The silly season makes us come over all festive, so we are pleased to present the 25 highest rated Christmas films, according to our community, as at December 2018. Not the most popular, not the most rewatched, not the ones we love to hate, but the seasonal favorites that have coaxed extra star ratings out of you over the years.
Unlike our highest rated horror list, we don’t have a Christmas genre tag to help us narrow the list of appropriate films. So we consulted as many other “best Christmas movie” lists as we could find (including the results of Letterboxd’s own recent Holiday Showdown).
Then we drilled down, applying some filters to ensure that only the most Christmassy of films remained in the list. This is where it got a little fighty at Letterboxd HQ. Eggnog was spilled, but in the end we agreed to a final, shocking, highly controversial 25: Die Hard out! Gremlins out! The Apartment out! “Please explain,” you demand. Happy to, read on.
All films had to be feature length; which meant highly-rated TV specials and short films were out. (For the record, your five highest rated Christmas shorts/featurettes are: A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Snowman, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol.)
Released at Christmas
Allowing for a few exceptions due to mid-century film release practices (Miracle on 34th Street was first released in June of 1947), we limited our selection to films released in the window around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Strange as it may seem now, Die Hard and Gremlins functioned primarily as US summer blockbusters that happened to be set at Christmas.
‘Christmassy’ or merely set at Christmas?
Is there just a sprinkling of Christmas, Shane Black-style? Or are the main characters’ actions significantly affected by the specific time of year? Does the film explore deeper moral questions inspired by the “reason for the season” à la It’s a Wonderful Life and Tokyo Godfathers? Does it feel festive?
Just because a film is called Navidad doesn’t mean it’s really about Christmas—sorry Sebastián Lelio. Could the events in the film happen at any other point in the year without significantly affecting the overall experience? Sure, there’s some extra emotional heft to John McClane’s predicament, but honestly? That work party could have taken place in July (and we will gladly receive all your reckons about Die Hard over here).
So where does that leave Carol, you ask…
Watched—and re-watched—at Christmas
Our ultimate filter. “A Christmas movie is like a Christmas song—you don’t want to listen to it except at Christmas,” argued Letterboxd co-founder Karl in the midst of our discussions. Using this theory, we took our master list and applied a new filter: how often are these films also watched at other times in the year? Or do they tend to be December-only appointments?