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The unofficial tier list for best Christmas movies

What are the best Christmas movies? Here’s an unofficial tier list

Donna Reed, James Stewart and young Karolyn Grimes in the 1946 original “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Donna Reed, left, James Stewart and young Karolyn Grimes in the 1946 original “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Paramount Pictures

Christmastime is here again, and so with it comes the annual tradition of binge-watching as many Christmas movies as you can.

Each year, Americans spend time watching holiday movies, many of which have become classics. In fact, Americans have such adoration for holiday films that they start watching them months in advance. A recent survey found that 2 in 5 people start watching Christmas movies in October, while close to one-third first watched a Christmas movie in September. About 20% began watching in August, according to the survey.

But Americans don’t watch every holiday movie. In fact, according to the survey, about 21% of Americans have lied about seeing some Christmas movies. The top movies that they lie about seeing include “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and “A Christmas Carol.”

So, to help make sure you’re not bearing false witness about the Christmas movies you watched, we’ve put together a tier list of the best Christmas movies out there. Scroll down below to see what Christmas movies made our list.

Tier 1 — The best gifts under the tree

These are the most iconic Christmas movies that you need to watch each year.

  1. “The Santa Clause.”
  2. “A Christmas Story.”
  3. “Home Alone.”
  4. “Christmas Vacation.”
  5. “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
  6. “Miracle on 34th Street.”

There’s no question that “The Santa Clause” belongs at the top of any holiday classic list in 2021. The film’s mix of childlike wonder and adult humor make an instant favorite for anyone. But you can’t forget about the classics, which is why “A Christmas Story” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” deserve their shoutouts, too. “Christmas Vacation” has taken on something of a cult following in recent years, raising its spot on the list to the top tier. And you can never forget about “Home Alone” and the wonderful comedy that it is. Don’t nod off watching “Miracle on 34th Street.” It’s an all-time classic you need to watch every year.

Tier 2 — Gift cards

These movies are slightly better than the rest, but they’re not good enough to make it under the tree.

  1. “Elf.”
  2. “Fred Claus.”
  3. “Christmas With the Kranks.”
  4. “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”
  5. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Just short of all-time classics, these films are truly must-watch movies during the Christmas season. “Elf” is knocking on the door of the top tier — and it would almost qualify if it wasn’t such a new film. I would be surprised if it doesn’t make the top tier in years to come. “Fred Claus” stars Vince Vaughn as Santa’s disgruntled brother, which is a new take on a Christmas classic packed with laughs similar to “Elf,” which is why it’s just below it in the rankings. “Christmas With the Kranks” is right there as well, a newer but slower Christmas comedy. “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” isn’t a good as the original, which is why it’s not in the top tier. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is also a newer film that needs a little more time before it can be an all-time classic.

Tier 3 — Stocking stuffers

These movies are holiday classics that don’t meet the all-time level of epicness.

  1. “Four Christmases.”
  2. “Bad Santa.”
  3. “Jingle All the Way.”

Don’t get me wrong. These movies are good in their own right. But you don’t have to watch them every year. “Four Christmases” gives Vince Vaughn another Christmas comedy, but it lacks a little bit of cheer compared to “Fred Claus.” Meanwhile, “Bad Santa” is an R-rated take on Christmas that’s funny but skippable. And “Jingle All the Way” — despite its charm — is a forgettable Christmas film that probably won’t be a hit with younger generations.

Tier 4 — Coal

These are just bad — yet notable — Christmas movies you should skip.

  1. Home Alone 3.”
  2. “Christmas Vacation 2.”
  3. “Krampus.”
  4. “The Night Before.”

You’ll notice that the top two films are sequels. They’re not only sequels, they’re bad sequels. So don’t watch them. Meanwhile, “Krampus” is a poor attempt at a horror Christmas movie. And “The Night Before” — starring Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie — tries its best to become a modern holiday story, but fails in that it’s just not that funny. Avoid these movies — seriously.

What do the people say?

Look, I am just one man. And I’m sure some of you will hate this list. So let’s look at some popular movies, according to Americans. A recent survey from YouGov polled Americans about which Christmas movie they liked most. Here’s how that list turned out:

  • “Home Alone.”
  • “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
  • “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
  • “A Christmas Story.”
  • “Elf.”
  • “Miracle on 34th Street.”
  • “How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 animated film).”
  • “Die Hard.”
  • “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
  • “White Christmas.”

Merry Christmas to all.