Movie binge-watching is a military tradition. Whether in the barracks, deployed overseas or at home on leave, few demographics consume cinema more feverishly to pass the time as those in uniform.
As you settle in for hearty meals, hot chocolate and viciously spiked eggnog — critical to numb the awkward presence of that one weird uncle — with family and friends, some classic Christmas films are likely in store. (And if you’re the unfortunate soul standing duty today, between seven to nine movies are on tap.)
To help guide your viewing experience — or to incite furious disagreements — we put together a list of 20 of our favorites.
Plenty of awful-yet-enjoyable movies were candidates, but as much as Arnold “I’m not a pervert; I was just looking for a Turbo Man doll” Schwarzenegger warranted a spot, “Jingle All the Way” just couldn’t crack a list of actual cinematic quality.
The same goes for bribes, like someone trying to squeeze Michael Keaton’s “Jack Frost” into the list — no. You know who you are.
Disclaimer: This list does not include “Die Hard.” That doesn’t mean we’re settled on the film’s place as a Yuletide joy. We simply decided to allow it to occupy its own controversial space so that you, the readers, can tear each other limb from limb this Christmas in traditional heated comment thread debate over its categorization.
Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.
20. LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)
What would a Christmas list be without at least one romantic comedy? “Love Actually” fulfills that quota — and then some — with a star-studded cast playing out intertwining love stories. Even a loving Liam Neeson found his loving spirit before devoting all his days to repeatedly finding and killing his family’s kidnappers.
19. THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (2017)
One of the newest films on the list tells the story of Charles Dickens' creation — through real-life inspirations and magical imagination — of one of the greatest Christmas stories and most memorable characters ever created: “A Christmas Carol."
18. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2011)
Santa does the unthinkable and mixes up the delivery of a present to a child. The mission falls to Arthur, Santa’s son, to save the day and bring the gift to the child, but time is of the essence. This movie unfortunately experienced little success in the U.S. compared to the U.K., making it an underrated choice worthy of your viewing.
17. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965)
Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. A Peanuts holiday staple to cure Charlie of his holiday depression teaches everyone the true meaning of Christmas.
16. THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)
Michael Caine delivers a stellar performance, as he does in any role, as Ebenezer Scrooge alongside all the familiar and lovable Muppet characters in this unique adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic that can be enjoyed by kids and parents alike.
15. BAD SANTA (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton shines as a boozing, smoking department store thief who learns compassion through the most unlikely bond. Extremely quotable and inappropriate, this one’s best suited for the parents who just put their kids to bed after watching “The Muppet Christmas Carol.”
14. THE BISHOP’S WIFE (1948)
Cary Grant plays an angel who helps a distressed bishop raise money for a new church. It’s a heartfelt story of goodwill that makes it an easy candidate for any Christmas viewing.
13. THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994)
After accidentally killing Santa, Tim Allen’s Scott Calvin has to fill the role — and pack on the pounds to fill the suit. Great dialogue packs this story, led by Allen’s endless sarcasm as a Christmas skeptic who slowly takes to his Santa responsibilities, as well as his fatherly responsibilities to his young son, Charlie.
12. HOME ALONE (1990)
Excessively quotable classic of maybe the most inept parents in history somehow managing to forget their kid when they leave for vacation (and not just once). The family insults and the idiotic “Wet Bandits," Marv Murchins and Harry Lyme (Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci), make this a perennial favorite.
11. NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989)
“Sh--ter’s full!” The golden age of Chevy Chase and the National Lampoon’s movies makes this an easy addition. Few films show the true holiday spirit of irritating relatives, shopping annoyances and dependence on a paycheck to fulfill gift-giving like this one. Plus, Clark Griswold brings you one of the all-time great meltdowns in movie history. “Hallelujah! Holy s--t!”
10. RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964)
The imagery alone is instantly recognizable to any kid who grew up watching these ageless gems. Rudolph, the unlikely hero of Christmas, is cemented in the hearts and minds of every kid who watches this stop-motion animation classic.
9. JOYEUX NOËL (2006)
One of the lesser known Christmas films that delves into the personal French, British and German stories of the 1914 World War I Christmas truce, a break from carnage in which enemies — at least for a brief time — became brothers.
8. A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)
Inevitably on loop for 24 hours each Christmas Eve and Christmas, the “You’ll shoot your eye out,” “triple-dog dare you” exploits of Ralphie and crew are practically mandatory viewing each Dec. 25.
7. ELF (2003)
Will Ferrell’s character Buddy goes on a misguidedly optimistic journey to find his biological father after growing up believing he’s an elf. Unflappable Christmas spirit, and occasional snow ball-fighting, make this movie an instant classic.
6. BABES IN TOYLAND (1934)
Laurel and Hardy building toys and battling cave-dwelling boogeymen? What could go wrong? The comic duo, whose lives are being highlighted in the upcoming film, “Stan and Ollie," starring John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan, brought their familiar comedic magic to save Little Bo and Mother Peep.
5. WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954)
A Bing Crosby Christmas musical. Enough said.
4. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)
The quest of Jack Skellington and Sally to find the beating heart of Christmas, complemented by unforgettable music, make Tim Burton’s macabre Halloween-Christmas crossover an animated must-have in your Christmas filmography.
3. A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951)
Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Alastair Sim, is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in this 1951 adaptation — the best version by far — of the Charles Dickens classic.
2. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947)
A Macy’s department store Santa claiming to be the real Kris Kringle is so convincing that he gets innocent kids and even the most cynical adults to believe that he’s the real deal. There’s something undeniably sweet about this perennial classic … even though if it were made today, he’d be handcuffed and thrown in the slammer.
1. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey has it all. Love, loss, magic and a little slice of Americana. So, it’s no surprise this comes in at number one.
If you’re not wanting to watch a movie and want to just set a Christmas mood, try this Darth Vader yule log.