New Study Reveals Americans’ Surprising Picks for the Best Christmas Movies

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And families the world over are firing up their favorite Christmas movies. With so much to choose from, everyone has their own takes on what movies bring the holidays to life.

Commercially speaking, Home Alone‘s Kevin McCallister may be the most popular Christmas movie character. As played by Macaulay Culkin in that 1990 film and its 1992 sequel, he defined the very notion of a holiday classic for an entire generation. But when it comes to Americans’ picks for the best Christmas movies, he faces some stiff competition.

Christmas baubles, ornaments and decorations
Christmas baubles, ornaments and decorations | Maciej Moskwa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Americans’ holiday viewing habits

Streaming service Tubi recently teamed with market research company OnePoll to determine which Christmas movies are the most popular among American families. But before we get to the movies themselves, the study also revealed a good deal about our holiday viewing habits as well.

According to the poll, 52 percent of Americans have some kind of Christmas movie tradition they indulge in every year. For 61 percent of respondents, this means watching a specific film every Christmas Eve to mark the occasion. And 54 percent don’t feel like the holidays have arrived until they break out a specific movie to help put them in the mood.

Given this annual tradition, it’s no surprise then Tubi and OnePoll’s study revealed the average American has seen their favorite Christmas movie at least 10 times. For the most part, this annual holiday viewing involves the entire family, including respondents’ partners (67 percent), children (63 percent), and parents (53 percent).

The most popular Christmas movies

That’s all great information that really contextualizes just how prominent Christmas movies are in the holiday traditions of American families. However, the real question is which films have become mainstays in the average American household. The Tubi/OnePoll study, of course, covered that as well.

Here is the full list of the top 20 most popular Christmas movies, according to the poll:

  1. A Christmas Story
  2. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life
  4. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  5. Home Alone
  6. The Polar Express
  7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  8. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
  9. The Shop Around the Corner
  10. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
  11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
  12. A Christmas Carol (1938)
  13. A Christmas Carol (2009)
  14. Miracle on 34th Street
  15. A Christmas Carol (1999)
  16. A Christmas Carol (1951)
  17. White Christmas
  18. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1967)
  19. A Christmas Carol (1984)
  20. The Santa Clause

The list includes both full-length films and television specials — most notably, A Charlie Brown Christmas in the runner-up slot — but mostly sticks to the classics. No less than five adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol made the cut, as did two Home Alone movies and two versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

But A Christmas Story topping the list is most impressive. While the 1983 film is undoubtedly a popular one, its less sentimental, somewhat darker take on the holidays makes it a surprising choice. Perhaps its annual marathons on basic cable television has helped it become even more of a perennial hit.

Holiday classics that didn’t make the cut

Of course, in order for these 20 Christmas movies to appear, a lot of other ones failed to make the cut. Of modern Christmas classics, the most egregious omissions are Elf starring Will Ferrell and ensemble romantic comedy Love Actually, both released in 2003. The 1960s TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is also shockingly absent, along with Frosty the Snowman.

While American households love A Christmas Carol, several less traditional retellings of Dickens’ classic were not among their favorites. Bill Murray’s 1988 comedy Scrooged, for instance, fell short of the top 20. Likewise, the 1980 musical Scrooge starring Albert Finney and 1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol missed out as well.

A Christmas Story might be somewhat edgier than most other selections on the list. But Christmas favorites like Die Hard, Gremlins and Bad Santa were apparently too irreverent for respondents. Even Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is conspicuously absent. Maybe most Americans consider it more of a Halloween movie? Here’s hoping we see that poll soon too.