Christmas Day is a common date chosen by movie studios to release films, no matter which day of the week it falls on. Here, we compare all 85 major films which have released on Christmas Day (December 25th).
The end of the year is an important time for film, and not just because it provides an opportunity to celebrate the holidays on the big screen. On one hand, the end of the year is the perfect time to release a film with Oscar aspirations. It is late enough that the voters will not forget before they hand in their ballots. On the other hand, it is also a time of year when people are not at work or school, thanks to the holidays. As such, there is a greater audience availability compared to any other time of the year.
For both of these reasons, we have seen a mix of all sorts of films having been released on Christmas Day itself. For many people, Christmas Day is an opportunity to go to the movies as a family. For this reason, we have seen our fair share of family films, comedies, and musicals. However, Oscar-hopeful films make up the largest majority of films to take advantage of the holiday. In fact, many films which have been nominated or won Oscars have released on Christmas Day.
This mix of films has included everything from westerns to screwball comedies, from dramatic masterpieces to some memorable missteps by major comedians. Both Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg have each released two films on Christmas. Weirdly enough, only two films released on Christmas have been sequels. Precisely zero have been actual Christmas movies!
For this investigation, I am only looking at films which have released the day of Christmas, December 25th. Many films have released the days before Christmas for the same reasons as I noted above, but for the purpose of this article I am ignoring them. What qualifies as a “major film” is open to debate, but I decided it had to be a domestic release with either a considerable budget or box office haul. What that means exactly is open to discussion – however, when you see the list below, you will probably recognize a majority of these films.
I admit, I have not personally seen most of these films (I mean, I don’t think anyone has – they really run the entire gambit from some of the best movies ever made to some of the very worst!). For my ranking I relied on reviews, recommendations from people who have, and most of all – historical significance/prominence. Movies with higher review scores will rank higher on the list, but I also took into account today’s perspective looking back on them. Were they Oscar hopefuls who failed and have thus been mostly forgotten? Or are they movies we still talk about and seek out to watch today? Those movies with the most “rewatchability” rank high.
Let’s get started!
#85 The Postman (1997) – Earns the title of worst film ever released on Christmas not just because the film itself is boring, long, and nonsensical – but because someone gave Kevin Costner money to make it. In an era when Kevin Costner could not stop himself from making terrible movies, this one used up whatever good fortune he had left after making Dances With Wolves.
#84 Mr. Magoo (1997) – The amount of terrible comedies released on or around Christmas is mind-numbing, and this is one of the worst of the worst. It’s like studios know they are bad and just have to get them off of their books before the end of the year.
#83 Point Break (2015) – A remake no one wanted of a beloved original film. Completely lacks what made the first one special. For examples of where Hollywood has often gone wrong lately, you can’t do much worse than this one.
#82 Holmes and Watson (2018) – Speaking of terrible comedies…
#81 Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) – A single film manages to be the low point of two film franchises – two franchises who have both had their fair share of terrible movies.
#80 The Spirit (2008) – Tried to capture the graphic-novel-comes-alive vibe of 300 and Sin City. Ended up being a terrible adaptation and a very boring, nonsensical film.
#79 The Darkest Hour (2011) – Not THAT Oscar winning Gary Oldman vehicle. Not worth your time to look it up, either.
#78 First Family (1980) – The most forgettable of terrible Christmas comedies.
#77 Fat Albert (2004) – Not forgettable, still terrible.
#76 Parental Guidance (2012) – Billy Crystal and Bette Midler either must have needed money real bad, or else they were blackmailed. No other explanation could explain this one.
#75 Paycheck (2003) – Ah yes, one of the most notorious big-name action movie flops ever made…
#74 Modern Problems (1981) – Terrible Christmas comedy, 1980’s version.
#73 Rumor Has It (2005) – Look, it’s Kevin Costner again!
#72 Bedtime Stories (2008) – Adam Sandler movie. Do I need to say anything else?
#71 Patch Adams (1998) – This is a really tough movie to judge. On one hand, the story is very inspiring and Robin Williams gives it his all. On the other hand it checks all the cliche boxes and relies 100% on William’s Richter-scale performance. Perhaps one of the most blatant examples of Oscar-bait ever made, which is why critics hate it while (most) audiences enjoy it.
#70 Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) – Even Steve Martin had to get in on the terrible Christmas comedy club, although from here on they are getting better.
#69 Daddy’s Home (2015) – See above, but with Mark Wahlberg.
#68 The Hindenberg (1975) – Disaster of a disaster movie. Especially when you see who directed it.
#67 I.Q. (1994) – I had never heard of this movie before making this list, and I’m no better for now knowing what it is.
#66 Stepmom (1998) – Psst…Oscar Bait!
#65 Grudge Match (2013) – Stallone vs. DeNiro. Strange.
#64 Michael (1996) – Started the downfall of John Travolta’s second fall from grace.
#63 The Bucket List (2007) – The first not terrible Christmas comedy.
#62 Dakota (1945) – Western that stars John Wayne. Do you need to know anything else?
#61 Ruby Gentry (1952) – Back then it was romantic and passionate. Now it feels very dated, and concerning.
#60 The Adventures of the Wilderness Family (1975) – I think it’s like Swiss Family Robinson, but in a forest? Disney-fied version of reality. Animals were probably harmed in the making of it.
#58 Hoffa (1992) – Jack Nicholson takes his turn at Oscar Bait.
#57 A Civil Action (1998) – See above. But good cast.
#56 Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986) – Adapted from a play. I saw a review calling it schmaltzy.
#55 It’s Complicated (2009) – You can do much worse than this Meryl Streep/Alec Baldwin dramedy.
#54 Green Card (1990) – Romantic comedy.
#53 The New World (2005) – Romantic comedy, but historical.
#52 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) – Oscar-bait about 9/11. Didn’t work as well as it could have.
#51 The Faculty (1998) – Underrated horror movie from Robert Rodriguez. Yep, horror movie on Christmas, makes perfect sense.
#50 Mighty Joe Young (1998) – Enjoyable big-budget movie flopped at the box office.
#49 Concussion (2015) – Will Smith tries to become relevant again. Fails.
#48 Chaplin (1992) – See it for Robert Downey Jr.’s performance.
#47 The Interview (2014) – Ballsy comedy mostly delivers.
#46 Murphy’s Romance (1985) – Odd romantic comedy earns James Garner an Oscar nom.
#45 The Sword and the Stone (1963) – Lesser Disney animated movie, but still a Disney animated movie.
#44 Marley & Me (2008) – Everyone’s favorite tear-jerker.
#43 The Price of Tides (1991) – 90’s Oscar bait which was somewhat successful.
#42 Unbroken (2014) – 2010 Oscar bait, also somewhat successful.
#41 Grumpy Old Men (1993) – Typical 90’s comedy.
#40 Joy (2015) – Disappointing, but by no means terrible, recent example of Oscar bait.
#39 Valkyrie (2008) – Tom Cruise vs. Nazis.
#38 The Morning After (1986) – Okay, it’s pretty much the same plot as The Hangover, but not a comedy,
#37 Evita (1996) – Madonna-fronted musical was moderately popular at the time of its release.
#36 Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Fun Robert Downey Jr. action movie from Guy Ritchie.
#35 Lone Survivor (2013) – Exciting Mark Wahlberg action movie.
#34 All the Money in the World (2017) – Your typical Ridley Scott movie.
#33 The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009) – Underappreciated Terry Gilliam gem. Fantastic cast.
#32 Grand Canyon (1991) – One of those films that is close to being good, but just doesn’t quite make it and has been forgotten because of this.
#31 Into the Woods (2014) – Liked, but not loved musical.
#30 Cold Mountain (2003) – Oscar-winning drama. Now we’re getting into the good stuff.
#29 The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007) – Appreciated at the time, but somehow forgotten since.
#28 Move Over Darling (1963) – Wacky 60’s comedy. It was a different time, people.
#27 August: Osage County (2013) – The third Meryl Streep movie on this list, and the most successful one.
#26 Vice (2018) – 2018’s Oscar dark horse. We loved the performances. Some people didn’t appreciate the pointed political humor.
#25 Ali (2001) – Good role for Will Smith. Film itself is *shrugs*.
#24 War Horse (2011) – Melodrama, but with Spielberg style!
#23 Tombstone (1993) – Flashy neo-western has grown in popularity over time.
#22 Yellow Sky (1948) – Western starring Gregory Peck. Worth a watch.
#21 Peter Pan (2003) – The Peter Pan-related movie which didn’t fail.
#20 The Godfather: Part III (1990) – Has a bad rap for being the worst Godfather movie, but isn’t a bad movie. One of the first “delayed” sequels to get any sort of critical acclaim.
#19 The Jungle Book (1994) – The first live action version of this story. Looked back fondly upon.
#18 Vera Cruz (1954) – Forgotten western with a fantastic cast.
#17 The Song of Bernadette (1943) – Well-made religious drama. Type of film you don’t see too often these days.
#16 Altered States (1980) – Shocking, risk-taking, and mind-bending. In other words: weird, but in a good way.
#15 Road to Rio (1947) – The best pairing of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Yes, there is a reason they don’t make these types of films anymore, but you can’t argue with the charm.
#14 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Another weird, but-in-a-good way movie.
#13 Wag the Dog (1997) – Forgotten 90’s jem. Modern Dr. Strangelove in the form of a recent politically-charged Adam McKay film. Has become frighteningly more realistic as time has gone by.
#12 Jackie Brown (1997) – Yet another movie with Robert DeNiro. He is the Christmas Movie King. This one comes from Tarantino, and is genuinely solid.
#11 The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – Martin Scorsese’s energetic and enjoyable drama full of great performances. Finds fun in a real life story, even if that story just makes you shake your head.
#10 The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) – Underachieved at the Oscars, and has been somewhat overlooked since. An important film that is also entertaining.
#9 What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) – A film which underwhelmed upon its release, but has grown in popularity since – mostly because of the rising star power of its two enigmatic leads.
#8 Fences (2016) – Adaptation of stage play revolves around powerhouse performances.
#7 Django Unchained (2012) – One of Quentin Tarantino’s best films.
#6 The Innocents (1961) – A great classic horror film from before the era of great horror films. Truly an anomaly.
#5 The Woman in the Window (1944) – Classic black and white noir.
#4 A Tale of Two Cities (1935) – A great adaptation of a classic novel. That sentence can’t be applied very often.
#3 The Sting (1975) – Paul Newman + Robert Redford! An intriguing story, great new-Hollywood filmmaking. It’s no wonder this turned out to be a hit, and to this day is still a great watch.
#2 Catch Me If You Can (2002) – Hanks + DiCaprio! One of Spielberg’s best films – a man who has many many great films to his name.
#1 Stairway to Heaven aka A Matter of Life or Death (1946) – Classic. Near-perfect. Spellbinding. Visually-arresting. One of the best movies ever made. Just some of the accolades which have been assigned to this one. Of all these films, perhaps the most fitting to be released on Christmas.