Christmas movies 2020: Movies for the family, for kids, for romantics - everyone

The festive season is upon us which means everyone is bound to watch at least some Christmassy movies.

But Christmas movies aren't exactly to everyone's taste.

That's why we've gathered a list of 25 films to suit anyone's movie-watching taste - even for those people who can't cop the almost inevitable saccharine nature of holiday movies.

For the kids

Will Ferrell in Elf (2003)

Will Ferrell in Elf (2003)


One of the more quotable Christmas movies of the last 20 years, Elf is also one of Will Ferrell's best movies of his career.

The 2003 film, from Iron Man director Jon Favreau, follows Buddy, a human raised as an elf in Santa's North Pole village, as he journeys to New York to meet his real father (played by a perfectly cast James Caan) for the first time.

Buddy is a fish out of water in the Big Apple and find himself in all sorts of shenanigans, while also taking a shine to department store worker Jovie (a blonde Zooey Deschanel).

The film is also responsible for the immortal line 'you sit on a throne of lies'.

VERDICT: If you're not watching Elf this Christmas, you must be a cotton-headed ninny muggins.

Kurt Russell in The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Kurt Russell in The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

The Christmas Chronicles

Netflix delivered a true instant classic in 2018 with The Christmas Chronicles.

In a truly inspired casting decision, Kurt Russell (Overboard) stars as Santa, who ends up on a Christmas Eve adventure with a couple of kids from Boston.

The children recently lost their father, and one has started to make some poor life decisions while the other is leaning into the Christmas spirit harder than ever to feel close to her late dad.

For one, the costuming is amazing and music is super fun, but overall this film is a joy with some genuinely heartfelt moments too.

There are also some cute little elves that even the littlest kids will enjoy.

VERDICT: Sadly, the sequel which arrived on Netflix last month, doesn't quite live up to the brilliance of this festive hit.

Taylor Momsen and Jim Carrey star in The Grinch (2000)

Taylor Momsen and Jim Carrey star in The Grinch (2000)

The Grinch

There's only one version of Dr Seuss classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas worth watching, and that's the 2000 Ron Howard/Jim Carrey version (the less said about the Benedict Cumberbatch-voiced animation the better).

The classic story tells the tale of The Grinch, a maligned resident of Whoville who hates Christmas with a passion because the Christmas-loving townsfolk teased him in youth. The Grinch decides to teach the Whos of Whoville a lesson by stealing all their Christmas presents.

Carrey is the ideal actor to play the notorious green Christmas-hater, and he puts every but of his elastic enthusiasm into the character, making him immensely charming.

It also features a brilliant original song, Where Are You Christmas, sung by Carrey and little Cindy Lou Who actress Taylor Momsen (who grew up to be Jenny in Gossip Girl and the lead singer of hard rock band The Pretty Reckless). Also stars Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Tambor, Molly Shannon and the narration of Anthony Hopkins.

VERDICT: The wacky, somewhat surreally-designed film is heaps of fun and also has great lines like "6.30, dinner with me, I can't cancel that again" and "am I just eating because I'm bored?"

Eric Lloyd and Tim Allen star in The Santa Clause (1994)

Eric Lloyd and Tim Allen star in The Santa Clause (1994)

The Santa Clause

The film which spawned two less-than-perfect sequels, The Santa Clause is an all-round joy.

Tim Allen (Home Improvement) stars as Scott Calvin, a divorced dad who is just trying to make the most of the time he has with his son Charlie during the holidays.

He's a little rough around the edges, but he tries hard. Things take a turn when Scott accidentally kills Santa, and puts on his suit, making himself the next Saint Nick. Scott must learn everything about the joy of Christmas before December 25 rolls around again.

VERDICT: The Santa Clause is a lot of fun and hasn't lost any of its charm since its 1994 release.

Chris Sarandon voice Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Chris Sarandon voice Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton-produced claymation musical The Nightmare Before Christmas only seems to have grown in popularity since its 1993 release.

The film sees Halloween Town local Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon) stumble upon the magic of Christmas during a visit to Christmas Town.

He decides his scary, dark holiday needs a little more Christmas charm and attempts to hijack the festive day for his town.

VERDICT: The imagery (immediately recognisable as belonging to Burton) and songs are iconic and still resonate today.

For the family

Anna Kendrick in Noelle (2019)

Anna Kendrick in Noelle (2019)


If 'Anna Kendrick plays Santa's enthusiastic sister' doesn't sound enticing to you, you're not doing Christmas right.

The fun 2019 Disney+ movie sees Kendrick's titular character leave the North Pole for sunny Arizona to chase after her brother Nick (Bill Hader), who has just taken over the mantle of Santa and is having a hard time fulfilling the role.

Noelle is the human embodiment of Christmas spirit, while Nick is really just trying to work himself out. Kendrick is relentlessly positive and fun as she attempts to get Christmas back on track.

Co-stars Shirley Maclaine, Billy Eichner and Kingsley Ben-Adir (and an incredibly cute baby reindeer).

VERDICT: Be sure to wear your yoghurt pants for this one.

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in Jingle All the Way (1997)

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in Jingle All the Way (1997)

Jingle All the Way

An Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas classic, Jingle All the Way goes over a treat with the whole family.

Arnie plays a harried dad desperate to get his hands on the biggest toy release of the year for his son (played by Jake Lloyd, the kid from Star Wars). He's promised his son that Turbo Man will be under the tree on Christmas Day, and thus begins a series of crazy events to live up to that promise.

Featuring the threat of parcel bombs, a reindeer and next door neighbour both named Ted (hilarious joke to ensue) and even a jetpack fight, Jingle All the Way is far from your average festive flick.

VERDICT: It's got everything, is highly ridiculous, but also endlessly entertaining.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas Stars in I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998)

Jonathan Taylor Thomas Stars in I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998)

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Remember Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the middle child from Home Improvement?

Well, Tim Allen wasn't the only cast member to make a fantastic Chrissy movie - JTT also threw his Santa hat in the ring in 1998. He stars as Jake, a college student who is reluctant to go home to his family for Christmas, in I'll Be Home for Christmas.

He's never really gelled with his stepmum and has a love-hate relationship with his little sister, but his dad has promised that if Jake can make it back home in time for Christmas, then he can keep the family Porsche.

It's a deal too good to pass up, so Jake plans on taking girlfriend Allie (Jessica Biel) home with him.

But everything goes awry when one of the college jocks (who thinks he can win Allie over for himself) kidnaps Jake and leaves him in the desert - in a Santa suit. Now Jake must race against time to make it home, while Allie travels with the jock.

VERDICT: I'll Be Home for Christmas is one of the most underrated holiday flicks there is.

Catherine O'Hara and Macaulay Culkin star in Home Alone (1990)

Catherine O'Hara and Macaulay Culkin star in Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!

That's right, it's not really Christmas until you call a pizza delivery man a filthy animal a la Kevin McCallister in the 1990 classic Home Alone.

The film that made Macaulay Culkin an instant star, Home Alone is quite possibly the most perfect family Christmas movie out there.

Left to his own devices at home after his big family forgets to take him on their annual Christmas trip, Kevin devices a series of booby traps to foil the 'Wet Bandits' - a pair of witless house robbers who target well-to-do homes during the holiday season.

VERDICT: Full of all the best hijinks and more memorable moments than you can poke a stick at, Home Alone is the perfect Christmas Day movie.

James Stewart and Donna Reed star in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart and Donna Reed star in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life

Now, despite most of the 1946 film not actually being set during Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life has become the holiday staple in America - and it's been reflected in most of their festive films since.

The film chronicles the life of George Bailey (James Stewart), a positive and likeable small-town guy who dreams of bigger things, but finds himself unable to escape Bedford Falls as he takes on everyone else's problems.

Facing his own personal crisis, an angel named Clarence is tasked with turning George's life around - showing him how different the lives of those around him would have been in George wasn't around.

VERDICT: It's sentimental and a little preachy - and long for a Christmas movie, at more than two hours - but there's a lot to like about It's a Wonderful Life.

For the romantics

Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon star in Love Actually (2003)

Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon star in Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually

Is it really even Christmas if you don't watch Love Actually?

The incredibly popular 2003 film from rom-com master Richard Curtis (the scribe behind Notting Hill, Bridget Jones' Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral) is just what you need to get in the mood for Christmas.

It follows several different couples in different stages of relationships, and is very funny.

The cast is incredible - Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth, Andrew Lincoln, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney (and that's not even everyone) - and the soundtrack is killer.

There's a reason it's spawned 1001 memes - Love Actually is just that culturally important.

VERDICT: If you don't finish Love Actually emphatically declaring your hatred for Uncle Jamie, you're doing something wrong.

Kate Winslet stars in The Holiday (2006)

Kate Winslet stars in The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday

Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jack Black. That's some top-notch casting for this endlessly enjoyable Christmas romance.

The Holiday sees the recently single Amanda and Iris swap houses for Christmas - Amanda flies from her mansion-like LA home to Iris' quaint cottage outside London, and vice versa.

In their different cities, the ladies find just the cleanse from their own lives that they've been looking for - and maybe another shot at romance.

On paper it sounds terribly saccharine, but there's something just so perfectly charming about everyone in the 2006 film (even the slimy exes, played by Rufus Sewell and Edward Burns) that it's impossible not to like.

Add to the romances the best relationship of the film - Iris' friendship with her holiday neighbour Arthur (Eli Wallach), and you've got a classic.

VERDICT: Time to call Mr Napkin Head!

Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding star in Last Christmas (2019)

Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding star in Last Christmas (2019)

Last Christmas

Directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), written by Emma Thompson (Last Night), starring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), with the music of George Michael and Wham - 2019's Last Christmas is a recipe for festive brilliance.

The fantastical festive film finds Clarke's Katarina, an aspiring singer, working at a Christmas decoration store in London, despite having little passion for the season (or much of anything).

But things take a turn when she meets the charming and enigmatic Tom (Henry Golding, Crazy Rich Asians).

There's some really fun moments and some that might induce a cringe or two, but overall it's really quite sweet and has a strong theme of learning to love oneself again. Clarke, as always, is positively radiant in the lead.

VERDICT: Just be prepared for the out-of-left-field twist at the end.

Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey star in Holidate (2020)

Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey star in Holidate (2020)


One of the more recent films on this list, Holidate was Netflix's first 2020 holiday film.

It's not entirely set at Christmas - it takes in every other holiday under the sun - but the film is bookended by December 25.

Holidate follows Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Aussie Luke Bracey) as two 20-something singles who are sick of trying to find a date to avoid being along on the holidays.

So they decide to be each other's holidates for the forseeable future - a decidedly non-romantic agreement.

Of course, this being a movie, things start to get complicated when feelings develop.

VERDICT: Filled with grown-up jokes and drinking montages, Holidate is more fun than it has any right to be and proves that Bracey can 100 per cent hold his own as a lead actor. Put him in more movies!

Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones's Diary

Another Christmas-y film that's not entirely set during the holiday season, Bridget Jones's Diary holds a place in many a heart.

Far more enjoyable than either of its sequels, the 2001 Pride and Prejudice reimagining sees not-altogether self-confident Bridget (Renee Zellweger in a star-making turn) finding herself torn between two men: Darcy (Colin Firth) and Daniel (Hugh Grant).

Bridget is a relatable leading lady, who's not got it all together but eventually realises that she deserves to be loved for exactly the person she is.

VERDICT: There are plenty of hilarity and truly awkward moments in Bridget Jones's Diary, and an ending to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

For the grown-ups

Diane Kruger and Benno Fuhrmann in Joyeux Noel (2005)

Diane Kruger and Benno Fuhrmann in Joyeux Noel (2005)

Joyeux Noel

Completely different from everything else on this list (and in this category), Joyeux Noel is set during World War I.

Men on opposing sides during the war break for a brief moment of piece to observe Christmas. The story is a fictionalised account of a real event.

Stars Diane Kruger (National Treasure) and Daniel Bruhl (Rush), among others. The heartwarming 2005 drama is primarily in languages other than English.

VERDICT: Well worth the watch, even if it's isn't as light as most of the films on this list.

Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation (1989)

Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation (1989)

Christmas Vacation

Bound to be on free-to-air sometime on Christmas Day, Christmas Vacation is one of the best Christmas comedies out there.

A follow-up to National Lampoon's Vacation, the 1989 film sees Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold and family endure many a shenanigan in the lead-up to December 25.

Clark has settled on using his Christmas bonus to buy the family a pool, but his company has decided to do away with bonuses this year, putting the Griswolds under stress.

Also stars Johnny Galecki, Juliette Lewis, Randy Quaid, Doris Roberts and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss

VERDICT: With the arrival of wider Griswold family, who each come with their own quirks, and you've got a hotbed of mistakes and miscalculations - and one hell of a funny climactic scene.

Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in The Night Before (2015)

Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in The Night Before (2015)

The Night Before

With Seth Rogen in a lead role, it's no surprise that The Night Before isn't exactly made for children.

Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie play a trio of childhood best friends who get together every Christmas Eve to go all out in the 2015 film.

Determined to make this year - Rogen's character's last before fatherhood - the most outrageous yet, the trio set out for the party of the season and imbibe several questionable substances along the way.

VERDICT: Features a very gif-able moment with JGL dressed as an elf, a cameo from Miley Cyrus and a memorable use of Kanye West material. Again, not designed for the kiddies.

TJ Miller and Jason Bateman in Office Christmas Party (2016)

TJ Miller and Jason Bateman in Office Christmas Party (2016)

Office Christmas Party

One of about five Jason Bateman comedies that feel kind of the same, 2016's Office Christmas Party sees him reunite with frequent co-star Jennifer Aniston.

Their company is throwing a "non-denominational holiday mixer", intended to be super tame and HR-friendly.

Of course, this is not the case and everything outrageous that could happen, does happen - including the big fish client they're trying to land getting a face full of cocaine from a snow-blowing machine.

Co-stars Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jillian Bell, Randall Park and even Australia's own Abbey Lee Kershaw.

VERDICT: There's a car chase, awkward sexual encounters and Jen Aniston swearing at a child. Another one that's a bit better than it really should be.

Kathryn Hahn, Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell in A Bad Moms' Christmas (2017)

Kathryn Hahn, Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell in A Bad Moms' Christmas (2017)

A Bad Moms' Christmas

Following on from the success of Bad Moms a year earlier, 2017's A Bad Moms' Christmas (called Bad Moms 2 in Australia) reunites Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn as school mums who have kinda had enough.

But this time, it's Christmas - a time when we all know mums go above and beyond and don't receive anywhere near the level of gratitude they should.

For the sequel, the ladies all welcome their own parents to town. In some feats of truly inspired casting, Christine Baranksi stars as Kunis' mother, Susan Sarandon is Hahn's mum, and Cheryl Hinds is paired with Bell.

VERDICT: This Christmas movie is just as crude and funny as its predecessor, with some added poignancy and examination of the family dynamic during stressful holiday seasons.

For the anti-Christmas brigade

Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard

It seems every year we're dragged into the "is it or is it not a Christmas movie" debate, but really, there can be no denying that the 1988 action classic is also a Christmas classic.

Die Hard is the movie that spawned 1000 imitators (not to mention a bunch of lacklustre sequels), but it's still the original and the best.

John McClane (Bruce Willis, who really deserves every award under the sun for creating this timeless, singlet-wearing, one-liner-spouting icon) arrives in LA from New York to visit his California-based wife and children for Christmas. He heads to Nakatomi Plaza, where Mrs McClane - now going by Holly Gennaro - works, and prepares to endure a little Christmas spirit.

Little does he know, that very night a group of European "terrorists" take the party hostage and cause a massive police emergency.

It's up to McClane to take down the baddies (including Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber, one of cinema's all-time greatest villains), one at a time, and save the guests he mostly has nothing but contempt for - especially coke-head Ellis.

VERDICT: Featuring all the best lines - "welcome to the party, pal", "ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun", "yippee-ki-yay" - Die Hard is the ultimate Christmas movie for people who don't like Christmas movies. It's perfection.

Imogen Poots stars in Black Christmas (2019).

Imogen Poots stars in Black Christmas (2019).

Black Christmas

A feminist Christmas slasher might seem like a recipe for disaster, but it works kind of well.

Black Christmas sees a group of sorority sisters fighting off gross frat boys as they prepare to host a festive dinner for those left on campus.

There's nothing much festive about this flick though - it's all about murder, college sexual assault and institutionalised misogyny.

The 2019 film is a remake of the 1974 Canadian slasher of the same name, and stars Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes (who is highly hateful).

VERDICT: This is about as far from Christmas cheer as you can get.

Gizmo the Mogwai in Gremlins (1984)

Gizmo the Mogwai in Gremlins (1984)


Who doesn't love Gremlins? The 1984 Christmas horror/fantasy/comedy is beloved for a reason - it's just so much fun.

And, it's also surprisingly dark. Phoebe Cates' monologue about her character's father's Christmas-themed death is one of the most stirring pieces of black (completely pitch black) comedy around.

But, really, this one is all about the critters - from the cute Mogwai to the crazy Gremlins.

You know the rules - keep them away from bright lights, never get them wet and don't feed them after midnight.

VERDICT: With 80s nostalgia at an all-time high, there's never been a better time to revisit this Christmas classic.

Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck star in Reindeer Games (2000)

Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck star in Reindeer Games (2000)

Reindeer Games

Now, Reindeer Games doesn't have the best reputation around. The Christmas-themed 2000 action thriller has low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, but one has to wonder if that's just because it was fashionable to hate on star Ben Affleck at the time?

The film sees Affleck's Rudy adopt the persona of his perished cellmate Nick as he is released from prison. Why? Nick has been writing back and forth with Ashley (Charlize Theron), a lovely lady who has no idea what Nick looks like, but is ready to start a relationship with him upon his release.

Things go awry when Ashley's brother (Gary Sinise) shows up and demands 'Nick' use his inside knowledge of a particular casino to aid their planned heist. And, of course, the casino robbers will be dressed up like Santa.

There's just something about 90s/early-2000s action movies that make them super enjoyable even when they're a little bit bad. Reindeer Games is the perfect example of that.

VERDICT: This movie even ends with a heavy dose of Christmas spirit (right after some pretty gnarly deaths).

Billy Bob Thornton and Bernie Mac star in Bad Santa (2003)

Billy Bob Thornton and Bernie Mac star in Bad Santa (2003)

Bad Santa

The title says it all - Saint Nick ain't a good guy in this 2003 black comedy.

Bad Santa sees Billy Bob Thornton (who appeared in Love Actually in the same year, playing the slimy US president) star as a con artist who dresses as Santa to rob malls alongside his dwarf 'elf' assistant each year.

The foul-mouthed, alcoholic department store Santa encounters problems, however, when is poor behaviour puts him on mall security's radar. Befriending a child also doesn't help matters.

Bad Santa, which was followed by a sequel in 2016, also stars Bernie Mac, John Ritter, Lauren Graham and Cloris Leachman.

This story 25 Christmas movies to appeal to any taste first appeared on Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser.