Screenshot from 1974's "A Year Without a Santa Claus."

It wouldn’t really feel like the holidays if we didn’t return to our favorite Christmas — or at least Christmasey — movies. There’s nothing like snuggling up with a warm blanket with a mug of hot chocolate and debating with your friends and family on whether Die Hard a Christmas movie is. (Hint: yes, it is.)  While settling in to watch the essential go-tos like White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, consider adding these flicks — some may be familiar, some maybe not — to your holiday watchlist.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), dir. Brian Henson

Among the slew of A Christmas Carol adaptations, this 1992 rendition is a favorite. Starring Michael Caine and the whole Muppet cast, The Muppet Christmas Carol offers the best of this classic tale while making it its own through charming narrators (Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat), affecting performances (Robin’s portrayal of Tiny Tim brought me to tears), and an excellent musical score. Henson’s take breathes new life into what might otherwise be just another adaptation. Its success is especially impressive considering it was the first Muppet production following Jim Henson’s death. (Disney+)

Eloise at Christmastime (2003), dir. Kevin Lima

Based on the beloved series of books by Kay Thompson, this live-action adaptation is a slept-on gem. It follows a precocious 6-year-old Eloise as she butts her way into the love life of the Plaza Hotel’s owner’s daughter and saves her from making a grave mistake. Meanwhile, we bask in the adorable (albeit adorably awkward) glow of her nanny’s (Julie Andrews) budding romance with an equally charming and socially inept neighbor. (Amazon Prime)

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974), dir. Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass

Unlike other classic (and potentially problematic) Rankin and Bass productions, The Year Without a Santa Claus is unreservedly wholesome. This movie — which features an early use of the “Santa takes a vacation” storyline — offers fun stop-motion animation and a catchy soundtrack (I guarantee you’ll have the “Snow Miser/Heat Miser” song running non-stop in your head — the Maury Laws/Jules Bass duo knew how to write an earworm). (Amazon Prime)

Elf (2003), dir. Jon Favreau

Everyone loves Elf for a reason. Will Ferrell’s recognizably over-the-top acting style works well with his character, Buddy — a six-foot-three man raised by one of Santa’s elves. Buddy learns early in the movie that he was adopted and decides to travel to New York City to meet his biological father, only to discover he is on the naughty list. Though Buddy’s innocent and childlike worldview throws people off at first, it eventually warms the hearts of everyone around him, helping save Christmas in the process. Elf’s ensemble cast, including the ever-lovable Bob Newhart, and the inventive script deserves every praise, too. (Hulu, Amazon Prime)

The Santa Clause (1994), dir. John Pasquin

The first installment of what would become a popular trilogy (though the second and third films are mediocre at best), The Santa Clause is a long-standing family favorite. Early ‘90s comedy TV it-guy Tim Allen plays a grudging father who is unexpectedly tasked with filling Santa Claus’ literal shoes (and pants) after an unfortunate mishap on Christmas Eve. This timeless classic is filled with clever one-liners, snarky reindeer, and an always gaudy sweater-clad Judge Reinhold. (Disney+)

The Bishop’s Wife (1947), dir. Henry Koster

Do you want a Christmas movie with the emotional depth of It’s a Wonderful Life but also with the charm and humor of a typical Cary Grant fare? Look no further than the surprisingly overlooked The Bishop’s Wife. This underrated gem stars none other than Grant alongside David Niven and Loretta Young. It’s about a young bishop who, after failing to raise money for a new cathedral, prays for guidance and finds himself with an angel (Grant) at his side and ready to help. This beautifully rendered and witty comedy-drama reminds us of the true reason for the season. (Tubi, Pluto TV)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), dir. Chris Columbus

True, Home Alone (1990) is the best of an unnecessarily long franchise. Still, its first sequel is surprisingly decent. We still have Macaulay Culkin and the rest of the original cast. The story is weaker compared to the weak-premised one of the first movie; one would think the McCallisters wouldn’t forget to bring their child on vacation again, but alas. Despite its fundamental conceptual flaw, Home Alone 2 offers new traps in which it’s fun to see “Sticky Bandits” Harry and Marv tangle themselves. The always-welcome Tim Curry also stops by to lead a delightful B plot. (Disney+)

Scrooged (1988), dir. Richard Donner

In this modern (for 1988) take on A Christmas Carol, our “Scrooge” character (Bill Murray) is embodied by a major TV executive who, after firing a staff member while filming the network’s own adaptation of the classic tale, is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to reevaluate his actions and right the wrongs of Christmases past. This star-studded film is a refreshing take on what would otherwise be another byproduct of the Dickens adaptation machine. (Pluto TV)

While You Were Sleeping (1995), dir. Jon Turteltaub

There’s a long list of holiday rom-coms that vied for this spot. After some consideration, I had to offer it to While You Were Sleeping. Sandra Bullock’s palatably quirky character takes the reins of a recognizable comedic-misunderstanding story arc and shows us that things sometimes work themselves out despite best-laid plans. If nothing else, you’ll walk away with a new understanding of the word “leaning.” (Disney+)

Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse (1988), dir. Wayne Orr and Paul Reubens

Growing up, I regularly woke up early Saturday mornings to watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse reruns over bowlfuls of cereal. The ensemble of wild and wacky characters coupled with Paul Reubens’ trademarked giggle made those early hours feel complete. So, it only makes sense that Christmas at Pee Wee’s Playhouse is a perennial favorite for me. Pee Wee novices will have a good time, too: this holiday special features dozens of celebrity cameos, includes performances from K.D. Lang, The Del Rubio Triplets, and Grace Jones, and has a memorable moral that’ll help you get in the holiday spirit. (YouTube)

Recommended for you