Last Updated on November 3, 2020
Old Christmas movies can evoke some of the greatest warm fuzzies of the entire holiday season. There’s something special about finishing off the leftover Thanksgiving pie, curling up with a blanket and a cup of cocoa, and queuing up an old, sentimental, classic holiday flick.
There’s plenty of old Christmas movies to choose from. You’re already familiar with the most famous ones (Rudolph, Wonderful Life, White Christmas).
We’ll list those, but if you’re looking to start a great annual holiday tradition of watching old Christmas films, you’re going to want some new material.
Below, our list features 10 of the best but not quite as popular Christmas gems. These are classic flicks that you may not have seen, or possibly even heard of.
Trust me, if you like old films, these are pure gold.
Among them, I’m sure you’ll find one or two that will just “click” with your family. Once you discover a special old Christmas movie that the whole family loves, you’ll have a wonderful new holiday tradition to treasure.
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Classic Christmas Movies
First, let’s make sure we cover the cream of the crop. Here are some of the top picks that get played on repeat all through December.
- Holiday Inn (1942)
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
- White Christmas (1954)
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
- A Christmas Story (1983)
- Christmas Vacation (1989)
- Home Alone (1990)
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
- The Santa Clause (1994)
- Elf (2003)
… and, of course, Die Hard (1988).
If you haven’t already seen those a million times, well, get on it! There’s a reason those ones are so popular.
In my house, our kids love Home Alone and The Santa Clause, so those two get put on every single year. More than once.
But enough of that. Let’s talk about some great old Christmas movies that you’ll love to watch each and every year.
10 Old Christmas Movies to Watch Every Year
From oldest to most recent, here are some of the best old classic holiday films.
1. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan alternately charm and feud in the movie that inspired the 90’s rom-com You’ve Got Mail.
The two work in a small shop, along with a few other memorable characters, in the days leading up to Christmas. They spend their time on the clock annoying one another. They each spend their time off the clock writing to (and slowly falling in love with) an anonymous friend, little realizing that they are actually writing to one another.
Directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch, The Shop Around the Corner is a true Christmas classic. Full of comedy, romance, and a dash of drama, you’ll want to stream or spin it every holiday season.
2. Remember the Night (1940)
Remember the Night shows the power that a simple gesture of love can have on a troubled soul.
Barbara Stanwyk stars as petty thief who gets caught shoplifting at a jewelry store just before Christmas. When her trial gets postponed until after the New Year, the District Attorney (Fred MacMurray) decides to post bail for her and bring her along to his family’s holiday gathering.
Charming, sad, tender, and redemptive, this is a classic holiday film you won’t soon forget.
3. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
An old crusty theater critic (played by the wonderful Monty Wolley), having come for dinner, slips and falls at the doorstep of a local businessman’s home. The doctor confines him to the house for recovery, and the curmudgeonly critic essentially takes over the house for the remainder of the holiday season.
The Man Who Came to Dinner is a farce with mile-a-minute dialogue filled with acerbic wit. Originally a play, the action essentially takes place in one room.
Entertaining, witty, and hilarious, this classic Christmas movie is an examination of everything the theater critic wants to meddle with and control.
4. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
If you could only choose one movie from this list, Christmas in Connecticut just might need to be it.
The film is old-fashioned comedy at its finest. There’s not much of a schmaltzy message; instead, Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan exude chemistry and charm in a breezy romp with plenty of clever mix-ups, hilarious misunderstandings, and just plain funny slapstick.
5. It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
Every year, when the world’s second-richest man leaves his opulent 5th Avenue home to vacation in the tropics, a local bum and his dog move in to enjoy the empty mansion.
But this year, something different happens…. and It Happened on Fifth Avenue.
A zany Christmas comedy with a farcical setup and surprising sweetness.
6. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
What would happen if Santa Claus was real, and got a job at a local department store playing himself? Would people take him seriously? Or would he need to be written off as mentally deranged?
That’s the premise of Miracle on 34th Street, a heartwarming Christmas classic with light family drama, gentle humor, a touch of magic and a lesson in the joy of believing in those around you. Fun for the whole family.
7. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
In The Bishop’s Wife, Cary Grant plays an angel sent to help a struggling church bishop. Grant’s angel character, Dudley, overflows with joy and warmth, helping all and especially charming the title character – the bishop’s wife Julia.
It’s a subtle, sweet film, with just the right balance of drama, comedy, romance, and life lessons.
As the movie’s tagline says, it’s “one of those really rare pictures that leaves you with a wonderful glow!”
8. Holiday Affair (1949)
Holiday Affair is a classic romantic comedy that just happens to be set during Christmastime.
Janet Leigh (of Psycho fame) endearingly portrays Connie, a young widow who inadvertently gets a sales clerk fired. The clerk (Robert Mitchum) of course falls for her, despite her being engaged to a pleasant but boring man. Comedy ensues.
It’s a relatively unknown and rather underrated old Christmas movie that should earn a premier spot in your annual film playlist.
9. The Great Rupert (1950)
Two families struggling with poverty receive incredible charity and support from Rupert, who is, to put it simply…. a squirrel.
Silly and plain old fun involving vaudeville-style theatrics, slapstick comedy, surprising romance, a pile of stolen cash, and of course The Great Rupert.
Lots of laughs for the whole family. This is an old Christmas movie to start watching with your kids when they’re young, and as they grow they’ll appreciate it even more.
10. A Christmas Carol (1951)
Many film critics agree that Alistair Sim’s Scrooge is the greatest performance of the oft-filmed character, and that this 1951 version of A Christmas Carol is the one you need to see.
You know the story; the miserly Scrooge gets visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Their visions show him that there is more to life than money, but will he change before it’s too late?
A Few More Classic Christmas Movies
Just to make sure we have everything all in one place for you, here are “the rest” of the best Christmas movies. Some are modern staples, some are old black and white classics, but all are annually popular during the holiday season.
- The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)
- Arthur Christmas (2011)
- A Christmas Carol (2009)
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (2007)
- The Holiday (2006)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2005)
- The Polar Express (2004)
- Love Actually (2003)
- Bad Santa (2003)
- You’ve Got Mail (1998)
- Jingle All the Way (1996)
- While You Were Sleeping
- Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
- Home Alone 2 (1992)
- Prancer (1989)
- Scrooged (1988)
- Gremlins (1984)
- Frosty the Snowman (1969)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
- The Holly and the Ivy (1952)
- 3 Godfathers (1948)
- Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
- A Christmas Carol (1938)
- March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
What are your favorite old Christmas movies to watch each holiday season?