According to the Critics, These Are the 22 Best Holiday Movies Ever

'Tis the season.

Group watching holiday movies

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The holiday season is a time to revisit a few of your favorite annual traditions: baking themed cookies year after year, spending the day hanging twinkly lights outside, or volunteering.

For many, the best part of the holidays is sitting back and pressing play on a classic film. It's the perfect wintertime activity. With cold weather blistering outside, there's no better time to bundle up with a cozy blanket, sip a mug of hot cocoa, and enjoy one of your favorite holiday movies. From children's classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas to romantic comedy favorites like Love Actually, everyone has their go-to holiday flicks.

If you're looking to expand your usual holiday film roundup, we turned to Rotten Tomatoes to learn which flicks are truly the greatest of all time. Ahead, pick from 22 of the best holiday movies that practically define the season and have the critics' approval to boot. From romance to comedy to drama, there's something for everyone. Here's what to watch and where to stream it.

01 of 22

Home Alone (1990)

home alone

Amazon 

This is the beloved story of a young boy whose family accidentally leaves him behind when they head out for their annual holiday trip. At first, he assumes his wish to have no family came true, and he's thrilled. However, things quickly take a turn for the sour when two burglars plan to break into the house and rob it. It's up to the little boy to protect his home. There are ill-prepared burglars, brilliant schemes, and (of course) a heart-warming happy ending.

Critics Score: 65 percent liked it

Audience Score: 80 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Hulu, Vudu, iTunes

02 of 22

Love Actually (2003)

love actually

Amazon

A British romantic comedy for the books, Love Actually tends to be a love-it-or-leave-it kind of holiday film. However, for those easily seduced by intertwining stories revolving around the common theme of love, it's a classic worth watching year after year.

The film follows nine interwoven stories, attempting to demonstrate how love connects everyone, no matter how different their lives are.

Critics Score: 64 percent liked it

Audience Score: 72 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu

03 of 22

Die Hard (1988)

die hard

 Amazon

While it's up for debate whether or not this '80s classic is actually a holiday movie, the action flick has long been a hit according to critics and viewers alike, and we'll definitely grab a throw and a bowl of popcorn to watch it on Christmas Eve.

It's an action thriller that follows Bruce Willis' character as he navigates a rather tricky situation: He, his ex-wife, and their son head to the headquarters of the Japanese company that his ex works for to attend the holiday party, but shortly after it starts, a group of terrorists crashes the festivities. Will Willis be able to save them, or will they all perish?

Critics Score: 94 percent liked it

Audience Score: 94 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

04 of 22

Arthur Christmas (2011)

arthur christmas

 Amazon

A kid-friendly animated holiday film, Arthur Christmas attempts to answer the question, "How does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?" What follows is a heartwarming story about an unlikely hero (Santa's youngest son) who becomes immersed in his father's high-tech operation located under the North Pole. When Santa accidentally misses one child on his gift route, it's up to Arthur to save the day.

Critics Score: 92 percent liked it

Audience Score: 76 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu

05 of 22

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

the nightmare before christmas

 Amazon

A Tim Burton classic, this holiday movie is truly original. The animated film follows Jack Skellington, the beloved Pumpkin King of Halloweenland, as he grows bored with the same routine of scaring humans in the real world. He ventures outside Halloweenland and accidentally stumbles into the bright and cheerful Christmastown, where he experiences a new lease on life.

If you're doing a double-feature and have little ones, we suggest watching this adorable flick first and a non-cartoon after the kids are asleep.

Critics Score: 95 percent liked it

Audience Score: 91 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Disney+, Vudu

06 of 22

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Amazon

Steve Martin and John Candy star in this '80s comedy that pairs two unlikely travel companions as they journey to Chicago. They meet after an emergency landing in a rural city in Kansas due to an unexpected snowstorm. They must face many obstacles as they navigate getting home to spend the holidays with their families. As the title suggests, they'll board planes, trains, and automobiles to make it to their final destinations.

Critics Score: 91 percent liked it

Audience Score: 87 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu

07 of 22

Bad Santa (2003)

bad santa

Amazon

A rather crude holiday movie fit for those who love a dark comedy, Bad Santa is about a con man who sets out to rob stores right before Christmas. After getting a job as a mall Santa, the thief will have to overcome his grouchy nature to pass as a jolly fellow until the end of the season.

Critics Score: 79 percent liked it

Audience Score: 75 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu

08 of 22

Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

A Miracle on 34th Street

 Amazon

A heart-warming tale that taps into the meaning of the Christmas spirit, the original Miracle on 34th Street is a holiday movie that you can happily turn on with the whole family every year. It's about a jolly old man who gets tapped to replace a rather intoxicated Santa in the Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade. He does such a good job that Macy's asks him to continue his role in the toy department until Christmas.

Things take a turn for the interesting when the man claims that he actually is Santa.

Critics Score: 96 percent liked it

Audience Score: 87 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube, Disney+

09 of 22

Almost Christmas (2016)

almost christmas

Amazon 

A classic family Christmas story, Almost Christmas is about one family hoping to fulfill their father's only holiday wish: for everyone to get along. It's a simple request that proves difficult to deliver. A year earlier, the father's (played by Danny Glover) wife passed away, so he invites his four children home for the holidays hoping that the family can still be cheerful despite their devastating loss.

Critics Score: 49 percent liked it

Audience Score: 64 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

10 of 22

Holiday Inn (1942)

holiday inn

 Amazon

The legendary Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Irving Berlin all star in this holiday classic. Holiday Inn is a charming musical filled with singing, dancing, and holiday cheer. It's the perfect old movie to put on while you bake cookies in the kitchen.

Jim (Bing Crosby) and Lila (Virginia Dale) are two parts of a performing trio who plan to quit performing to open up a quaint inn in the country, but Lila abandons the plan when she falls for another dancer, Ted (Fred Astaire). Heartbroken, Jim decides to open the inn, but for a different purpose: Now, it's a holidays-only live entertainment venue. He books the beautiful performer Linda (Marjorie Reynolds) and beings to feel joy again. However, after Lila dumps Ted, he sets his eye on Linda, too. Oh, boy.

Critics Score: 100 percent liked it

Audience Score: 86 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu

11 of 22

Lethal Weapon (1987)

lethal weapon

 Amazon

If you're looking for a break from traditional holiday movies, tune into Lethal Weapon. Like Die Hard, the film's merit as a Christmas flick is up for debate. The '80s action movie follows two cops on a mission of taking down a drug dealer. The holiday spin? It all takes place around Christmastime.

Critics Score: 81 percent liked it

Audience Score: 86 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, TBS

12 of 22

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's A Wonderful Life

Amazon

A consistent favorite, It's a Wonderful Life is about a man named George Bailey (played by James Stewart). When he wishes he was never born, a guardian angel appears to show him what would have happened if he really wasn't, all the while revealing how much good Bailey has done for others in his life.

Critics Score: 94 percent liked it

Audience Score: 95 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, iTunes

13 of 22

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Amazon 

The third installation of the National Lampoon film franchise, this holiday favorite is full of relatable antics. Clark Griswold is as type-A as it gets. He pesters his family to make sure everything is perfectly in-line for their family Christmas, which gets turned upside down when his hillbilly cousins show up in their camper.

Critics Score: 67 percent liked it

Audience Score: 86 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu

14 of 22

A Christmas Carol (1951)

scrooge

 Amazon

Based on Charles Dickens's classic novel, this film tells Scrooge's story, one that has been retold time and time again, but the 1951 version (called Scrooge in its U.K. release) is a fan favorite.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a businessman who has no time (or desire) for happiness and cheer—especially at Christmastime. One night, his dearly departed partner's ghost shows up and warns him that three more spirits will show up to show Scrooge why his attitude is a big mistake.

Critics Score: 85 percent liked it

Audience Score: 89 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video

15 of 22

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Christmas in Connecticut

 Amazon

A zany, holiday comedy, Christmas in Connecticut strings together a hilarious plot involving a war hero, Dennis Morgan, and a less-than-experienced housekeeping expert played by Barbara Stanwyck. The two are thrown together after a magazine announces that the hero has won a Christmas dinner in Connecticut prepared by Stanwyck (who incidentally knows nothing about cooking).

Critics Score: 88 percent liked it

Audience Score: 75 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

16 of 22

The Last Holiday (2006)

The Last Holiday

 Amazon

When a shy woman learns that she's terminally ill, she takes off on her dream vacation at the height of the holiday season. In a five-star European resort, she'll find a spark for life and positively influence all of those around her. It's a feel-good film that the entire family can enjoy.

Critics Score: 56 percent liked it

Audience Score: 67 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu

17 of 22

Elf (2003)

elf

Amazon

A modern classic, Elf, has been one of the most beloved holiday movies of the season since its release in 2003, and the critics agree. The laugh-out-loud film follows Buddy, a regular human who was raised as an elf by his adoptive elf father, as he ventures to New York City in search of his biological family.

Critics Score: 84 percent liked it

Audience Score: 79 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu

18 of 22

The Santa Clause (1994)

the santa clause

Amazon

The '90s hit The Santa Clause tells the ridiculous (albeit heartfelt) story of a man who transforms into Santa Claus due to a legal technicality. The man's journey to becoming Santa incidentally reconnects him with his son, who's recently been told by his mother and stepfather that there isn't a Santa Clause.

Critics Score: 71 percent liked it

Audience Score: 65 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, YouTube, Disney+, Google Play, Vudu

19 of 22

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story

Amazon 

Name a more iconic holiday movie than A Christmas Story. The comedy follows a young boy named Ralphie in the 1940s. Spending most of his days dodging a bully, Ralphie's Christmas wish is a Red Rider air rifle to scare off his tormentor. Will he make it to Christmas day with his dignity intact, or will life get in the way?

Critics Score: 89 percent liked it

Audience Score: 88 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu

20 of 22

White Christmas (1954)

White Christmas

 Amazon

Made in 1954, White Christmas is brimming with over-the-top musical numbers, stunning fashion looks, and stirring stories of love and loyalty. It's about four musicians who work together to put on a Christmas show that will save a war hero's Vermont inn and lead to a bit of romance.

Critics Score: 77 percent liked it

Audience Score: 88 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play

21 of 22

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Amazon

Tune into the claymation classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this year. It's perfect for kids and just as enjoyable for adults who watched it when they were young. There's nothing better than watching Rudolph's nose lead the way for Santa.

This is a classic story of misfits and friendship: Rudolph is ousted from the group because of his bright red nose and Hermey, an elf who wants to leave his toy-making life to become a dentist. Together, they travel the North Pole and discover a whole island of misfit toys.

Critics Score: 95 percent liked it

Audience Score: 84 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, iTunes, Google Play

22 of 22

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Amazon

Another retelling of the original Charles Dickens novel, this kid-friendly version of a classic story employs a few muppets to tell the tale. Spot Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine as Scrooge.

Critics Score: 75 percent liked it

Audience Score: 85 percent liked it

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, iTunes, Disney+, Google Play, Vudu

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