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The Best Christmas Movie Of Each Decade Since The 1930s

22 September 2012 | Features, Film Lists, Guest Posts | by David Zou

One of the most enduring genres in the world of film is that of the Christmas movie. Filmmakers have been producing these films for almost as long as the medium of movies has existed, and many classic Christmas movies are considered to be among the best films of all time. Although many excellent Christmas movies exist, the following films are the best examples of the genre through the decades starting with the 1930s.

1930s    A Christmas Carol (1938)

Based on the classic novella by Charles Dickens, 1938′s A Christmas Carol is one of the best-loved Christmas movies of all time. For many years, it was shown prominently during the holiday season, making it a yuletide tradition. Though other versions of the film have become more notable, this edition of the story is the finest Christmas movie of the 1930s, and it contains some wonderful performances by actors who defined their roles for future generations.

A Christmas Carol (1938)


1940s   It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the most cherished movies of any era or genre. The movie, which was released in 1945, stars James Stewart and Donna Reed in memorable performances. It tells a story of hope and love with a universal message that is just as relevant today as it was over 70 years ago. This movie has become a regular television staple of the holiday season, and the basis for a number of imitations and parodies.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)


1950s   White Christmas (1954)

Shot in gloriously brilliant Technicolor, White Christmas is one of the best-looking movie musicals of all time. Released in 1954, the film stars legends Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, plus it features the elegant music of Irving Berlin. Watching this movie offers a sumptuous visual experience, and viewers often leave the movie with a tear in the eye and song in the heart. This movie needs to be seen on a large screen to be appreciated fully.

White Christmas (1954)


1960s   The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966)

The 1960s was a decade filled with change, and The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t represents a major change in tone from the previous movies on this list. It tells the story of a Scrooge-like miser who demands that Santa Claus pay his rent on time so that the cancellation of Christmas can be prevented. Of course, good prevails over evil in the end, but the road there is interesting and highly entertaining. This movie is far from the most popular on the list, but it should be sought by anyone who loves the films of Christmas.

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966)


1970s   Scrooge (1970)

Scrooge, which was released in 1970, is yet another version of the classic Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol. This musical edition of the story stars Albert Finney as the title character, and it is regarded as one of the most authentic versions of Dickens’ story. Though the tale has been told many times in a number of different media, Scrooge is a Christmas favorite thanks to its great music and compelling performances.

Scrooge (1970)


1980s   A Christmas Story (1983)

Upon its release, A Christmas Story was not considered to be an impressive or notable film. However, appreciation for the movie has grown considerably over the years as a result of multiple showings on television during the holiday season. This hilarious and heartwarming film, which was based upon the writings of Jean Shepherd, stars Peter Billingsley as a boy who has a seemingly simple Christmas wish for a Red Ryder BB gun. Naturally, things do not go quite as planned.

A Christmas Story (1983)


1990s   Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone is one of the most successful Christmas movies ever produced. It became a smash hit when it was released during the winter of 1990, and its audience has grown tremendously as a result of showings on numerous cable and broadcast networks over the years. This comedy was written by John Hughes, and directed by Chris Columbus — two legends of cinema — plus it stars Macaulay Culkin in his breakout role. This movie endures because it contains the perfect mix of humor and drama for almost every member of the family.

home alone
Home Alone (1990)


2000s   Elf (2003)

Elf marked a major turning point in the career of its star, Will Ferrell, who had only recently begun to act in major movies after a strong string of performances on TV’s Saturday Night Live. This family-friendly film features Ferrell in the role of an elf who has realized that he’s actually human. The movie follows Ferrell’s character through a number of hilarious situations as he tries to adapt to the real world as an overgrown man-child. A beautiful love story and some great gags make this film endlessly watchable.

Elf (2003)


2010s   Christmas Cupid (2010)

Although this decade is only just beginning, some terrific Christmas movies have already been released. Christmas Cupid is a great, modern holiday film perfect for families and teens. Desperately Seeking Santa is another terrific, family-friendly film. Those who prefer their movies to be a bit more adult-themed should consider A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas for watching after the kids have gone to bed.

Christmas Cupid (2010)


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  • SJHoneywell

    Hard to fault the It’s a Wonderful Life pick, but I still might go with Miracle on 34th Street.

    • David Zou

      And The Shop Around the Corner! What a decade for Christmas movies!

  • Audrey

    Fun list! I watch Home Alone every Christmas. It’s a classic! :D

    • David Zou

      Thanks,Audrey,Home Alone is indeed the perfect Christmas comedy!