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The 8 Best Christmas Movies, Ranked

There is something magical about Christmas movies.

Offering their audience a familiar narrative, no matter the sub-genre, they provide a sense of escape. They’re here to let you know  that everything will be okay because it is that time of year when anything -- yes, anything -- is possible.

Angels that can take people though time, an eight-year-old boy who sets elaborate traps to defend his house against thieves, mannequins that can be brought to life… Christmas movies have it all covered.

Kathy Parker

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I’m not going to lie to you.

As a true festive film fan, I watch these movies all year round, especially when the sight of some fairy lights, the sound of a Christmas carol (or 10) and a joyful ending is what I really need.

But not all Christmas films are created equal.

Some are good and some (the ones I like) are great. Here’s my definitive ranking of the eight best Christmas movies of all time:

8. Silent Night, Deadly Night
What would Christmas be without horror? (Image: TriStar Pictures)

As a true horror movie fan, 'Silent Night, Deadly Night', offers the true slasher, hacking, gory goodness you’d expect of an 80s horror film, all generated by the man in red himself: Santa (or at least a really evil man dressed as Santa).

Not one for the kids or with anyone that has a highbrow taste in film, 'Silent Night, Deadly Night' is pretty much exactly as you’d expect -- bloody and tasteless (with a happy ending of course). It’s a true horror-Christmas escape and that is why I love it.

7. A Smoky Mountain Christmas
If there's no Dolly Parton, it's not Christmas. (Image: ABC)

What Christmas could be complete without Dolly Parton? Well, not mine!

Yes, the country singing icon does indeed have her own Christmas film and it is as ‘Dolly’ as you would imagine.

The 1986 fantasy sees a Western singer (Parton) travelling through the Tennessee mountains where she runs into a reclusive backwoodsman, a group of orphans and a witch -- while of course singing some Christmas classics, Dolly style.

Directed by none other than Henry Winkler (The Fonz of 'Happy Days' fame), it is a made-for-TV movie (surprised?), that is fantastical, easy to watch and sing along to. It’s ultimately about the joys of spending Christmas with family -- no matter what constitutes family for you.

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6. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Christmas is for barely tolerating the relatives. (Image: Warner Bros)

My mum, a Chevy Chase fan, watched this every December as the Christmas movies started to dominate free-to-air TV.

The film offers tacky and often tasteless jokes at the expense of the various family members brought together to spend Christmas at the Griswolds' house. There’s a running reference to Clark’s cousin in law ‘redneck Eddie’ as well as frequent mention of his campervan’s "shitter". The film plays out like many people’s  actual Christmas -- a dysfunctional family, filled with people who have very little in common, brought together under one roof.

Now married to my very own Clark Griswold (in the outdoor Christmas decoration department at least), I can relate to the film on a whole new level.

5. The Holiday
I like my Christmas like I like my comedies: romantic. (Image: Universal Pictures)

What I like to call an intelligent holiday rom-com, this movie plays with the genre conventions while employing them. Characters discuss the ‘meet cute’ and other parts of the rom-com formula, while still providing a warm and fuzzy festive ending.

Starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black and Jude Law, 'The Holiday' tells the story of two women who swap apartments for the holidays. While on their respective adventures they unexpectedly fall in love. As their romantic relationships take off, the lives of the main four characters ultimately become happily intertwined.

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4. A Mum for Christmas
Only on Christmas would you accept a mannequin as a suitable mother. (Image: NBC)

The yuletide film of my youth, 'A Mum for Christmas' starred our very own Olivia Newton-John as a mannequin brought to life by the wish of a young girl, whose only festive wish is to have a mum.

The storyline, although completely unbelievable and at times a tad cringe-worthy, was everything my eight-year-old self could have asked for -- and it still holds a firm place in my heart.

3. Home Alone
A child who repeatedly almost murders two home invaders? Sounds like Christmas to me. (Image: 20th Century Fox)

How can a Christmas film list be complete without this 90s Chris Columbus classic?

Simply put, it cannot.

Written by 80s comedy giant John Hughes and starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, an eight-year-old accidentally left home alone as the rest of his family goes to Paris, 'Home Alone' should be a staple of every kid’s holiday viewing.

In retrospect, it’s quite a violent movie for kids, given the elaborate, lethal booby traps that house-robbers Harry and Marv unrealistically survive. But the movie is ultimately about the importance of family, and protecting that at all costs.

2. It’s a Wonderful Life
Everything works out in the end on Christmas. (Image: RKO Radio Pictures)

Because I studied film (yes, this list may suggest otherwise), I would feel terrible if I didn’t put Frank Capra’s 1946 fantasy near the top of the list.

George Bailey starts off suicidal and learns the value of his own life, in a quintessential Christmas classic that shows there’s hope for all of us.

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1. Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Disney and Dickens, perfect together. (Image: Disney)

My favourite -- and therefore the best -- Christmas movie of all time is Disney’s animated, 1983 adaption of Charles Dickens classic novella 'A Christmas Carol'.

The film stars Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge, in a great introduction to perhaps the most classic story ever written about Christmas.

With the message of helping others rather than only thinking of yourself, especially at Christmas time, it is a simple yet warm message for the festive season -- and one still very relevant today.

My daughters and I have watched this movie many times, and has become an all-time favourite in our family.