The Best Holiday Movies of All Time, According to Real Simple Editors
Everyone has their festive favorites—including us.
What’s the best Christmas movie of all time? That’s a complicated question the universe will probably never agree on. It all depends on whom you ask, how they’re feeling at the moment, or their particular mood or companions at the time of movie-viewing. (It might also depend on what Christmas movies on Netflix are available.) It might be The Grinch if they're with the kids, A Charlie Brown Christmas for a dose of weeknight nostalgia, or Home Alone while wrapping presents.
But we’re guessing you also have those absolute, hands-down, no-discussion, favorite holiday movies—the ones you’re willing to defend in a heated debate if challenged. And we definitely have ours. Because there’s nothing quite like curling up on the couch—alone, with family, or a group of best pals—to watch a movie that puts you in the holiday spirit and makes you happy to the bone (or cry a little, in that good-for-the-soul kind of way).
Here are a few of the best Christmas movies ever, according to Real Simple editors. Plus, just in case you run out of ideas, a few more iconic holiday flicks to add to your seasonal queue (all of which made Rotten Tomato's list of the 50 best Christmas movies, too). Some you already know and love, and others you’ll just have to test out for yourself.
Real Simple Editor Picks
A Christmas Story
"A Christmas Story because, well, A Christmas Story—but also because it was shot in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and it makes me nostalgic for not only steel-and-snow background shots of the Flats, but Higbee’s in Public Square."
—Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief
“It’s a tradition in my family to watch A Christmas Story every year, and we always have TBS’s 24-hour marathon in the background when we gather to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. It’s heartwarming, funny, and such a classic: ‘You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!’”
—Taylor Eisenhauer, Assistant Producer, RealSimple.com
“Elf is my favorite Christmas movie of all time! I may or may not watch it every day of December. It makes me feel so joyful: It’s playful and heartfelt and has great songs, which is really everything a Christmas movie should be."
—Lauren Phillips, SEO Editor
“It’s the ultimate indulgence movie—The Holiday, directed by Nancy Meyers, always lands at the top of my must-watch holiday movies list. When Kate Winslet’s character decides to swap her quaint English cottage to stay in Cameron Diaz’s character’s Hollywood mansion during Christmas, home decor eye candy ensues. Cue the iconic kitchens and cozy winter sweaters!”
—Katie Holdefehr, Senior Editor
Coat of Many Colors and The Great British Bake Show: Holiday Masterclass
“I mean, have you seen Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors? It’s not a Christmas movie per se, but I feel like they trot it out in December, and I’m there for it! I love a tale of hardscrabble mountain folk triumphing over tragedy. Also? Dolly Parton.
“And it’s not a holiday movie, but The Great British Bake Show: Holiday Masterclass with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry is gold-plated gold. You get some seriously cozy British vibes from the set where they taste, and there are all kinds of Christmas-y interstitial shots, like a cardinal alighting on a snow-kissed branch.”
—Rory Evans, Executive Editor
“Is it the fact that this movie features the Waldorf Astoria in all its pre-renovation glory, John Cusack’s floppy hair, or the wistfulness of scenes where the characters stroll through Central Park in wintertime that makes this one of my all-times? Who’s to say? What I do know is that Serendipity makes me believe in happy endings and perfect New York moments, and that’s basically everything I’ve ever wanted in a Christmas movie.”
—Martha Upton, Assistant Editor
“I love Family Stone. I dislike almost all holiday movies, but this one has humor and feels the most real and emotional. Also, obviously Home Alone.”
—Muzam Agha, Photo Director
"This movie is so fantastic. It makes me cackle with laughter, stressed to the core, and—when Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) sees his mom in the foyer at the end—sob, every time. In my opinion, it's Christmas gold."
—Maggie Seaver, Associate Digital Editor
“I love the mix of all the stories: There’s heartbreak, cuteness, humor, new love, old love—just the best. A must-watch every year to remind us, love is everywhere! (Also, The Holiday.)"
—Ananda Edelstein, Food Editor
“Hands down, the best Christmas movie ever.”
—Olivia Barr, Digital Photo Manager
It’s a Wonderful Life
“My favorite holiday movie of all time is the original, classic (in black and white, of course) It’s a Wonderful Life. I watch it every year while wrapping presents on Christmas Eve. I laugh, I cry, and it’s so clever that I swear that every time I watch it, I notice something new about it. Best of all, it reminds me that it truly is a wonderful life.”
—Maya Kukes, Contributing Research Editor
While You Were Sleeping
“While You Were Sleeping is, and always will be, a favorite. Sure, the plot is a little dated and a lot delusional, but put Sandra Bullock in any holiday rom-com and I’m instantly sold.”
—Rachel Sylvester, Digital Lifestyle Editor
More Favorite Holiday Movies to Watch All Season
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Christmas Carol
Christmas With the Kranks
Home Alone 2: Lost in New YorkFour Christmases
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Jingle All the Way
Meet Me in St. Louis
Miracle on 34th Street
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The Bishop's WifeThe Grinch
The Night They Saved Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Polar Express
The Santa Clause