Movies I Love to Watch at Christmas Time

For Christmas 2010, Entertainment Weekly came up with their “20 Top Christmas Movies Ever” which included movies which I found downright bizarre to be calling Christmas films, like Gremlins, Die Hard, Trading Places and Bad Santa.   What kind of uplifting holiday spirit do folks get into from watching those flicks?  No wonder Christians are worried about the corruption of their sacred holiday.  Wikipedia does tally a very long list of what some people consider Christmas movies, but most of them miss the point of what I think of as Christmas spirit.

I am not a Christian, but I love the spirit of Christmas as defined by Charles Dickens in his 1843 book, A Christmas Carol.  Christmas is not about Santa Claus, Christmas trees or giving presents.  Christmas is about being grateful, compassionate and giving.  You don’t need to be religious to appreciate the struggle to become a better person by trying to improve the lives of people around you.  I love Christmas movies because I’m a selfish person and I need constant reminding to be more generous and selfless.

To me the classic Christmas movie to watch at Christmas time are those that inspire me to be more charitable, compassionate and considerate.  It takes a great movie to move me.  Die Hard and Home Alone are lots of fun by not uplifting.  And I really need to watch Christmas worthy movies all year round because I need steady inspiration to remind me to be less selfish.  That’s why some movies on my Christmas movie list would be bizarre to other people making their list of favorite Christmas movies.  For example, I think of Groundhog Day to be a great movie to watch at Christmas time, or any other time of the year to inspire Christmas spirit.

For me, a great Christmas film must inspire us to be more like Jesus.  Now that’s a weird statement to come from an atheist, but let me explain.  We know very little about the man Jesus.  Most everything written about him is pure speculation, especially about his birth and death.  But there is enough evidence to believe there was a man who tried to invent a philosophy about compassion.  That core philosophy about compassion is taught in many religions.  It has nothing to do with life after death, God or other metaphysical beliefs.  A Christmas Carol or It’s A Wonderful Life attempts to inspire this philosophy too.  I think it’s the spirit of Christmas.  It should work for both believers and non-believers.

With that said, I’d like to list some films I think are inspirational to watch at Christmas time.  Several of them are not about Christmas, but they are still great to watch at Christmas time.

It’s A Wonderful Life

A Christmas Carol (1938)

The Bishop’s Wife

Groundhog Day

You Can’t Take It With You

Miracle on 34th Street


Dances with Wolves


On Borrowed Time

We’re No Angels

Little Women

The Shop Around the Corner

The Wizard of Oz

JWH – 12/21/10

16 thoughts on “Movies I Love to Watch at Christmas Time”

  1. Yes, this is a weird list in some ways, Jim. Personally, I consider Groundhog Day to be a good Groundhog Day movie. Admittedly, I can watch Battleground anytime.

    But you missed one of my favorite Christmas movies, Scrooged. What can I say? I think it’s funny. And it’s got a Christmas message, too.

    1. I’ll have to get a copy of Scrooged from Netflix. I wonder what other films like Battleground do we have in common. I can watch Battleground anytime too. It’s one of my all time favorite movies.

      1. Sir,

        I hope you can help me. My name is John Berry. As a child I read a great deal of science fiction but the authors and titles were unimportant to me at the time. I am trying to find a short story I read years ago. In the story, a spaceship has crashed on another world. The crew have children, but due to the suns radiation (I think), they age and die in a matter of days. This leaves no time for them to figure out a way to slow down the process and escape. Obviously, I now realize that this is a cultural critique of the human race and how we have such little time to evolve and how the young keep repeating the same mistakes of their elders.

        I would love to find this story again. Can you help me?

        I’m sorry this comment is out of context with these posts, but it took me a while to figure out how to get a message through to you.

        Thank you so much,

        John Berry

        1. John, I didn’t know the answer to this one, but I sent your query to my book club and got this reply:

          “The story to which John is referring is, I believe, Ray Bradbury’s “Frost and Fire” (1946), a story I first read in his collection R IS FOR ROCKET (1962), although it has probably appeared elsewhere.”

      1. “Let It Snow” is heard at the end of Die Hard, while there is a snow-like fall of half-burnt money, a parade of ambulances and fire trucks, a very triumphant and uplifting moment… christmasy!!!!

  2. Isn’t ‘You Can’t Take it With You’ one of the most wonderful films ever made? We all just love that film and enjoy watching it every year. We plan on introducing our daughter’s boyfriend to it over the Christmas holidays.

    Great list of films here. Every year we enjoy watching:

    Little Women (the Winona Ryder version)
    White Christmas
    Love Actually
    A Christmas Story
    While You Were Sleeping
    You’ve Got Mail
    Shop Around the Corner
    Miracle on 34th Street (the old classic, not the remake)
    Its a Wonderful Life
    Charlie Brown Christmas
    Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (Rankin/Bass)

    We are woefully behind in our Christmas movie watching this year and plan to do a big film fest here in a few days.

    1. Carl, we have a good overlap of Christmas movies. We also watch Love Actually too, as a Christmas movie. I need to try Elf. We regularly watch You’ve Got Mail and maybe we’ll add it to our Christmas rotation. I haven’t seen Charlie Brown Christmas in decades. I’ve been thinking I should watch City Lights again to see if it would be a good Christmas movie.

      My wife started the tradition of watching Christmas DVDs years ago, and I’m trying to add my favorites this year.

  3. I love all the Frank Capra movies. I think it’s a shame that some of his films like “Meet John Doe” are less well known, because they are still fantastic.

    1. John, you should get Capra’s autobiography. I discovered Capra in my late teens and have been a huge fan my whole life. Susan and I were watching part of Meet John Doe the other night and discussing whether or not it should be a Christmas movie. Did you know that Lost Horizon is a Capra film? A lot of people forget that one, and it’s a wonderful fantasy.

  4. Jim, I just noticed that you don’t have National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on your list. Come now, you can’t leave that one out!

    True, it’s a comedy. But in the end, it has a lot of Christmas spirit. Besides, it’s just laugh-out-loud funny.

    1. I haven’t seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in such a long time that I’ve totally forgotten what it’s like. I’ll see if we can get a copy for this season.

      I didn’t add many of the comedies and cartoons because I just can’t remember them. I included the movies we watch every year regularly.

      We watched The Bishop’s Wife the other night and I’m thinking about downgrading it because it’s not inspirational enough. I think we’re just sentimentally attached to it. It also inspired me to try to make a list of sophisticated angel movies. It seems to me that I remember better angels than Dudley and Clarence, but I can’t think of who at the moment.

  5. Elf is done in the spirit of the old Rankin Bass films as well as A Christmas Story and because of that we really are attached to it. Despite its absurdities, which are fun, it has a real sweet heart to it. And Zooey Deschanel, who I was a fan of before Elf came out, stole the show with her gorgeous singing.

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