The Twelve Days of Christmas Movies

Stockton Grunewald

Tis the season!

While we’ve already probably exhausted every single movie we own over the duration of 2020, we still have the box of VHS’s and DVDs in our parents’ attics to sort through as we spend the next month inside. As Rockhurst’s longstanding (albeit, mediocre) film critic, I felt as if it was my obligation to sort out the best Christmas movies, that I think are well worth a watch.

If you disagree with me, you’re wrong, but let me know what you think should or should not have made this list.

Disclaimer: These are all movies that I have seen enough times to make a firm judgment. I do not claim to have seen all Christmas movies, but hey, we have a few weeks, so let’s see how many we can get through:


Worst Christmas Movie of All Time: Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

If you are a fan of the Star Wars saga, you have probably heard of this from a parent or just from browsing online. This film is so painful, especially after 40 years of additional Star Wars content, that you will feel as if you wasted your time and then some. George Lucas himself has said that if he had the time, he would destroy every copy of this on Earth. Unfortunately for Mr. Lucas, you can still find bits and pieces on YouTube. Don’t do it. Please.


  1. Scrooge (1970)

This is perhaps my favorite interpretation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 A Christmas Carol, at least, as performed by an all-human cast (more on that later…). The late Albert Finney delivers a fantastic, if somewhat fanciful performance as Ebenezer Scrooge, and is flanked by a complimentary supporting cast, including Sir Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley. It’s also a musical, with some numbers such as “Thank You Very Much” and “I Like Life” which are, surprisingly, rather fun. Aside from that, you know this story, and if you like it—check this one out.


  1. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)

This 1970 television special is a default selection. Nothing spectacular, but a nice origin story for Santa Claus, neatly wrapped up in a Christmas bow.


  1. Elf (2003)

I can already sense the palpable disagreement this placement will secure for me. I do believe this family-friendly story of Buddy trying to find his dad (and his purpose) is incredibly touching and obviously funny. But from here on out, we’re getting into marginal territory—it’s a close race, all the way up to the top.


  1. A Muppets’ Christmas Carol (1992)

As I mentioned earlier, there was one more spot for a non-human Christmas Carol, and the Muppets, of course, made this a shoe in entry into the Christmas canon. Kermit and friends pester Michael Caine’s Scrooge all throughout this hour and a half singalong, which will certainly leave a smile on your face.


  1. Home Alone (1990)

Nine-year-old Kevin McAllister is a testament to the love between families—and why parents should probably have parental controls on what their kids watch. In all seriousness, this 1990 comedy has incredible re-watchability, features a very dynamic cast, and almost qualifies for a Halloween movie, considering the pain Wet Bandits’ Marv and Harry endure to rob the McAllister home.


  1. The Grinch (1965)

I don’t want to hear anything at all about how the Jim Carrey live action adaptation of this story is any better than the 1965 classic. It’s narrated by Boris Karloff, for goodness sakes—Frankenstein!


And now, a brief intermission:

Honorable Mention: Die Hard (1988)

This 1988 film is a staple of classic movies: that being said, the debate about whether or not this is a Christmas movie has been argued at length, by much smarter people than myself. To bridge the divide, I have decided to make this category for Bruce Willis’s sake.


  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

This is Halloween, so the title claims, but this Christmas film, featuring incredible animation, songs, and even better characters, is well-deserving of a viewing every Christmas or Halloween. Or in between! From Jack Skellington to Oogie Boogie, you know that Sandy Claws has a lot on his hands.


  1. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

“I wanna be a dentist,” or so the legend goes. Another midcentury Claymation television special, Rudolf condenses an epic story of hope, redemption, and adventure into 23 minutes of pure joy. Rudolf would qualify for “Silver and Gold” in any other circumstance, but the competition ahead is too steep, even for Santa’s sleigh.

A word of warning to my readers—watch out for the abominable snowman…


  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Bearing the surname Grunewald, the amount of times I or a member of my family has been referred to as either “Clark”, “Clark Griswald”, or “GRISWALD!” is astronomical. I cannot blame this film: it is 100% proven to induce a bellyache laugh upon every viewing. No movie encapsulates everything that goes into a Holiday celebration like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Whether watching Clark trying to hang up the lights, joining the Jelly of the Month Club, or sledding into oblivion, Christmas Vacation is well-deserving of a top spot.


  1. Christmas Story (1984)

Has there ever been a more prophetic saying than, “you’ll shoot your eye out?”. Poor Ralphie. This movie is disaster after disaster for our young protagonist but is a feel-good story that reflects on the hopes and wishes of kids all across the world.


  1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

I had not seen this movie until I was a senior in high school, but, upon viewing it for the first time, understood why it was considered to be Capra’s masterpiece. In all candor, It’s A Wonderful Life is a fantastic film through and through. George Bailey’s journey through life is compelling, conflicting, and one which demonstrates the true power of compassion. (Plus, you’ll start doing a Jimmy Stewart impression.)


1.A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Hard to understate how well this 1965 special captures so many elements of the Christmas season. Its brevity is excused by the themes that surround it, culminating in Linus’s retelling of the Christmas story, which makes this season so special for so many. A must watch, for anyone.


Have a wonderful Holiday season. Take care of yourself!



Edited by Micaela Gutierrez