Follow Vogue Arabia

22 of the Best Classic Christmas Movies To Watch This December


Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep in ‘Falling in Love’

It’s Christmas, and you’re in the mood to watch something festive. Netflix’s frothy best are never lacking in holiday spirit, but gravitas? Maybe. So… a classic it is! But before you press play on It’s a Wonderful Life, consider the alternatives: You’re likely well versed in Frank Capra’s simultaneously macabre and feel-good wintertime flick, and filmdom is filled with Christmastime tales for kids from 1 to 92. Why not try something a little different?

Much like Henry Travers’s guardian angel, we won’t lead you astray. Here, our favorites for the holiday season, from can’t miss classics to more out-of-the-box selections.

The Thin Man (1934)


Should you prefer a film that’s only subliminally Christmas-y, look to this murder mystery flick. Starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora, The Thin Man follows the married couple on a holiday break that takes them from San Francisco to New York. A retired, booze-soaked detective, Nick can’t help being called back into action when a murder presents itself. The killer is revealed in a whodunit-style dinner party—and the costumes worn by Nora throughout the film are just to die for.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

A Christmas Carol (1938)


If you’re a little out of touch with the real meaning of Christmas, this story about crotchety Ebenezer Scrooge’s slow journey to locate his Christmas spirit will be just the thing. God bless us, every one!

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Remember the Night (1940)


In Remember the Night, Barbara Stanwyck is arrested for shoplifting, and let out on bail by the New York district attorney (played by Fred MacMurray) to prevent her spending Christmas in jail. He soon takes a liking to her, but his mother does not—so Stanwyck opts to serve out her sentence.

How to Watch: Buy on Amazon.

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)


Jimmy Stewart stars opposite Margaret Sullavan in the charming love story on which the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks AOL-centered rom-com You’ve Got Mail was based: A man and a woman are at odds with each other, yet find themselves besotted by their respective mystery pen pals. Guess who’s on the other side of that envelope?

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Holiday Inn (1942)

Holiday-Inn 1942

Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Marjorie Reynolds make Christmas magic in this Irving Berlin musical that debuted Berlin’s hit “White Christmas.” The film revolves around a sharp-edged love triangle between the trio, who play members of a musical performance group. (Caution: The original contains a highly problematic scene using blackface; the version you’ll watch today has, rightfully, been censored.)

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Meet-Me-in-St-Louis 1944

Not a Christmas movie exactly, but we have this film to thank for the tune ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. And at the Christmas Ball, Judy Garland (in a pseudo turn-of-the-century gigot-sleeve red velvet gown) gives us all a lesson in chic holiday dressing.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)


This Christmas-y film is white with lies! Barbara Stanwyck stars yet again, now assuming the role of a columnist who chronicles her fictitious life as a housewife at a bucolic Connecticut farm. She’s found out and puts on a charade as to not disappoint a fan—a celebrated war hero played by Dennis Morgan. Somewhere along the way the two fall in love, of course.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

The-Bishops-Wife 1947

Before there was Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington’s The Preacher’s Wife in 1996, there was Loretta Young and Cary Grant in The Bishop’s Wife. Grant plays the Christmas angel sent to the aid of a bishop, who is struggling to build a new cathedral, and attempts to give his strained marriage some celestial guidance.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)

It-Happened-on-Fifth-Avenue 1947

In this film, a drifting war veteran (played by Don DeFore) finds himself squatting in a well-appointed Fifth Avenue townhouse owned by an out-of-town mogul, the world’s second-richest man. His presence goes unnoticed until a charming Gale Storm, playing the daughter of the owner, shows up unannounced. It’s not a B&E if you’re in love!

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle-on-34th-Street 1947

You’ve likely seen the 1994 film of the same name (starring the delightful Mara Wilson as the little girl who believed), but don’t let that deter you from watching the original—in which that faithful child is played by no less than Natalie Wood.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Holiday Affair (1949)

Holiday-Affair 1949

Look to this film for another Christmastime tale of a shoplifting damsel in distress—this time a single mother and war widow played by Janet Leigh. The sales clerk, played by Robert Mitchum, can’t bring himself to turn her in and is ultimately held responsible. Then, because it’s Christmas, the two fall in love.

How to Watch: Stream on HBO Max.

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

The-Lemon-Drop-Kid 1951

While most early holiday classics warm the heart, they are rarely out to get laughs. Enter the screwball comedy The Lemon Drop Kid, starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell and based on the short story of the same name. Around Christmas time, New York gangsters come to collect a $10,000 IOU from Hope’s character (shocker, he doesn’t have it), and comical mayhem ensues. Somewhere along the way, the Christmas classic “Silver Bells” is performed for the very first time.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

The Holly and the Ivy (1952)

The-Holly-and-the-Ivy 1952

The stress of going home for the holidays is all too real in this British drama, which stars Ralph Richardson and Celia Johnson and focuses on the widespread Gregory family as they gather at their Norfolk home to celebrate Christmas together. Tensions quickly arise, but there’s no amount of family drama that the magic of Christmas can’t cure (onscreen, that is).

How to Watch: Buy on Amazon.

White Christmas (1954)

White-Christmas 1954

Another can’t-miss Christmas musical with Bing Crosby. The movie also stars Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen, and Rosemary Clooney (aunt of George!) in a colorful, feather-filled musical extravaganza you could watch for the costumes alone. The wardrobes, coupled with Irving Berlin’s score, make this film an audio-visual treat.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Babes in Toyland (1961)

Babes-in-Toyland 1961

This fantastical film strings together Mother Goose’s coterie (Little Bo Peep; Mary, Quite Contrary; Tom, the Piper’s Son) in a theatrical musical based on Victor Herbert’s operetta of the same name. Before Tom and Mary can live happily ever after, seemingly everything goes awry.

How to Watch: Stream on Disney+.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)


It’s not a holiday movie, per se, but Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand’s color-saturated 1964 musical—starring Catherine Deneuve and the late Nino Castelnuovo as young lovers separated by the Algerian War—does conclude on Christmas Eve, in spectacularly sad (if also prettily snow-dusted) fashion.

How to Watch: Stream on HBO Max.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A-Charlie-Brown-Christmas 1965

This classic may have been made more than five decades ago, but it’s still hard to top as one of the best animated Christmas movies of all time. If the adventures of Charlie, Lucy, Snoopy, and the gang aren’t enough of a selling point for you, the music—composed by jazz legend Vince Guaraldi—is holly-jolly enough to get you in the holiday mood.

How to Watch: Stream on Apple TV+.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)


Sure, there’s a more modern reboot of this story, but there’s nothing like the original. Based on the eponymous Dr. Seuss book, this cartoon can be tricky to locate. But it’s worth the trouble—after all, who among us doesn’t cry when the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes?

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

The Lion in Winter (1968)

The-Lion-in-Winter 1968

Imagine your typical family reunion at Christmastime, only dad is Henry II, King of England, and mom is his estranged wife, Eleanor of Acquitane, freed from prison for the holidays. Set in the late 12th century, Anthony Harvey’s The Lion in Winter is a tour-de-force of familial tensions, political drama, and—buried in there somewhere—a great deal of love; just the ticket for this time of year. Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, and a young Anthony Hopkins star.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Fanny-and-Alexander 1982

Ingmar Bergman’s 1982 film (and five-part television miniseries) was inspired, in part, by his childhood with his sister, Margareta, and father, Erik Bergman, a strict Lutheran minister. Yet before the marital strife unfolds and the ghosts appear, the film lingers on a Nativity play and sprawling Christmas feast in 1907, comprising some of the most colorful and joyful moments in Bergman’s oeuvre.

How to Watch: Stream the film version on HBO Max and the television version on the Criterion Channel.

Falling in Love (1984)

Falling-in-Love 1984

Unfairly maligned at the time of its release, Falling in Love actually has it all: Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, an appealing romantic turn from Robert DeNiro, and some light Brief Encounter cosplay—not to mention two meet-cute-y scenes at Rizzoli’s old Fifth Avenue store during the Christmas-shopping rush.

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

The Dead (1987)

The-Dead 1987

For his final film, released a few months after his death, director John Huston looked to James Joyce’s Dubliners, movingly adapting the 1914 short story “The Dead.” Set at an Epiphany party in early 1904—so, not on Christmas, exactly, but the atmosphere is similar—the drama unfolds over a snowy night in Dublin, where guests recite Old Irish poetry, sing songs, and moodily reflect on times gone by. ’Tis the season, after all!

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon.

Originally published on

View All
Vogue Collection