The Five Best Modern Christmas Movies

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On Christmas Eve, a doubting boy boards a magical train that's headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus's home.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
December 25th, 2013

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The Five Best Modern Christmas Movies

There's nothing like a good Christmas movie to get people in the holiday spirit, and plenty of modern offerings are available for those whose tastes run toward recent movies. This list has been checked twice and includes the five best modern Christmas movies.

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

This fun film, released in 2000 and directed by Ron Howard, is based on the classic book by Dr. Seuss. Starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, this big-budget film tells the story of a curmudgeonly creature with a heart two sizes too small who steals into Whoville on Christmas Eve to steal all the holiday items in an attempt to ruin the day. The funny and touching movie has a heartwarming ending that is not to be missed. From adorable Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) to the Grinch's dog Max, this movie expands on the book, adding some new rhymes and characters as well as giving the Grinch an interesting backstory. This film is a great way for families to explore the true meaning of Christmas.

"Bad Santa"

Straight off the naughty list, this hilarious 2003 comedy is not for the faint at heart. This dark comedy finds laughs in the dark side of Christmas. Starring Billy Bob Thornton as Willie T. Stokes, an alcoholic con man and thief, this movie isn't a typical heartwarming holiday story. Willie is running his annual scam, in which he and his friend Marcus work in a mall as Santa and his elf, crack the mall security, and rob all of the stores just before Christmas. The foul-mouthed, child-hating Willie isn't a very good Santa, though, and the mall manager (John Ritter) becomes suspicious. He has his chief of security (Bernie Mac) investigate the pair. Meanwhile, Willie has a repeat customer, Thurman (Brett Kelly), and he ends up using the overweight dorky eight-year-old boy's house as a hideout to plan the big heist. Those who are looking for a heartwarming ending or a moral message may not find what they're looking for in "Bad Santa." This movie, designed to be shocking and offensive, somehow manages to find laughs in the darkest places. Though it's not for children, this movie will have all of the adults in the house roaring with guilty laughter.

"Elf"

This family favorite will have viewers laughing from beginning to end. Starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the elf, this movie is every bit the traditional heartwarming Christmas tale with a ton of laughs thrown in. After accidentally crawling into Santa's sack, a baby named Buddy is raised by an elf family at the North Pole. Now that he's all grown up (and several times bigger than the members of his adoptive family), Buddy heads off to New York City to find his roots. There, he finds a scroogey father (James Caan) and a twelve-year-old half-brother (Daniel Tay) who have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and don't even believe that Santa is real. Buddy uses his elf-like charm and good humor to save the day. Complete with a love interest played by Zooey Deschanel, this movie is the perfect feel-good holiday flick.

"The Polar Express"

This innovative movie is already becoming a holiday classic. The computer-animated film is based on the popular children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, and the filmmakers used a motion-capture technique that resulted in a visually stunning film. From scenes of the North Pole to dancing waiters, this movie is beautiful. Complete with an amazing soundtrack, "The Polar Express" details a doubting boy's journey to the North Pole on a magical train. Tom Hanks voices several characters, including the boy, the conductor, and Santa Claus.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas"

This stop-motion film combines all of the best things about Halloween and Christmas in Tim Burton's signature style. When Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, grows tired of organizing Halloween year after year, he accidentally opens a portal to Christmas Town. He is intrigued by the festivities and celebration and decides to take over Christmas. The residents of Halloween Town, however, get everything wrong. From presents that terrify the children to a plot to kidnap Santa Claus, everything that can go wrong does. The film has earned widespread critical acclaim, and the characters have appeared in everything from video games to Disneyland attractions.