New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by New Line/courtesy Everett Collection)

25 Modern Christmas Classics to Add to Your Holiday Movie List

When most people think of classic Christmas movies, their minds sleigh-ride back through the decades to films like It’s A Wonderful LifeA Christmas StoryMiracle on 34th Street, and Christmas Vacation. To movies that they’ve grown up with, movies they’ve spent dozens of holiday seasons sprawled out in front of, digesting Thanksgiving and Christmas and other holiday dinners. But there are a number of holiday-themed and holiday-set movies released in the last 20 years that are just as worthy of your Yuletide viewing as those tried-and-true favorites. These are the world’s modern Christmas classics – or should-be-classics – and we think that this year, once that bell rings and the angel gets its wings for the umpteenth time in your household, you should try something Fresh for your festive viewing.

We compiled this list of modern Christmas classics using a very simple set of criteria: the movies had to be about Christmas or set firmly during the holiday; they had to have been released after the year 2000; and they had to have a Fresh score with a minimum of 20 reviews. Some are titles you will no doubt be familiar with, movies from the earlier years of the 21st Century that have already assumed the “classic” label in the ensuing years – we’re looking at you Elf and the ever-divisive Love Actually. Others are Certified Fresh gems that have gone totally under-appreciated in our opinions. (Why Arthur Christmas, at 92% on the Tomatometer, isn’t every kid’s go-to holiday flick is beyond us.) Others still are off-beat foreign gems, like the scary, weird, and wonderful Finnish killer Santa movie, Rare Exports, or the anime  Tokyo Godfathers

And with our most recent update, we’ve added Klaus, Jingle Jangle, and the 2018 Grinch, which is just barely Fresh. Because we can’t make green meanie too happy, right?

If you’re looking for something different this season, slip a sack-full of these charming/hilarious/weird/heartwarming/scary flicks into your holiday rotation.

Best Christmas Movies | Worst Christmas Movies
Best and Worst Christmas Horror | Best Foreign Christmas Movies
Rotten Christmas Movies We Love | Modern Christmas Classics


The Grinch (2018)

Adjusted Score: 66.862%
Critics Consensus: The Grinch gives the classic Seuss source material a brightly animated update that's solidly suitable for younger viewers without adding substantially to the story's legacy.
Synopsis: Each year at Christmas they disrupt his tranquil solitude with their increasingly bigger, brighter and louder celebrations. When the Whos... [More]


Love Actually (2003)

Adjusted Score: 70.532%
Critics Consensus: A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms.
Synopsis: All of London is in love -- or longing to be -- in Four Weddings and a Funeral writer Richard... [More]
Directed By: Richard Curtis


Krampus (2015)

Adjusted Score: 71.45%
Critics Consensus: Krampus is gory good fun for fans of non-traditional holiday horror with a fondness for Joe Dante's B- movie classics, even if it doesn't have quite the savage bite its concept calls for.
Synopsis: When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does... [More]
Directed By: Michael Dougherty

Adjusted Score: 68.677%
Critics Consensus: Viewers seeking a fresh holiday viewing option -- or those simply in the mood for Santa Kurt Russell -- should find The Christmas Chronicles well worth a yuletide stream.
Synopsis: THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES, a holiday adventure from producer Chris Columbus ("Home Alone", "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone") and director... [More]
Directed By: Clay Kaytis

Adjusted Score: 71.692%
Critics Consensus: Still raunchy, still irreverent, and still hit-and-miss, this Harold & Kumar outing also has a Christmas miracle: The audience gets to see the sweeter side of the duo.
Synopsis: Following years of growing apart, Harold Lee (Cho) and Kumar Patel (Penn) have replaced each other with new friends and... [More]


The Night Before (2015)

Adjusted Score: 74.76%
Critics Consensus: The Night Before provokes enough belly laughs to qualify as a worthwhile addition to the list of Christmas comedies worth revisiting, even if it isn't quite as consistent as the classics.
Synopsis: Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have been friends since childhood, and for a decade, their... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Levine

Adjusted Score: 73.187%
Critics Consensus: The Best Man Holiday manages honest laughs out of broad humor, and affects convincing drama from a deeply conventional plot.
Synopsis: After nearly 15 years apart, Taye Diggs (television's Private Practice), Nia Long (Soul Food), Morris Chestnut (Kick-Ass 2), Harold Perrineau... [More]
Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee

Adjusted Score: 77.377%
Critics Consensus: The poignant humanity on display in Joyeux Noel makes its sentimentality forgivable.
Synopsis: Scottish, French and German troops declare a spontaneous Christmas Eve truce in the trenches of World War I in this... [More]
Directed By: Christian Carion


Happy Christmas (2014)

Adjusted Score: 78.471%
Critics Consensus: Intelligent, well-acted, and satisfyingly low-key, Happy Christmas marks another step in prolific filmmaker Joe Swanberg's creative evolution.
Synopsis: When Jenny (Anna Kendrick), a hard partying 20-something moves in with Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), a budding novelist, her film director... [More]
Directed By: Joe Swanberg

Adjusted Score: 81.631%
Critics Consensus: Anna and the Apocalypse finds fresh brains and a lot of heart in the crowded zombie genre - not to mention a fun genre mashup populated by rootable characters.
Synopsis: A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven -- at Christmas -- forcing Anna and her friends to... [More]
Directed By: John McPhail


Get Santa (2014)

Adjusted Score: 79.274%
Critics Consensus: With a bombastic performance from Jim Broadbent, Get Santa brilliantly captures the joys of the Christmas holiday.
Synopsis: It's days before Christmas and reindeer are found running loose through the streets of London. Meanwhile an astonished 9 year-old... [More]

Adjusted Score: 85.952%
Critics Consensus: The Man Who Invented Christmas adds holiday magic to the writing of A Christmas Carol, putting a sweetly revisionist spin on the story behind a classic yuletide tale.
Synopsis: The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer),... [More]
Directed By: Bharat Nalluri


Bad Santa (2003)

Adjusted Score: 84.431%
Critics Consensus: A gloriously rude and gleefully offensive black comedy, Bad Santa isn't for everyone, but grinches will find it uproariously funny.
Synopsis: The Christmas season just got a lot less joyous in this very dark comedy. Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton)... [More]
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff


Ben is Back (2018)

Adjusted Score: 91.062%
Critics Consensus: Refreshingly understated, Ben Is Back subverts family drama stereotypes - and provides a forum for terrific performances from Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts.
Synopsis: 19 year-old Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly returns home to his family's suburban home on Christmas Eve morning. Ben's mother,... [More]
Directed By: Peter Hedges


Elf (2003)

Adjusted Score: 89.557%
Critics Consensus: A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers.
Synopsis: For his sophomore stab at directing, actor/writer/director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Made), took on this holiday comedy starring Saturday Night Live-alum... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

Adjusted Score: 90.631%
Critics Consensus: A sharp black comedy about a chaotic family holiday gathering, A Christmas Tale is always involving, thanks to an impressive ensemble cast.
Synopsis: The devastating reverberations of a profound tragedy echo through generations of a long-suffering French family in this emotional family drama... [More]
Directed By: Arnaud Desplechin

Adjusted Score: 92.016%
Critics Consensus: Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and spot-on performances in this dark, eclectic neo-noir homage.
Synopsis: A murder mystery brings together a private eye, a struggling actress, and a thief masquerading as an actor.... [More]
Directed By: Shane Black


Better Watch Out (2017)

Adjusted Score: 90.925%
Critics Consensus: Carried by its charismatic young cast, Better Watch Out is an adorably sinister holiday horror film.
Synopsis: This holiday season, you may be home, but you're not alone... In this fresh and gleefully twisted spin on home-invasion... [More]
Directed By: Chris Peckover


Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Adjusted Score: 92.488%
Critics Consensus: Beautiful and substantive, Tokyo Godfathers adds a moving -- and somewhat unconventional -- entry to the animated Christmas canon.
Synopsis: Tokyo Godfathers, the acclaimed holiday classic from master director Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Perfect Blue), returns to theaters in a brand-new... [More]
Directed By: Satoshi Kon, Shôgo Furuya

Adjusted Score: 92.63%
Critics Consensus: Rare Exports is an unexpectedly delightful crossbreed of deadpan comedy and Christmas horror.
Synopsis: It's the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an 'archeological' dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But... [More]
Directed By: Jalmari Helander


Arthur Christmas (2011)

Adjusted Score: 97.053%
Critics Consensus: Aardman Animations broadens their humor a bit for Arthur Christmas, a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength.
Synopsis: The 3D, CG-animated family comedy Arthur Christmas, an Aardman production for Sony Pictures Animation, at last reveals the incredible, never-before... [More]
Directed By: Sarah Smith, Barry Cook

Adjusted Score: 91.5%
Critics Consensus: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey celebrates the yuletide season with a holiday adventure whose exuberant spirit is matched by its uplifting message.
Directed By:


Klaus (2019)

Adjusted Score: 96.154%
Critics Consensus: Beautiful hand-drawn animation and a humorous, heartwarming narrative make Klaus an instant candidate for holiday classic status.
Synopsis: When Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) distinguishes himself as the postal academy's worst student, he is stationed on a frozen island above... [More]
Directed By: Sergio Pablos


Carol (2015)

Adjusted Score: 106.098%
Critics Consensus: Shaped by Todd Haynes' deft direction and powered by a strong cast led by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol lives up to its groundbreaking source material.
Synopsis: In this adaptation of the novel "The Price of Salt" by Patricia Highsmith, Therese (Rooney Mara), a young department-store clerk... [More]
Directed By: Todd Haynes


Tangerine (2015)

Adjusted Score: 101.591%
Critics Consensus: Tangerine shatters casting conventions and its filmmaking techniques are up-to-the-minute, but it's an old-fashioned comedy at heart -- and a pretty wonderful one at that.
Synopsis: A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart. (C) Magnolia... [More]
Directed By: Sean Baker (II)

Tag Cloud

78th Annual Golden Globe Awards WGN critics National Geographic anthology Watching Series cops finale sports Mary Poppins Returns Britbox sitcom FX on Hulu A&E Film Festival APB Action Reality Black History Month singing competition cars rt archives Endgame comic books festival Tubi Apple TV Plus universal monsters spanish language 2015 joker witnail NYCC spain Netflix franchise Tarantino 72 Emmy Awards tv talk Drama historical drama zero dark thirty Disney streaming service Crunchyroll nbcuniversal Vudu comics MTV TCA Awards a nightmare on elm street BBC America jamie lee curtis BAFTA spanish Paramount ghosts justice league AMC Cosplay dragons unscripted Shudder Brie Larson name the review boxoffice latino DC streaming service TV One Rocky Disney natural history BET Awards Infographic social media 2019 Universal supernatural Writers Guild of America dramedy USA dceu Valentine's Day canceled TV shows Amazon Prime Food Network harry potter versus zombie TCM strong female leads adventure cancelled TV shows Shondaland Peacock Sundance Now BET technology Calendar Apple TV+ anime south america cartoon TV renewals 2017 HBO Go green book Polls and Games blockbuster Comedy RT History Set visit Tumblr Nickelodeon Video Games Lionsgate fresh laika sequel streaming 20th Century Fox Western rotten movies we love Television Academy TIFF Trailer werewolf elevated horror Rocketman CMT richard e. Grant ABC Signature toy story blaxploitation screenings Musicals History Alien Funimation Biopics docudrama Paramount Plus Rom-Com Mystery TNT asian-american Star Wars Mindy Kaling Turner Classic Movies hollywood Fox Searchlight batman renewed TV shows Disney+ Disney Plus The CW festivals ID GoT Elton John reboot psychological thriller french Thanksgiving Quiz USA Network golden globe awards IFC SDCC A24 TCA 2017 cinemax directors james bond Freeform VOD YouTube Premium doctor who Super Bowl Photos news Reality Competition adaptation LGBTQ Captain marvel football diversity dogs First Reviews VICE Fall TV black composers Chernobyl Mary Tyler Moore Masterpiece scorecard Extras political drama ratings fast and furious satire NBC Emmy Nominations Rock casting 007 aliens Country Ovation cancelled television science fiction SundanceTV BBC Family nfl sag awards 2020 PlayStation psycho emmy awards Awards Spring TV New York Comic Con Netflix Christmas movies Hear Us Out theme song Lucasfilm parents quibi TLC Christmas crossover romance Marathons YouTube Red documentaries teaser video on demand 45 2016 comiccon Pixar Columbia Pictures Crackle video rotten ITV Marvel Television 4/20 American Society of Cinematographers Fox News disaster Pop robots worst movies venice GLAAD spy thriller Holiday deadpool Horror Toys Bravo vampires Sundance hispanic Logo PBS indie PaleyFest Mudbound obituary The Walt Disney Company book Ghostbusters The Purge The Arrangement Schedule GIFs spinoff Interview El Rey italian IFC Films Academy Awards documentary biography mission: impossible spider-man HBO Box Office mockumentary period drama Song of Ice and Fire based on movie Emmys Winter TV nature pirates of the caribbean Discovery Channel sequels E! Stephen King australia game show Amazon Prime Video TCA Winter 2020 jurassic park Spike President RT21 criterion canceled halloween CBS All Access MCU FOX Travel Channel FXX OWN classics Disney Plus Apple halloween tv worst concert best slashers Sci-Fi MSNBC films remakes Nominations movie movies TV Comic Book 2018 Tomatazos superhero all-time die hard miniseries See It Skip It Countdown Acorn TV chucky ESPN Paramount Network Syfy Martial Arts true crime VH1 golden globes hist Heroines revenge television award winner comedies Hallmark Christmas movies CNN Television Critics Association Spectrum Originals 99% Esquire foreign scary movies Superheroes stop motion 71st Emmy Awards cancelled TV series stoner Lifetime Christmas movies cooking Opinion facebook twilight Black Mirror The Academy talk show binge what to watch OneApp reviews thriller Baby Yoda serial killer Adult Swim cats Classic Film trailers Year in Review Showtime politics Creative Arts Emmys animated Pirates Certified Fresh game of thrones Amazon Election dark DirecTV Disney Channel rom-coms dc Warner Bros. comic Holidays First Look women war TBS breaking bad Ellie Kemper toronto Character Guide LGBT Nat Geo TruTV Musical Cartoon Network The Walking Dead CW Seed DGA cults TCA child's play 24 frames Oscars medical drama Women's History Month Pride Month X-Men ABC Anna Paquin ViacomCBS boxing WarnerMedia Sundance TV discovery Sony Pictures Avengers zombies Lifetime Amazon Studios transformers CBS crime drama Binge Guide Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt crime thriller YouTube Red Carpet BBC One YA Kids & Family Fantasy japanese Trivia Awards Tour San Diego Comic-Con crime DC Comics Music Comics on TV Premiere Dates Marvel Studios police drama children's TV Podcast Winners ABC Family FX Sneak Peek HBO Max The Witch Summer Film indiana jones DC Universe E3 cancelled travel screen actors guild Dark Horse Comics free movies Pop TV Trophy Talk christmas movies romantic comedy Best and Worst Comedy Central Star Trek SXSW Superheroe archives independent Animation Grammys series Epix Teen Arrowverse stand-up comedy Cannes Turner space Walt Disney Pictures 21st Century Fox Hulu TV Land Starz Marvel Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Pet Sematary Mary poppins kids Hallmark mutant