The Correct Viewing-Order for Holiday Films

Patrick Giblin
5 min readNov 25, 2019
A collection of DVD covers for several popular holiday films.

There are certain movies that are “must-see” films during the holidays. But there are occasional arguments about when is the best time to watch holiday films, so I wrote up this list of “must-see” holiday films and put them in the order that I think makes for best viewing. Inevitably there are some films that are not on this list, as well as a few that are not considered traditional “holiday” films, but these are the movies that I tend to view between October 20 and Jan. 1.

Here is my suggested order:

1.) “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” — watch this in the week leading up to Halloween.

2.) “The Nightmare Before Christmas” — watch this in the week after Halloween

3.) “Hannah and Her Sisters” — this Woody Allen classic earned Oscars for screenplay and best-supporting actor and actress. It’s Woody Allen at his best. I would recommend this in the weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving when you are in the mood for a heavy Woody Allen film.

4.) “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” — In the week before Thanksgiving. This film will prepare you for all the upcoming holiday stress.

5.) “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” — one of the three great original Charlie Brown films, this is best viewed the weekend before Thanksgiving.

6.) “Addams Family Values” — This is a MUST-WATCH film on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving play scene is well-worth the entire film.

7.) “Pieces of April” — this one requires a glass or two of wine to watch the night before Thanksgiving, preferably with a loved one, a warm blanket, and a need to relax before all the family-related stress that will happen the next day.

8.) “Home for the Holidays” also is a good pre-Thanksgiving movie with wine and a warm blanket. Personally, I prefer “Pieces of April” because the humor is a bit darker and more sarcastic, but if you are more into “family movies,” the Jodi Foster film might be a better choice.

9.) “The Last Waltz” — this is a good one to put on the television when the turkey and liquor have set in, simply because it’s such an awesome soundtrack. You don’t have to pay heavy attention to it, but it is truly one of the greatest concert films ever. So why is this a holiday film? The concert it captures took place on Thanksgiving Day, 1976.

10.) “A Miracle on 34th Street.” This MUST be watched after everyone has vacated your home after gorging on all your hard-earned foods. Watch this with a turkey sandwich in one hand and a beer in another.

11.) “Die Hard” — this is a good one to watch post-Thanksgiving, to give yourself a break from, well, everything.

12.) Along the same line as “Die Hard” is “Batman Returns.” Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer in tight leather. What a way to get in the holiday spirit. If you want some dark, but still classic, I would also suggest Humphrey Bogart’s “We’re No Angels” and not that terrible Sean Penn remake. The original is dark and full of quick wit.

13.) “Gremlins.” Just like the previous two entries — this is a good Christmas film that helps you escape Christmas without actually escaping Christmas. If someone yells at you that you should be watching a holiday film, you can easily point out that the theme of this movie is about accepting the responsibilities bestowed when you are presented with a good Christmas gift.

14.) “Mixed Nuts,” the completely under-rated Steve Martin flick. It’s goofy, sometimes bizarre, and very, very light viewing for when the Christmas stress is really starting to get you down. To be watched in the weeks leading up the Christmas.

15.) “The Santa Claus.” — the first one, as the rest just went downhill. This is a feel-good film with an interesting premise. Watch this about two to three weeks before Christmas.

16.) “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas.” NOT recommended for children. This is for the adults to watch while drinking liquor and/or smoking pot. A must-see film the week before Christmas, simply because it illustrates the absolute absurdity of Christmas-consumerism.

17.) In the final two weeks leading up to Christmas, this is when you must get serious about the films you watch, and you kick it off with the Jimmy Stewart classic “The Shop Around the Corner.”

18.) You also can watch the Jack Lemmon classic “The Apartment” for a little sophistication to kick off the Christmas film series, as a substitute to “The Shop Around the Corner.”

19.) About two Wednesdays before Christmas, you must watch (and in this specific order): “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” (the original animated version, not any of the terrible live-action films), and “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer.” This must be done while drinking hot chocolate and eating sugar cookies. This should be a law.

20.) “Elf.” See this in the 10 days leading up to Christmas. Then eat a big stack of waffles smothered in chocolate candies and syrup.

21.) “A Christmas Carol” — the 1951 version, which is still the best. This should be seen in the week leading up the Christmas.

22.) If you are up to it, then watch “The Muppet Christmas Carol” the day after seeing “A Christmas Carol.” Oddly enough, it’s really good.

23.) And for the Trifecta, then see “Scrooged” with Bill Murray. It’s also really good.

24.) “Home Alone” — good for about seven days before Christmas. It gives you a slight break from heavy-Christmas-themed films without breaking the Christmas theme. This film helps prevent Christmas burn-out.

25.) “A White Christmas” — watch this about five to four days before Christmas. It’s a must-see and it will definitely get you in the mood for more Christmas carols.

26.) “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” should be watched about 48 hours before Christmas. It’s best viewed while drinking scotch.

27.) “It’s a Wonderful Life.” — This is an absolute must-see on Christmas Eve. It’s not Christmas Eve without Jimmy Stewart losing his mind.

28.) “A Christmas Story” is an absolute must-see while recovering from post-present depression on Christmas Day.

29.) “When Harry Met Sally” — a must-see for the week leading up to New Year’s Day.

30.) “Holiday Inn.” See this about three days before New Year’s Day.

31.) “The Godfather” — if you are doing nothing on New Year’s Eve, watch both Parts I and II back-to-back. If you are partying on New Year’s Eve, then watch Part II on Dec. 30.

32.) “Trading Places” — a classic film for New Year’s Day, while nursing your hangover.

33.) And finally “Sunset Boulevard,” a classic film noir for the evening of Jan. 1, to put you into the sophisticated mood you will need to survive the coming year.



Patrick Giblin

Alleged human, music addict, photographer, recovering journalist, movie nut, RPG-er, professional curmudgeon