50 Unmissable Christmas Movies

26. Jingle All the Way (1996)

A workaholic dad goes though hell to get his young son a sold-out Turbo Man action figure and along the way works out what he really needs to be to re-connect with him.

Firmly in the Arnie-makes-kids-movies-now era of the 1990s, what this makes the most of aside from the Austrian Oak’s size is how much funnier some lines can be with his accent and his often-underrated physical comic timing. Howard’s surreal fight with a muscle-bound Santa (“I’m gonna deck your halls!”) and his verbal clashes with scuzzy neighbour Ted (Phil Hartman RIP) makes up for the film somewhat losing its way in the third act. SSP

27. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

This live-action version of Dr. Seuss’ famous festive tale sees Jim Carrey bring all of his usual over-the-top physicality to a character we’d rarely seen beyond the confines of still images, infusing The Grinch with a new sensibility that would come to define the character and make the critically divisive movie a generational hit for children of the era.

Directed by Ron Howard, whose career has always intertwined hard-hitting Oscar-worthy dramas with more palatable box office hits, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is well-established behind the camera as well as in front of it, the filmmaker bringing together practical effects, glamorous soundstages, and some truly exceptional costume work to offer one of those rare movies that doesn’t just look like Christmas, that isn’t just set at Christmas, but that feels like Christmas, The Grinch’s redemption arc the cherry on top of a memorable and quotable holiday offering. JW

Recommended for you: Top 10 Ron Howard Movies

28. 8 Women (2002)

Famed French filmmaker François Ozon (Summer of 85) brings together an all-star cast including the iconic Catherine Deneuve (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and always compelling Isabelle Huppert (Elle) for a dark comedy musical about eight women and one murdered man.

Any film featuring such a list of established actors is always going to be compelling, but the whodunnit aspects of the story and the way these juxtapose the seasonal setting make for some funny and compelling cinema that is colourful, well decorated, and hard to turn away from. It may not be like the out-and-out Christmas movies found elsewhere on this list, but it still holds that same feeling. JW

29. Bad Santa (2003)

10 Best Bad Santa Moments

For a film filled with as many expletives as you can imagine in a Christmas movie, the core of this dark comedy produced by the Coen Brothers is about as wholesome and Christmassy as you’ll find. Billy Bob Thornton may be a fantastically crude and despicable drunk, but his heart of gold keeps you with him long enough to earn his title of Father Christmas (even if it is just for a shopping mall).

Similar in style and tone to borderline Christmas movie In Bruges, an emotional high coming in support of our Bad Santa as he feels pride for the first time after beating up a bunch of kids, our empathy comes as quick as our laughs, child actor Brett Kelly stealing our hearts as Bad Santa’s unknowing sidekick Thurman Merman. Movies rarely make you cringe and bring you to tears, but Bad Santa certainly can. JW

30. Elf (2003)

Elf Review

Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a human baby when he crawls into Santa’s sack. Now a grown man, Buddy is still at the North Pole living amongst the elves. Like Mowgli believes he is a wolf, Buddy is elf through and through, oblivious to the fact he’s six foot five. One day, he discovers the sad fact that he is in fact a human. Buddy returns to America to track down his birth father, Walter (James Caan). Problem is, Walter is on the naughty list. Can Buddy and all his Christmas cheer change Walter’s ways in time for Santa’s arrival?

Will Ferrell is overwhelmingly Ferrell in Elf, this is not one of his more muted performances. His ability to play wide-eyed wonderment and enthusiasm leads to a film filled with humour and heart. Elf may be predictable and overly sentimental but it a dependable Christmas watch, guaranteed to warm the cockles and raise a smile. ML

Recommended for you: 5 Reasons Elf Is a Gen Z Christmas Classic

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