Some Christmas movies are sleeper hits, but these magical offerings were embraced by fans and critics from the very start.
There’s a great number of classic Christmas films from over the years, but not all of them were instantly loved. Some have built up over time and have since been recognized as some of the height of the genre. Every now and then though, a movie comes along that is universally seen as an instant hit.
The box office numbers often tell part of the story, as does the reaction from the critics. However, the love that the audience has for a movie is also usually very clear to see. Many of these films are still watched every single year and may have even become part of a festive tradition, despite the fact that some of them are actually quite recent.
10 Klaus (2019)
Klaus shocked the world when it won the Oscar for best animated feature. It cemented what many people already knew, that it was an instant hit despite simultaneously being one of the most underrated movies available on Netflix.
Magnificently animated and completely charming, Klaus managed to tell a totally original story set around the Christmas season. Not only could the whole family enjoy this joyous production, but the narrative itself feels completely timeless.
9 Home Alone (1990)
Over two decades on and Home Alone is still enjoyed across the globe every year. With its arrival on Disney+ its sure to be showing in more households than ever before. Back when it was initially released, the box office suggested that audiences enjoyed the spectacle.
Even prompting a number of sequels, the success of the original film was all down to the slapstick comedy genius that still translates to absolutely anyone. This visual feast of physical gags is a language everyone can understand and it is still endlessly funny.
8 The Santa Clause (1994)
There’s a lot of debate around which of Tim Allen’s Christmas franchises is the best, but when it comes to an instant classic The Santa Clause certainly has the edge. The premise of the movie was completely shocking.
Having Santa die early on in the film, only for Allen’s character to replace him was a completely unique idea. It paid off as children and adults alike both found something to enjoy in this festive movie with a twist.
7 Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard will always be a classic. It’s seemingly now been recognized that it is indeed a Christmas hit and not just an action one, but this breakout role for Bruce Willis had everyone quoting some of its iconic lines.
What’s more, Alan Rickman’s take on Hans Gruber is still iconic to this day and only elevates an incredibly produced film. It may not scream Christmas spirit, but upon its release audiences knew that this was really something special.
6 Arthur Christmas (2011)
It’s hard to believe that almost a decade has passed since the release of Arthur Christmas. Among critics this was immediately deemed a classic and the box office numbers definitely supported that as a fact.
However, it’s a movie that is also still being discovered by new people each passing year. The legend of Arthur Christmas continues to grow and its legacy as a classic is only strengthened when more and more come to realize its comedy brilliance, linked to a fantastic cast and amazing animation.
5 How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The Grinch has always been a classic holiday character thanks to the work of Dr Seuss. Jim Carrey’s take on the character grabbed the attention of the movie-going audience though and a cinematic hit was born.
Perhaps because this will always be recognized as one of the best adaptations of Dr Seuss’ work, or maybe it’s because of the charismatic performances involved, but from the set and costume design to the outrageous moments, everything about this works.
4 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Chevy Chase will always be heralded as a comedy great, but perhaps one of his most memorable pieces of cinema with come from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. There’s just joke after joke, one after another and they all land perfectly.
It’s difficult to find a festive film that people will literally cry with laughter over, but cinema-goers at the time learned that the latest addition to the Lampoon family adventures was going to be re-watched for years to come.
3 Jingle Jangle (2020)
Jingle Jangle is the most recent release but it’s the perfect example of an instant classic. From the amazing visuals to the superb soundtrack, this movie has all the charm of a perfect Christmas film, as well as all the thrills.
With a burnt out inventor looking for some new inspiration, it takes his own intelligent granddaughter to put him on the right path once again. Netflix is certainly onto a hit here, thanks to its reception from audiences and critics alike.
2 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Anything Tim Burton touches seems to become iconic in some shape or form and his version of Christmas was no different. While not directed by Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas has all the trademarks of his work.
Jack Skellington may have been the king of Halloween, but he turns his attention to Christmas in this dark yet delightful hit that seems to have become a bit of a soundtrack for the holiday season. The animation alone makes this totally iconic.
1 Elf (2003)
If there was ever a film that surprised audiences it’s Elf. An early film in the directorial career of Jon Favreau, it really is difficult to hate a movie that’s so full of festive joy.
Somehow bringing Will Ferrell’s erratic comedy into a family film and combining it with great storytelling, Elf has always been recognized as an ageless classic and the box office numbers at the time definitely supported that.
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