It’s time once again to either feel thrilled to be enjoying the holiday season or to buckle up and power through it, whichever works best for your mood and circumstances. No matter how you feel about the winter holidays, we’ve got the best movies to get you in the holiday spirit—or at least keep you entertained until it’s safe to go out again.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Yes, here it is: the reason that we all tell each other that we’ll shoot our eyes out whenever we do something dangerous or foolish! It’s that classic tale of longing, struggle, regret, and finally joy during the holidays as Ralphie pursues his dream of one day owning a Red Ryder BB Gun. Bonus: full body bunny suit.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
This animated Tim Burton classic gave all of the artsy kids something cool to watch and love during the holiday season. Although there’s no doubt that this is a happy, fun film, it does have a refreshingly dark slant on the season that you’re going to need to cut through the sticky sweetness of that third cup of egg nog.
An American Tail (1986)
Please, ditch the rest of the franchise, but this first animated installment is a keeper. This movie tells the story of Fievel, a Jewish mouse who immigrates to America. Fievel’s trademark blue hat was a Hanukkah gift from his father, so we’re including it here—plus, there is a relative shortage of holiday movies that don’t focus on Christmas, and we like to mix things up around here.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Having a tough year? Feeling like 2016 is just the worst? Watch this classic to put you in a more generous holiday frame of mind. In this movie George Bailey, our hero (played by the achingly earnest Jimmy Stewart) is facing bankruptcy. Despairing, he finds himself rueing the day he was born. A guardian angel comes to Earth to show him what would have happened if he’d never been born, changing his mind and rendering him truly grateful to be alive.
The Polar Express (2004)
This motion-capture animation film is weird, and at times even uncanny. It’s like the magical mystery tour of Christmas. Naturally, that’s why we love it—that, and the fact that it’s based on a kids’ book that we have all read over and over again. In the movie, a boy goes on an amazing adventure to the North Pole to find Santa. Bonus: there are now Polar Express inspired train rides all over the country that are populated almost entirely by entire families of pajama-clad people.
The Black Candle (2008)
This is actually a documentary, and one of the only films you can see to get into the Kwanzaa spirit. Fortunately, it’s a very good movie, featuring Maya Angelou and her poetry, and Molefi Kete Asante, an important scholar in the African American Studies movement. The film explores the seven principles of the holiday and its origins in the Black Power Movement in the 60s, tracing it to its current status, a holiday celebrated by more than 40 million people.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
In this classic movie, the real Santa Claus tries to make it in the big city. In a series of events that is surprising to no one, everyone around him takes him to be insane. Eventually Kringle gets his chance to shine at Macy’s during the holidays; he eventually wins over his boss and her daughter who is already world weary before leaving preschool.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
This is the Rankin and Bass made for TV Christmas standby. Sure, it’s based on one short song, so it’s not long on plot. But it does boast the vocal talents of both Jimmy Durante and Jackie Vernon, and it’s a CEL animation classic.
Okay fine, Christmas isn’t the main subject of this one, but it’s still front and center. Plus, if you’re looking for a genuinely good movie to watch in mixed company that’s not as in-you-face with the holiday theme, this is the perfect compromise! One of the best features of this film is the host of little monsters destroying a positively Norman Rockwell level-cute town right before Christmas. This means the lead antagonist puppet gets to wear a Santa hat, and the creepy evil Gremlins theme song has a sort of Christmas carol-y feel. Perfect!
If you’re not feeling psyched about the holiday season yet, don’t worry! With these 9 movies to get you in the holiday spirit, we’ve got your back. Go on, bust out the popcorn and settle in for some awesome movies before your long winter’s nap.