(Photo by New Line, Warner Bros., Miramax, RKO, 20th Century Fox/ courtesy Everett Collection)
The Best Christmas Movies of All Time
From Home Alone and Elf to classics like Miracle on 34th Street, we’ve made our list of great holiday films and checked it at least twice. Now, to all you nice boys and girls out there, we present the Best Christmas Movies ever!
Christmas has come to represent different things to people over the years, and the movies here reflect that in kind. If you’re traditional and feeling nostalgic, you’ll be pleased to see where It’s A Wonderful Life and Holiday Inn made it on our list of top holiday films. If this time of the year reminds you of sitting around the TV, eagerly awaiting those annual specials, look out for A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There’s horror (Black Christmas), comedy (Trading Places), horror and comedy (Gremlins), and even a superhero covered in tinsel somewhere (Batman Returns). For those with an independent streak to celebrate, check out Tangerine and Carol. Meanwhile, Netflix has made great strides in the Kris Kringle quadrant with The Christmas Chronicles and Klaus. And if Christmas means traveling somewhere you don’t want to be, stuck in a building with people you don’t like, have we got the ultimate movie for you: Die Hard! Ho ho ho, now we have a complete list of great Christmas movies.
Wondering how we put this Christmas movie list together? Every movie on the list is Fresh and plays around with the spirit of Christmas and the holidays as a central theme. Then we sorted them all by our ranked formula, which factors in the movie’s release year its number of reviews, to make the ultimate list of holiday films that melted even the most cynical critics’ hearts.
Critics Consensus: While it's missing some of the magic of the original, The Christmas Chronicles 2 serves up a sweet second helping of holiday cheer that makes the most of its marvelously matched leads.
Synopsis: Teenager Kate Pierce is reunited with Santa Claus when a troublemaker threatens to cancel Christmas -- forever.... [More]
Critics Consensus:Krampus is gory good fun for fans of non-traditional holiday horror with a fondness for Joe Dante's B- movie classics, even if it doesn't have quite the savage bite its concept calls for.
Critics Consensus:Frosty the Snowman is a jolly, happy sing-along that will delight children with its crisp animation and affable title character, who makes an indelible impression with his corncob pipe, button nose, and eyes made out of coal.
Synopsis: A discarded magic top hat brings to life the snowman that a group of children made, until a magician, professor... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Night Before provokes enough belly laughs to qualify as a worthwhile addition to the list of Christmas comedies worth revisiting, even if it isn't quite as consistent as the classics.
Synopsis: For the last 10 years, lifelong buddies Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gathered on... [More]
Critics Consensus: The Force isn't fully with this Lego Star Wars adventure, but its affectionate franchise callbacks and self-aware humor should please fans looking to spend their holidays in a galaxy far, far away...
Synopsis: "The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special" reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous feast on... [More]
Critics Consensus: It may not be the finest version of Charles Dickens' tale to grace the screen, but The Muppet Christmas Carol is funny and heartwarming, and serves as a good introduction to the story for young viewers.
Synopsis: The Muppets perform the classic Dickens holiday tale, with Kermit the Frog playing Bob Cratchit, the put-upon clerk of stingy... [More]
Critics Consensus:While You Were Sleeping is built wholly from familiar ingredients, but assembled with such skill -- and with such a charming performance from Sandra Bullock -- that it gives formula a good name.
Synopsis: Lonely transit worker Lucy Eleanor Moderatz (Sandra Bullock) pulls her longtime crush, Peter (Peter Gallagher), from the path of an... [More]
Critics Consensus: Director Tim Burton's dark, brooding atmosphere, Michael Keaton's work as the tormented hero, and the flawless casting of Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Christopher Walken as, well, Christopher Walken make the sequel better than the first.
Synopsis: The monstrous Penguin (Danny DeVito), who lives in the sewers beneath Gotham, joins up with wicked shock-headed businessman Max Shreck... [More]
Critics Consensus: A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers.
Synopsis: Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa's elves.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a powerhouse lineup of talented actresses, Gillian Armstrong's take on Louisa May Alcott's Little Women proves that a timeless story can succeed no matter how many times it's told.
Synopsis: In this 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic, the March sisters confront growing pains, financial shortages, family tragedies and... [More]
Critics Consensus:How the Grinch Stole Christmas brings an impressive array of talent to bear on an adaptation that honors a classic holiday story -- and has rightfully become a yuletide tradition of its own.
Synopsis: This made-for-TV Christmas special is a classic. Based on a Dr. Seuss book, it is about a Christmas-hating Grinch who... [More]
Critics Consensus: With the combined might of Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Irving Berlin working in its favor, Holiday Inn is a seasonal classic -- not least because it introduced "White Christmas" to the world.
Synopsis: In this Irving Berlin musical, Jim (Bing Crosby) and Lila are members of a performing trio who plan to quit... [More]
Director Paul Feig has set out to make a modern holiday classic with Last Christmas, the new rom-com starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and Emma Thompson that Thompson co-wrote and which is set in a Christmas-drenched London. Ahead of the movie’s release on November 8, Feig joined Rotten Tomatoes to talk about his own favorite Christmas movies. And yes, the ever-controversial Die Hard is on the list! Check out Feig’s picks above, then check out our own list of the Best Christmas Movies of All Time.
It’s the first streaming column of the month, which means Netflix and Amazon Prime have released a ton of new releases. And, as usual, we’ve narrowed down the selection to just the Certified Fresh choices. See below for the full list, which includes a nice mix of classic Hollywood, recent hits, and beloved gems.
Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner star in Julian Schnabel’s true story of magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was suddenly paralyzed by a stroke at age 43 but went on to write an astonishing memoir of his experience.
Judy Garland stars as Dorothy in this classic adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel about a young girl who is transported to a magical land where some strange new friends help her to find her way home.
Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh star in Victor Fleming’s multiple Oscar-winning Civil War-set romance about a selfish Southern socialite who catches the eye of a roguish opportunist from a wealthy family.
Roberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi star in Benigni’s dramatic comedy about a Jewish father who concocts elaborate stories to prevent his young son from learning the truth when his family is imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
This Oscar-nominated documentary takes a look at influential African-American writer James Baldwin’s life and sociopolitical legacy, focusing on an unfinished, unpublished manuscript Baldwin left behind when he died in 1987.
Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Waterkeeper Alliance
In our second of a two-part series on the Five Favorite Films of some of the very talented folks involved in Almost Christmas — opening Friday — we spoke to Mr. JB Smoove. Of course, you also know him from a bunch of other things like Barbershop: The Next Cut, Date Nightand The Millers. But we are so excited about Christmas, that we gave ourselves a present — double the amount of Five Favorite Films coverage (including this one of producer Will Packer) — and are pleased to include this jovial, talented actor’s choices. You can see his list right here:
Oh, you know what I love? I’m going to give you one of my holiday movies that I love, that I can’t stop watching. It goes on marathon every year. That’s A Christmas Story. That’s like on marathon all damn day. And I’ve watched that movie ten times. My favorite scene is when the dogs run in there and eat that damn turkey, man. I tell you, I’m in hysterics, man. That is one of my favorite movies.
I like The Game; it’s one of my favorite movies. I love The Game. Oh, that movie was so good. I love not knowing what’s going to happen. I become a detective. My brain — I put myself in the character’s position. I sit there and I wonder how I would’ve reacted to this. You know, because there were parts of that movie that had me tripping. And you could not tell what was the part of the game and what wasn’t. That was the genius part of how they shot that movie. I just absolutely love it.
I like a lot of older movies, too. I’m a big Peter Sellers fan. So I love — The Party is one of my favorite damn movies of all time. [If] you’ve never seen The Party, man, thank me later, man. Thank me later. When I tell you this movie is fabulous, man — it’s classic Peter Sellers, man. I love Peter Sellers so much. He’s one of my favorite actors of all time.
Another movie I love is a movie called Claudine. James L. Jones is in that movie. Diahann Carroll is in this movie. Oh man, I’m not a big crier, but the movie resonates and just stays with me the whole time. You know what? I used to love some Diahann Carroll, brother.
The movie was about a single mother who meets a guy and they end up falling in love. He takes on this whole family. She had like five kids, living in Harlem, with five kids, and this guy was a regular garbage man who had kids of his own. He was trying to balance his old life and the stress of being a father to his own kids. But at the same time he loved this woman, he loved her kids, and he wanted to do better for her. He wanted to be with her, but he just tried to work everything out. He ended up leaving her, and then coming back because he loved the kids, and they ended up getting married and all that kind of stuff. All the trial, the jubilation — it’s all about family and what they go through. The growing pains, you know, how the kids fell in love with him and they ended up looking for him, and he broke their heart.
Claudine is a beautiful movie. I went at 13 years old, man. I was in love with Diahann Carroll at 13 years old. I don’t know if I could’ve stepped in those shoes and been a daddy to these little kids, but I loved her, she was a beautiful lady.
For some reason, I love any movies that are the Mad Max genre. I freakin’ love me some Mad Max, man. Thunderdome. I like vehicles. I love trucks, I love cars, I love motorcycles, I love dirt. I love getting dirty, man. I like dirt on my face. I like dirt on my pants, on my socks.
You’re one of those kids; your mother must have loved that.
She loved it, man. She was like, “Just get in the bath tub.” She made us get in the bath tub when we’d come in the house. “Get in the bath tub. Get out of those clothes.” Man, I love that kind of stuff. I like when people are challenged and challenged through life and they get a chance to have survival mode, man.
Did you see the last one?
What? Did I see the [last] one? Man! That one was sick! It was so damn good, man. The stuff they did in that movie was groundbreaking. How do you even cover that? I mean, you got to really know, this type of photographer has got to be fabulous man. Because the stuff they captured was the beauty of it all and the shots were crazy. [Charlize Theron] was cold in that movie, man. She was cold, brother. That lady cold, man.
How do you feel about the new movie?
I love the movie, man. I’m happy that [writer/director] David Talbert really went in and allowed everyone — not just me, but everyone — to kind of do their thing, you know? I think they were smart with the casting, too. When you’re working with that many people you have to almost build and find the nuances of your character. You have to really find the nuances.
What helps a lot is when you’re already friends or familiar with most of your cast members. Me and [Mo’Nique] have known each other for years, almost thirty years. Me and Romany [Malco] have a relationship; we’ve been friends for forever. Me and Omar [Epps] know each other. So that helps a lot. We know each other. It just breaks the other wall down. The other wall comes down. Even though you’re acting, when you care about somebody off camera, your passion and your lines come across better on camera. The drama of it, the sadness of it, the humor of it — just comes across really clean. It doesn’t look like, “They’re just acting.” It doesn’t seem like that. And it comes across so well. I’m looking forward to seeing it tomorrow night. I like to be surprised.
Do you sit in the back and watch everyone’s reaction or do you get right up there close?
Well the premiere, I’m going to sit — we’ll probably be in the front. But when I go see it again, I’ll sit in the back. Most of the cast has seen the movie. I don’t like seeing it. I like to wait. I like to feel it when the audience feels it.
Some Santas want to spread joy to the world…and others just want to watch the world burn. As Christmas approaches, take some time to this week’s special extra 24 Frames gallery, looking at the variations of jolly St. Nick across movie history.
We’ve made a list, and we’ve checked it way more than twice. And since you, the RT readers, have been nice this year, we’ve got a present for you: the Best Christmas Movies countdown, our compendium of the best-reviewed seasonal entertainments of all time!
We’ve got everything from yuletide perennials (It’s a Wonderful Life) to favorites that take place during the holiday season (Die Hard). We’ve got comedies, dramas, family films, and even a couple Christmas-themed war movies — in other words, something to make any filmgoer’s spirits bright.
A word or two about our process: we utilized a weighted system that factors in both Tomatometer and number of reviews, and each movie needed 20 reviews to qualify. We also omitted television specials (sorry, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) and movies in which Christmas only plays a small part, no matter how memorably (tough break, The Apartment). Without further ado, it’s time to take a walk in RT’s winter wonderland of cinema — our Best Christmas Movies countdown!
This week, pick up Steve Carell’s sweetly bumbling spy antics (Get Smart), the promising new Futurama movie (Bender’s Game), a few early holiday treats (Shrek the Halls, A Christmas Story Collector’s Edition) and more, plus learn about the future of digital movie rentals and another controversial election-timed DVD coming in the mail.
1. Get Smart 2-Disc Special Edition — 52%
Bumbling spy Maxwell Smart got a 2008 update, courtesy of Office darling Steve Carell, when Warner Bros.’ big budget action-comedy Get Smart smashed its way through theaters to a $221 million global box office take. This week, take home the gadgets-and-gags adventure as Get Smart makes its way to DVD and Blu-ray!
In Get Smart, CONTROL analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) yearns to become a field agent, like his idol, Agent 23 (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). When the agency is attacked, it’s up to Smart to save the world and all of CONTROL from the evil forces of KAOS.
Special DVD features include five featurettes, a bonus digital copy, and the “Comedy Optimization Mode,” in which you can view over 20 minutes of alternate jokes — what Warner Bros. calls “62% more laughs.” Watch Steve Carell unleash a barrage of alternate jokes with a sample of Get Smart‘s “Smart Takes” DVD feature below!
Next: Futurama: Bender’s Game
2. Futurama: Bender’s Game – N/A
Futurama fans still hopeful for a franchise turnaround after the last mildly disappointing direct-to-DVD film, The Beast with a Billion Backs, should be pleasantly satisfied by the third feature-length adventure starring the Planet Express crew. Deviating from the tone set by the popular cancelled series and the first two of four subsequent DVD films, Bender’s Game takes 21st century pizza boy Fry, one-eyed gladiatrix Leela, misanthropic robot Bender and their pals away from science fiction and into the realm of the true nerd: fantasy.
As the gang embarks on a dangerous quest for dark matter to fuel their spaceship, they become fantastical characters straight out of Dungeons & Dragons, as imagined by Bender. A rich feature-length commentary by cast and crew, deleted scenes, bloopers, and more accompany the disc, along with cool featurettes including one that teaches you to draw Zoidberg, Leela and Bender.
Next: TIVO and Netflix partnership
3. News: TIVO and Netflix partnership
What would happen if the future of DVD rentals and the future of digital video recording joined forces? We’ll find out soon enough, as rent-by-mail trailblazer Netflix and DVR pioneer TiVo have officially cemented a long-discussed partnership that could significantly change the world of home video entertainment.
Thanks to the partnership announced Thursday, mutual subscribers to Netflix and TiVo will soon be able to download their Netflix queue through their TiVo feed, eliminating the need to receive and return physical DVDs through the mail. And you thought it couldn’t get any easier!
Next: Anti-Obama DVD in newspapers
4. News: Anti-Obama DVD in newspapers
In a move similar to the controversial anti-Islam DVD mailed to households across America back in September, a conservative group is funding the distribution of anti-Barack Obama DVDs in the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Nevada only days away from next Tuesday’s Presidential election.
Hype: The Obama Effect will arrive in the mail along with five major newspapers in the aforementioned states this week; David Bossie, president of Citizens United, who will be spending $1 million on the effort, calls the DVD and its message “a truthful attack.” Look for your copy in The Columbus Dispatch, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Palm Beach Post, and the Las Vegas Journal-Review. Read more here.
5. Transsiberian – 92%
Director Brad Anderson (Next Stop Wonderland, The Machinist, Session 9) sets strangers on a train rumbling across the icy Russian tundra in this taut thriller, new to DVD. Emily Mortimer and Woody Harrelson star as a married couple traveling on the famous Trans-Siberian railroad when they befriend another couple (Eduardo Noriega, Kate Mara) who draw them into dangerous plot of infidelity, drugs, and murder. What’s more criminal is the lack of special features on this sparse, yet intriguing, release.
Next: The Bourne Trilogy
6. The Bourne Trilogy (The Bourne Identity/The Bourne Supremacy/The Bourne Ultimatum)
Amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne made a game-changing Hollywood debut with 2002’s The Bourne Identity, followed by two impressive sequels that held up the hype (2004’s The Bourne Supremacy) and then surpassed it (2007’s Oscar-winning The Bourne Ultimatum). This week you can get your hands on the super-charged series as the complete trilogy comes to DVD and Blu-ray — a perfect way to start getting excited about the just-announced fourth Bourne flick, set to reunite star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass.
Next: Shrek the Halls
7. Shrek the Halls – N/A
Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona and their friends gather to celebrate the Shrek family’s first Christmas in this holiday special that first aired last November. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas reprise their roles from the Shrek feature films in this 30 minute program. But considering its brief runtime and too-light smattering of special features, Shrek the Halls may be a worthwhile investment for strictly die-hard fans of the franchise.
Next: What We Do is Secret
8. What We Do is Secret – 45%
Revisit one of the more tragic stories in punk rock history with this biopic of Germs frontman Darby Crash, who lit up LA’s 1970 punk scene before realizing a five-year plan for fame that ended with his planned suicide. Shot guerilla-style over the course of two years, director Rodger Grossman’s meticulously-detailed film drew mixed results from critics but should be an intriguing watch for Germs faithful. Founding Germs member Pat Smear (who would go on to join Nirvana and Foo Fighters) produced all of the film’s music, which was performed largely by the cast; after providing his own vocals as lead singer Darby Crash, actor Shane West (yes, the dude from A Walk to Remember) went on to tour with the remaining Germs under the moniker The New Germs.
Next: Waterworld: Extended Edition
9. Waterworld: Extended Edition – 39%
Can the movie once known as “Fishtar” improve with an additional 40 minutes of footage? Find out this week, as Waterworld: 2-Disc Extended Edition hits shelves. A lucky thirteen years after it debuted as one of the most expensive flops in movie history (global sales eventually evened out the $175M budget), Kevin Costner’s pricey aquatic odyssey returns to DVD, but what has been added?
If you recall the original cut, you’ll be pleased to notice new scenes that flesh out the daily experiences of Costner’s Mariner, who gets a new name, and those of the Smokers. The downside: this extended cut, though closer to director Kevin Reynold’s vision, is the same one televised in 1997 and hasn’t been cleaned up much, so expect the TV-ready absence of profanity, nudity, and some scenes of violence.
Next: A Christmas Story Ultimate Collector’s
10. A Christmas Story Ultimate Collector’s Edition – 88%
If you don’t already own one of the previously-released special editions of this holiday classic, consider throwing down for this bonus-packed Ultimate Collector’s Edition; we triple-dog dare you. The tale of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) holding out for the ultimate present — a Red Ryder BB gun — one Christmas in 1940 remains one of the best-loved family flicks of the holiday season, and Warner Bros. has gift-wrapped it in an amazing set for DVD and Blu-ray.
Pick up the DVD set for a plethora of extras, including an audio commentary with director Bob Clark and actors Billingsley and Melinda Dillon, featurettes, a documentary and more; you’ll also get a 48-page recipe book, chef’s apron, and a set of cookie cutters with designs based on iconic moments in the film (leg lamp cookies!). Blu-ray buyers will get even more special features, including script pages, and a string of leg lamp holiday lights.