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Your AAA 2023 Holiday Movie Showdown

christmas movie showdown

When it’s time to get into the holiday spirit, nothing makes the heart grow three sizes quite like a good Christmas movie.

Our Holiday Movie Showdown pitted eight of the most beloved festive flicks against each other for your votes. So, who “sleighed” the competition?

holiday movie showdown winner

After three rounds and nearly 6,000 votes, the winner is “It’s a Wonderful Life”!

It turned out that Kevin McCallister’s booby traps were no match for Ralphie with “A Christmas Story” beating “Home Alone” by 90 votes. And in the battle of the comedies, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” defeated “Elf” by a similar margin. The 1964 stop-motion favorite “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” crushed “The Nightmare Before Christmas” with 90% of the vote in the animation category.

After breezing past “Miracle on 34th Street” and “A Christmas Story,” in the first two rounds, “It’s a Wonderful Life” took on Rudolph for a battle of the classics in the finals, coming in with the knockout and winning by just ten votes!  

Thank you for participating. Now mix up some hot chocolate, pop some popcorn and enjoy the holidays with your favorite movies.  

Holiday Movie Polls

Let’s get your thoughts on a few more controversial holiday film questions.

christmas movie showdown
christmas movie showdown
christmas movie showdown

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Holiday Movie Watchlist

While the debate for best holiday movie may never truly be settled, we’ve put together a holiday movie watchlist of essentials that could put anyone in a jolly mood. To help us choose, each movie here has an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 68% or higher.

Oldies but Goodies

These classic holiday movies from the 1940s and 1950s bring the nostalgia.

“Holiday Inn” (1942)

This classic, seasonal Irving Berlin musical follows a trio of performers (played by Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale) who try their hand(s) at running a country hotel.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

When a downtrodden father and husband, George Bailey (James Stewart), wishes he’d never been born, his guardian angel (Henry Travers) pays him a life-saving visit. A must for any holiday movie watchlist!

Watch on Hulu.

“Miracle On 34th Street” (1947)

After an old man named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) fills in for Santa in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, he changes the lives of those around him.

Watch on Hulu.

“A Christmas Carol” (1951)

There are many adaptations of this holiday classic, but this version comes highly rated and is one of the most faithful to the original story, telling the tale of a crotchety businessman who’s visited by ghosts.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

“White Christmas” (1954)

This romantic comedy musical follows two singers (played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) who join a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to put on a Christmas show.

Watch on Netflix.

*Some honorable mentions for this category include “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944) and “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940).

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Kid-Friendly Favorites

These G-rated movies and shorts are perfect for young kids – and kids at heart.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964)

This stop motion film is filled with iconic imagery and songs while telling an important lesson that’s equal parts nostalgic, heartwarming and festive.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965)

The first Peanuts special to air on television, this animated classic tells the story of Charlie Brown and his friends as they learn the true meaning of the holidays.

Watch on Apple TV+.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (1966)

The original adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s beloved tale, watch as the grouchy Grinch goes from hating and trying to steal Christmas, to fully embracing it.

Watch on Apple TV+.

“Frosty the Snowman” (1969)

A magical top hat brings a snowman to life in this classic animated film that makes a great singalong for little ones. (Get tips to build your own snowman here.)

Watch on Amazon Prime.

“The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)

Introduce young kids to Charles Dickens’ iconic tale with this version of “A Christmas Carol” told by everyone’s favorite Muppets.

Watch on Hulu.

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‘Nice’ Holiday Movies

These holiday movies are filled with adventure, laughs and holiday spirit. Check out these ‘nice’ – PG-rated – flicks fit for the whole family.

“A Christmas Story” (1983)

This fan-favorite holiday classic follows a young boy, Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

Watch on Max.

“Home Alone” (1990)

In this iconic movie, 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left behind when his family goes on vacation. Hijinks ensue when two bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) target his home.

Watch on Hulu.

“The Santa Clause” (1994)

When divorced dad Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) spends Christmas Eve with his young son Charlie (Eric Lloyd), things take a turn for the magical.

Watch on Disney+.

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“Elf” (2003)

In this flick, Will Ferrell’s portrayal of Buddy, a grown man who thinks he’s an elf, is hilarious and heartwarming, making a feel-good holiday movie for everyone in the family.

Watch on Hulu.

“Arthur Christmas” (2011)

When Santa (voiced by Bill Nighy) misses delivering gifts to one child on Christmas Eve, his youngest son, Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) steps up to try and save the day.

Watch on Hulu.

“Klaus” (2019)

Although it’s a newer addition, the hybrid animation style of “Klaus” gives a nostalgic holiday feel while telling the story of a postman who discovers the location of Santa.

Watch on Netflix.

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Movies for ‘Scrooges’

From action and horror to fantasy and other less conventional themes, these holiday movies – ranging in rating from PG to R – stray from the classic formula but are still festive in their own way.

“Gremlins” (1984)

The focus is more on the creatures than Christmas in this flick where a father gifts his son a “mogwai” with a specific list of care instructions.

Watch on Apple TV+.

“Die Hard” (1988)

This action classic stars Bruce Willis as a New York City policeman who’s attending a corporate holiday party with his wife. Things go awry when a group of terrorists threaten the festivities.

Watch on Hulu.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)

This stop motion masterpiece tells the story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who discovers the magic of Christmas.

Watch on Disney +.

“Tokyo Godfathers” (2003)

This Japanese animation is beautiful while telling the story of a trio of homeless people who discover an abandoned newborn baby on Christmas Eve.

Watch on Tubi.

“Better Watch Out” (2017)

This horror follows a young woman babysitting a boy during the holidays when danger threatens the peace. This movies starts out a little cringe-inducing, but its many twists will keep you on your toes.

Watch on Tubi.

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‘Naughty’ Holiday Movies

These holiday flicks – rated PG-13 and R – are for more mature audiences. Focusing on humor and adult situations, these ‘naughty’ holiday movies will have even the biggest ‘Grinches’ feeling festive.

“Trading Places” (1983)

Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy star in this social satire where two men change places, experiencing opposite socio-economic lifestyles during the holidays.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

“Scrooged” (1988)

Bill Murray stars in this comedy about a cold-hearted television executive. “Scrooged” is crude and hilarious – but also nostalgic and festive thanks to the “Christmas Carol” formula it follows.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)

This slapstick comedy follows husband and father, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), as he tries to prepare the perfect Christmas for his family, but things go off the rails.

Watch on Max.

“Bad Santa” (2003)

A raunchy black comedy, “Bad Santa” stars Billy Bob Thornton as a grouchy conman and his partner in crime, Tony Cox, who pose as a mall Santa and elf in order to steal from outlet stores.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

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“Love Actually” (2003)

Focusing on several intertwining stories, “Love Actually” uses an ensemble cast to show the nuances of different types of relationships.

Watch on Netflix.

“The Best Man Holiday” (2013)

In this comedy drama, a group of college friends reunite after 15 years to celebrate the holidays together, reigniting old rivalries and romances.

Watch on Apple TV+.

If your heading to the theater this holiday season, you can save up to 40% on movie tickets with AAA Tickets.

What’s your must-watch movie every holiday season? Tell us in the comments.

Illustrations by Sarah Hopkins

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59 Thoughts on “Your AAA 2023 Holiday Movie Showdown

  1. I can’t believe no one mentioned “The Snowman”. More of a short film than a movie at 25 minutes long. It’s a beautifully animated silent movie with soundtrack of a young boy whose snowman comes to life. Watch it on Youtube.

  2. If people actually researched the soundtracks, then The Polar Express should easily have won because it includes several classic Christmas songs plus Believe.

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