1. It’s a Wonderful Life – I admit with shame that I have yet to see this uber-famou classic starring the equally famous Jimmy Stewart(whom I am a fan of ever since The Philadelphia Story) but it is generally considered the iconic Christmas film, and is probably one of a handful of old films which most people have still seen or at least are aware of
2. Miracle on 34th Street– this classic, heartwarming Christmas story about a lawyer who defends a department-story Santa who’s claiming he’s the real thing won 4 Academy Awards and is still a perennial favorite on Christmas film lists everywhere.
3.Holiday Affair – this TV movie about a single mom who falls for the charming stranger(played by David James Elliott for any fans of JAG) she meets while Christmas shopping is a complete charmer and enjoyable for the whole family
4. Home Alone 1 & 2 – I’m not going to bother introducing these as they are ridiculously famous, but they’re endlessly re-watchable, consistently hilarious, and excellent choices to curl up on comfortable couches and watch after Christmas unwrapping or to have in the background while cooking Christmas dinner.
5. August Rush – this lovely, well-acted film about love and music and its ability to bring people together is so resonant with hope and magic that I can’t help but consider it an excellent film both for Christmastime and the entire family(plenty of grit and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a hot-tempered Irish guitarist for the guys)
6. The Holiday -funny, charming, and one of the few films I’ve seen that successfully combines the wit and heart of older romantic comedies with the sophistication of more modern affairs. This tale of two women who exchange homes and continents for Christmas and wind up falling in love and re-discovering life is not nearly as cliched as it sounds, and while it will never be great cinema, somehow it’s a very reassuring film. Note: not necessarily great for the whole family – some sexual content both verbal and visual.
7. Die Hard 1 and 2 – it’s an oft-overlooked fact that these riveting, fantastic action films are both set at Christmas, when all’s fair in love and war and most decidedly unfair in New York cop John McClane’s life(his wife is perenially either about to leave him or being threatened by terrorists. Merry Christmas, John). With plenty of twists and bare-knuckle fights but not too much overt blood and gore, these are family/action classics.
8. A Christmas Story-another movie which I confess I haven’t seen, but by all accounts this movie about a boy who has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a BB gun is the perfect gift for him is an enduring classic
9. The Family Stone – another adult romantic comedy which is somehow very reassuring, The Family Stone is often overlooked because of its odd vibe. Halfway between a traditional romantic comedy and an offbeat indie flick, it somehow manages to pull off the mix without too much awkwardness, and is that rarest of things, a genuinely heartwarming movie. Flawed but lovely, it has an all-star cast including Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Diane Keaton and Luke Wilson, and is about a tightly-wound, conservative businesswoman who visits her fiance’s home for Christmas and makes all kinds of sparks begin to fly in his eccentric, loud family. It’s a love story, it’s funny, and it’s got family – what more could you ask for for Christmas? (PS: ignore the offensive cover image)
I’m going to cheat a little and put an Asian drama in 10th place.
10. My Girl – take one down-on-her luck, resourceful poor girl who’s constantly on the run from her father’s gambling debts and in perennial need of money. Add one rich, handsome , reserved young man who needs someone to impersonate his long-lost cousin. What you get is a delightful, tragi-comic, heartwarming, and deeply addicting Cinderella story that should quickly hook the whole family. My Girl has no direct correlation to Christmas, but several climactic scenes happen around Christmastime and snow plays a very important part, so it’s associated for me and many other of its fans with Christmas.