For many of us, watching classic Christmas movies is part of the holiday tradition. But if you need a year off from 1946’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ here are a dozen much funnier alternatives – one for each of the 12 days of Christmas.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Although it did well in theaters, who could have predicted that the Griswold family’s cringe-worthy shenanigans would become a holiday staple? Bonus points for a pre-‘Seinfeld’ Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as a yuppie neighbor.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Whereas ‘Christmas Vacation’ was an instant hit, the nostalgic, hilarious ‘A Christmas Story’ – like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ – bombed when it first came out. But now can you imagine the holiday season without it?
Will Ferrell’s yuletide blockbuster gets funnier and more heartfelt as time goes by. Try to spot ‘A Christmas Story’ star Peter Billingsley, all grown up, in a small role. And how cute is Zooey Deschanel in her blonde ’do?
Bill Murray makes everything better, including this totally ‘80s update of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ The best thing about ‘Scrooged’ may be its soundtrack, highlighted by Annie Lennox and Al Green singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”
Home Alone (1990)
John Hughes wrote both ‘Christmas Vacation’ and ‘Home Alone’ – no doubt inspired by those long Chicago winters. The slapstick hit that made Macaulay Culkin a star remains a seasonal must-see.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
When is the best time of year to watch this spooky Tim Burton/Henry Selick animated musical? Halloween? Christmas? We say both – and any night between the two holidays would work as well.
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Speaking of animated holiday films, this British treat about Santa’s son, coproduced by the geniuses at Aardman, may not be the first movie you’d think to watch on Christmas Eve. But don't miss out – it’s clever and sweet.
Love, Actually (2003)
After the kids finish ‘Arthur Christmas’ and toddle off to bed, here’s something for grown-up Anglophiles. Though this rom-com also delivers plenty of heartache, Bill Nighy's cranky old rock star is one of the funniest characters of all time.
The Santa Clause (1994)
It’s corny, it’s predictable, but more than 20 years on, this Tim Allen vehicle about an ad man who accidentally inherits the role of Saint Nick still wins our hearts. It’s not for the cynical – but then, neither is Christmas.
Bad Santa (2003)
OK, here’s a Christmas movie that is for the cynical. The raunchy, mean-spirited ‘Bad Santa,’ featuring Billy Bob Thornton at his nastiest, will turn off anyone yearning for comfort and joy. For the rest of us, it’s a wicked good time.
Trading Places (1983)
While we’re indulging in R-rated fare – the kids really are bed by now, right? – you can’t beat this Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd classic, which takes place in late December even if it isn’t explicitly a “Christmas movie.”
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)
Finally, before your adults nod off after too much eggnog (or whatever), there’s this third installment in the stoner series. Its wall-to-wall gags are hit and miss, but there are still a lot of laughs, whether you’re buzzed or not.