Christmas movies can be pretty hit and miss. The good ones don’t come around too often, and the old ones tend to get a rolled out time and time again.
But if there’s one time of year to give in to shameless nostalgia, it’s Christmas. In addition to YouTube’s catalog of free public domain movies, there are plenty of holiday favorites available to buy or rent.
Here are the best Christmas movies to watch on YouTube this holiday season.
1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Have you ever wanted a perfect Christmas? So has Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase). When the whole family announces they’re coming for Christmas, Clark’s plans of a perfect holiday are dashed. Repeatedly.
From the acquisition of a Christmas tree, to accidentally wiring 25,000 bulbs to the light switch in the garage, almost everything that could go wrong at Christmas does go wrong. This is the third film in the long-running National Lampoon’s Vacation series, and it’s probably the best of the bunch.
2. Home Alone (1990)
Is Home Alone the best Christmas film of all time? If you were born sometime between 1985 and 1995, it probably is. Follow the antics of Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) as his family accidentally boards a flight to Paris without him.
In their absence, the McAllister residence is targeted by inept thieves Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). It’s up to Kevin to fend off the bandits, overcome his fears, and spread a little Christmas cheer to the scary old man who lives down the road.
3. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Another Christmas for the McAllister family, and another trip out of Chicago. This time the family heads for the warmer climate of Florida, except for Kevin who mistakenly boards a plane to New York instead.
While much of the format (and brutal Rube Goldberg-esque traps) remain the same, Home Alone 2 isn’t quite as magical as the first. It’s still worth a watch for Tim Curry’s stellar performance as a fumbling concierge, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from none other than Donald Trump.
4. Die Hard (1988)
Don’t let anyone tell you Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie. It’s a movie, it takes place at Christmas, and it features festive mainstays like Christmas parties, German terrorists, and a burning high rise in the heart of Los Angeles.
So while it probably doesn’t sound festive on paper, it’s still the best Christmas action movie ever made. While Bruce Willis’ performance as John McClane shot him to fame as a man of action, it’s Hans Gruber (played by the late Alan Rickman) who really steals the show.
5. Krampus (2015)
From the best Christmas action movie to the best Christmas horror movie. In terms of genre-mashing, horror and holidays go together like blood-soaked holly and poisonous ivy.
This refreshing take on the mythical European half-goat, half-demon who punishes children at Christmastime manages to be both unsettling and heartwarming at the same time.
6. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Charles Dickens probably didn’t foresee his Victorian Christmas ghost story being turned into a musical for children with singing stuffed animals, but he’d probably be thrilled with the result. Michael Caine is perfectly cast as Mr Scrooge, while Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and all of your other favorite Muppets fill in the rest of the cast.
This recounting of a Christmas classic gets the balance of festive frivolity and somber self-development just right for the whole family to enjoy. If you love Christmas music, you’ll love this film.
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tired of the same old Halloween fare, Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman) decides to have a crack at Christmas. The problem is that the inhabitants of Halloween Town don’t quite understand the spirit of Christmas, with dire consequences.
There’s much debate about whether Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas movie or one of the best Halloween movies. The answer is that it’s both, and it’s best enjoyed in that gap between October 31 and December 25.
8. Elf (2003)
Before Anchorman, Will Ferrell was best known for his portrayal of Buddy, a human being who was raised as an elf at the North Pole. After inadvertently crawling into Santa’s sack of presents one Christmas Eve as a baby, Buddy spends the following thirty years in the company of elves a fraction of his size.
Now its time for him to face the fact that he’s not really an Elf, and to find his real family.
9. Gremlins (1984)
When Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives a mysterious Christmas gift from his father, it comes with a few basic rules: don’t expose it to light, don’t get it wet, and never feed it after midnight.
The gift is a Mogwai, one of the cutest fictional creatures ever to come out of the 80s. Unfortunately, Mogwais don’t remain cute and fluffy if you expose them to light, get them wet, or feed them after midnight. Looking for more 80s classics? Check out the best 80s movies to watch on Netflix.
10. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
There’s nothing wrong with a Christmas classic, and Miracle on 34th Street certainly fits that brief. The 1947 film tells the story of a charming old man who takes on the role of Santa Claus for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Trouble starts when the man refers to himself as Kris Kringle and claims to really be Santa Claus. It’s not long before the man finds himself in court, having to prove that he is, in fact, the real deal, forcing the courtroom to reexamine a few of their own beliefs.
11. Bad Santa (2003)
Willie and Marcus (Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox) are posing as Santa and his helper, with big plans to rob a department store on Christmas Eve. But Willie is more washed up than ever this year, drinking heavily, and threatening to put the whole plan in jeopardy.
Worse still, a troubled young boy turns up believing that Willie is indeed the real Santa. Thus begins the festive (and definitely not-for-kids) tale of a fugitive who finally learns the true meaning of Christmas.
12. The Night Before (2015)
When three childhood friends decide to end their Christmas Eve tradition of spending the night on the town, they decide to go out with a bang. What follows is an evening of crass humor, inebriation, and self-discovery.
That’s right, it’s a Seth Rogen movie set at Christmas. It’s got all the usual Seth Rogen hallmarks, set against the backdrop of Christmas in New York. If you like the laughs to come thick and fast over the holidays, don’t forget to check out the best Neflix comedies you may have overlooked.
Did We Miss Your Favorite Christmas Movie?
There are so many Christmas films, and we would estimate just 10 percent of them are worth your time. This list is far from exhaustive, but it covers a good selection of holiday movies that you can watch right now with minimal hassle.
We’re sure you have your own favorite Christmas movies. If none of these fancy your tastes, consider checking out these Christmas movies to watch on Netflix. Merry Christmas!
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