famous old christmas movies

Famous Old Christmas Movies You Should Probably Watch

This is a fun one. Today, we get to talk about famous old Christmas movies that, yes, you should probably watch at some point. 

Thankfully, many of these movies are so darned old that they’re incredibly easy to stream, either through one of the most popular streaming services or through one of those fly-by-night services that don’t require a subscription fee to watch full movies. 

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our picks! 

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Perhaps the most famous of all the famous old Christmas movies is Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. 

Some of the fuddy duddies out there might try to argue that this isn’t technically a Christmas movie, since so much of the runtime has nothing to do with Christmas, but we disagree.

The heart of the movie is all around Christmas-time, and besides, this movie has become so incredibly ingrained in our culture as a Christmas movie that it’s basically a moot point.

Now, this is an old movie, and it’s a long one, too. You really need to keep this in mind because modern audiences are probably going to find this movie more than a little boring, especially if they’re not used to this kind of pacing. 

But ya know what? It’s perfectly fine to watch this movie across multiple sittings. And when you finally work your way through to the end, you’ll get to experience one of the most uplifting endings in movie history, probably. 

White Christmas (1954) 

White Christmas is so white that it has an entire musical number about minstrel shows, which is incredibly uncomfortable to watch, but even so, this is one of the most famous Christmas movies to come out of old Hollywood.

It’s the story of two entertainers and war vets trying to make their old general feel better about his civilian life. 

But really, the story is just there to give a backdrop to all these classic Broadways songs from Irving Berlin. 

The sets are about what you’d expect from a mid-50s Hollywood production, but there’s an innocent charm to the movie and its characters that carries the weaker elements right up to the end. 

The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) 

Alright, so the premise of this movie might feel a bit dated, but the end result is a lot of fun. So Bing Crosby plays a priest who has just been sent to teach at an inner-city Catholic school, St. Mary’s.

As schools so often do, St. Mary’s is running out of money and it’s in desperate need of repair.

Crosby quickly becomes a favorite of the schoolchildren, and his optimistic life outlook eventually melts the heart of the school’s headmistress. 

This is an incredibly clean movie, so it’s more than safe to watch with the whole family, though, as is the case with many of the oldest movies here on the list, it might seem a bit dull to someone who’s used to modern movie pacing. 

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Perhaps one of the most well-known pieces of stop-motion animation ever made, this Rudolph special from Rankin/Bass is completely silly, but somehow it holds up even today. 

So many people grew up with these movies that there’s a good chance you’ve seen this movie at least once before.

It’s a movie musical, technically, with a number of memorable songs, as well as some other songs that no one really cares about. 

The movie’s environments are just so darn pleasant, and it’s easy to just leave this movie on in the background during a holiday party or an intense cookie baking session. 

A Christmas Story (1983) 

A longtime Boomer favorite, A Christmas Story is a relatively realistic tale about kids being kids around Christmas time, in the now-distant past, when dads were free to own weirdo leg lamps.

Though released decades after many of the other movies on this list, A Christmas Story feels almost as old, especially when you consider that the movie was already a period piece upon release. 

Overall, this is a goofy holiday-themed comedy with some elements that probably aren’t appropriate for young children, but if you’ve never seen the movie and you’re feeling curious, you’ll most likely get a few good chuckles out of this one before heading back to your usual Netflix shows. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 

A Charlie Brown Christmas is definitely one of our favorite Christmas movies of all-time, and that’s despite it not being especially entertaining. 

Like many Peanuts outings, not a lot of things actually happen. Mostly, kids go about their normal everyday lives, and when a holiday comes up, they do something special. 

In the case of the Christmas special here, that means putting on a Christmas play for their faceless parents and teachers.

But there are just so many great lines in the mix, as well as some fun asides where our characters get to show off just how weird and wacky and sad and realistic they really are.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) 

Ok, so this movie, if you don’t already know, is about a cynical mother and her hopeful daughter who meet a man who claims to be Santa Claus. 

At first, this is pretty convenient, since this guy can play Santa Claus at the department store where the cynical mom happens to be some kind of executive.

But as the man continues to insist that he is actually the one and only Santa Claus, normal adults start to take notice and worry a bit about letting this guy hang around a bunch of children. 

We won’t spoil the ending, just in case someone out there hasn’t already seen this movie, but we can easily say that this is one of our favorite depictions of Santa in any movie.  

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) 

This very famous Tim Burton movie of course wasn’t actually directed by Tim Burton, but instead by his old school chum Henry Selick.

It’s a dark but still very playful movie about a town full of Halloween characters suddenly being confronted with a very different kind of holiday. 

Jack Skellington, AKA the Pumpkin King, tries his best to give the town a taste of something new, but the results are mixed, to say the least. 

Add to that a Santa Claus kidnapping and things end up quite complicated. 

Delightful character designs and some fantastic songs from Danny Elfman have helped to make this an absolute holiday classic, one that’s getting up there in years. 

famous old christmas movies

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