Movies Like 'A Christmas Story' to Watch Next

We triple dog dare you to not enjoy these (mostly) feel-good holiday flicks.
by Allison Bowsher — 

Peter Billingsley in 'A Christmas Story'

Warner Bros. Pictures

For many fans of classic family films, it's not the holiday season until they've screened the 1984 feel-good flick A Christmas Story (Metascore: 77) at least once. Loosely based on writer Jean Shepherd's childhood, the film stars Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, a 9-year-old boy living in Indiana during the 1940s. Ralphie's greatest desire is to receive a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, a toy just about every adult in his life is convinced will end with him "shooting his eye out."

The nostalgic film has traces of Norman Rockwell-esque montages, with Ralphie living with his stern but loving parents (played by Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin) and little brother Randy (Ian Petrella). While A Christmas Story is a movie that can be enjoyed by almost the whole family (a few scenes with schoolyard bullies may be too intense for tiny viewers), there are hints of PG and above humor, including the famous fragile leg lamp adored by Ralphie's father, which can be traced to director Bob Clark's more adult-centric titles, including Black Christmas and Porky's

Fans of the holiday classic will have a followup to screen this year with A Christmas Story Christmas, which sees Billingsley reprising his (now adult) role as Ralphie, as the sequel set 30 years later. Ralphie and his family (including wife Sandy, played by Erinn Hayes, and their two kids) return to his hometown for the holidays to celebrate Christmas with Ralphie's recently widowed mother (now played by Julie Hagerty). The new movie will undoubtedly invoke some of its predecessor's feel-good nostalgia and some holiday-centric laughs. Yes, the big Santa slide is back!

Whether you're in the mood for more holiday fare or retro coming-of-age stories, here, Metacritic highlights 10 films to watch after A Christmas Story, as ranked by their Metascore. 


The cast of 'It's a Wonderful Life'

Liberty Films

It's A Wonderful Life

Metascore: 89
Best for: Fans of holiday dramas and quintessential pop culture pieces
Where to watch:

, , , ,
Runtime: 130 minutes

While A Christmas Story has a much lighter touch on the topic of holidays and coming of age at Christmas, It's A Wonderful Life looks mortality straight in the eye — in this case, an eye that a BB gun hasn't marked. Nominated for five Academy Awards and widely considered one of the greatest films ever, the drama stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who becomes suicidal on Christmas eve. George is visited by guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers), who shows George how many people would be worse off had he never been born. Realizing his life is worth living, George makes amends with his family and the townspeople and earns Clarence his wings.  

"The inspirational, thoroughly festive ending is guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes." — Marc Lee, The Telegraph


The cast of 'Miracle on 34th Street'

20th Century Fox

Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

Metascore: 88
Best for: Fans of classic movies, especially of the holiday variety
Where to watch:

, , , ,
Runtime: 96 minutes

When it comes to classic Christmas films, it's rare to see a list that doesn't include both A Christmas Story and Miracle On 34th Street. The film has been remade several times, but it's difficult to improve upon the beloved 1947 version, which won three Academy Awards. When a young girl (Natalie Wood) is instructed by her mother (Maureen O'Hara) not to believe in Santa, her resolve is shaken when she meets a mall Santa Claus (Edmund Gwenn) who claims to be the one and only Kris Kringle. Kris is institutionalized for his outrageous claim, put on trial, and saved by the U.S. Postal Service, which delivers thousands of letters to Kris from children across the U.S., proving the pen really is mightier and jollier than the sword.

"The original (and best) version of the cockle-warming tale of a man who claims to be the real-life Santa Claus." — Staff, TimeOut


The cast of 'October Sky'

Universal Pictures

October Sky

Metascore: 71
Best for: Fans of inspiring, nostalgia-laced films
Where to watch:

, , ,
Runtime: 108 minutes

Like A Christmas Story, October Sky is also based on a true story. Although there's no holiday cheer in this case, there is plenty of nostalgia, which is why it earns a place here. Set in West Virginia in the 1950s, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Homer Hickman Jr., the son of a coal miner (played by Chris Cooper), who has aspirations of leaving his small town. With the help of his friend and encouragement from his teacher (played by Laura Dern), Homer designs a rocket that wins a national science fair and lands him a college scholarship. Much like A Christmas Story does with Ralphie, this coming-of-age story captures the magic and importance of dreams in young people.

"Despite its 'based on a true story' opening credit, this earnest, nostalgic film has a way of seeming too good to be true." — Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times


The cast of 'Bad Santa'

Universal Pictures

Bad Santa

Metascore: 70
Best for: Fans of R-rated holiday comedies and characters with limited morals
Where to watch:

, , ,
Runtime: 91 minutes

Turn up the holiday and turn down the feel-good aspect with this pick, which has a very different audience in mind than A Christmas Story. While there is nothing family-friendly about the 2003 dark comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox as a Santa and Elf duo who rob malls every Christmas, there's something about the Santa and Elf in A Christmas Story, specifically when poor Ralphie gets a Santa boot to the face, that always makes use think of this R-rated holiday romp. Sure, it's filled with sex, shootouts, and lots of words that will land someone on the naughty list, but Thornton's Santa does do some good by the film's end, so we'll consider this A Christmas Story-adjacent. 

"If you've had it with all that feel-good holiday sludge, hook up with the combustibly nasty Bad Santa. It could become a Christmas perennial for Scrooges of all ages." — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone


From left to right: Bob Newhart and Will Ferrell in 'Elf'

New Line Cinema


Metascore: 64
Best for: Fans of family-friendly holiday films with no shortage of silliness
Where to watch:

, , , ,
Runtime: 97 minutes

Like A Christmas Story, Elf is another classic holiday comedy that is just tame enough for kids and just on the edge enough that adults will also enjoy it. When an orphan baby crawls inside Santa's bag one Christmas Eve and wakes up at the North Pole, one special Elf (played by Bob Newhart) decide to name him Buddy (Will Ferrell) and raise him as his own. When Buddy is told that his birth father is still alive and on the naughty list, Buddy sets out to find him in New York City. And along the way, he ends up having to save Christmas, too. It's silly, sweet, and funny and the entire film looks like red and green confetti has exploded all over it, making it a perfect viewing partner for eggnog and cookies.

"A charming, silly family Christmas movie more likely to spread real joy than migraine, indigestion and sugar shock. The movie succeeds because it at once restrains its sticky, gooey good cheer and wildly overdoes it." — Dana Stevens, The New York Times


The cast of 'Home Alone'

20th Century Fox

Home Alone

Metascore: 63
Best for: Fans of holiday-themed action flicks
Where to watch:

, , , ,
Runtime: 103 minutes

Ralphie and his BB gun walked so Kevin and his house of horrors could run. A quintessential holiday family comedy, Home Alone, which is beginning to show its age (why did no one question the violence when this film was released?), follows 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) over the Christmas holidays after he's left behind when his family takes a vacation, and he chooses to defend his home from local thieves instead of telling literally any adult what is going on. The comedy was nominated for multiple Golden Globes and Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Culkin. Like A Christmas Story, Home Alone relies on physical gags and some holiday-themed violence, but it also has a lot of heart and has remained a major pop culture phenomenon more than three decades after its release, resulting in a direct sequel, a few reboots, and lots and lots of merchandise. We still don't know how the Wet Bandits survived. 

"Even though Macaulay Culkin's alternately muggy and inexpressive lead performance hasn't worn well, the supporting turns by Catherine O'Hara and John Candy are especially crackerjack, as is John Williams' buoyantly cartoony score." — Noel Murray, The A.V. Club


'The Polar Express'

Warner Bros. Pictures

The Polar Express

Metascore: 61
Best for: Animation enthusiasts and anyone who can't get enough of Tom Hanks
Where to watch:

, , ,
Runtime: 100 minutes

Fans of Hanks (or more specifically, fans of his voice) should love The Polar Express, which features the Academy Award winner taking on six voice roles in the animated feature. The family film follows a young boy who begins to doubt Santa Claus' existence. His faith in Kris Kringle is renewed when a train arrives at his house on Christmas Eve and whisks him and hundreds of other children to the North Pole where they will meet Saint Nick and one of them will receive the first gift of Christmas. Based on Chris Van Allsburg's children's book, the film is the first all-digital capture film, combining animation, CGI, and live-action performances. The results are a bit mixed, according to critics (see the Metascore), but it's an inspiring story with plenty of awe and wonder for young viewers. 

"A genuinely handsome film, and it tells a story that is well worth knowing. It's a kind, gentle and sweet holiday confection." — Shawn Levy, The Oregonian


From left to right: Eric Lloyd and Tim Allen in 'The Santa Clause'

Walt Disney Pictures

The Santa Clause

Metascore: 57
Best for: Those who want a family movie night during the holiday season
Where to watch:

, , , ,
Runtime: 97 minutes

Holiday movies love to feature gruff dads who have nuggety heart centers. We see that with Ralphie's dad, who (spoiler alert!) surprises his son with the BB gun, and we see it again in The Santa ClauseTim Allen stars as Scott, a non-Santa-believer single dad who agrees to save Christmas with the help of his son after the real Santa Claus falls off their roof and disappears on Christmas Eve. It may be a bit of a gruesome start to a family-friendly flick, but as Scott completes his transformation into jolly old Saint Nick, he's also able to repair his strained relationship with his son. Like A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause is also receiving a followup this month, but in the form of a limited series.

"As holiday heartwarmers go, The Santa Clause is an amusing stocking stuffer, a sitcom-superficial novelty that jingles many of the same bells as last year's Mrs. Doubtfire." — Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today


The cast of 'The Sandlot'

20th Century Fox

The Sandlot

Metascore: 55
Best for: Fans of Americana coming-of-age films about young boys
Where to watch:

, , ,
Runtime: 101 minutes

The holidays can be a magical time in a young person's life, and so can summer vacation. The Sandlot doesn't have any snow or eggnog, but the 1960s setting packs plenty of nostalgia in this coming-of-age film, which follows a young boy who moves to a new town and finds a group of friends and a sport he loves on the baseball field. Ralphie's friendships in A Christmas Story are not unlike the close connection of the group of boys in The Sandlot, which explores first loves, new family dynamics, local lore, and yes, some triple dog daring. Also like A Christmas Story, The Sandlot has developed a cult following over the years. Who would have known "You're killing me, Smalls" would become such a popular phrase for

for millennials?

"At times it's laugh-out-loud funny. In this ode to the passing of childhood, circa 1962, screenwriter David Mickey Evans has partly succeeded in mythologizing something that everyone treasures: the proverbial perfect summer of youth." — Jeff Shannon, The Seattle Times


The cast of 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'

Warner Bros. Pictures

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Metascore: 49
Best for: Fans of classic holiday comedies with plenty of physical gags
Where to watch:

, , , ,
Runtime: 97 minutes

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation may not have the critical acclaim (yikes to that Metascore) to be considered a great holiday film. Still, for many, it's a staple that should be enjoyed every December along with Cousin Eddie's Eggnog and a turkey neck because of its nostalgia factor: The films you grow up on imprint themselves hard. Chevy Chase stars as Clark Griswold, a man who wants his family to have a wonderful Christmas but can't seem to pull it together. Or in the case of his tangled lights, pull it apart. The comedy skews older than A Christmas Story but has a similar middle America feel and includes some timeless gags, including a snow saucer ride that defies gravity and an RV that no one wants to have parked in front of their house.

"Chevy Chase, as usual, is a lot better than he has to be and lifts the picture to the point that it's intermittently fun and fairly painless." — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle