Santa is watchingThe ICYouSee Guide to Holiday Films,
Traditional and Non-Traditional

Presented here are more than 200 traditional and non-traditional holiday films. Some are obscure. Some you may have watched dozens of times. These films aren't just Christmas movies. They cover the winter holidays from Thanksgiving to Twelfth Night and a bit beyond. The coverage spans more than 100 years of movie making. Some are appropriately sappy. Others use the holiday season as a backdrop for satirical, biting, or sinister reasons. A few have nothing to do with the holidays except for a scene or two -- but oh, those scenes are what make those movies worth watching. I'm not including made-for-TV movies – the list is already out of control.

If you are wondering how many of these films I've watched, count those in italics. Happy Holidays!

Table of Contents

Non-Traditional Holiday Films

Only a few of these films are really holiday films, but they all are set during the holiday season and would be quite different films without that backdrop. They are divided into categories of Science Fiction, Thrillers/Action, Domestic Drama, and Comedies, Light and Dark.

12 Monkeys

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Perfect for getting into the imaginativeness of the season or its dystopian aspects.
  • 12 Monkeys (1996)
    Before the world as we know it comes to an end, we hear this cheery message: "The Freedom for Animals Association on Second Avenue is the secret headquarters of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. They're the ones who are gonna do it. I can't do anything more now. I have to go. Have a Merry Christmas."
  • Brazil (1985)
    Terry Gilliam's black comedy is set in a dystopic retro-future disturbingly filled with Christmas greed and commercialism.
  • Cité des Enfants Perdus = The City of Lost Children (1995)
    This dystopian fantasy full of curious, comedic characters opens on Christmas Eve and slips in creepy Santa Claus imagery throughout the film.
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
    Begins and ends at Yuletide, and the Christmassy ice sculpture scene has been called the most magical moment found in any Tim Burton film. 
  • Gremlins (1984)
    What happens when you buy an unusual Christmas present and your family isn't careful?
  • Terry Pratchett's Hogfather (2006)
    Discworld's holiday of Hogwatch is in jeopardy when the Hogfather goes missing. While his granddaughter goes looking for him, Death has to take his place.
  • The Jacket (2005)
    It's almost Christmas, and you're a Gulf War veteran in an institution for the criminally insane, when you learn during a trip into the future that you are about to die. Happy holidays.
  • Prometheus (2012)
    The crew of a spaceship spend Christmas Day by seeking humanity's origins on a journey that takes them to the darkest corners of the universe.
  • The Seeker (2007)
    On his birthday near Christmas an ordinary boy discovers that as the seventh son of a seventh son, he is destined to save the world.

Die Hard

Thrillers | Action Films

Die Hard is listed first because it is the one action film that really does get into the holiday spirit. The rest are in alphabetical order.
  • Die Hard and Die Hard II (1988)
    The original film is set in an office building taken over by terrorists and comes to an oddly sweet and sentimental ending. The first sequel is set on a snowy Christmas Eve at Washington Dulles International Airport.
  • American Psycho (2000)
    Celebrate Christmas with a gala party, champagne, reindeer antlers, a kiss under the mistletoe, cocaine, and an axe-murder.
  • Batman Returns (1992)
    The real villain is a conniving mega-merchant in this story set in Gotham City all decorated for Christmas. In spite of the darkness, there is some holiday cheer.
  • Catch Me if You Can (2002)
    Not only is the opening scene set on Christmas Eve, but Christmas returns at several other key points. I don't think there is supposed to be any particular connection between the holiday and deception.
  • Eastern Promises (2007)
    A dark, brutal, and gritty tale of an Eastern European mobster and a midwife who cross paths at Christmastide.
  • 8 Femmes = 8 women (2003)
    A French mystery: which of the eight women in the life of a wealthy industrialist murdered him during the family holiday gathering?
  • Frozen River (2008)
    It's almost Christmas, and near a border crossing on the Mohawk reservation between New York State and Quebec, two single mothers bond through smuggling.
  • The Hebrew Hammer (2003)
    In this spoof of the blaxplotation films, an Orthodox super tough guy goes on a mission to save Hanukkah.
  • Ice Harvest (2005)
    Christmas Eve in Wichita, Kansas, is the setting for film noir with a slight touch of comedy.
  • In Bruges (2008)
    Hit men lying low in Bruges in Belgium during the holiday season have a love/hate relationship with the city. One loves it; one hates it. Warning: the first half is much more of a light-hearted holiday film than the darker second half.
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
    A bleak world made even darker through a snowy holiday setting, but with bit of Christmas cheer by the end.
  • Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005)
    Film noir spoof set during the Christmas season.
  • L.A. Confidential (1997)
    Much of the plot is centered on the Bloody Christmas scandal. Christmas scenes include a holiday party and the yanking of a plastic Santa and his reindeer off a roof.
  • Lethal Weapon (1987)
    Cop psychodrama set in December and remembered as a holiday film if only for the scene that takes place in a parking lot full of Christmas trees.
  • Rare Exports (2010)
    A Finnish horror story that is both creepy and full of dry humor. It involves an archaeological dig and Santa Claus.
  • Rocky and Rocky IV (1976, 1985)
    In Rocky, the story takes place from Thanksgiving, when Rocky is "a bum" to New Year's Day, when the championship match occurs. In Rocky IV the big fight occurs on Christmas Day.
  • Run All Night (2015)
    The action takes place on a snowless Christmas Eve, but the grimmest scene doesn't involve violence and mayhem, but a drunken Santa at a Christmas party.
  • 2046 (2004)
    A romantic thriller with a Christmas Eve motif. In Cantonese, with English subtitles. 2046 refers both to a room number and the year in which a science fiction novel is set.
  • The Unholy Three (1925)
    A silent film about sideshow performers who turn to crime and commit a heist on Christmas Eve.



These are films set during the holiday season without paying that much attention to it. In this category are romances, buddies hanging together, and disfunctional families.
  • Carol (2015) 
    This romance drama with noir overtones set in the early 1950s begins with Chrismas shopping, and much of the film stays in the season.
  • The Dead (1987)
    Based on a James Joyce story about a dinner party  on Epiphany in 1904 Dublin.
  • Diner (1982)
    Post-high-school buddies reunite and bond between Christmas and New Year's Eve. In one memorable scene a church's life-size nativity display is demolished.
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
    Have yourself a merry little orgy.
  • Fanny & Alexander (1982)
    An Ingmar Bergman holiday movie? Not really, but in the first hour we are provided with a lavish holiday feast and a stately house opulently decorated for Christmas. Skip the last couple hours if you don't want to be miserable for the holiday.
  • Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
    The story of a disfunctional family in this Woody Allen non-comedy centers around three lavish Thanksgiving feasts.
  • Jagten = The Hunt (2012)
    During the Christmas season in a small Danish village, a kindergarten teacher battles accusations that he is a pedophile.
  • Lady in the Lake (1947)
    Private eye Philip Marlow begins the case on Christmas Eve and interrupts a Christmas party to help solve the case.
  • Less than Zero (1987)
    A college student returning home to LA for Christmas allows the film to examine the culture of decadent youth and drug addiction.
  • A Lion in Winter (1968)
    The ultimate dysfunctional family Christmas gathering dates back to 1183 at the court of Henry II.
  • Ma Nuit chez Maud = My Night with Maud (1968)
    The night in question, in this witty, Oscar-nominated film that explores love, desire, philosophy, and Catholicism, is Christmas Eve.
  • Metropolitan (1990)
    A look at rich urban college kids through the eyes of a college student who isn't, while they are all on Christmas break.
  • Ordinary People (1980)
    Around the Christmas holiday a family is challenged by tragedy and dysfunction. 
  • The Rules of Attraction (2003)
    How overprivileged college students spend their winter vacation told from the viewpoint of three central characters, a drug dealer, a virgin, and a bisexual.
  • Scent of a Woman (1992)
    A preppie accompanies a blind and cantankerous retired Army officer on a Thanksgiving trip to New York City.
  • Stalag 17 (1953)
    Who is the German spy? All the action in this World World II prisoner of war camp story occurs from "about a week before Christmas in '44" to "after dark on Christmas Day." It has the right mix of taut drama, cynicism, hilarity, and poignancy to be a great holiday picture.


Comedies, Light and Dark

Set during the winter holidays, these films are not all jolly, but they are mostly fun.
  • 101 Reykjavík (2000)
    This bleak comedy involves a 30 year old man, his mother, and their shared lover, plus Christmas and New Year's celebrations to boot.
  • About a Boy (2006)
    Hugh Grant's cynical character lives off the royalties of a Christmas song that his father wrote, but he has a Scrooge-like change of heart by the time the movie ends.
  • The Apartment (1960)
    The Best Picture of 1960 was a dark comedy-drama of corporate intrigue and womanizing set in winter and culminating at a troubling office Christmas party and a depressing (hopeful?) New Year's Eve.
  • Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
    Another Jimmy Stewart holiday classic. This tale of a modern witch takes place during the Christmas season, not Halloween.
  • Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
    It begins and ends at Christmastide with scenes that are oddly charming and delightful, although Bridget does tell carolers to bugger off.
  • C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
    A young gay Québécois comes of age dealing with his conservative father and family. Much of the story is told in Christmas scenes.
  • El Día de la Bestial = The Day of the Beast (1996)
    In this blackest of comedies, a priest, convinced that the antichrist will be born in Madrid on Christmas Day, goes on a rampage of sin to sell his soul just so he can stop the monster.
  • A Fost Sau n-a Fost? = 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006)
    It is almost Christmas in Romania, and old friends, who can't seem to get into the proper spirit, debate the question, "Was there or wasn't there a revolution in good old Vaslui?" If this doesn't sound too Christmasy, it is supposed to be a droll comedy and one character dresses up like Santa Claus.
  • Last Holiday (2006)
    After learning that she has about three weeks to live, a store clerk (Queen Latifah) decides to live life to the fullest at a grand hotel in Europe. The holiday season happens to be Christmas.but you hardly notice.
  • Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
    Girl trouble for Mickey Rooney's teenage hero stemming from trying to find a date for the Christmas Eve dance.
  • Millions (2004)
    When British brothers (aged 8 and 14) find a bag of money, how they react helps us explore the meaning of Christmas. Comes with a school nativity play with a minor miracle.
  • Mixed Nuts (1994)
    Christmas Eve at a crisis hot line, but its a screwball comedy. Most reviews say it is not very funny, but if you think Steve Martin colliding with rollerbladers carrying a Christmas tree is your kind of fun, check it out. 
  • Moonstruck (1987)
    Set in December and filled with tacit holiday spirit with scenes sprinkled with Christmas decorations.
  • The Ref (1994)
    When a cat burglar holds a family hostage on Christmas Eve, he becomes a referee to their irritating bickering and squabbling. Ho Ho Ho.
  • The Sure Thing (1985)
    A road trip over winter break from Ithaca University includes a Tahitian-themed Christmas party.
  • The Thin Man (1934)
    This classic murder mystery/comedy was set during the holidays. Pity the poor Christmas tree in Nick and Nora's posh New York apartment.
Joyeux Noel

For Traditionalists

What makes a film a traditional holiday movie? There are those films that coat themselves with the trappings of the season with cloying sentimentality. Others explore the meaning of the holidays, instead of exploiting the sentiment. A few are just a lot of fun.

This Century
  • Almost Christmas (2017)
    A dying patriarch (Danny Glover) asks his family for only one gift: to get along.
  • Conte de Noël = A Christmas Tale (2008)
    OK, a film by a post-New Wave director can't really be traditional, but this stylized holiday fable about alienation and reunion runs the gamut from bittersweet hilarity to heartbreaking affectation.
  • Elf (2003)
    Enjoyable (I've been told) in a grating sort of way.
  • The Family Stone (2005)
    It's fiancée versus future in-laws for this year's Christmas combat.
  • The Holiday (2007)
    House-swapping and romance during the holidays, and even one Hanukkah scene.
  • How About You (2007)
    A "feel-good" Irish film about a young caregiver put in charge of a nursing home during Christmas and four grumpy old residents.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
    The non-animated movie [and only grinches will quibble that 2000 wasn't in this century]. 
  • Joyeux Noël (2006)
    Christmas in the trenches of WWI, based on a heart-warming true story.
  • Just Friends (2005)
    Will an unplanned hometown Christmas visit convert an old platonic love into something else?
  • Krampus (2015)
    "You better watch out!"
  • Love Actually (2003)
    Now in its second decade, no longer non-traditional, but a classic.
  • New Year's Eve (2011)
    A "Love Actually" wannabe set in NYC.
  • Noel (2004)
    An interweaving of five stories set in New York City on Christmas Eve that doesn't seem to have caught on as a Christmas classic.
  • Pieces of April (2003)
    A young woman living in a small New York City apartment hosts Thanksgiving dinner for her family for the first time and learns the importance of family.
  • The Santa Clause 1, 2 & 3 (2002, 2003, 2007)
    You don't have to watch the sequels.
  • Serendipity (2001)
    Begins and ends with Christmas shopping in a New York City department store.
  • Unaccompanied Minors (2006)
    Based on a This American Life segment about kids trapped in an airport on Christmas Eve.
  • A Very, Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)
    Includes send-ups of It's a Wonderful Life and a dozen or so other holiday movies.
1980s and 1990s
  • Dutch (1991)
    A Thanksgiving road trip with a teenager and the man who wants to date his mother.
  • Home Alone 1, 2, 3 & 4 (1990, 1992, 1997, 2003) 
    Once was cute; twice was borderline; more than that is getting a bit sadistic.
  • Home For the Holidays (1995)
    An out-of-work single mother heads home for Thanksgiving with her eccentric family.
  • Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
    As it mocks corporate intrigue, it oozes in holiday sentiment.
  • Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story (1983)
    More droll than sappy, but still charming.
  • Jingle All the Way (1996)
    Arnold Schwarzenegger is no tough guy when it comes to holiday shopping.
  • Little Women (1994)
     Opens with a snowy Christmas scene, and the Christmas sentiment never seems to depart.
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
    Disasters happen.
  • The Preacher's Wife (1996)
    Remake of The Bishop's Wife (see below) with Whitney Houston in the title role.
  • Toy Story (1995)
    Ends appropriately on Christmas morning.
  • Trading Places  (1983)
    ​A comic morality play set in wintry Philadelphia.
  • Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
    One man's struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving.
  • When Harry Met Sally (1989)
    Wherein twelve years of non-courtship end happily at the last of the film's several New Year Eve's parties. [Oops, have I included a spoiler?]
  • While You Were Sleeping (1995)
    During a snowy Christmas season in Chicago, a hopeless romantic is mistaken for the fiancée of a coma patient, but romance is not hopeless.
  • You've Got Mail (1998)
    An update of Shop around the Corner [see below].

MagooThe Missing Years

The Sixties, Seventies, and Early Eighties were the decades that produced dozens of TV holiday cartoon and Hallmark-type Christmas specials, but they were surprisingly devoid of holiday-themed theater releases.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue

For Ardent Traditionalists (Pre-1960 films)

Some fanatics insist that the best holiday movies were produced before 1960. Some even prefer them in black and white. They are listed here in chronological order.
  • Détresses et charité = The Christmas angel (1904)
    Georges Méliès's tale of a begger girl who collapses in the snow. Whether or not it has a happy ending depends on the language version you watch.
  • Little Women (1933)
     As in the later version, opens with a snowy Christmas scene, and the Christmas sentiment never seems to depart.
  • The Blue Bird (1940)
    With Shirley Temple. A quest to find the bluebird of happiness on Christmas Eve.
  • Remember the Night (1940) 
    A shoplifter and a D.A. and Christmas good will.
  • Shop Around the Corner (1940)
    As Christmas approaches, pen pals plan to meet in person. Bickering co-workers are in for a surprise.
  • Meet John Doe (1941)
    Fake news about an unemployed "John Doe" threatening suicide on Christmas Eve sets up a comedy/drama about the meaning of "Be a better neighbor."
  • Going My Way (1944)
    Perhaps the sappiest and most sentimental of them all. Ends on Christmas Eve.
  • Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
    Dishonesty and pretense has to be vanquished before this screwball Christmas tale can have a happy ending.
  • I'll Be Seeing You (1944)
    A man and a woman, both on leave for Christmas, meet on a train. Sentimental, but also sad.
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
    Too grim for its time; now the No. 1 favorite Christmas film.
  • Bishop's Wife (1947)
    There's yet an interfering angel, but this one is as suave and charming as Cary Grant.
  • A Bush Christmas (1947)
    In the Australian outback, five children bond in a quest to recover a stolen horse.
  • It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
    Sappy, sentimental fare as lower class meet disguised upper class in a "vacant" mansion.
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
    I do believe in Santa.
  • Three Godfathers (1948)
    with John Wayne in a Christmas tale disguised as a Western.
  • The Great Rupert (1950)
    A down-on-their-luck Vaudeville family receives a miracle on Christmas Eve thanks to a squirrel.
  • O. Henry's Full House (1952)
    Three of the five stories are based on Christmas classics.
  • Plymouth Adventure (1952)
    Trials and tribulations aboard the Mayflower
  • White Christmas (1954)
    Sappy and sentimental and in color.
  • We're No Angels (1955)
    Three escaped convicts encounter a beleaguered shopkeeper's family at Christmastide. One of the few comedies Humphrey Bogart appeared in.
  • Desk Set (1957)
    A Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn romantic comedy set in pre-Christmas days and comes to a climax at an iconic Christmas office party. Be careful or Katherine Hepburn's character will make you want to grow up to become a librarian.

Die Hard

A Christmas Carol

There have been enough variations on A Christmas Carol that they get their own box. Actors who have protrayed Scrooge or someone very like Scrooge in versions not listed here include Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, James Earl Jones, Susan Lucci, Cicely Tyson, Rowan Atkinson, Jack Palance, and Tori Spelling – plus fictional characters Mr. Magoo, Mickey Mouse, and Barbie.
  • A Christmas Carol (1938)
    With Reginald Owen as Scrooge, in what some say is the most authentic representation of Dickensian England.
  • A Christmas Carol (1951)
    With Alistair Sim as Scrooge, in what some say set the standard for film adaptations of this classic.
  • Scrooge (1970)
    With Albert Finney as Scrooge, in a musical version of the story.
  • Scrooged (1988)
    With Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a modernized Scrooge.
  • A Muppet Christmas Carol (2005)
    With Michael Caine playing it straight as Scrooge against the songs and antics of the Muppets. 

The Snowman

Animated Films

Animated films can be warm or icy, lively and funny or sad and sardonic – and just what you need this time of the year.
  • An American Tail (1989)
    This tale of Jewish mice emigrating to America begins during a celebration of Hanukkah interrupted by Cossacks.
  • Arthur Christmas (2011)
    Question: "How does Santa deliver all those presents?" Answer: with comic dysfunction.
  • Frozen (2014)
    Is Frozen a Christmas movie? No. But it is a celebration of winter, and it is about caring, family, love, and grrrl power. That's not bad for this season.
  • Home (2015)
    Bumbling aliens invade the planet in a film set at Christmastide until it is not.
  • The Junkie's Christmas (1993)
    An animated short film narrated by the author of the tale, William S. Burroughs. When a down-and-outer tries to score a fix on Christmas Day, he finds a special holiday spirit instead.
  • Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
    Tim Burton's stop-motion animated fantasy musical is not at all a horror, even as Halloween creatures led by Jack Skellington try to take over Christmas.
  • One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
    The movie wends its way through a frozen and snowy London until a final Christmas scene.
  • Polar Express (2005)
    Creepy or delightful? You decide.
  • Rise of the Guardians (2012)
    Jack Frost and Nicholas St. North are among the superheroes who protect the hopes, beliefs, and imagination of children all over the world.
  • Tōkyō Goddofāzāzu = Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
    It is Christmas Eve in Tokyo in this animated film when three companions, including a transvestite and a teenage runaway, find an abandoned baby.

The Snowman

Musical Holiday Classics

Music is in the air at Christmastide, but in compiling this list, I was surprised how few films there are with performances, opera, and musicals specific to the season.
Ballet – is there any other Christmas ballet than Nutcracker? Here are a few filmed versions.
  • Baryshnikov's (1977)
  • Pacific Northwest Ballet (1986) – with Maurice Sendak's costumes and set design
  • Balanchine's (1993)
  • Kirov Ballet's (1994)


  • Annie (1981)
    Since our poor orphan is invited to spend the Christmas holiday at a billionaire's mansion, I'm surprised this isn't touted more as a holiday standard.
  • Babes in Toyland (1934)
    A Laurel and Hardy musical set in the days leading up to Santa's annual trip, but not very Christmassy.
  • Black Nativity (2013)
    Based on a Langston Hughes play -- with traditional Christmas carols and new Christmas songs are sung in gospel style.
  • Scrooge (1970)
    With Albert Finney. See also under A Christmas Carol.
  • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
    Lovers meet and and are separated by war. They meet years later on Christmas Eve. Since it is sung in French, don't expect a traditional Hollywood happy ending.
La Boheme
  • La Boheme
    In Puccini's bittersweet opera of high-spirited bohemians and the doomed love, three of the four acts do take place on Christmas Eve.
    – Baz Luhrmann's production at the Sydney Opera House (2002)
    Franco Zeffirelli's Live from the Met production (1982)
    – Robert Dornhelm's production in Munich (2008)
  • Rent (2015) and Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway (2009)
    Like La Boheme, on which it is based, tragic love set on subsequent Christmas Eves.

Films with Key Holiday Scenes

None of these are true holiday films, but they all do include special, in some instances pivotal, scenes set during the holiday season.
  • An Affair to Remember (1957)
    ​It takes till the Christmas season for the star-crossed lovers to be reunited.
  • Alice's Restaurant (1969)
    Quite a bit expanded from Arlo's song that starts on Thanksgiving Day.
  • All That Heaven Allows (1955)
    Its Christmas scene has been called the saddest in the history of film.
  • American President (1995)
    Information shared at the White House Christmas Party complicates a Presidential romance. 
  • Annie Hall (1977)
    Awkward fun when Annie takes Alvy home to meet her parents at Christmas.
  • Babe  (1995)
    Our hero almost becomes Christmas dinner and proves his worth on Christmas Day.
  • Better Luck Tomorrow (​2003)
    Overachieving Asian Americans take to petty crime and things take a bad turn on New Year's Eve.
  • Billy Elliot (2000)
    The Christmas scene is one of the most heart-wrenching in the film. It includes a revelation and ends in a dancing dream sequence.
  • Bitter Moon (1992)
    In this erotic romantic thriller, things come to a head on New Year's Eve.
  • Das Boot = The Boat (1981)
    The story of a WWII U-boat has a ends on Christmas Eve. I won't reveal whether or not there is a happy ending.
  • Bright Eyes (1934)
    On Christmas Day, in this Shirley Temple classic, the darling five-year-old's mother is killed and her godfather flies her in his plane to explain that her mother has joined her father in heaven.
  • Captain Newman, MD  (1964)
    In psycho ward in a World War II military hospital, a key subplot is the removal of the top five feet of the commanding officer's huge Christmas tree.
  • Cavalcade (1933)
    A portrait of Noel Coward's England begins on New Year's Eve 1899 and ends on New Year's Day 1933.
  • Citizen Kane (1939)
    After all, the key to the film's mystery is a Christmas present.
  • Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
    The Hanukkah scene provides one of the few upbeat moments in the whole film.
  • Enemy of the State (1998)
    The all-surrounding, all-intrusive nature of electronic surveillance by the government on its citizens is unwittingly uncovered by an innocent Christmas shopper.
  • English Patient (2004)
    Its Happy Christmas scene has been called one of the sexiest scenes ever in a PG rated movie.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
    You'll know it is Christmas when the decorations change in the mall and "Winter Wonderland" is piped out on the PA.
  • Female Trouble (1974)
    An all-girls school troublemaker goes on a rage when she doesn't get what she wants for Christmas.
  • French Connection (1971)
    Is the opening scene with the undercover cop in a Santa suit chasing down a drug dealer even more memorable than the car chase scenes?
  • Fruitvale Station (2013)
    New Year's Eve, 2008, was the last day in Oscar Grant's life before he was killed by a BART police officer at 2:15 am in New Year's Day, 2009.
  • Ghostbusters II (1989)
    Who ya gonna call on New Year's Eve?
  • The Gold Rush (1925, re-released and slightly edited in 1942)
    This Charlie Chaplin classic is full of ice and snow and features two holidays, Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2001 & 2005)
    Yuletide at Hogwarts in the first film reminds us that not everyone has a family to go home to for the holidays. The Yule Ball occurs in the fourth film in the series. Some of the films have Yuletide scenes as well.
  • Hav Plenty (1997)
    What is supposed to be a quiet New Year's Eve gathering becomes a weekend filled with plenty.
  • Holiday Inn (1942)
    The film where the song "White Christmas" first appeared, but there is Thanksgiving and New Year's, too.
  • Hope and Glory (1989)
    On the home front in England during World War II, with a poignant Christmas scene.
  • The Little Fockers (2010)
    The Focker and Byrnes families celebrate an awkward Chanumas (combined Christmas and Hanukkah).
  • Little Caesar (1931)
    The classic gangster film centers on a nighclub heist executed at midnight on New Year's Eve. 
  • Long Way Down (2014)
    A comedy-drama about suicide. The film begins on New Year's Eve, as characters hope to stick around until Valentines Day.
  • Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
    Fast forward to Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" if you need to cheer up your despondent friend or self.
  • Mean Girls (2004)
    Here for only one reason: the Jingle Bell Rock dance routine.
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
    What secrets lie behind the murder at an elegant Christmas party in Savannah?
  • The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
    The miracle, involving a pregnant woman who can't remember the name of the soldier she thinks she married, is revealed at Christmas.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
    The only film on this whole list that actually includes a manger scene.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)
    The penultimate scene depicts heaven as perpetual Christmas in a schlocky, Las Vegas-style hotel.
  • Die Morder Sind Unter Uns = Murderers Are Among Us (1946)
    One of the most haunting memories of a concentration camp survivor is of a German officer who celebrates Christmas Eve by having Polish partisans rounded up and killed.
  • My Cousin Rachel (2017)
    The rustic Christmas scene seems a break from the gothic mystery, but the present of pearls provides key dramatic element.
  • Oceans 11 (1960)
    In the rat pack original, the heist occurs on New Year's Eve.
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
    Uses Yuletide in the Swiss alps as one of its backdrops.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
    Listed here for its momentous illicit Christmas party.
  • Precious (2009)
    Key scenes in this film about an obese, illiterate, black Harlem teen and her dysfunctional family are set at Christmas.
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
    Only one real Christmas scene, but in timeline and sorta in spirit, the film revolves around the holiday.
  • Simon Birch (1998)
    One of the film's funniest scenes occurs when the short title character with Morquio syndrome plays baby Jesus in a Christmas play.
  • Since You Went Away (1944)
    After the film's depiction of the homefront, its stirring Christmas Eve scene is almost guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.
  • Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
    Centered around two holidays, Christmas at the beginning and Valentine's Day at the end.
  • Stepmom (1998)
    What else could better resolve a divided family's strife than cancer and Christmas?
  • Strange Days (1995)
    A cyberpunk thriller set in the urban inferno of Los Angeles in the days leading up to New Year's Eve.
  • Sunset Blvd. (1950)
    On New Year's Eve, "There are no other guests."
  • The Time Machine (1960)
    It is over dinner on New Year's Eve that the inventor first reveals his machine to a small group of friends.
  • Tommy (1975)
    The Christmas song and scene in this rock opera explore isolation and the ability and need for a deaf, dumb, and blind boy to find religion.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
    Christmas is happiest when the kids catch the Christmas tree, but saddest by events at the end of the day.
  • The Trouble with Angels (1966)
    A Hayley Mills vehicle about two high spirited teenagers at a convent school includes a momentous scene during a Christmas break.
  • We're Not Married! (1952)
    Five couples have to decide what to do when they learn they weren't really married on Christmas Eve.


Twelfth Night

It is not usually thought of a holiday play, and Shakespeare's comedy was originally titled "What You Will." However, since it was first presented on the last day of the English Christmas season, it was given its new title, and I think films of the play belong here. What better way to leave the merriest of seasons than with order restored, evil punished, and all who deserve it set to live happily ever after. 
  • Twelfth Night (1980)
    Part of the BBC's ambitious television series, The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare.
  • Twelfth Night, or, What You Will (1988)
    Kenneth Branagh's stage production set at Christmastide.
  • Twelfth Night, or, What You Will (1996)
    Trevor Nunn's delightful adaptation filmed on location in Cornwall.
  • Twelfth Night: Live from Shakespeare's Globe (2012)
    Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry head an all male cast in a production at the Globe Theater.
  • She's the Man (2016)
    A romantic sport-comedy reinterpreting Twelfth Night set at Illyria High School, albeit sans Christmas scenes.

End of the Season

When you've reached the start of February, you know the holiday season is over. We complete this guide of holiday films with the inclusion of what is perhaps the most famous movie with a holiday for its title.
  • Groundhog Day (1993)
    A romantic comedy about a Pittsburgh TV weather personality stuck in Punxsutawney when he is caught in a personal time warp. A romantic comedy about a Pittsburgh TV weather personality stuck in Punxsutawney when he is caught in a personal time warp. A romantic comedy about a Pittsburgh TV weather personality stuck in Punxsutawney when he is caught in a personal time warp. A romantic

This guide began as list of films available in the Ithaca College Library. That is why some folks' favorite holiday films might not be here. I have since been supplemented the list by adding films from the Finger Lakes Library System made available through our home library in Lodi, NY, the Elizabeth Garnsey Delavan Library. I encourage you to find out what wealth of films your local library has.

Page created and maintained by John R. Henderson (jhenderson9 at
LAST MODIFIED: Twelve Days before Christmas, 2017