Most Rewatchable, Crowd-pleasing Movies to Watch Over the Holidays

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It’s hard enough at any time of the year to find a classic movie that everyone in the room is game to sit through again. Police Academy 6, Sweet Home Alabama, Harry and the Hendersons? Once, for many of us, was plenty. During the holidays, when the living room crowd swells, the odds of appeasing the whole extended family become that much slimmer. But we’re here to help with classic and unconventional Christmas movies. What do we mean by unconventional? Some of these have absolutely nothing to do with the holidays. They’re just damn-good movies.

Here are our nominations for the most rewatchable Christmas movies that still hold up. Will it be Die Hard or Home Alone? Serpico or Hope Floats? Only you know the answer to that. And while the chances are still marginal that absolutely everyone will agree on a single title this holiday, the following reliable crowd-pleasers are guaranteed to swing the odds.

Classic and Unconventional Christmas Movies to Watch Again and Again

1. Die Hard

It may not be filed under classic Christmas movies, but it’s hard to resist Die Hard around holiday time. It has something for everyone: action, comedy and it actually takes place on Christmas Eve! You may have to debate your family about what to serve at dinner or what sports to watch, but when it’s time to put on a movie, you likely won’t get much of an argument about the flick that helped make Bruce Willis a star.

Originally meant to be more of a serious thriller, director John McTiernan overhauled the script and played to Willis’s comedic strengths, giving him self-deprecating lines and endearing his character John McClane to the audience. While Willis is known as a big action star, he got his big break on the TV comedy Moonlighting before picking up McClane’s badge and gun. The simple premise of a lone cop stopping terrorists from robbing a building ended up spawning four sequels. The series has since grossed $1 billion worldwide.

Fun Fact: Die Hard was actor Alan Rickman’s first feature film role, which he absolutely crushed as villain Hans Gruber—one of the most iconic action movie villains of all time. Rickman later would play well-known villains like the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, but it all started with Hans trying to rob Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve.

Alternate Pick: For an extra dose of John McClane vs. terrorists, Die Hard 2 also takes place on Christmas. This time it’s at the airport.

Streaming: Peacock and Amazon Prime

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2. Rocky IV

You really can’t go wrong with any of the Rocky movies at this time of year, but it’s hard to beat watching Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa taking on Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago in the Soviet Union—on Christmas Day no less. After his friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) dies in the ring fighting against Drago, Rocky gives up his championship belt to challenge Drago on his own.

The movie has one of the best training montages in the entire Rocky franchise, showing Rocky training in the harsh snow and cold of Russia to try and equal Drago’s strength. Stallone and Lundgren remain friends and collaborators to this day, having worked on the Expendables movies and Creed II, which saw the return of Drago to the Rocky franchise following this installment.

Fun Fact: Stallone revealed in a behind-the-scenes look at the film that one of Lundgren’s punches actually sent him to the hospital. The punch came during the climactic fight of the film and while it kept Stallone in the hospital for a few days, he still wanted to finish the fight. Stallone also mentioned that he kept the punch in the final cut of the film.

Alternate Pick: Creed. Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler helped reinvigorate the Rocky franchise with this spinoff film that follows the son of Apollo Creed. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning Sylvester Stallone an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe win for the same category. Coogler’s work on the boxing scenes in the film is fantastic, including an incredible five-minute, one-shot fight scene where the camera floats around and through the ring without any cuts.

Streaming: HBO Max

3. Jaws

If no one can agree on one of the many quintessential Christmas movies on deck, throw them for a loop with Jaws. No matter what time of year it is, Jaws is a timeless crowd-pleaser. Considered the first true summer blockbuster, this is the film that put director Steven Spielberg on the map. The story follows police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) as he tries to get control of the shark attacks that have been plaguing Amity Island. Along with marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw), the three set out into the ocean and battle with the massive shark on open water. Spielberg uses John Williams’s now-iconic score to create tension and dread so you never quite know when “Jaws” will strike. After multiple viewings and decades, the scares still pop.

Fun Fact: Jaws was the highest-grossing film of all-time before being beaten by Star Wars. It made an astonishing $472 million from a $9 million budget.

Alternate Pick: Saving Private Ryan. Go from early career Spielberg to one of his crowning achievements. In this World War II drama, Spielberg follows a group of Army Rangers played by Tom Hanks, Ed Burns, Tom Sizemore, Adam Goldberg, and a young Vin Diesel, as they go behind enemy lines to bring home a soldier (Matt Damon) who already lost his three other brothers in battle. The opening of the film that shows the storming of the beach at Normandy is considered to be one of the most intense and accurate depictions of war ever seen in a movie.

Streaming: Available to rent/buy on Google Play Store, iTunes, and Prime Video.

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4. The Departed

It’s the film that finally won Martin Scorsese his Oscar. This remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs follows mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) and his secret mole Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), who he places within the police department. Little do they know the police had the same idea, sending William Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to be part of Costello’s crew. While both are undercover and finding out information for their respective bosses, they also find out about each other and race to reveal who the other mole is. The all-star supporting cast includes Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Wahlberg in a scene-stealing role that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Fun Fact: Some of the characters in the film are loosely based on real-life figures, including crime boss Whitey Bulger (Nicholson’s Costello) and corrupt FBI agent John Connolly (Damon’s Colin Sullivan). Bulger was simultaneously a notorious criminal and an FBI informant and went on the run for over 15 years before being captured by authorities. Additionally, while Leonardo DiCaprio has earned six Academy Award acting nominations in his career (and a win for The Revenant), he didn’t get nominated for The Departed despite high praise by critics for his performance. At the time, DiCaprio didn’t want to campaign during awards season against his co-stars, so he ended up getting nominated for Best Actor for Blood Diamond instead.

Alternate Pick: The Wolf of Wall Street. Another Scorsese-DiCaprio collaboration is always worth jumping into and this is one of their best. It follows the story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who builds a huge empire off of fraud and corrupt trading, eventually leading to his downfall. Jonah Hill stars in a scene-stealing performance as Belfort’s partner which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Streaming: Available to rent/buy on Google Play Store, iTunes, and Prime Video.

5. Serpico

This is one of Al Pacino’s most celebrated roles and one of the top films of the 1970s. Pacino stars as Frank Serpico, a NYPD officer who fights against corruption within the police force, eventually resulting in him becoming a whistleblower. Serpico’s refusal to take bribes or participate in other illegal actions gets him ostracized from his fellow officers. Pacino’s tour-de-force performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. Pacino spent time with the real Frank Serpico before and during the production of the film.

Fun Fact: The film was shot in reverse order. Pacino grew out his hair and beard for later scenes (shot first) which were trimmed week by week as the production progressed. By the end of the shoot, he was clean-shaven for the earliest scenes in the film.

Alternate Pick: Ocean’s Thirteen. If you’re looking for something a tad lighter from Pacino, it’s hard to go wrong with this threequel in which Pacino plays the latest hotel owner mark for the beloved bad-boy crew in Vegas led by George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

Streaming: Amazon Prime Video

6. Hope Floats

In this romantic drama, Sandra Bullock stars as Birdee, a housewife whose life gets thrown for a loop when her husband reveals he’s been cheating on her with her best friend. To recover from the humiliation, Birdee and her daughter decamp to Smithville, Texas to stay with her mother and nephew. While there, Birdee reconnects with her former high school classmate (Harry Connick Jr.) all while dealing with the challenges of her new life as a single mother.

Fun Fact: Actor Forest Whitaker directed the film which was shot by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel—father of actresses Emily and Zooey Deschanel.

Alternate Pick: While You Were Sleeping. Set during Christmas-time, this romantic comedy follows Sandra Bullock’s Lucy Eleanor Moderatz, a Chicago transit token collector who saves a customer Peter Callaghan (Peter Gallagher) after he’s pushed onto the tracks. Lucy is secretly in love with him and when he falls into a coma, and when she meets his family they mistakenly think she’s Peter’s fiancée. Hijinks ensue as Lucy gets to know his eccentric family and eventually realizes she’s in love with Peter’s brother Jack (Bill Pullman).

Streaming: Starz

7. The Godfather

Often tapped as one of the greatest films of all-time, The Godfather has become a holiday season staple, looping on cable channels multiple times during the holidays especially. With an all-star cast that includes Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton, the film went on to win awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Puzo and Coppola) at the Academy Awards. The epic story follows the Corleone family—homing in on Pacino’s Michael Corelone, who transitions from respectable World War II veteran to reluctant new boss of the powerhouse mafia family he was born into. Director Francis Ford Coppola fought hard to cast Pacino for a role that the studio wanted to fit with more of a Robert Redford-type. Pacino’s performance is considered to be one of the finest in movie history…not something you’ll find in classic Christmas movies.

Fun Fact: The Godfather author Mario Puzo sent Marlon Brando a letter saying that he was the “only actor” he could see playing Vito Corleone. An iconic actor, Brando’s career was on the downturn and he was not considered a bankable enough actor by the studio. Eventually, Coppola secured the role for Brando after putting together a screen test that sufficiently impressed the producers.

Alternate Pick: The Godfather Part II. Here’s a rare case where many consider the sequel to outshine the original. Spanning two timelines, the film follows both Michael’s challenge to hold onto power in 1958 and the earlier rise of his father Vito (Robert De Niro) from Italian immigrant to mob boss.

Streaming: Available to rent/buy on Google Play Store, iTunes, and Prime Video.

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8. The Nightmare Before Christmas

This stop-motion musical has become a staple among Christmas movies, following the story of Jack Skellington—the leader of Halloween-town. All he knows is Halloween, but when he gets tired of having the same type of celebration every year, he accidentally finds his way to Christmas-town, deciding this new holiday is how the town should celebrate. Jack gets this done by “kidnapping” Santa so he can take over Christmas. Things get out of control when Santa is delivered to Jack’s rival, Oogie Boogie. This flick will please the whole family during the holidays with its fun songs, Christmas theme, and incredible stop-motion work.

Fun Fact: Over 100 people worked on the film, which took about three years to complete. More than 200 puppets were created for characters in the movie.

Alternate Pick: Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns. Here are two more Tim Burton creations set around Christmas which make for fantastic holiday options. Revisiting Batman Returns is even more relevant today, as Michael Keaton’s Batman is set to return in the upcoming Flash film in 2022.

Streaming: Disney Plus

9. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

He wasn’t kidding when he said he’d be back. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in his iconic role of The Terminator in one of the most popular action movies—and sequels—of all time. Yes, it’s in stark juxtaposition to classic Christmas movies, but no one will argue throwing this one on during the holidays with its explosions, humor, and fantastic motorcycle chase. Schwarzenegger’s Model 101 goes head-to-head with the advanced T-1000 (Robert Patrick) as he goes after John Connor (Edward Furlong), the future leader of the human resistance. Director James Cameron pioneered visual effects in this movie to create the liquid metal T-1000, and those effects still hold up decades after its 1991 release. Cameron is working on changing the game again with his upcoming Avatar sequels, but if you want to go back to where it all really started, fire up this action classic.

Fun Fact: At the time of its release, Terminator 2 had the most expensive movie budget ever—clocking in at $102 million.

Alternate Pick: Aliens. Before Cameron changed the action genre with Terminator 2, he took the Alien franchise to a new level—creating a futuristic war movie that made Sigourney Weaver a badass action star in her own right. Weaver earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role as Ellen Ripley in the film.

Streaming: Pluto TV.

10. Elf

Will Ferrell stars in one of his most iconic roles—as a human named Buddy who’s raised by Santa’s elves. Elf is certainly high in the ranks of Christmas movies, but it’s also become an iconic New York City movie, as Buddy heads to the Big Apple to meet his biological father, played by Godfather actor James Caan. A cynical businessman entrenched on Santa’s naughty list who’s unaware he had a son, Caan’s Walter Hobbs learns the lessons of Christmas from Ferrell’s Buddy. Several classic scenes include Ferrell making his way through the Lincoln Tunnel dressed as an elf and calling out a “fake” Santa who greets kids at a department store. “You sit on a throne of lies!” Buddy heckles. Adding to the movie are great supporting roles from actors Peter Dinklage, Artie Lange, Kyle Gass, Amy Sedaris. and Artie Lange—while the legendary Ed Asner plays Santa himself. This movie never fails to deliver holiday joy to the whole family.

Fun Fact: Before taking on massive movies like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and the hit Star Wars series The Mandalorian, Jon Faverau was the director behind the camera for this Will Ferrell comedy. His experience here and as an actor through his career made Favreau the perfect choice to bring Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark to life, mixing comedy and action that still reverberates through the long-running Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also proved his knack for success. Elf grossed over $200 million at the box office on just a $33 million budget.

Alternate Pick: Anchorman. Want some more Will Ferrell? Throw on one of the most quotable comedies of all-time as Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy is joined by his Channel 4 broadcast team of Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and Champion “Champ” Kind (David Koechner) in 1970s San Diego.

Streaming: HBO Max and Starz

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11. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

As classic as Christmas movies gets, Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold just wants to have the perfect holiday with his family. Things start to go awry when extra family members—led by cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid)—show up unannounced in an RV camper. The setbacks, of course, snowball for Clark—including blowing the power in the neighborhood from his Christmas lights, receiving an annual membership to the “Jelly of the Month Club” instead of the yearly bonus he was expecting, and witnessing his Christmas tree getting scorched. When Eddie kidnaps Clark’s boss over the lame Xmas bonus, a SWAT team arrives at the Griswold house. Just another fun Christmas for the whole family. At least yours isn’t quite as crazy as theirs … right?

Fun Fact: The movie is based on John Hughes’ short story Christmas ’59, which he originally published in National Lampoon magazine. Hughes is best-known for his work on classic films like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Home Alone, and Uncle Buck.

Alternate Pick: Want more fun with the Griswolds? Any of the other National Lampoon films like Vacation (1983), European Vacation (1989) and Vegas Vacation (1997) are sure to give your family big laughs during the holidays.

Streaming: HBO Max

12. Home Alone

Among the greatest Christmas movies of all time, this staple features a young Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister—who accidentally gets left home when his entire family heads for a planned Christmas vacation in Paris. To make matters worse, burglars Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) are scoping the neighborhood for houses to rob. Naturally, they target Kevin’s house. Little do they know, Kevin is a master of elaborate (and hilarious) traps and defenses to stop them. The film was a smash hit, grossing over $475 million at the box office—a record for a comedy until it was overtaken by The Hangover Part II.

Fun Fact: Over 200 actors auditioned for the role of Kevin, before Culkin (known for his previous work on the Hughes film Uncle Buck) was cast. One young actor who didn’t audition (but had the chance) was comedian John Mulaney. As Mulaney revealed on Live with Kelly, he was part of a children’s comedy group in Chicago and was asked to audition for the role—but his parents declined.

Alternate Pick: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. In this sequel, Kevin gets stuck all by himself in the Big Apple during Christmas after boarding the wrong plane. Naturally, Marv and Harry end up in the city too while looking for a new target to rob. In the end, Kevin lures the burglars to his uncle’s townhouse and unleashes another torrent of booby traps on them.

Streaming: Disney Plus

13. Catch Me If You Can

In this biographical drama from Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio plays charming con man Frank Abagnale Jr., who spent his youth forging checks and taking on multiple identities while staying one step ahead of the authorities. Tom Hanks plays Carl Hanratty, the main FBI agent looking to stop Abagnale, while Christopher Walker earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Frank’s father. The film has multiple scenes set around Christmas, including a climactic one where Carl finally has Frank cornered and brings him into custody. DiCaprio gives the film a breezy, lighthearted tone as he deftly jumps identities—including lawyer, doctor, pilot, and teacher. A rock solid supporting cast includes Martin Sheen, Jennifer Garner, Amy Adams, James Brolin, Ellen Pompeo, and Elizabeth Banks.

Fun Fact: James Gandolfini was originally set to play Carl Hanratty, but had to drop out due to scheduling issues with The Sopranos.

Alternate Pick: Gangs of New York. The cold, snowy setting of 1850s New York City feels just right for the winter holiday season. DiCaprio goes head-to-head with Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the ruthless Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, a performance that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Streaming: Paramount Plus

14. It’s a Wonderful Life

Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is as classic as Christmas movies get. The story follows George Bailey (James Stewart), who is saved from a suicide attempt on Christmas Eve by a guardian angel who shows him the true meaning of his life and what it would mean if he was gone. By viewing flashbacks of his life and an alternative timeline in which he was never born, George sees the impact he’s had on his community and his family—coming to realize that he wants to live and be back with his family in Bedford Falls.

Fun Fact: Each year the town of Seneca Falls, NY—which considers itself to be the inspiration for Bedford Falls—hosts a celebration in honor of It’s a Wonderful Life. Included among the events is an “It’s a Wonderful Run 5K.”

Alternate Pick: A Christmas Story. You’ve probably caught this classic holiday film at some point on those TNT/TBS marathons. If not, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Ralphie Parker and the Christmas where all he wanted was a Red Ryder air rifle.

Streaming: NBC/NBC.com.

15.  Jingle All the Way

For those seeking funny Christmas movies, play Jingle All the Way. Arnold Schwarzenegger trades in his Terminator persona to play mild mannered mattress salesman, Howard Langston, who is trying to get his son the most popular toy of the holiday season: Turbo-Man. Unfortunately for Howard, so does every other father and family in town, leaving him in a battle with his rival, postal worker Myron Larabee (Sinbad), to track down the action figure before Christmas. The two do battle across Minneapolis—while fighting against con men dressed as Santa—culminating in an insane showdown at the city’s Christmas parade. The movie is just the right amount of ridiculous and also features a hilarious performance from Phil Hartman, who plays Schwarzenegger’s eggnog-glugging neighbor.

Fun Fact: The grand finale at the winter parade was filmed in L.A. at Universal Studios and included 1,500 extras, a 46-foot-long Turbo Man float, and a 35-member marching band. The whole sequence took three weeks to film.

Alternate Pick: Kindergarten Cop. If you’re in the mood for family-friendly Arnold over action Arnold, pop in this comedy, which stars Schwarzenegger as a detective who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher to solve a case.

Streaming: Disney Plus and Amazon Prime

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16. Bad Santa

You’ll probably want to make sure any kids are asleep before firing this one up (nothing wrong with rated R Christmas movies). In this dark comedy, Billy Bob Thonton stars as Willie T. Soke, a foul-mouthed, alcoholic thief-turned-Santa who robs shopping malls at night. When he gets hired at a new mall, he finds himself in the sights of both the mild-mannered boss Bob Chipeska (John Ritter) and security chief Gin Slagel (Bernie Mac). Complicating matters for Willie is the presence of Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), a bullied kid who’s convinced Willie is actually Santa.

Fun Fact: The Coen Brothers—of Fargo, No Country For Old Men, and The Big Lebowski—executive produced Bad Santa and came up with the film’s concept.

Alternate Pick: Fargo. It’s cold during the holiday season, so why not watch one of the coldest-looking movies ever. In this breakout film from the Coen Brothers, small town police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) investigates multiple murders that don’t quite add up. Marge ends up discovering that her two suspects (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) are connected to car salesman (William H. Macy) and his plot to extort his rich father-in-law.

Streaming: Pluto TV.

17. Love Actually

Want uplifting Christmas movies? This ensemble romantic comedy is centered around Christmas and features nine different stories that are semi-connected—but all about one similar theme. You guessed it. Love. The movie features a who’s who of British actors—Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Martin Freeman, Keira Knightley …. you get the idea … plus some fine American actors, including Laura Linney and Billy Bob Thorton as the U.S. President. Some of the intertwined stories include Grant’s Prime Minister finding love with a member of his staff; Knightley’s Juliet realizing her new husband’s best man actually is in love with her; Neeson’s Daniel finding new love after the passing of his wife; and Firth’s Jamie picking up the pieces with a new relationship after he discovers his girlfriend has been unfaithful.

Fun Fact: In creating an interconnected story, director Richard Curtis’s found unlikely inspiration in Pulp Fiction—the script that Curtis lost a Best Original Screenplay Oscar to back in 1995 with his romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Alternate Pick: Notting Hill. In the mood for a different romantic comedy directed by Richard Curtis and starring Hugh Grant? You can’t go wrong with this classic that finds Grant’s bookstore owner falling in love with an American movie star (Julia Roberts) and all the complications that come with it.

Streaming: Available to rent/buy on Google Play Store, iTunes, and Prime Video.

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