Best Holiday Movies Ever, According to Critics

The holiday season is upon us and it’s time to cozy up and put on a festive flick to get in the spirit. While everyone has their personal favorites, film critics have taken a deeper look into the holiday movie genre and found the best of the best — from the classics to unexpected indies. While some of these Rotten Tomatoes picks may not be traditional holiday flicks, it’s sure to add something new to your festive flick lineup.

As for how the ultimate top 10 films were selected? Each movie had to be certified Fresh and include the spirit of Christmas and the holidays as a central theme. They were then sorted by Rotten Tomatoes’ formula which factors in things like the year the movie was released and the amount of reviews.

Find out which films made the list…

10. “Tangerine”

In one of the most unexpected holiday movies to make it to the list, 2015’s “Tangerine” follows a hooker and her best friend as they set out to teach her ex-boyfriend/pimp a lesson after he cheated on her while she was in jail. Although it may not have the holiday spirit at its forefront, everything goes down on Christmas Eve. It’s definitely not a flick for the whole family but critics praised the film for its “poetic realism” and the fact that it was shot entirely on iPhones.

“It’s amazing what you can do with a smartphone these days… You could shoot one of the year’s best movies, for example,” CNET wrote.

9. “Carol”

“Carol,” another movie where Christmas serves as a backdrop to the plot, follows two women as they secretly fall in love in 1950’s New York City. When Therese, an aspiring photographer, spots Carol, an older socialite, while working at a department store, they have an instant connection. Throughout the holiday season, their bond becomes a love that has heartbreaking consequences.

“To call Carol a Christmas miracle feels like a gaudy understatement, but that’s sort of exactly what it is,” Complex wrote.

8. “Meet Me In St. Louis”

Classic musical “Meet Me In St. Louis” earned a rare 100% from critics as it follows a year in the life of four sisters on the cusp of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Although only 25 minutes of the film take place during the holiday season, the poignant moments and Judy Garland’s performance of “Merry Little Christmas” has put it in the Christmas category, according to many reviewers. Critics have gone as far as to call it one of “Hollywood’s best musicals.”

“The joys of the film linger with the music and encourage you to savor the true moments of family togetherness,” The Hollywood Reporter said.

7. “Little Women”

With some of the most pivotal scenes in the 2019 remake of “Little Women” taking place during the Christmas season, the film has made its way into the holiday film category. In the years following the Civil War, the March sisters have spread their wings all around the world but are brought back together when their shy sister Beth develops a devastating illness.

“Greta Gerwig’s take on Louisa May Alcott’s novel is intelligent and fleet, refreshing if not radical, and as organic in its feminist convictions as it is in its depiction of close-knit sororal love,” The New Republic wrote.

6. “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

While it’s often up for debate whether “Nightmare Before Christmas” is a Halloween or Christmas flick, critics have focused on its holiday festivities. The Tim Burton film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown. Bored with the same routine every year, he accidentally stumbles upon Christmastown – and ends up plotting to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus.

“A work of grand visual wit, clever songs, funny gags and genuine pathos, it is perhaps the greatest stop-motion animated film ever, a painstaking style of model animation that computers have all but completely done away with,” the Florida Sentinel shared.

5. “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”

“How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” the animated adaptation of the Dr. Seuss story, has become a Christmas classic. The made-for-TV special tells the story of a holiday hating Grinch who wants to make everyone else as miserable as him. But eventually the cold hearted Grinch learns the true meaning of Christmas thanks to the loving Who’s of Whoville. Critics have praised the film for its longevity and sense of nostalgia.

“The story might be familiar, but watching The Grinch tiptoe around to ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ always brings a surge of fuzzy nostalgia every Christmas season that never seems to get old,” IndieWire wrote.

4. “The Shop Around The Corner”

Set in the Christmas season, “The Shop Around The Corner” follows Alfred and Klara, co-workers at a shop in Budapest who are always at odds. While they butt heads in the shop, they are both enamored by their pen pals – without realizing that they are actually writing to each other. Critics called the “dazzling” romantic comedy one of Ernst Lubitsch’s finest.

“Although the picture carries the indelible stamp of Ernst Lubitsch at his best in generating humor and human interest from what might appear to be unimportant situations, it carries further to impress via the outstanding characterizations by Margaret Sullavan,” Variety said.

3. “Holiday Inn”

As the musical film that introduced “White Christmas” to the world, “Holiday Inn” is a classic that will go down in history. The movie follows a performing trio after two of the members decide to quit to run a country hotel. But things go awry thanks to a love triangle among the group and only one of the members takes on the hotel business. He ends up turning the venture into a holidays-only entertainment venue. Critics praised the film’s iconic stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, as well as its wealth of songs.

“Crosby’s easy, casual banter is just the right foil for Astaire’s precision acrobatics, his wry, offbeat humor,” Time magazine wrote.

2. “Miracle On 34th Street”

“Miracle On 34th Street” has become the definition of a Christmas classic. The film picks up as an older man named Kris Kringle fills in for an intoxicated Santa in Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. He becomes such a hit that he’s asked to appear at the department store’s main location in Manhattan. When he begins to claim he is actually Santa Claus, it ignites a court case to determine his authenticity. Reviewers called it “great entertainment” as well as “brightly cynical bit of whimsy.”

“The original (and best) version of the cockle-warming tale of a man who claims to be the real-life Santa Claus,” Time Out wrote.

1. “It’s A Wonderful Life”

“It’s A Wonderful Life” may have been released in 1946 but it’s stood the test of time. In the holiday staple, George Bailey wishes he’d never been born and an angel is sent to grant his wish. But soon he starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there. Critics call it a “genuine American classic” and one of the “most well-loved of all Christmas movies.”

“The inspirational, thoroughly festive ending is guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes,” the Daily Telegraph shared.

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