Top 10 Best Modern Christmas Movies
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
These are the top 10 modern Christmas movies. They might not be the ones that your parents grew up watching, but these modern Christmas films certainly hit the spot! For this list, we'll be looking at films released in the 2000s and beyond, which have distinguished themselves as being a cut above the many Christmas movies released each holiday season. Whether conventionally Christmas-y or a little outside the box, these modern Christmas movies have serious replay value.
Top 10 Modern Christmas Movies
They might not be the ones that your parents grew up watching, but these holiday films certainly hit the spot! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Modern Christmas Movies.
For this list, we’ll be looking at films released in the 2000s which have distinguished themselves as being a cut above the many christmas movies released each holiday season. Whether conventionally Christmas-y or a little outside the box, these holiday films have serious replay value. Keep in mind, we’re considering the film’s place in pop culture and its following over how well it performed at the box office or with critics.
#10: “The Night Before” (2015)
Seth Rogen, with the help of longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg, has given us one side-splitting comedy after another throughout the years. Considering their brand and knack for raunchy or stoner-centric comedy, a Christmas film is just about the last thing we would’ve expected from this creative team, but it totally works. Co-written and directed by “50/50” director Jonathan Levine, “The Night Before” strikes a careful balance between big laughs, shock factor and genuinely heartfelt moments. The central themes of friendship and growing up are extremely relatable and, with its trio of likable stars in Rogen, Joseph Godron-Levitt and Anthony Mackie, it’s a story we’re only too happy to revisit for many Christmases to come.
#9: “Krampus” (2015)
We did warn you that our list would include some not-so-run-of-the-mill holiday flicks. Christmas is many things to many different people; if “Die Hard” can become a holiday tradition, why not a horror comedy? “Krampus” follows a family who, on Christmas, have the misfortune of drawing the attention of a malicious supernatural creature who essentially serves as the anti-Santa Claus. For any of you rolling your eyes right now, you might be interested to know that Krampus is a big deal in many European countries - so much so that parades are held to honor the beast, many of which involve people dressing like him! It’s not for everyone and it makes for a decidedly odd holiday viewing, but “Krampus” is delightfully unique and comes armed with a surprising amount of Christmas spirit.
#8: “Arthur Christmas” (2011)
If you don’t have children of your own (or many kids in the extended family), you might not be familiar with this one. Regardless of your age, we think that you should add it to your holiday viewing schedule! Why? Because it’s a fantastic film that, had it been released around the same time as “Rudolph” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, would totally be considered a timeless classic. Heartwarming, charming and intelligently written, the film follows the titular Arthur Christmas, son of Santa Claus himself, as he sets out to save Christmas for one little girl. Boasting a stellar voice cast led by James McAvoy, “Arthur Christmas” is considered by some to be a modern animated Christmas masterpiece.
#7: “The Holiday” (2006)
This film tells two overlapping stories of family, friendship, love and legacy. And despite the narrative literally spanning the atlantic ocean (not to mention being partially set in Los Angeles) it feels delightfully down-to-earth. When two lovesick women both find themselves needing to escape their lives during the holiday season, they swap homes with one another in Surrey, England and L.A. respectively. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz play decidedly different characters, but in each other’s hometowns they both do a surprising amount of self-discovery, and even find love in the process! It may have received mixed reviews at the time of release, but “The Holiday” has since come to be considered something of a modern classic.
#6: “Love Actually” (2003)
This film is all kinds of cheesy. In fact, certain aspects of the film are actually quite problematic, resulting in numerous retrospective think pieces taking the film to task. The thing is… despite all its flaws, “Love Actually” is simply too much fun to deny; it’s shortcomings are part of its inherent charm! The dialogue is infinitely quotable and there are countless iconic scenes that, for many, the holiday season now feels incomplete without. “Love Actually” has legions of devoted fans and detractors, but the ones who hate it seem to particularly love hating it. With its stellar cast and labyrinthine collection of tangentially-connected storylines, “Love Actually” never fails to entertain, and has overcome mediocre reviews to become a holiday staple as a result.
#5: “The Family Man” (2000)
Nowadays, Nicolas Cage is the face most likely to appear in a direct-to-streaming or video b-movie. But before he started competing with Samuel L. Jackson for the longest filmography, Cage taught us all the importance of family in this modern holiday classic. In this romantic dramedy, wealthy businessman Jack Campbell gets to experience firsthand the life he gave up to follow his professional ambitions. It’s every bit as sentimental and predictable as the plot summary suggests, but Cage and his co-stars (including the ever-reliable Téa Leoni), give such committed performances that you’ll feel your cynicism melt away every time you watch it. Considering how much people love this film… we’re certain that, for many, it’s an annual watch during the holiday season!
#4: “The Polar Express” (2004)
This unique and striking style of computer animation isn’t for everyone; there are those who find the motion-capture performances to be downright unnerving. But once you get acclimated to the film’s aesthetic, you begin to recognize “The Polar Express” for what it really is: an engaging, and heartwarming adaptation of a beloved eighties children’s book that does its holiday source material proud. So hop aboard this magical train bound for the North Pole, and rediscover your inner child with a truly beautiful story that celebrates imagination and isn’t afraid to make you shed a tear or two along the way. The film’s then-groundbreaking achievements in visual effects might be distracting, but seeing Tom Hanks in seven different roles certainly adds to the novelty of the viewing experience!
#3: “Bad Santa” (2003)
Christmas films generally skew towards the sweet side of the tonal spectrum. But this unconventional film starring Billy Bob Thornton didn’t just challenge the boundaries of what defines a Christmas movie… it tore them down. Thornton plays a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking and sex-addicted thief whose annual Christmas tradition consists of getting a job as a mall Santa in order to rob its department store. The film is raunchy, uncouth and the only holiday revelling it does is in upending pretty much everything people hold dear this time of year. Underneath all that grime and hilarity, however, is a surprising amount of heart and a story about misfits finding one another and creating a dysfunctional family of their very own.
#2: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000)
The classic 1966 animated Grinch film, though short in length, will always remain a fan-favorite in many households. With that being said, and with all due respect to the 2018 computer animated version starring Benedict Cumberbatch, the live action adaptation released in 2000 is something special in its own right. Though critics were divided on it, the film takes the beloved source material and gives it a thoroughly modern spin. The end result is a movie that entertains both children and adults from start to finish. As the titular Grinch, Jim Carrey is in fine form, embracing his inner cartoon character to bring this green-furred Christmas icon to life like never before.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions
“Just Friends” (2005)
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005)
“Last Christmas” (2019)
“Christmas with the Kranks” (2004)
“Anna and the Apocalypse” (2017)
#1: “Elf” (2003)
“Elf” is the spaghetti breakfast of Christmas movies; by that we mean that it’s delightfully odd, oh so sweet and just fills you up with holiday goodness. Unlike a plate of pasta smothered in maple syrup and various sugar-loaded treats however, “Elf” comes with the distinct benefit of not giving you a crippling stomach ache by the time it’s finished. Starring Will Ferrell at his most endearingly outrageous, this story about a grown man raised as an elf will warm even the most cold-hearted of viewers. As Buddy the Elf explores New York City and learns about life in the real world, he, in kind, reminds us about the true meaning of the season. Quite simply… it’s not Christmas without “Elf”!