13 Must-Watch Christmas Movies: EPL Staff Favourites

There’s nothing quuuuite like settling down with a cup of cocoa (full of mini marshmallows, of course) and a bowl of popcorn in the glow of a Christmas tree to watch a holiday movie.

Filled with laughter, fun and heartwarming holiday moments, Christmas movies are one of the best parts of the season. These are a few of the Edmonton Public Library staff’s must-watch Christmas movies—ranging from holiday classics and animated flicks to less conventional festive favourites—all available to borrow this holiday season.

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Following one man on a misguided quest to create the perfect Christmas for his extended family—even if it kills him—National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is pretty much the gold standard for family dysfunction at the holidays.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD and Blu-ray.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “I never tire of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. So many scenes make me cry from laughing so hard... and I have been enjoying this for DECADES. Perhaps part of the charm is that Clark Griswold always reminds me of my own dad.” — Emmy Stuebing, Fund Development Manager

2. Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone is what happens when a bratty 8-year-old’s wildest dream comes true and he wakes up to find his huge family has forgotten him. Hijinks ensue as two burglars start casing the supposedly empty house and he decides to defend his home. Bonus? The first sequel—set in New York City at Christmastime—is also excellent.

Home Alone is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is available on DVD or DVD (but with a different cover). There’s also an illustrated storybook that follows the events of the first movie.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “In 2009 my now-husband and I had our first date. He invited me over to his house to have wine and watch Home Alone, 1 and 2. I lied about liking the wine he served (he still gives me grief about that today), but we still watch both of these movies back-to-back every year at Christmas—just with better wine.” — Courtney Allen, Library Assistant at Lois Hole

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Ever since this animated film came out, there’s been an ongoing debate: is it a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Hardcore fans tend to argue simply that it’s both. Either way, this sometimes creepy flick about Pumpkin King Jack Skellington’s discovery of the delights of the holiday season has just enough heartwarming moments to be a great Christmas watch.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is available from the Edmonton Public Library as a collector’s edition DVD, 20th anniversary edition DVD, two-disc collector’s edition DVD or Blu-ray. There’s also a soundtrack and storybook.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “My siblings and I still watch this every year. The stop-motion animation has aged effortlessly, the music is great (Danny Elfman at the top of his game) and it runs double-duty for Halloween as well. My grandpa used to get us a movie each Christmas and there were lots of misses (I recall a particularly bad Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen western), but this was an unexpected hit. The specificity of Tim Burton’s characters and the detail put into the animation impress me to this day!” — Kyle Marshall, Planning, Assessment and Research Analyst

4. Love Actually (2003)

This romantic dramedy, featuring nine intertwined stories of love at Christmastime, has become something of a modern holiday classic. It’s a wonderful mix of over-the-top romance, comedy and drama that even includes an appearance by Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean himself) as a department store salesman. With so many characters and storylines, there’s something for almost everyone. And you can be sure that every fan has their favourite storyline. 

Love Actually is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD. There’s also a soundtrack.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “My wife and I like to watch Love Actually whilst drinking coolers and wrapping presents after the kids have gone to bed.” — Sean Chinery, Library Services Coordinator at Highlands

5. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Muppets take on Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale in this retelling that’s fun for the whole family. It hits all the same notes as its source material, but with far more fun (and Muppet madness). With Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Michael Caine as Scrooge and Gonzo as Dickens himself, how could it go wrong?

The Muppet Christmas Carol is available from the Edmonton Public Library on 20th anniversary edition DVD and Kermit’s 50th anniversary edition DVD.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “I watch it every year with my brother—for the last 10 years in a row—and I still cry every single time. It’s the perfect holiday movie because it’s heartwarming but also hilarious.” — Marina Fernandes, Communications Coordinator

6. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

At only 26 minutes, this is certainly the shortest “movie” on the list, but this TV special holds a big place in people’s hearts. It tells the heartwarming tale of the Grinch, who hates Christmas so much he decides to take it away from the Whos who live down in Whoville. Fun fact: Boris Karloff, better known for his many roles in horror films, voices both the Grinch and the narrator of the special

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD or in a series called Santa’s Magical Stories (DVD). There’s also a live-action version from 2000 on DVD and Blu-ray, a soundtrack (available on CD or to stream instantly) and the book that started it all.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “Every Christmas, my son and I watch the original 1966 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s a tradition for us. We eat Christmas cookies and cuddle up on the couch. We even sing along to all of the songs.” — Heather Chartier, Library Services Coordinator at Riverbend

7. Scrooged (1988)

This may be another retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but it’s nothing like the Muppets version. Bill Murray plays successful TV executive Frank Cross, whose cold and uncaring manner culminates with the firing of one of his employees on Christmas Eve. That night, he’s visited by a series of ghosts intent on showing him the error of his ways.

Scrooged is available from the Edmonton Public Library as a DVD.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “I don’t like schmaltzy movies and this is peak Bill Murray. I sometimes wonder if sections of this movie even have a script or if they just pointed the camera at Bill and let him go.” — Carolyn Cosh, Senior Buyer in Purchasing

8. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

Six-year-old Susan doesn’t believe in Santa Clause. But when a mysterious man (who goes by the name Kriss Kringle) is hired at the department store where her mother works, things begin to change.

Miracle on 34th Street is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD and Blu-ray. There’s also the original version of the film from 1947, available on DVD and Blu-ray.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “My parents, sister and I used to watch the updated Miracle on 34th Street together on Christmas Eve. My sister and I still try to exercise that tradition when we can.” — Heather McIntyre, Communications Specialist

9. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Long considered a holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of a man about to commit suicide. Saved by an angel, he’s shown how important he is to the people who care about him. Fun fact: when It’s a Wonderful Life was initially released, it was actually a box office flop, setting director Frank Capra back a sizeable sum. But the movie found new life on TV after a copyright lapse in 1974 made it available to air royalty free for the next 20 years.

It’s a Wonderful Life is available on collector’s set DVD, 60th anniversary edition DVD and platinum anniversary edition Blu-ray.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “For years I thought this was some schmaltzy boring classic movie (a.k.a. black and white—I was a philistine as a child) and I had no desire to watch it. Then I caught it on TV once and it is now one of my all-time favourite movies that I make sure to watch every year. It’s dark and bittersweet, but joyous. Just like life. It’s a classic for a reason.” — Camilla Fita, Community Librarian at Whitemud Crossing

10. A Christmas Carol (1951)

Christmastime and A Christmas Carol go hand-in-hand. It’s no different with this classic film adaptation of Dickens’ holiday story. Bitter and miserly Scrooge, played by Alastair Sim in this retelling, is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, each giving him a chance at redemption.

A Christmas Carol is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD, ultimate collector’s edition DVD, 60th anniversary diamond edition DVD and Blu-ray. There are also plenty of other film versions of Dickens’ novel.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “I watch it every year on Christmas Eve. The final scenes of that movie never fail to make me laugh-cry—despite having seen them more times than I care to count!” — Sydney Tordoff, Marketing and Fund Development Assistant

11. Gremlins (1984)

After receiving a small cuddly creature as a Christmas gift, a young bank teller inadvertently breaks the rules of his new pet’s care, causing it to multiply. Soon, the horde of mischievous monsters start to destroy everything.

Gremlins is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD and Blu-ray. The sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, is also available on DVD.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “When I was a kid, my family always watched this around Christmas along with the standard classics. This one is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s nice to have something that isn’t too saccharine mixed in with all the holly-jolly cheery movies. I’ve continued to watch this movie every year and I usually cap both ends of Christmas movie viewing with it.” — Vanessa Sztym, Library Assistant in the epl2go Literacy Vans

12. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

File this staffer’s must-watch film under “unusual festive picks.” Rare Exports is a darkly comic film set in Northern Finland, where an archeological dig has just unearthed Santa Claus. Young Pietari lives nearby with his stern, reindeer-herding father. When local children start going missing, Pietari realizes the excavation may have uncovered the evil Santa of local lore.

Rare Exports is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD and as a streaming video on hoopla.

EPL Staff Recommendation: “We always watch Rare Exports with a few friends who work in retail. Retail burnout is REAL, folks! Rare Exports is like a horror movie version of Home Alone, but in Finnish. It’s really funny in a stark, we-may-never-see-sunlight-again kind of way. And it’s still got a ‘coming together as a community’ Christmasy feel to it.” — Kathleen Knack, Library Assistant at Sprucewood

13. Yogi’s First Christmas (1980)

Jellystone National Park favourites Yogi Bear and Boo Boo usually hibernate all winter, missing the holiday season entirely. Until one year when noisy revelers wake them up, giving them their first chance to experience Christmastime. Yogi ends up managing a ski lodge, trying to save the holidays from the bratty young Snively, who’s intent on scaring away guests.

Yogi’s First Christmas is available from the Edmonton Public Library on DVD.

EPL Staff Recommendation:Yogi’s First Christmas is a guilty pleasure in our house. I’m a huge Hanna Barbera fan, so I enjoy the many Flintstones Christmas specials as well, but my wife and I can’t get enough of this special. I’ll go on the record to say that Snively is the greatest holiday movie or Christmas special villain of all time!” — Bryce Crittenden, Senior Marketing Consultant

With so many great Christmas movies out there, it’s hard to narrow the list to just a few. There simply wasn’t room for plenty of EPL staff favourites—everything ranging from Elf to The Holiday, Die Hard to White Christmas and The Sound of Music to Arthur Christmas.

Whether your Christmas favourite made the list or not, there are tons of fun films available to borrow from the Edmonton Public Library this holiday season.

Find a Christmas Movie

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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