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From the comedies to the classics, here’s your Christmas movie countdown

<p>Featuring James Stewart and Donna Reed, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is often considered one of the best movies of all time — ranked No. 11 by the American Film Institute — for a reason.&nbsp;</p>

Featuring James Stewart and Donna Reed, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is often considered one of the best movies of all time — ranked No. 11 by the American Film Institute — for a reason. 

There’s no better way to celebrate the end of finals season than settling in with a warm blanket, a mug of cocoa and a holiday movie. The Christmas genre is deep and expansive enough to see you through a season’s worth of movie nights. Here’s where to start!

15. A Christmas Story (1983)

Nostalgic and at times endearing, “A Christmas Story” never fails to remind you what the holiday season was like as a kid — full of charm and warmth. Nevertheless, it’s been played one too many times. Nostalgia stops being nostalgic the 50th time your parents put it on.

14. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Featuring James Stewart and Donna Reed, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is often considered one of the best movies of all time — ranked No. 11 by the American Film Institute — for a reason. Though heavier than the average holiday flick, Stewart’s George Bailey reminds audiences year after year that every life has importance and purpose.

13. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

For anyone with young siblings or a child-like love of animation, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is the perfect winter movie for a night in and a mug of cocoa. You don’t even have to wait until after Thanksgiving to start getting in the mood for the holiday season with this pick — the film also passes as a Halloween favorite, so you can start watching in October! Though not a classic — yet — this animated stop-motion masterpiece promises a laugh a minute.

12. A Christmas Carol (2009)

In this holiday classic based on the Charles Dickens novel, Gary Oldman and Colin Firth join Jim Carrey to remind audiences the meaning of the holiday season — happiness and community. “A Christmas Carol” is morbid but always timely. It’s hard to rally holiday spirit in hard times, but as Ebenezer Scrooge learns, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The drawback to this Christmas favorite? There’s something deeply unsettling about the lifeless eyes of the Disney film’s animated characters that takes away from an otherwise great film. It’s worth watching — or you could just read the book.

11. Love Actually (2003)

It’s rare that such a star-studded cast works this well, but “Love Actually” pulls off the impossible. Everyone loves a happy ending, and this film specializes in happy endings. Well-developed characters with complex backstories scrape for their perfect fairy-tale finale, ultimately reminding audiences of the magic of the season.

10. Die Hard (1988)

Every year, we find ourselves entrenched in the same bitter debate — is “Die Hard” a Christmas movie? The obvious answer is yes. It starts with a holiday party, there’s Christmas music and it snows at the end — in Los Angeles! With just enough action-packed thrill to satisfy any adrenaline junkie, this is perfect for the movie-lover who can’t quite get behind the mainstream classics.

9. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis — both holiday film veterans — join forces for this 2004 flick to remind their audience that the Christmas season is about more than decorations and presents. Though the film ranked horribly, it remains both endearing and undeniably hilarious.

8. The Polar Express (2004)

Not unlike “A Christmas Carol,” there is something inexplicably disturbing about this Warner Bros. animation project. Even so, “The Polar Express” remains a classic. Its magic lies not in its storytelling, but in the dreamy world the film transports you into.

7. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Maybe this year, nostalgia will draw you back to the movie you watched at your first grade holiday party. It’s not Christmas without a Charlie Brown tree — crooked, tiny and mangled — and Charlie Brown’s charismatic crew on the television while you string lights and pass around candy canes.

6. Home Alone (1990)

When you were a kid, there was nothing you wanted more than to booby-trap your family home against robbers. Well, after seeing “Home Alone,” that is. All these years later, the film still hasn’t lost even a touch of its nostalgic magic. The film is equal parts witty and charming, and even 31 years after its release, it hasn’t lost its charm.

5. The Santa Clause (1994)

In this ‘90s fan-favorite, Tim Allen’s Scott Calvin learns that seeing is not always believing when he magically becomes Santa Claus. Chock-full of family-friendly fun, “The Santa Clause” has never been a risky pick for family movie night.

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Another Jim Carrey classic — and arguably far better than “A Christmas Carol” — “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a childhood favorite for many. From overdone costumes to wicked one-liners, this live-action remake has the charm to draw laughs from little kids and exhausted college kids alike.

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

There aren’t many things out there funnier than Jim Carrey’s iconic Grinch face, but the original 1966 version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” reigns supreme — even if for sentimental value alone. The fuzzy, old-school rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” would put even the biggest Grinch in town in the mood to string some lights around a tree and go caroling.

2. Elf (2003)

Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color? This Will Ferrell classic deserves a showing every month of the year — not just December. Peppy, feel-good and surprisingly witty, “Elf” is over-the-top in all the right ways. This movie somehow managed to define the holiday genre and simultaneously solidify itself as endlessly old-fashioned and nostalgic.

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Without a doubt the most quotable romp of a film for your cool December nights, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is the best Christmas flick of the bunch. No one understands the drama of a big family Christmas like Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold, who opens his home to a full case of crazy relatives and holiday hijinks. Full of cheap laughs and crude jokes, this film promises the hap-hap-happiest of Christmases.

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