reactions, responses, repartee; could not be better. This film is solid gold.’
3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Chevy Chase has entered the chat.
Also starring Beverly D’Angelo, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation follows the ups and downs of the Griswold family’s pursuit of a picture-perfect holiday season.
But not everything goes as planned and soon their festive celebrations are thrown into complete chaos.
It has a 70 per cent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and an 86 per cent audience rating.
Starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation follows the ups and downs of the Griswold family’s pursuit of a picture-perfect holiday season
‘I will always be a fan of Clark Griswold’s everlasting optimism as a family man, in my opinion though he is far more clumsy in this one.
‘The extended family didn’t add much to this movie also, but overall it provided some good laughs in what is a classic family Christmas movie,’ one three-and-a-half-star reviewer declared.
‘An absolute must watch Christmas movie. The entire cast is simply fantastic,’ a five-star fan wrote.
‘It’s a tradition, and I am still laughing after watching it for 30 plus years. Classic Chevy Chase,’ one four-star review read.
2. Love Actually (2003)
It might not have aged well, but Love Actually still remains a Christmas classic that people continue to return to.
The ensemble cast alone is enough to keep bringing viewers back, with Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy and Rowan Atkinson starring in the film.
It follows the story of eight different couples navigating their love lives in London during the festive season.
Written and directed by Richard Curtis, the brainchild behind Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill and Mr. Bean, the movie somehow weaves together these stories well enough for audiences to enjoy time and time again.
It might not have aged well, but Love Actually still remains a Christmas classic that people continue to return to. Hugh Grant starred in the film (pictured)
It follows the story of eight couples navigating their love lives in London during the festive season, and has a stacked cast – including Keira Knightley, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson
‘My favorite Christmas movie! Like how the stories intermingle and catch something new every time I watch. You really need to rent and watch on a streaming service to get the real dialogue or too much will be cut.
‘This movie will make you laugh and cry several times. A great mingling of rom-coms!’ one audience viewer wrote.
Another person said: ‘Nothing better than an ensemble cast film made up of the best British actors. While the story is overzealous in parts, with too many characters and stories, the caliber of the cast more than makes up for its ambition. Worth a watch every Christmas.’
‘This is a holiday favorite for me! There are definitely some magic Christmas vibes and funny, loveable characters! Some of the characters relationships are rather toxic and romanticized as something to strive too,’ a four-star reviewer added.
1. Home Alone (1990)
There really should be no surprises here.
It’s the ultimate Christmas movie that captures the magic of the festive season and that childhood nostalgia.
A young Macaulay shines in this movie, a prequel to Home Alone 2, as Kevin McCallister who is accidentally left home alone by his family during the holidays.
Soon two thieves catch on to his lonely status and decide to case his house, but the clever kid has a few tricks up his sleeve to deter them from carrying out their crime.
It made Macaulay a household name and starred Catherine O’Hara as his distressed mother, Kate, and John Heard as his father, Peter.
Home Alone is the ultimate Christmas movie that captures the magic of the festive season and childhood nostalgia. Pictured is Macaulay Culkin, Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci and Roberts Blossom
A young Macaulay shines in this movie, a prequel to Home Alone 2, as Kevin McCallister who is accidentally left home alone by his family during the holidays
Daniel Stern played one of the burglars, Marv, and Joe Pesci portrayed his partner-in-crime, Harry.
It has 65 per cent critics score and an audience rating of 80 per cent.
‘There is no Christmas movie like Home Alone. A great funny story, a classic. The wish of every kid, being alone at home doing what you want. But is all always that happy when being alone?’ one audience viewer wrote.
‘Of course the burglars play a significant role, and boy oh boy how fun (almost sadistic) to see for us how they are getting fun-tortured by Kevin. Auch that crowbar! That must hurt!
‘Even one may wonder how they are still alive at the end, the warmth combined with action and humor is a balanced blend of everything. A fun film for the entire family!’
Another added: ‘Easy to understand the appeal: Great performance by Macaulay Culkin with a terrific supporting cast, fun script with many quotable lines, John Williams’ wonderful music and – of course – an effective overall balance of humor and heart. Like the 1992 sequel, it’s worth a fresh viewing each holiday season.’
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