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Muppets Christmas Carol, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Die Hard and more: Our look at the top Christmas films ever released

By Rebecca Sayce | Features | Published:

Baubles are being places on trees, fairy lights are twinkling and egg nog is flowing - Christmas is almost here and the festive spirit is mounting.

It's A Wonderful Life

Nothing fills you with holiday cheer quite like cuddling up next to the fire, selection box in hand, to watch a holiday film with the family.

Old-school classics and modern favourites have gifted cinema fans with an abundance of heart-warming flicks that often become Christmas traditions for years to come.

Whether you like an animated sing-along, Christmas chaos or Yuletide action, here are our top picks of festive flicks for the holiday season...

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

Christmas Vacation Official Trailer #1 - (1989) HD

The National Lampoon's Vacation series is beloved to many, and the Christmas instalment is every bit as surreal and hilarious as the surrounding franchise.

Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid and Juliette Lewis, the Christmas classic sees the Griswald family prepare for Clark and Ellen's parents to spend Christmas at their house, much to the chagrin of the duo.

But various mishaps threaten to derail their Christmas cheer, from lighting failures to a disastrous Christmas Eve dinner and a misunderstanding that leads to a kidnapping

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This gag-filled comedy is a weird and wonderful offering, showcasing everything that could possibly go wrong in the run-up to Christmas with hilarious results.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Official Trailer #1 - Animated Movie

Wouldn't you like to see something strange? The Nightmare Before Christmas shows Tim Burton at his finest, creating a dark stop-motion classic for the festive season.

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Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, becomes infatuated with all-things jolly as he stumbles upon Christmas Town and all the joys within.

Jack assigns the citizens of Halloween Town Christmas-themed jobs, including singing carols, making presents, and building a sleigh to be pulled by skeletal reindeer - but the villainous Oogie Boogie threatens to put the festivities on-hold as he plays a dangerous game with Santa's life at stake.

For fans of all-things weird and wonderful, this is an unlikely festive favourite to enjoy at Christmas, Halloween, and indeed all year round.

The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) Original Trailer

Jim Henson's beloved felt creatures tell the classic tale of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in this fun-filled flick.

Including Gonzo narrating the film as Dickens and Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, the iconic tale tells the story of old and bitter miser Ebenezer Scrooge who embarks on a tale of redemption after being visited by three ghoulish aparitions.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future seek to make Scrooge repent for his ways, to transform Christmas from a time of loneliness to one filled with friends and family.

This fuzzy version of the historic tale with have you belly laughing and crying tears of joy from start to finish.

Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged - Trailer

A modern take on the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, this film provides a more adult take on the iconic story to get you in the Yuletide spirit.

Starring comedy icon Bill Murray as IBC president Frank Cross, the film follows the miser as he plans to broadcast a spectacular production of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve.

Frank fires his trusted executive for disagreeing with him, and is in-turn visited by the ghost of his mentor Lew Hayward, who died from a heart attack as an unloved miser. He warns Frank that three ghosts will visit him in a bid to change the cursed path he is heading down.

It's a unique take on the exemplary original, with Murray in top comedic form.

Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone (1990) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals! Home Alone is packed full of Christmas chaos and hilarity that spawned a popular film franchise.

With child star Macauley Culkin as Kevin McAllister, the comedy flick follows an eight-year-old troublemaker who is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.

He must protect his house from a pair of opportunistic burglars, devising a series of wild and wacky booby traps to foil their evil plans.

It's a nostalgic Christmas cracker with an action-packed narrative and warm, fuzzy message of the importance of family and friends at Christmas time.

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

It's A Wonderful Life Trailer

No matter how many times you watch this Christmas favourite, you will be left spellbound by the emotional rollercoaster of a narrative.

The Frank Capra classic follows frustrated businessman George Bailey. He is at his lowest ebb and wishing he could leave this mortal coil.

At this point, an angel is sent down to Earth to change his perspective, showing George what life would be like if he never existed.

It deals with the melancholy way many people feel across the world during the Christmas period, and offers a message of hope and love that has resounded through generations of film lovers.

Elf (2003)

Elf (2003) Official Trailer

Will Ferrell as bumbling elf Buddy is sure to put a smile on your face this Christmas season.

In this 2003 festive favourite, a baby boy crawls into Santa Claus' sack and is unwittingly transported to the North Pole.

He is raised by Santa and his elves, but when he discovers his true parentage, he travels to New York in search of his estranged father.

This movie is sweet and funny, offering sympathy and sniggers for the whole family as Buddy embarks on a journey of self reflection and discovery.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas | Trailer | Now on Blu-ray,DVD & Digital

If you're a 'bah humbug' when it comes to Christmas cheer, then this is the film for you.

Based on the beloved children's tale by Dr Seuss, Jim Carrey stars as the reclusive green Grinch who plans on ruining Christmas for the residents of Whoville.

Six-year-old Cindy Lou Who believes that everyone is missing the point about Christmas by focusing on the gifts and festivities instead of personal relationships, and plans to fill the Grinch with Christmas cheer after being touched by his childhood tales.

Carrey's remarkable performance as the revenge-seeking Grinch is one to be beheld, while Taylor Momsen's portrayal of Cindy is sugary and sweet without being sickening to watch. The duo work magic together, creating a humorous, moving tale.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

If you're after an inoffensive, feel-good Christmas flick, look no further than Miracle on 34th Street.

Starring Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn, the story takes place between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day in New York City, and focuses on the effect of a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real Santa.

The Academy Film Archive preserved the multi-award winning film in 2009, citing it as culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

It's brilliant and charming throughout, with an astonishing performance from Edmund Gwenn who radiates kindness, warmth and festive spirit.

Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard - Official® Trailer [HD]

It's long debated question - is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

Starring Bruce Willis as iconic action hero John McClane, the film follows a New York policeman who tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.

It may not be brimming with sleigh bells, reindeer and carolling, but this action-packed flick tells a story of familial love and joy to all men.

Die Hard has been named one of the best action and Christmas-themed films ever made - and it's easy to see why thanks to its stellar narrative, explosive action sequences and expert characterizations.

Rebecca Sayce

By Rebecca Sayce
@becci_star

Entertainment journalist for Express & Star and Shropshire Star. Contact me: rebecca.sayce@expressandstar.co.uk

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