Best Christmas Movies, Ranked by Metacritic

Discover the best Christmas movies, ranked by Metascore.

Lara Vukelich

Getty Images

The weather may be getting warmer, but it's always a good time to cozy up with loved ones and watch a feel-good film that puts you in the holiday spirit. The best Christmas movies are perfect for Christmas morning, but they can also put a smile on your face in the middle of July. 

One of the most appealing things about holiday-themed movies is that they're great for the whole family. So gather your troop, put on the hot cocoa, and settle in to watch one of the best Christmas movies of all time, ranked by Metascore.

Meet Me in St. Louis

Metascore: 94
Best for: Music lovers
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 113 minutes

This classic Christmas movie was released in 1944, and it continues to enchant new audiences. Meet Me in St. Louis follows one family for about a year leading up to the 1904 World's Fair. While viewers see the family navigate their lives around a few different holidays, it's considered a Christmas movie because of the climactic Christmas Eve ball. The movie stars Judy Garland and features a few favorite Christmas songs. If you want to tear up at a sentimental version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," it's time to fire up Meet Me in St. Louis

"Combining some wonderful song and dance routines with a cast of memorable characters, Meet Me in St Louis is certainly one the best Hollywood musicals ever. It's also one of the least ostentatious." — Jamie Russell, BBC

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Metascore: 88
Best for: The young and the young at heart
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 96 minutes

In this delightful holiday movie from the 1940s, a mall Santa (Edmund Gwenn) enchants his customers but ends up on the bad side of his supervisor. After asserting that he is the real Santa, he ends up having to defend his identity in a court of law. Is Kris Kringle the real Santa Claus or does he need to be committed permanently? This Christmas movie never gets old: Even if you've seen it 20 times, introducing it to a new generation of movie lovers is sure to reignite your love of the movie and — maybe — your belief in Santa for a few hours. 

"It is light, it is charming, it is delightfully funny and completely captivating. It is all that, and something more. It has an undefinable spiritual quality that raises the spirits of the beholder into a happy, hopeful mood." — Kate Cameron, Daily News

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Metascore: 82
Best for: Halloween lovers
Where to watch: 

Google PlayiTunesVudu
Runtime: 76 minutes

What if you lived somewhere called Halloween Town and discovered Christmas for the first time? In this stop-motion film from 1993, a skeleton man from Halloween Town (Jack Skellington, voiced by Chris Sarandon) stumbles upon a place named Christmas Town. He is immediately resolved to study this new, magical place and sing its praises to his friends back home. Eventually, he convinces the residents of Halloween Town to take over Christmas duties for the year. This fantasy-filled movie is great for kids, especially since it only runs for just over an hour. 

"Part avant-garde art film, part amusing but morbid fairy tale, it is a delightfully ghoulish holiday musical that displays more inventiveness in its brief 75 minutes than some studios can manage in an entire year." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Christmas, Again

Metascore: 79
Best for: Independent movie lovers
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 80 minutes

This isn't exactly a feel-good Christmas movie: The melancholy color scheme is matched by the seriousness of the main character's blue attitude. In this independent film, a man (played by Kentucker Audley) returns to New York to work the night shift at a Christmas tree lot. As he goes from newly heartbroken to downright restless and sad, a young woman enters his life and brings a touch of mystery. This one is for adults who don't need happy endings or songs. 

"This is a Christmas movie in which magic exists largely on the periphery, and that is just the right mix of chilly and sweet." — Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times

A Christmas Story

Metascore: 77
Best for: Comedy goers, Kids
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 94 minutes

Did you ever have a must-have item on your Christmas list? Of course you did, so you'll relate to this 1983 movie narrated by an adult man who is describing his Christmas holiday back when he was 9 years old. That year, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) just had to have an air rifle for Christmas. A Christmas Story has become a cult classic; even if you've never seen it, you've likely seen some of the inside jokes online without realizing it. You will get a good laugh out of Ralphie in a bunny suit, his eccentric and often angry father, and his tussles with neighborhood boys. This movie runs on basic cable around the clock on Christmas every year, but if you get nostalgic in November, no one would judge you for watching it then. 

"A Christmas Story isn't just about Christmas; it's about childhood and it recaptures a time and place with love and wonder." — Jay Carr, The Boston Globe

A Christmas Carol (1938)

Metascore: 72
Best for: Classic movie fans
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 69 minutes

The original A Christmas Carol was filmed in black and white in the late 1930s. This classic movie is about an old curmudgeon named Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen). He is visited by the ghost of his late friend, who warns him against continuing to live a life as a selfish man. That night, Ebenezer is visited by three spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The visits change Ebenezer, who emerges from the experience with a new appreciation for life and empathy for his fellow humans. While the themes are quite adult, A Christmas Carol has been enjoyed by all ages on film and stage for generations. 

"Though faithful to the book in many ways, this adaptation, though serious in tone, removed many of the more upsetting elements of the story, including darker aspects of Scrooge's visions of his death and his past tragic romance." — Katerina Daley, ScreenRant

Happy Christmas

Metascore: 70
Best for: Rom-com fans
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Pluto TVVudu
Runtime: 88 minutes

If you love a good Anna Kendrick romantic comedy as much as the next guy or gal, you might want to check out Happy Christmas for a fun twist on holiday movies. In this story, Kendrick's character Jenny has to move in with her sister (played by Melanie Lynskey) when her partying life and recent break-up send her life into a bit of a tailspin. Even though she arrives like a wrecking ball, in the end, Jenny is able to teach her straight-laced sister that she could use a little fun and a few changes. This one isn't for kids, but it could help you create a great date night at home during the holiday season.

"More than in any of his previous films, Mr. Swanberg and his cast have refined a seemingly effortless style of semi-improvised storytelling so natural that it barely seems scripted. Life just happens." — Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Arthur Christmas

Metascore: 69
Best for: Curious kids
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 100 minutes

This animated movie answers a question for the ages: How does Santa deliver so many presents on a single night? Arthur Christmas proposes that Santa Claus is not one person, but rather a lineage of men who have handed down the title generation after generation. Not only that, but Santa has a secret technological operation that helps him create the millions of toys he needs each year. Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy), the hapless son of the current Santa, must save the day when he realizes that a mistake has caused a present to go undelivered to a little girl. This movie will captivate kids and it only runs about a little more than an hour and a half.  

"Arthur Christmas embraces this unconditional faith and rewards it with creative explanations and a brisk computer-animated adventure clever enough to become essential yuletide viewing." — Peter Debruge, Variety


Metascore: 64
Best for: Kids at heart, Will Ferrell fans
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 97 minutes

In this silly comedy, Ferrell plays Buddy the Elf who was raised by Santa's elves in the North Pole, believing that he was one of them. Until he grew to more than 6-feet tall. Now, he is in New York City trying to track down his biological family and adjust to life among humans. Buddy never loses his sense of wonder and Christmas cheer, even if he overwhelms the people around him. When a Christmas emergency arises, he is ready to help. Kids of all ages will like this whimsical holiday comedy. 

"How many human beings among us are capable of making a comedy with wit and intelligence that also takes bold pleasure in unabashed silliness? I think this is what happens when you let an elf loose with a movie camera." — Stephanie Zacharek, Salon

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Metascore: 64
Best for: Kids
Where to watch: 

, , Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 85 minutes

A Christmas Carol, but add puppets? Yes, please. This version of Scrooge's tale uses the famous characters from the Muppets to tell Charles Dickens' classic story. It's more modern than the original version of the movie, to say the least, and includes both familiar music and the storyline you've come to know and love. Because the movie combines live-action (real people) actors with famous muppets, it manages to create a new magical world while telling an age-old story. 

"Vastly enjoyable despite the syrupy, soppy song bit in the middle (go make a glass of mulled wine during it). Michael Caine is perfect in the role and there are many genuine belly laughs." — Caroline Westbrook, Empire