We grow up, but these holiday classics continue to deliver timeless enjoyment year after year! Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Childhood Christmas Movies That Will Never Get Old.
For this list, we’ll be looking at various Christmas films that we all grew up watching, but which haven’t lost any of their luster or appeal over the years. In fact, nostalgia has only made us love them more! Note, we’ll be including both feature length films and televised Christmas specials.
#10: “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
We’re kicking things off with an entry that's a little divisive. For years, debate has raged online as to whether this unique stop-motion film is a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. We feel that, in the spirit of holiday and togetherness, we should just lean into our undying love for the film by saying “it’s both!” For all its holiday-inappropriate spookiness, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” shows a better understanding of what makes Christmas tick than most more straightforward holiday movies - even if the Halloween Town residents don’t. Plus, it nails one of the most crucial elements of any great yuletide film… unforgettable songs! For the kid who never really fit in, this was THE movie to help them get into the holiday spirit.
#9: “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)
Don’t get us wrong, we’re just as charmed by young Mara Wilson of “Matilda” fame as the next ‘90s kid. But when it comes to “Miracle on 34th Street”, there’s simply no competing with the original. When an aging department store Santa refuses to deny being the real Saint Nick, a legal battle ensues regarding his sanity. Rewatching this film, regardless of age, you can’t help but think back to the moment when you yourself first began to question the existence of Santa. By the time the credits roll however, you’re reminded that it doesn’t really matter; Santa is real so long as people embrace the Christmas spirit. And no matter how many times you’ve seen it, this film is sure to rekindle your holiday cheer.
#8: “Frosty the Snowman” (1969)
Christmas is a time of magic, and few films embody this spirit quite like “Frosty the Snowman”. Though only 25 minutes long, this television special packs a whole lot of heart and replay value into its modest running time. After a lackluster performance from a magician at their school, Karen and her friends place his discarded hat on the snowman they just built. And then… well, you know the rest! This one’s a real emotional rollercoaster ride, but that’s part of its appeal. When you’re young, Frosty melting really hit home, and despite the fact that we know the film has a happy ending, we’re so emotionally invested in these characters that it hasn’t lost its effectiveness, even all these years later.
#7: “Elf” (2003)
It might not be as much of an oldie as some of the other films on our list today, but despite its relatively short history… we’re confident calling “Elf” a classic. As Buddy the Elf, Will Ferrell is hilariously over-the-top and yet undeniably endearing. The character is the living embodiment of goodwill, generosity and childlike enthusiasm. His journey to reconnect with his real father doesn’t fit anyone’s definition of “smooth sailings”, but missteps and all, he touches the lives of many, helping the people of New York City rediscover their love of Christmas. We fully expect this fun-loving film to continue to delight viewers of all ages for decades to come.
#6: “Home Alone” (1990)
This film is literally just one quotable line and iconic moment after another. Starring Macaulay Culkin at his most endearingly precocious, “Home Alone” follows the misadventures of young Kevin McCallister as he fends for himself over the holidays after being left behind by his family. Kevin’s antics and surprisingly sadistic handling of the Wet Bandits never get old, but for all its shenanigans and gross bodily harm, “Home Alone” is, first and foremost, the story of a young boy learning the value of family - especially around the holidays. Heartwarming and hilarious in equal measure, “Home Alone” is a must-watch come Christmas time, and its timeless appeal seems to hold up even with younger generations of viewers.
#5: “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)
Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is among the most beloved holiday stories ever told. As a result, it’s received countless adaptations. While we have a soft spot for the 1938 film, it’s a bit dark and gloomy for children. Honestly, when we imagine the plot of “A Christmas Carol” playing out in our heads… it’s Kermit and company who act it out! With its feature length running time, memorable songs and a show stopping framing narrative courtesy of Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, “The Muppet Christmas Carol” does Dickens proud. And it does this while also maintaining the attention of even the youngest home viewers from start to finish. Plus, seeing Sir Michael Caine interact with a cast primarily made up of puppets will never get old.
#4: “The Santa Clause” (1994)
Live-action kids movies from the ‘90s rarely hold up to the test of time; few of them are anywhere near as good as you remember them being when they came out. But “The Santa Clause” is a rare exception. Tim Allen is equally convincing as both cynical, fast-talking businessman Scott Calvin and as the holly jolly Saint Nick he becomes. It’s a heartwarming story that perfectly balances heartfelt moments with silly over-the-top fun. It’s got a healthy dose of cynicism and some slightly more adult-oriented jokes for the parents (or one-time kids who are now all grown up), but it never gets those laughs at the expense of its emotional core. In short, it’s everything you want from a nostalgic ‘90s Christmas movie!
#3: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965)
“Frosty the Snowman” has its moment of sadness, sure, but in classic “Peanuts” fashion, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a melancholic affair for much of its 25 minute run time. Charlie Brown is a kid with a lot on his mind, and as you get older, you actually come to identify with him more and more. It’s all well and good to learn the meaning of Christmas, but there’s something about this film’s deeply human protagonist that really hammers it home in a particularly poignant fashion. First broadcast in 1965, this television special was watched by an estimated 15.5 million homes that first night. That’s an impressive number, but in the years since, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has gone on to touch countless lives.
#2: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (1966)
Were the 1960s ever a great decade to be a kid celebrating Christmas or what? Frosty, Charlie Brown (a certain reindeer we’ve yet to mention) AND the Grinch! This 1966 television special adapted the beloved children’s story of Dr. Seuss, bringing it to life in spectacular fashion. Though hard to imagine, the Grinch wasn’t green until this film was released. But hey, such is the power of a popular movie. With Ted “Dr. Seuss” Geisel serving as a producer, the film really honors the source material - that special Dr. Seuss touch can be felt in every frame of the film. We’ve gotten remakes (both live action and animated) in the years since, but nothing beats the original!
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions
“Jingle All the Way” (1996)
“Mickey's Christmas Carol'” (1983)
“A Christmas Story” (1983)
“The Polar Express” (2004)
“The Ultimate Christmas Present” (2000)
#1: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964)
Rudolph is the ultimate misfit. But never has his story shone brighter than in this delightfully odd 1964 stop-motion television special. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is a true celebration of that which makes us all different. Rudolph’s nose might cause him to stand out more obviously than most, but he’s not alone in being peculiar. From Hermey the elf who dreams of becoming a dentist and Yukon Cornelius the eccentric prospector, to the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys and even the misunderstood Bumble - this film is jam-packed with lovable oddballs! Over the decades, many a child has internalized the valuable lessons it has to teach. The movie makes such an impression that, even well into adulthood, Christmas doesn’t feel complete without it.