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Top 15 Family Friendly Christmas Movies

Enjoy the 15 best Christmas movies for your family. There are just a few rules behind these selections: Each movie had to have been a “Christmas-y” movie shown in theaters (no TV specials), couldn’t be rated worse than PG (keep it clean, so no “Die Hard”), and had to have a hook for families to actually want to see it — just having a good message wasn’t enough, it also had to be worth watching.

#1: Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

STORY: The Macy’s store Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, says he is the real Santa Claus—a claim he eventually has to defend in a court of law, which sends the locals into an uproar.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: Though it was first filmed in 1947, this story has continued to be an American favorite for generations. Families love seeing the no-nonsense Doris Walker and her daughter Susan let down their defenses to experience the true gifts of Christmas: hope and love.

#2: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

STORY: A man on the verge of losing it all and taking his own life is visited by an angel who shows him what life would be like if he’d never existed. And it’s not a pretty picture.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: Filmed in the 1940s, it’s family friendly and contains a ton of moral messages, from sticking out rough situations, self sacrifice, and how communities can come together and help each other in tough times to how much worth each life actually carries.

#3: White Christmas (1954)

STORY: WWII Army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to create a hugely successful song-and-dance duo after the war. They and the Haynes Sisters put together a Christmas spectacular in a Vermont inn owned by the men’s former commanding officer.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: The acting and choreography are great. The Christmas spirit shared by all is, of course, prevalent. But it comes as no surprise that the music of the film is what everyone remembers.

#4: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

STORY: In this musical depiction of “A Christmas Carol,” Jim Henson’s magical Muppets play second-string to Michael Caine’s performance as Dickens’ skinflint.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: The original songs and scoring are tremendous. Caine’s turn on the miserly Scrooge is masterful. And the brilliance of the Muppet casting defies description. (Gonzo as Charles Dickens; Miss Piggy as Mrs. Bob Cratchit; Statler and Waldorf as the Marley brothers? C’mon, it doesn’t get any better.)

#5: Elf (2003)

STORY: Buddy, a human raised by elves at the North Pole, sets out from Santa’s workshop to New York City to find his dad who is on the “naughty list.”

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: The quotes — “Smiling’s my favorite”; “I’m a cotton-headed ninny-muggins.” The humor—an elf-costumed man treks through Manhattan, finds his dad and becomes a part of his family. The morals—everyone wants to be loved. Christmas is not about physical gifts, it’s about family. And this movie highlights that journey in one of the funniest ways possible.

#6: The Nativity Story (2006)

STORY: The Biblical account of Jesus’ birth comes to life in this film that faithfully adapts the account found in Matthew and Luke.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: This film reminds us how very revolutionary Jesus’ message of peace and love truly were. Christmas movies typically avoid any mention of Christ, but this film serves to remind us of the true reason for the holiday.

#7: The Santa Clause (1994)

STORY: After accidentally killing the real Santa Claus, a divorced dad finds himself as the reluctant replacement.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: This movie cleverly details Tim Allen’s transformation into Kris Kringle, everything from sprouting white facial hair to massive weight gain to having a desire to wear red and green. Families who have been touched by divorce will also be encouraged by the happy ending.

#8: The Polar Express (2004)

STORY: A young boy on the verge of giving up his belief of Santa Claus boards the Polar Express train on Christmas Eve. His astonishing journey to the North Pole that teaches a lesson on the spirit of Christmas.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: The animation does an incredible job of bringing this beloved story to life. The kids experience action, adventure and mystery all in one night — reminding us that Christmas is truly a magical time of year for children.

#9: A Christmas Story (1983)

STORY: Ralphie dreams of getting a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas — he’s obsessed with it. Now he has to convince his parents, who are sure he’ll shoot his eye out.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: The movie portrays what it’s like, through the life of an Indiana 9-year-old, to grow up in middle America around 1940 (or even today) — dealing with family, friends, bullies, and teachers — all while wishing for what every kid wishes for: that perfect present from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning.

#10: Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

STORY: Mickey Mouse and his fellow Disney all-stars offer their version of Dickens’ 1843 masterpiece.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: The Oscar-nominated short isn’t just a Disneyesque portrayal of Scrooge and his ghosts, it serves as a faithful adaptation of a life-changing story that’s accessible for children.

#11: Home Alone (1990)

STORY: This is what happens when a mischievous 8-year-old boy is left to his own devices to defend his family’s home against a pair of hooligan crooks during the Christmas season.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: While the antics that young Kevin McCallister employs to protect his home are hilariously entertaining, the true message of the movie showcases how everything is better when you can share it with your family.

#12: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

STORY: Everyone in the city of Whoville embraces Christmas, except for the Grinch — until he experiences the ultimate transformation of the heart.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: Dr. Seuss’ classic is brought to life complete with delightful rhymes, colorful imagery and the always adorable Max the dog. The Grinch’s lesson about love is the icing on the cake.

#13: Scrooge (1970)

STORY: In a performance for the ages, Albert Finney brilliantly transforms Ebenezer Scrooge from super-grump into the giddy Scrooge of Christmas morning. The fact that it’s a rare musical interpretation of the holiday story makes it even more powerful.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: The music from the film is unforgettable, the redemption story is, of course, powerful, and the film itself is very well done. The whole thing is worth watching just for Alec Guinness’ loopy performance as Jacob Marley.

#14: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

STORY: The king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, stumbles into Christmas Town, is moved by the spirit of Christmas and decides the residents of his hometown need to get in on the act.

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: Tim Burton’s tale celebrates the generous spirit of Christmas with a lesson on being yourself using great humor, award-winning stop-motion cinematography and a fabulous score from Danny Elfman.

#15: Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

STORY: The 1980s’ favorite bumbling neighbor, Ernest P. Worrell, helps an aging Santa Claus with his eye on retirement find a replacement.

WHY WE LOVE IT: Ernest’s unwavering faithfulness and innocence leads not only to comical scenes but also to heartwarming lessons about loyalty, friendship and the child-like wonder that permeates Christmastime. “KnowhutImean?”

A version of this list first appeared in the December 2013 issue of The Blaze magazine

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