12 Eclectic Christmas Movies Filled with Holiday Spirit

The Family Man Tea Leoni Kate Reynolds Kate Campbell Nicolas Cage Jack Campbell Makenzie Vega Annie Campbell Jake and Ryan Milkovich Josh Campbell A Christmas Story Ralphie Parker Peter Billingsly National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Chevy Chase Clark Griswald
For many, Christmas movies are as much of a tradition as putting up decorations and listening to your favorite Christmas music. When it came to deciding which were the best and most likely to bring about the spirit of Christmas, these 12 titles took the cake.

Given that they are "eclectic" selections, there is a little something for everyone here. There are movies for adults and ones that can be watched by the entire family.

From the old school, Christmas classics to modern favorites, and aspiring ones, this list hopes to have you covered. These are the 12 Christmas movies that should fill you with the perfect amount of the yuletide spirit.

Image by Universal Pictures

#12: Love Actually (2001) [Reader's Pick]

This British rom-com has become a new classic, one reason being, it is populated with an all-star cast that counts Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Laura Linney among numerous others. Even for those who have not seen it (myself included), it is next to impossible not to know of its trademark sequence.

The one in which Laura Linney’s character leaves the room to briefly exclaim her excitement in private euphoria. That alone is indicative of its rather broad impact as a pop culture staple. Did I also mention there is a Kelly Clarkson theme song (“The Trouble with Love Is”)? I guess I just did. Suggested on Twitter by Andy @pinkiecat75.
Surviving Christmas Ben Affleck Drew Latham James Gandolfini Tom Valco
Image by DreamWorks Pictures

#11: Surviving Christmas (2004) 

This is one of those zany Christmas comedies that works, and that is because it knows what it is. Granted, upon initial viewing, I had entered with low expectations, only to find the pretty decent execution of a possible cliché plot. A lonely rich guy's (Ben Affleck) lack of meaningful social interaction drives him to do what only a person that out of touch with reality would do. He hires a family of strangers to keep him company for Christmas.

The wacky family is the reason for the film’s entertainment value, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate, Catherine O’Hara, and Josh Zuckerman, are all engaging. Especially entertaining is Gandolfini as the grumpy foil to Affleck’s character. If you don’t expect much, you will be rewarded with a surprisingly funny comedy. 

Jingle All the Way Arnold Schwarzenegger Howard Langston
Image by 20th Century Fox

#10: Jingle All the Way (1996) 

Say what you will, but I will always have a soft spot for this Arnold Schwarzenegger-starrer. This family film is a lighthearted comedy that follows the frustrated antics of a workaholic father (Schwarzenegger) trying to get the ultimate Christmas gift for his son at the last minute. Enter Sinbad trying to do the same for his son, and you have the recipe for some classic 90’s entertainment.

Sinbad and Schwarzenegger play excellently off of each other, and it is disappointing that they have not done anything together since, given the rapport, they shared here. Phil Hartman serves up a memorable performance as well, adding to the film exponentially as the Stepford husband trying to woo Howard’s wife (Rita Wilson). As cheery as the film is, it also offers a cleverly, thorough commentary on the consumer materialism that has permeated Christmas.

Deck the Halls Danny DeVito Buddy Hall Matthew Broderick Dr. Steve Finch
Image by 20th Century Fox

#9: Deck the Halls (2006)

When Christmastime light-bright displays were starting to trend, Hollywood was already finding the story underneath suburbia's new craze. "Deck the Halls" is a tale of one-upmanship, bitter rivalry, and, ultimately, friendship. When the easygoing Buddy (Danny DeVito) moves his family into the neighborhood of an uptight family man (Matthew Broderick), a battle of wills begins.

Emotions hit their flashpoint when Buddy decides to decorate his house so that it can be seen from space. This is an effective comedy with smart slapstick and fabulous comedic turns from DeVito and Broderick. It evades the overwrought plot and keeps up a pleasant flow as a result. Sit back and relax because "Deck the Halls" is a fun watch.

Home Alone Daniel Stern Marv Merchants Macaulay Culkin Kevin McCallister Joe Pesci Harry Lyme
Image by 20th Century Fox

#8: Home Alone (1990)

Few movies can count as many classic moments, as "Home Alone" possesses. There’s the aftershave yell heard round-the-world, the memorable dialogue in the fake-gangster movie that Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) watches on repeat, and the scene where he realizes that he is at home, all alone.

While it might be hard to believe, those scenes are just the beginning for this magnificently scripted film from John Hughes. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern bestow the film with a malicious edge that gives the comedy a sense of tension. Funny, original, and with a punch of wide-eyed vitality, “Home Alone” is a classic that has earned its place as a Christmas hallmark.

It's A Wonderful Life Donna Reed Mary Hatch James Stewart George Bailey
Image by RKO Radio Pictures

#7: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The aspect that personally stands out about Frank Capra’s classic film is that the majority of it is not spent on the infamous “dream” sequence. That actually plays out during the latter portion of the movie. Its primary focus is telling the story of George Bailey (James Stewart) as he struggles to deal with the harsh realities that crush his idealism and dreams.

George is faced with coming to terms with what he wants his world to be and what it is. Contemplating, ending his life is an action resulting from the belief that he is not capable of making a difference. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a definitive character study that explores coming to grips with coming-of-age, at a point in life, convention claims it should have already been dealt with. "It' a Wonderful Life" is one of cinema’s first raw looks into the life of a common man.

The Santa Claus Tim Allen Scott Calvin Eric Lloyd Charlie Calvin
Image by Walt Disney Pictures / Beuna Vista Pictures

#6: The Santa Clause (1994)

Tim Allen stars as a man struggling to deal with life as a divorced dad. Downtrodden, he incidentally becomes the successor to the previous Santa Claus after accidentally killing the previous incarnation. As dark as that sounds on paper, this is a brainy and comedic approach to the legend of Santa. One that serves as a captivating centerpiece for the plight of a single dad.

Allen anchors the film with his affable charm and grounded sensibility, keeping the film from veering into campy territory. Also of note is the witty title, a play on "Claus" as "Clause." It is little touches like that, which set off alike this apart.

Elf Will Ferrell Buddy
Image by New Line Cinema

#5: Elf (2003) 

Innovative and funny, the high jinks of Will Ferrell are given an ample stage to shine as Buddy, an “elf” from the North Pole who goes to New York City to track down his biological father (James Caan). In "Elf," Ferrell captures one of his career-best performances. Impressively managing to completely extract himself from his previous roles, which are filled with robust vulgarity.

As Buddy, Ferrell is naive and gentle. It is a far cry from his previous incarnations and an astounding acting feat. Rounding out the cast is a magnificent supporting cast, led by James Caan, Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschanel, Peter Dinklage, and Mary Steenburgen, who are all, precisely on point.

Noel Paul Walker Michael Mike Riley Penelope Cruz Nina Vasquez Susan Sarandon Rose Collins
Image by Convex Group

#4: Noel (2004) 

On a snowy Christmas Eve in New York City, five strangers are brought together. Led by a seasoned cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Alan Arkin, Penelope Cruz, and Paul Walker, "Noel" is an engrossing story that steps up to the plate where other intertwining stranger tales, fumble.

The characters are all likable, their dramas relatable, and the comedy that befalls them exceedingly copacetic. "Noel" is an uplifting excursion that circumvents contrivance, veering head-on with great success, as it simplifies the troubles that can feel larger than life. “Noel” has a vital message and a resolve that comes from a whole lot of heart. Click here for the full review.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Chevy Chase Clark Griswold

#3: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

The Griswold family Christmas that offers new laughs with every viewing. Chevy Chase’s Clark is an everyday husband and father, who must contend with a lousy boss, uncouth in-laws, and a Christmas tree that seems to be cursed. Clark W. Griswold is perhaps one of the most well-meaning archetypes of modern film.

He embodies the struggle that comprises the constant struggle of the contemporary family man, who is trying to do it all. One of the film’s greatest lessons comes from how hard you see Clark try and how much worse things become as result. He is a character, buried continuously deeper into turmoil by trying to dig his way out, as quickly as possible. Digging into "Christmas Vacation" is an easier feat to manage.
A Christmas Story Peter Billingsley Ralphie Parker Melinda Dillon Mrs. Parker Darren McGavin Mr. Parker The Old Man
Image by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

#2: A Christmas Story (1983)

The requested present is legendary. The various ploys to obtain it are hilariously memorable. The family at its heart is golden. After 30 years, 9-year old Ralphie’s (Peter Billingsley) quest to get the gift of his dreams is still poignantly effective. The reason behind its enduring quality personally lies with the authenticity in which Ralphie’s perspective is told.

Jean Shepherd narrates the story through the eyes of a kid, not as a grown man with years of maturity, having quelled his sense of imagination. It is from this; "A Christmas Story" elicits a nostalgic connection to one’s younger years. It magnificently captures the spirit of adventure and reverie that vests the innocence of childhood. You will have a hard time finding that quality in other films.

The Family Man Tea Leoni Kate Reynolds Kate Campbell Nicolas Cage Jack Campbell Makenzie Vega Annie Campbell Jake and Ryan Milkovich Josh Campbell
Image by Universal Pictures

#1: The Family Man (2000)

This is truly one of the best movies that ever made period. That’s because “The Family Man” is one of those rare jewels that can sustain multiple viewings and constant scrutiny. After meeting an angel (Don Cheadle), preppy Wall Streeter, Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) goes to sleep alone in his New York penthouse, he wakes up with his college sweetheart, Kate (Tea Leoni) and their two kids. His mission is to find out what might have been.

Jack claims he never wondered and yet he is about to find out. Unlike “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the dream sequence is the heart of the entire story. Where the typical dream fare of cinema, lingers in a euphoric fantasy, this is a “glimpse” into a separate reality where life is challenging and honest. Insanely candid and provocatively authentic, this is a must-see at tinsel-time or not. Click here for the full review.