There’s just something about the magic of the 1980s. From the fashion to the lingo, the hairstyles to the toys, it was all just so loud and lovely and camp. So camp! It should come as no surprise to anyone that all things associated with the decade keep seeing a resurgence in popularity. But the movies and TV shows from that decade were particularly special, with ’80s Christmas movies remaining some of the best holiday entertainment that Hollywood has ever given us.
Case in point? No list of the best Christmas movies of all time would be complete without A Christmas Story, and that one is from the 1980s. Kids who grew up watching the cult classic each year while wearing pink bunny pajamas know just how quotable and addicting the movie really is. And what’s so impressive about the film’s extreme likability is that, to this day, it appeals to people of so many different ages. That seems to be true of most of the best holiday movies to come out of the ’80s.
So, if you’re ready to introduce your kids to some of your childhood favorites (OK, maybe hold Die Hard for the adults), keep reading for even more superb holiday picks from the most bodacious decade.
Best ’80s Christmas Movies
1. A Christmas Story (1983)
Easily one of the most classic Christmas movies ever, A Christmas Story is the hilariously charming tale of 9-year-old Ralphie, who just wants a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas. But everyone keeps telling him the same thing: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” This iconic film — told from adult Ralphie’s perspective — also gave us the leg lamp re-created many times over for people’s homes (“Fragile… must be Italian!”), as well as the scene where one boy sticks his tongue to the frozen flag pole, traumatizing youngsters everywhere.
2. Die Hard (1988)
Yes, Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie. NYPD Det. John McClane (Bruce Willis) is meeting his estranged wife at her company’s Christmas party when they find themselves under attack by German bad guy Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). What follows is an intensely tense, action-packed chase of trying to take down Gruber, all while Christmas hums along in the background.
3. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
This sweet animated short is a take on the classic Christmas Carol story. Scrooge McDuck plays Ebenezer Scrooge to Mickey Mouse’s Bob Cratchit. Throughout the classic story of Scrooge seeing Christmases past, present, and future, plenty of other beloved Disney cartoon characters show up to help teach him the error of his ways.
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
It wouldn’t be a proper holiday without the Griswolds. For Christmas, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) just wants his family to have a beautiful holiday together. Sounds simple, right? Well, you have to figure in Eddie (Randy Quaid), who shows up with his own family and decides to park their camper on Clark’s property — just because. Plenty of other hijinks ensue throughout this John Hughes classic.
5. The Brady Bunch: A Very Brady Christmas (1988)
The made-for-TV movie about your favorite blended family finds them all grown up and doing their own thing. One Christmas, Mike and Carol make plans to surprise the other with a big trip, but they end up using all the saved money to bring their kids and their families back together to celebrate. Of course, all the kids have some kind of drama going on, and it’ll take a Christmas miracle — and some Hollywood magic — to get them all together.
6. Gremlins (1984)
Yes, Gremlins is also a Christmas movie. It all starts with a man searching for a Christmas gift for his son when he stumbles upon an odd shop selling little mogwai. The shop owner warns the man to be extra careful with these creatures, saying that he should never get it wet, expose it to sunlight, or feed it after dark. Wouldn’t you know that all three of these things happen, turning the mogwai into total nightmare gremlins and wreaking havoc on, well, everything?
7. Scrooged (1988)
It’s a modern spin on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” starring Bill Murray. What more could you ask for? The gist: Murray plays Frank Cross, a wildly successful but selfish TV exec whose ambition drove away the one person he’s ever truly loved (and who loved him back), Claire Phillips (Karen Allen). But he gets the chance to take a long, hard look at his behavior when he fired an employee on Christmas Eve and sets into motion visits from a series of ghosts. Is this our favorite grown-up Christmas movie? Feels like a definitely possibility.
8. Prancer (1989)
It’s like every kid’s dream to wake up one Christmas and find a reindeer. Well, Jessica Riggs (Rebecca Harrell) does just that in this cute holiday classic. The reindeer — Prancer, obviously — is injured, so Jessica must care for the creature until Santa can return for it. It’ll give you all kinds of warm, cozy, Christmas-y feels. Big bonus: The incomparable Sam Elliott plays Jessica’s dad.
9. Babes in Toyland (1986)
Although there are several versions of this film, we’re talking about the 1986 made-for-TV version. Why? Because it stars Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves! In it, Barrymore plays 11-year-old Lisa Piper, who gets magically transported to Toyland on Christmas Eve. There, everyone in Mother Goose Village is celebrating the impending nuptials of Mary Quite Contrary (Annette Funicello) and Tom Piper (Tommy Sands). But high above the village in a crooked and creepy house lives evil landlord Barnaby — who has his own sinister motives for trying to keep the wedding from taking place. So, Lisa joins a toy-master and storybook figures in the battle against the evildoer.
10. A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
You just can’t go wrong with the Muppets. In this special that premiered on Dec. 16 in 1987, Fozzie Bear takes the whole Muppet gang to his mom’s farm to surprise her for the holidays. And, since these are the Muppets, there are naturally all sorts of adorable shenanigans involved. It’s pure childhood nostalgia at its silly, fun, heartwarming finest.
More Gnarly ’80s Christmas Movies
- Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
- Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
- One Magic Christmas (1985)
- Better Off Dead (1985)
- The Christmas Star (1986)
- Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
- A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)
- A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)
- A Christmas Carol (1984)
- The Night They Saved Christmas (1984)
- It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (1984)
- The Snowman (1982)
- The Christmas Toy (1986)
- He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)
- The Little Troll Prince (1987)