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The best way to celebrate Christmas?

They're the holiday movies you watch - over and over - every holiday season year after year...

Check out our Top Ten picks for the most memorable Christmas movies of all time with links & resources to historical background info, behind the scenes film notes, quotes, clips and trailers :


1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - PLOT SUMMARY: Everyone's top favorite Christmas movie sees George escaping the clutches of evil Mr. Potter to suddenly realize he's the richest man in town. (Thanks, Clarence!)

MOVIE FUN FACT: Cary Grant was first slated to play George, but the part eventually fell into the capable hands of Jimmy Stewart. Although hard to believe, the film was flop when it first opened in movie theaters in 1946, the same day that a monster blizzard shut down the entire Midwest.

2. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) - PLOT SUMMARY: Did Macy's just hire the real Santa Claus? Hearts young and old still melt as Maureen O'Hara (and a very young Natalie Wood) finally realize that "faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to."

MOVIE FUN FACT: Real footage from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was shot the year before -- including actor Edmund Gwenn being hoisted high atop Santa's sleigh for the filming. Interior shots in Macy's were later filmed at the real department store in NYC throughout the night so as not to interfere with regular store hours.

3. A Christmas Story (1983) - PLOT SUMMARY: Ralphie schemes and dreams his way to his one and only Christmas wish, the official Red Ryder air rifle! Meanwhile, this classic is full of memorable lines and moments -- ("You'll shoot your eye out, kid!") or when Ralphie's dad gives new meaning to the word, fra-gee-lay...

MOVIE FUN FACT: Jack Nicholson (!) was first considered for the role as Ralphie's dad but the actor's high salary demands scared off producers who eventually chose Darren McGavin.

4. White Christmas (1954) - PLOT SUMMARY Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney star in a classic throwback to 1940's musicals ("Hey, let's put on a show!") with songs by Irving Berlin -- and featuring just enough Hollywood star power to keep the creaky old plot humming.

MOVIE FUN FACT: The "Sisters" act that Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye perform was totally improvised. They were clowning around on the set one day and the director thought it was so funny that it was written into the script.

5. A Christmas Carol (1951) - PLOT SUMMARY: The all-time best version of the Dickens classic (originally released in the UK as "Scrooge") is a definite must for any holiday DVD collection. This one stars Alistair Sim in the lead role, giving a performance that induces goosebumps.

MOVIE FUN FACT: The actors who play Marley's ghost and the Ghost of Christmas Past never actually shared a scene with Alistair Sim. They were later added through the magic of optical printing.

6. The Bishop's Wife (1947) - PLOT SUMMARY: Opening with a scene on a snowy day in New York City, Cary Grant plays an angel sent down to earth to teach the bishop (David Niven) and his wife (Loretta Young) a thing or two about love and marriage.

MOVIE FUN FACT: Cary Grant and Loretta Young always had opposite views of how scenes should be played and reportedly fought on set like cats and dogs throughout the filming.

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - PLOT SUMMARY: Tim Burton's original stop-motion masterpiece is about a bunch of ghouls who just don't get Christmas ("...and they call him Sandy Claws!")

MOVIE FUN FACT: The movie took almost three years to finish due to the laborious process of stop-motion with the crew averaging 60-70 seconds of footage a week. 

8. The Santa Clause (1994) - PLOT SUMMARY: This is comedian Tim Allen's only successful big screen performance to date as a hapless divorced dad who begins to put on weight and grows a long white beard ....

MOVIE FUN FACT: Although it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Santa, the original script was written for Bill Murray and later defaulted to Chevy Chase who dropped out of the production due to scheduling conflicts.

9. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) - PLOT SUMMARY: This is the best of the bunch from the National Lampoon franchise, which follows the holiday misadventures of the Griswald family complete with attack squirrel. Not suitable for all ages, but the raunch factor gives it a definite kick.

MOVIE FUN FACT: Before its release, the holiday comedy was tested on several audiences who all rated the cat electrocution scene as the No. 1 highlight.

10. Polar Express (2004) - PLOT SUMMARY: On track to becoming a Christmas classic, this one stars the voice of Tom Hanks as the conductor on the early morning run to the North Pole, "where dreams become real."

MOVIE FUN FACT: The talented Tom Hanks actually plays multiple characters in the movie including the voice of the father, the mysterious hobo, and Santa Claus. The movie has also gone down in the history books as the first "all digital capture" film (actor's movements digitally animated) and the first major motion picture to be released simultaneously in 3-D max.

The Polar Express


More classic Christmas movies around the Web:

The 70 Best Christmas Movies - A comprehensive list of Christmas classics to binge on this holiday seasin, with photos and recaps.

50 Best Christmas Movies of All Time - A good survey with reviews of popular and current favorites with movie trailers, plot synopsis and related resources.


also see -> Christmas TV Movies & Specials

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