What Christmas Movies Are Modern Classics?

Recent Christmas Films to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

The end of the year is usually such a busy time that it's tough to put aside a few hours to just relax in front of the TV. On top of that, there are classic Christmas films that you feel required to watch every year, like White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and It's A Wonderful Life. But if you manage to have more hours to fill, any of these more modern Christmas-themed movies will help lift your spirits and put you in the holiday mood.

Here are the ten best Christmas movies released since 1980.

of 10

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story
Universal Pictures

How could we not start with this classic?

"You'll poke your eye out!" Anyone who's hoped and wished and dreamed of that one gift, that one item so special nothing else will do, will absolutely adore A Christmas Story. Ralphie (Peter Billingsley, director of Couples Retreat) wants a Red Ryder BB gun, but his parents keep telling him it's too dangerous. But that doesn't stop Ralphie from driving his poor parents crazy by actively campaigning for the gun.

of 10

Gremlins (1984)

Warner Bros.

Probably the first film that pops into your head when you think of Christmas movies isn't Gremlins, but the 1984 horror comedy from writer Chris Columbus and director Joe Dante actually is Christmas-themed. These vicious little creatures take over a small town during one horrific night during the holidays. While its more horrifying than heartwarming, it's a nice change of tone for a Christmas movie.

of 10

Scrooged (1988)

Paramount Pictures

Bill Murray's Frank Cross hates Christmas and everything associated with the holiday in this modern retelling of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Childhood memories combined with a failed relationship with the love of his life have made this TV producer an unpleasant fellow to be around during the holiday season. But when he's visited by three ghosts, he has a dramatic change of heart.

of 10

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

Christmas Vacation
Warner Bros.

When the squirrel comes flying out of the Christmas tree, it never fails to send viewers into fits of uncontrollable laughter. All Clark Griswold wants is for this family (even those members he didn't invite) to have a great holiday, but just about everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.

of 10

Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone
20th Century Fox

The first film of the series (there have been five altogether, which is about four too many) is still the best and still deserves a viewing during the winter holidays. Written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rent), Home Alone introduced us to the dysfunctional McCallister family and their youngest son, Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin who will forever be remembered for his surprised pose on the film's poster. Kevin's left home (hence the title) at Christmas and after the initial joy of being away from this family wear off, he realizes that even if they get on his nerves, he really does love them all.

of 10

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Muppet Christmas Carol
Walt Disney Pictures

Who can resist The Muppets even when it's not Christmas? All of the familiar characters, including Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie Bear, help bring Dickens' A Christmas Carol to life in this G-rated family friendly 1992 film. Also included is a wonderful Michael Caine as Scrooge.

of 10

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Touchstone Pictures

Like your holiday films a little twisted? Are you into Tim Burton? How about musicals with bite? If you answered yes, then the stop-motion The Nightmare Before Christmas should be right up your alley. Jack Skellington is supposed to be the king of Halloween, but he finds himself fascinated with Christmas and wants to take over that holiday by kidnapping Santa.

of 10

Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually
Universal Pictures

One of the best written romantic comedies in decades happens to have a Christmas theme. Eight storylines collide in this touching, funny, and highly entertaining look at love, lust, loss, and relationships. Starring Hugh Grant as the British Prime Minister, Keira Knightley as a new bride, Liam Neeson as a newly widowed father, and Bill Nighy as an aging rock star, Love Actually has a lot of heart and a lot of engaging characters to get into.

of 10

Elf (2003)

New Line Cinema

Will Ferrell is raised by Santa and thinks he's an elf in this hilarious comedy directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man). After getting kicked out of the North Pole because he's too ungainly to handle elf duties, Buddy sets out to find his real father in New York City. But once he meets his biological dad, things don't go smoothly. Being raised by Santa creates a lot of problems in a real world where most people don't believe in the jolly old elf.

of 10

Bad Santa (2003)

Bad Santa
Dimension Films

Billy Bob Thornton is a bad, bad Santa. He smokes, he drinks, he hits on women, and he has really, really bad hygiene. As far as we know, none of these traits apply to the real Santa. Thornton plays Willie, a seasonal Santa hired on to work in a shopping mall along with his associate, Marcus (Tony Cox). Marcus may fit the physical characteristics of an elf, but he's just as R-rated as Willie. But Willie has a change of heart when he meets a beautiful bartender and a troubled kid who truly believes in him.