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Holiday Movies Through the Ages

Seasonal Favorites from Each Decade and Where to Find Them

‘Tis the perfect time for a merry movie binge session and we’ve got some fresh titles for your holiday rotation that are always evergreen. Each of these iconic films were hand-selected because they epitomize their decade in all its seasonal splendor. So put another yule log on the fire and settle in for some festive films for the whole family.

1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s



Santa Claus (1898)

The very first Christmas movie ever produced can now be found on YouTube. And yes, that date is correct. At the turn of the century, film was still in its infancy, and this particular piece of holiday fancy is the first example of parallel action ever occurring in film. Black and white silent films not your speed? That’s OK; this one is just over a minute long, so you can probably keep your eyes open long enough to catch Santa emerging from the backdrop to hang socks on the children’s beds.


Little Match Seller (1902)

This is a movie of the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a poor girl enticed into wasting her wares—matches to sell—by visions of sugarplums dancing in her head.  The girl strikes her matches one by one, illuminating scenes of holiday magic on the wall beside her, before becoming immersed in snow and slipping away to a tragic end. It’s five minutes of marvelous cinema history that reminds viewers that the true spirit of the season is in giving to those less fortunate.


A Christmas Carol (1910)

One of the earliest film adaptations of the Charles Dickens classic novel, A Christmas Carol, was created by inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Edison. This silent film portrays Ebenezer Scrooge visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in an eleven-minute tale of redemption. If only we could all be saved from a life squandered in under fifteen minutes.


A Christmas Carol (1923)

This piece of cinema magic was lost for nearly eight decades before being unearthed. It’s another silent adaptation of the Dickens classic, but this time Scrooge stumbles through thirty minutes of ghostly regret before awakening reborn on Christmas morning. If this version doesn’t have you muttering “Bah, humbug!” for days, you really are a Grinch. Purchase on Amazon ($12.12*)


March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)

Laurel and Hardy are the stars of this talkie, stumbling around Toyland with their usual antics. There are several versions available—one recently colorized and one black and white. It’s a bizarre tale that’s worth a viewing if only to see the infamous duo and what was considered at the time a very high-end production. It’s a Christmas classic that’s a gift of comedy gold. Playing on TCM: Thurs, Dec. 22         1:15 AM EST               (TCM) Watch Instantly or Purchase on Amazon ($3.99-$9.99*)


It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The epitome of iconic holiday movies, It’s a Wonderful Life has been charming viewers for more than 50 years with a story about the true value of community and giving. For many households, it just isn’t Christmas without this black-and-white classic that pits old-fashioned values against corruption and emerges victorious. Get your wings by watching this angelic star of a film and making it a tradition for your fam. Airing on NBC and USA: Sat, Dec. 3            7:00 PM                NBC (304) Sat, Dec, 10          6:00 PM               USA (040) Sun, Dec. 11         7:00 AM               USA (040) Purchase on Amazon ($3.89 – $17.30*)


White Christmas (1954)

It just wouldn’t be a happy holiday without Bing Crosby’s croon and the pageantry of a big-production musical. Ride the train into a woodsy Vermont wonderland with Crosby and Danny Kaye as they romance a pair of sisters, singing duo Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. When the snowflakes finally begin to fall, you’ll be in love with this completely cheesy bit of vintage Christmas. Watch on Netflix  Watch Instantly or Purchase on Amazon


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

There’s nothing as satisfying as the original version of this heartwarming children’s tale about celebrating differences. The stop-motion animation in Rudolph would become a hallmark of holiday network specials for years to come. Bonus? Nothing sounds quite like Christmas as much as the rolling, deep baritone of Burl Ives’ narration. Airing on CBS: Sat, Dec. 10         01:15 AM EST          (CBS) Watch Instantly or Purchase on Amazon ($6.07+*)



Scrooge (1970)

Albert Finney takes a turn playing Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge, a musical rendition of A Christmas Carol. While it comes off a bit stiff and dated, this Technicolor Panavision film is a ‘70s classic that’ll have you humming carols and feeling peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Playing on TCM: Sun, Dec. 11          8:45 AM EST         (TCM) Watch Instantly or Purchase on Amazon ($5.69 – $9.99)


National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

The ‘80s are alive and well in this irreverent holiday film, stuffed full with comedic goodies. The Griswolds are determined to have their perfect Christmas, despite irritating guests and a string of bad luck. While Christmas Vacation might not depict a Hallmark card kind of holiday, it’s heartwarming just the same. Airing on FREFM: Thurs, Dec. 1         7:05 PM EST Sun, Dec. 4            8:45 PM EST Mon, Dec. 5           7:00 PM EST Tue, Dec. 13          9:00 PM EST Wed, Dec. 14         5:00 PM EST Watch Instantly or Purchase on Amazon ($2.99 – $24.99*)


Home Alone (1990)

Pranks, hijinks, and Christmas cheer abound in a holiday tale of a youngster left behind at home while the rest of the family vacations. This blockbuster made a star of Macaulay Culkin and ushered in a new generation of seasonal films. The Home Alone franchise contains three main movies, but the original is by far the best one to watch this season. Cue it up, you filthy animal! Stream it on HBO GO Watch Instantly or Purchase on Amazon ($2.83 – $14.94*)


ELF (2003)

Buddy the Elf doesn’t seem to know that he’s human, and his naivety becomes part of his singular charm in this seasonal tale about staying true to yourself. Wander the streets of New York with Buddy in Elf as he tries to transform his father and chief curmudgeon from Grinch to believer. Some of the best moments in this magical movie feature Zooey Deschanel, pelting out carols and finding love in the middle of the festivities. By the end, you’ll be singing the praises of this film loud and clear for all to hear. Watch it on FREFM: Sat, Dec. 3          8:50 PM EST Sun, Dec. 4         6:40 PM EST Wed, Dec. 7        9:00 PM EST Thurs, Dec. 8      7:00 PM EST Mon, Dec. 12      9:00 PM EST Tue, Dec. 13        7:00 PM EST Purchase on Amazon ($7.99*)


A Very Murray Christmas (2015)

A galaxy of stars parade through this Netflix holiday special, featuring the iconic Bill Murray, who is worried the snow will put a damper on his Christmas plans. Stroll along as the star deadpans through a series of encounters and hum-worthy numbers with the likes of George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler, and more. It’ll put the twinkle back in your eye just in time for some mistletoe magic. Netflix Exclusive: Stream it   Looking for a cable provider who can help you bring festive films home? Take a look at our holiday promos and deals and give yourself the gift of entertainment.
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  *Listed Amazon pricing is current as of Dec. 5, 2016 and may be subject to change

About the Author

Victoria Schmid is a freelance writer with a background in television and digital journalism. She enjoys writing articles about smart technology that will educate and inspire readers. She has a passion for news, writing, and reading. In her free time she loves hiking, traveling, exploring, and volunteering.

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