NEW YORK — The holiday season is characterized by a number of distinguishing traits, from houses decked out in Christmas lights to Salvation Army volunteers outside shopping centers with their trademark bells and donation kettles. Of course, no Christmas Eve would be complete without sitting down beside the fireplace to watch a classic holiday film on a cold, (and hopefully) snowy night. There’s certainly no shortage of movies to choose from. For many Jimmy Stewart’s 1946 classic It’s A Wonderful Life is a long-standing tradition, while others may prefer newer offerings like Will Ferrell’s 2003 comedy Elf.
If you’ve been searching for a new Christmas movie to spark some joy in your family, look no further. A new survey of 2,000 Americans has identified the top holiday films of all time, and while everyone may not agree with the results, they still give a fascinating peek into what will be streaming within many American homes this holiday season. All in all, the survey declared 1983’s A Christmas Story, a light-hearted tale set in the 1950s centered around young Ralphie Parker’s quest to get his hands on a Red Ryder BB gun, as the greatest holiday movie of all time.
While technically not a movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas came in at number two, followed by It’s A Wonderful Life. Rounding out the top five were 1987’s Thanksgiving misadventure Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Macaulay Culkin’s 1990 classic Home Alone. If you’ve seen all of those, the top six through 10 holiday flicks were as follows: The Polar Express, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Home Alone Two, The Shop Around The Corner, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
The survey, commissioned by Tubi, also asked respondents about their favorite or most iconic cinematic holiday moments. The other children stepping in to decorate Charlie Brown’s especially small and sickly tree during A Charlie Brown Christmas was declared the number one iconic holiday moment. After that, A Christmas Story monopolized the next three moments, accounting for spots two through four: There’s Ralphie’s dad declaring “It’s fra-gee-le!” at #2; Ralphie’s constant reminder from adults that, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” at #3; and Ralphie’s pal Schwartz getting his tongue stuck to the school flagpole at #4. The children dancing during stage rehearsal (A Charlie Brown Christmas) was named the fifth most iconic Christmas movie moment.
When the survey participants were asked about their favorite on-screen Santas, Tim Allen’s take on the character from 1994’s The Santa Clause was declared the best. After that, the top five movie Santas went as follows: Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story (despite this Santa being particularly mean), Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
For many of us, once we find a holiday film that fills us with Christmas cheer, we tend to go back and watch it year after year. So much so that 54% of respondents say they like to kick off the holiday season by watching their favorite seasonal film. Furthermore, the average respondent has watched their favorite Christmas movie at least 10 times.
Part of what makes many of these films so appealing is their power to bring us together for a few hours and remind viewers of what really matters in this life. In total, 52% say they make watching their favorite holiday movie an annual tradition. Of that group, 67% say they usually watch with their partner, 63% watch with their kids, and 53% sit down with their mom and dad.
As far as when most people sit down to watch holiday films, Christmas Eve (61%) was listed as the most common date. However, some (54%) don’t want to wait that long and usually watch their favorite holiday movie right after Thanksgiving. Many respondents also say they like to add some holiday cookies (66%), hot chocolate (54%), or gift-wrapping activities (51%) to their viewing experience to pump up the holiday cheer.
The survey was conducted by OnePoll.