It’s Not Officially Christmas Unless You Watch These Movies

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Netflix and chilling with your fam. Isn’t that how the remix goes? No matter your religious inclination, Christmas movies are a special genre. They’re all family dysfunction, gift-giving cheer, and, occasionally, a single-gal house swap that leads to true love.

We’ve rounded up the best in Christmas-movie goofiness. Sometimes zany ( The Family Stone), sometimes manic ( This Christmas), these are the movies that get to the heart of the holiday season: Food, friendship, and fun. And because you can only listen to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album so many times, these are movies with good soundtracks, too.

Step into your slippers and order some cookies on Seamless. Spend the night in with any one of these classic Christmas flicks.

Serendipity(2001)

Do you believe in fate? Or the success of really cheesy romantic comedies? This John Cusack vehicle takes place in New York around holiday time, which qualifies it as a Christmas movie. Cusack meets adorable Kate Beckinsale while holiday shopping — they both reach for the same pair gloves. Romance follows, only it gets complicated when Beckinsale decides to leave everything to fate. There’s ice-skating in the snow, there’s romance, there’s John Cusack, there’s the actual restaurant Serendipity! For Cusack fans, it’s an absolute holiday must-watch.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas(1966)

Starring: Boris Karloff

Before Jim Carrey took his turn at the mean green Christmas-hating man, there was the animated film. Replete with hand-drawn animation and a downright adorable Cindy Lou Who (no Taylor Momsen to be found here), the 90-minute movie is pure charm. You can’t watch this movie and NOT love Christmas. That’s kind of the point. From the moment you hear the Whos sing “da-foo-do-ray,” you’ll be in full Christmas mode.

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor

It’s not Christmas until you watch Judy warble out the notes of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in the snow. The movie is ostensibly about a family’s move to New York City, but it contains a song about Christmas, ergo: it’s a holiday movie. Garland also sings “The Trolley Song,” which is low-key the catchiest song from a movie musical.

A Diva’s Christmas Carol (2000)

Starring: Vanessa Williams, Kathy Griffin

You recall A Christmas Carol, the classic Dickens tale of holiday regrets. This movie takes that story and adds Vanessa Williams and Kathy Griffin to the mix. Vanessa Williams is the Diva in question. She plays Ebony Scrooge, “pop music’s biggest diva.” Griffin plays the various ghosts of Christmas in the movie that is leagues (upon leagues) better than Jim Carrey’s 2009 iteration of A Christmas Carol.

The Family Stone (2005)

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton

This tale of home-for-the-holidays bickering is elevated by an all-star cast. Sarah Jessica Parker is perfectly wooden as Meredith, the one non-family member who attends the Christmas celebration. It’s all familiar territory: Family secrets are revealed, someone ruins a precious holiday dish, and there are turtlenecks a-plenty. The real draw here are Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton, the respective Stone patriarch and matriarch. Family drama is what these actors do best, and the pair do not disappoint.

Last Holiday (2006)

Starring: Queen Latifah, LL Cool J

Queen Latifah is living it up as Georgia Byrd, a saleswoman who learns that she has a terminal illness. She takes a break from her introverted personality and gifts herself with a trip to Europe and a lot of luxury.

Home Alone (1990)

Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern

Kevin was Chicago’s OG scammer, and Pesci and Stern were veritable opponents. This movie also made us want to move to the Windy City suburbs ASAP when we were little. Those houses!

The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)

Starring: Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Shirley Booth, George S. Irving

Remember those old puppet Christmas movies that air on Freeform (the network formerly known as ABC Family) every December? The Year Without A Santa Claus is the best of those old holly-jolly Rankin/Bass classics.

This year, Santa’s fed up. No more Christmas jet setting for Mr. Claus. When he decides to take a year off, the Miser brothers — Heat Miser and Snow Miser — face off.

The Preacher’s Wife (1996)

Starring: Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, Courtney B. Vance

Denzel Washington is an angel sent to soothe the doubts of a successful local preacher (Courtney B. Vance). But — twist! — the preacher’s wife (Whitney Houston) ends up catching the holy stranger’s eye.

With a score composed by Hans Zimmer and songs sung by Houston herself, this is a Christmas classic.

Elf (2003)

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan

Buddy the (human) elf (Will Ferrell) is on his way home to New York City. After spending his youth living among elves on the North Pole, he journeys to find his real dad, who is now an elite Manhattan businessman (James Caan).

But life in the adult world comes with more challenges than Buddy initially realizes: father-son bonding, Manhattan’s yellow snow, and a crush on a gift-shop clerk (Zooey Deschanel).

The Best Man Holiday (2013)

Starring: Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan

The old friends from The Best Man reunited in this Christmas romantic comedy. Everyone is up to their same hijinks, only this time, there’s mistletoe involved.

Lance (Morris Chestnut), Harper (Taye Diggs), Candace (Regina Hall), Quentin (Terrence Howard), Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Jordan (Nia Long), Murch (Harold Perrineau), and Mia (Monica Calhoun) descend upon Lance’s mega mansion to spend Christmas together. They’re 15 years older now and have almost 15 times the drama.

The Holiday (2006)

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach

Frustrated with the men in their lives, two single ladies swap houses for the holidays. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) lives a lavish life in L.A. Iris (Kate Winslet) lives a cozy one in London. When they trade places, each woman steps into a new life and new romance.

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