Christmas is upon us, which means our screens are awash with festive themed movies. Filled with nostalgia, yuletide spirit and warmth, the ‘Christmas movie’ is a genre unto itself. That doesn’t, however, seem to have dampened the ferocity surrounding the endless debate of what exactly constitutes a festive film.
The poster boy for this argument is Die Hard, the 1980s action classic starring Bruce Willis. Some will quite literally die on a hill defending the Christmassy merits of this classic, whilst others share an equally vehement opinion in the opposite direction.
To alleviate such woes, we’ve not only included a wide variety of Christmas movies but also ranked them by highest grossing. We’ve also adjusted their box office takings for inflation (as of 2021) just to give some of those golden oldies a chance at the top spot.
So sit back, grab a mince pie and tuck into our festive film list.
10. The Holiday (2006)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $282 million
Whilst being a commercial success, the first entry on our list divided critics and audiences like no other. On Rotten Tomatoes The Holiday scores only 49% from critics but 80% from audiences. It seems the critics' complaints about the 'thoroughly predictable' storyline of two women with relationship problems swapping homes during Christmas time and finding love, didn't deter audiences from flocking to the cinemas.
9. Die Hard (1998)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $331 million
Yippee Ki Yay, the era-defining shooter Die Hard made enough cash at the box office to make it onto the list. Catapulting Bruce Willis to film star status, the antics of John McClane have solidified this movie as one of the greatest action movies of all time, as well as one of the best Christmas films, due to it being set at a Christmas party on Christmas Eve. As mentioned before, its presence on lists such as these always sparks fierce debate. So without further ado, let the arguments begin!
8. Elf (2003)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $336 million
No Christmas list would be complete without Elf, the story of a human raised by Santa’s elves who learns about his origins and heads to the Big Apple to find his biological father. The joyful spirit of Buddy the Elf (played perfectly by Will Ferrell) made it a beloved fan favourite, as well as a critical and commercial success that has even spawned a Broadway musical.
7. The Santa Clause (1994)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $356 million
The first in a series of three movies, The Santa Clause sees Tim Allen (of Home Improvement fame), take on the obligations of Santa after accidentally causing the demise of Jolly Old St. Nicholas by making him fall off his roof. The comedy was well-received by critics and audiences alike and continues to be a family favourite to watch during the colder months of the year.
6. Love Actually (2003)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $369 million
Richard Curtis’ holiday classic offers a smorgasbord of love stories centred on the festive season. The impressive ensemble cast includes Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson to name but a few. Love it or hate it, the schmaltzy feel-good vibes of the film continue to strike a chord with audiences across the world at Christmas time.
5. A Christmas Carol (2009)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $419 million
Charles Dickens’ classic novel has had many big and small screen adaptions over the years. However, the one cracking into the upper echelons of the Christmas movie box office world is the 2009 Disney animated retelling, directed by American film director Robert Zemeckis. The first of two appearances for Jim Carey on this list see the funny man voicing the infamous cold-hearted miser called Ebenezer Scrooge, who goes on a journey to discover the true spirit of Christmas.
4. The Polar Express (2004)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $460 million
The second entry on this list for Robert Zemeckis is another Christmas movie based on a children’s book. This animated retelling of Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 book of the same name, sees a young boy embark on a magical train ride to the North Pole. Although the character animations somewhat missed the mark, the voice of the ever-affable Tom Hanks, who played multiple roles in this film, helped to bring in the cinemagoers.
3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $555 million
Based on the 1957 classic Dr. Seuss book, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, this live-action remake features Jim Carey donning a green fursuit to play the grumpy protagonist. Hell-bent on ruining Christmas for all the inhabitants of Whoville, The Grinch goes on a bauble crushing rampage before finally learning to love the festive season. Critics praised Carey’s performance and the film topped movie charts across the globe. It even scooped an Academy Award for Best Makeup.
2. The Grinch (2018)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $565 million
It's back-to-back spots for that green Scrooge-like creature known as The Grinch. This time it's an animated version of the Dr. Seuss book with British actor Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the main character. Whilst the movie was somewhat of a critical flop, audiences couldn’t have cared less and swarmed to the cinema in their droves helping to earn this film the number two spot on our list.
1. Home Alone (1990)
Worldwide gross (inflation-adjusted): $1 billion
Universally loved, Home Alone is the star atop our Christmas movie tree. The only one on the list to break the inflation-adjusted $1 billion mark thanks to an incredible $477 million taking at the box office some 31 years ago. In the world of festive films, Home Alone does indeed stand tall, as the home-defending antics of eight-year-old Kevin (played by Macaulay Culkin), continue to capture the nostalgic hearts of millions every single year.