Top 15 80s Christmas Movies

80s Christmas Movies

80s Christmas movies were a joy to watch. Classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and White Christmas was still shown on TV during the holiday season in the late 1970s.

But then, in the 80s, Christmas movies started showing up in theaters again, though with a more modern twist.

This is the best guide to 80s Christmas movies for you to enjoy! I’ve compiled a list of the best and most famous Christmas movies from the 1980s.

This list has movies for the whole family, animated movies, comedies, dramas, old TV specials, and even some unusual holiday movies.

1. A Christmas Story (1983)

  • Director: Bob Clark
  • Cast: Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, Melinda Dillon, Zack Ward, Darren McGavin
  • IMDb rating: 7.9/10

What else could you say about this jewel? Along with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story” has become a tradition in many homes.

This movie didn’t get all the awards. People who saw and wrote about it in 1983 didn’t think much of it. 

Before this, most Christmas movies had Santa with apple-cheeked kids. “A Christmas Story” didn’t try to be romantic.

Instead, it took a postmodern look at whiny kids, fighting parents, and holiday meals that were nothing like those in Norman Rockwell. 

With the rise of home video in 1985, the movie’s cult following grew. Local TV stations and paid networks like HBO noticed how popular this movie, which is top-of-the-list of 80s December movies, was getting. 

When Time Warner bought Turner in the mid-1990s, they decided to do a 24-hour marathon yearly called “24 Hours of A Christmas Story.” A movie that almost bombed will now be remembered for years to come.

2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

  • Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
  • Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Johnny Galecki, Juliette Lewis, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  • IMDb rating: 7.5/10

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation came out just a few weeks before the end of the 1980s. It was made by John Hughes and Chris Columbus, who have made other holiday classics. 

In the 1990s, they worked together on the movie “Home Alone.” Still, before that, they tried to make a sequel that only studio executives wanted at the time. 

Parents could relate to how hard it was for Clark Griswold to throw a good, old-fashioned Christmas party, and kids liked the more slapstick parts, like when Clark rode a greased-up saucer down a snowy hill.

 And, of course, no “Vacation” movie is complete without a Griswold meltdown. This one will have you tap dancing with Danny Kaye because it is one of the top 80s Christmas movies ever.

3. Scrooged (1988)

  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Cast: Bill Murray, Carol Kane, Karen Allen, Alfre Woodard, David Johansen, John Forsythe
  • IMDb rating: 6.9/10

If there’s a common thread between some of these 80s Christmas movies, they took a more cynical view of the season than the Irving Berlin movies of the past. “Scrooged” may have done this better than any other Christmas movie. 

In ‘Scrooged,’ Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a ruthless TV executive who is a modern-day version of Scrooge. The movie is a bitter and twisted retelling of Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and it might reach out to people who don’t like Christmas very much. 

Even its many laughs (“Have you tried staples?”) have a darker tone. Murray hadn’t been in a movie in four years before this one. 

There are rumors that he was unhappy on set and often fought with the director, Richard Donner, and that his unhappiness is often shown on screen. But people still love this movie because of how negative it is about people.

4. Gremlins (1984)

  • Director: Joe Dante
  • Cast: Zach Galligan, Corey Feldman, Phoebe Cates, Jonathan Banks, Hoyt Axton, Dick Miller
  • IMDb rating: 7.3/10

Do you prefer dark 80s Christmas movies? Then you should watch “Gremlins.” Along with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” the comedy-horror movie directed by Steven Spielberg was one of the first to get a PG-13 rating. 

If you can believe it, the movie’s original version was even bloodier. The gremlins killed Billy’s mother and then threw her head down the stairs.

Even though the movie could be scary, it was the fourth most popular movie of 1984, after “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Temple of Doom.” 

Gizmo, the cutest of the gremlins, became the model for dolls and toys, video games, trading cards, cereals, cartoons, and even a sequel.

5. Lethal Weapon (1987)

  • Director: Joe Dante
  • Cast: Zach Galligan, Corey Feldman, Phoebe Cates, Jonathan Banks, Hoyt Axton, Dick Miller
  • IMDb rating: 7.3/10

Like “Die Hard,” “Lethal Weapon” is more of an action movie than the top 80s Christmas movies we expect, even though it takes place at Christmas. 

Shane Black has made a career out of putting together events that have nothing to do with Christmas, like in “The Predator,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” and “Iron Man 3.” “Lethal Weapon” is no different. 

Although Bobby Helms is singing “Jingle Bell Rock ” from the start,” Mel Gibson soon finds himself dealing drugs in a Christmas tree lot. Even though it looks like the classic Dickens Christmas story, the movie is a twist on it. 

Gibson’s character, Riggs, plays Scrooge. He is an angry, depressed drunk who learns to open his heart and find a new family. He shares Christmas dinner with a coworker and his family, who take him in.

6. Die Hard (1988)

  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, William Atherton
  • IMDb rating: 8.2/10

Even though it came out in July and Bruce Willis has said it’s not a Christmas movie, “Die Hard” has enough Christmas-y elements, like the main character traveling to see his family and holiday songs like “Christmas in Hollis” and “Let It Snow” by Run-DMC and Vaughn Monroe, to count as one. 

It just so happens that a man gets shot in the kneecaps. The answer is ultimately up to the audience, and those who love “Die Hard” have made it a holiday tradition to watch it every year. 

Even if you don’t think it’s among the good 80s Christmas movies, you can’t deny that “Die Hard” changed the way people thought about action stars because Willis changed what an action star could be.

7. Prancer (1989)

  • Director: John D. Hancock
  • Cast: Sam Elliott, John Joseph Duda, Rebecca Harrell Tickell, Johnny Galecki, Marcia Porter
  • IMDb rating: 6.4/10

“Prancer,” which came out in 1989, might be the movie on this list that needs to be re-evaluated the most. In a decade full of strange holiday stories, “Prancer” tells a more dramatic and straightforward story. 

It should feel like a kid’s movie because a spoiled little girl finds an injured reindeer and wants to take it to Santa at the North Pole, but instead, it’s much more realistic and doesn’t have any schmaltz. Or at least as real as a movie with a flying reindeer can get. 

It’s sad and sweet, and unlike many other movies on this list, it’s great for the whole family to watch together. When it came out, critics loved it, but it never became a holiday favorite. That might need to change.

8. Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

  • Director: Jeannot Szwarc
  • Cast: Dudley Moore, Christian Fitzpatrick, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Burgess Meredith, Judy Cornwell
  • IMDb rating: 6.2/10

It takes a lot of guts to call a movie “Santa Claus: The Movie” as if it were the last word in the story. It turned out that it wasn’t one of the best 80s Christmas movies ever. When it came out in 1985, the movie was a big flop. 

It’s tacky, cheap, and has a thin story. Even though the movie was about Santa Claus, most advertising focused on Dudley Moore instead of the man himself. But those are what fans of the movie love most about it. 

Even though it doesn’t have many fans in the U.S., it’s a huge cult classic in the U.K. It was even on a list of movies that Brits thought were the best Christmas movies ever. 

So even though it won’t win any awards soon, it might be the kind of Christmas movie that could use a new look this year.

9. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

  • Director: Charles Sellier
  • Cast: Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Amy Styvesant, Britt Leach, Toni Nero
  • IMDb rating: 5.8/10

This 1984 slasher flick may be one of your favorite 80s Christmas movies if you enjoy axe murders. Silent Night, Deadly Night’s VHS cover art had Santa creeping down a snowy chimney with an axe. 

Citizens Against Movie Madness picketed theaters showing the film with placards like “Save Santa.” Gene Siskel called it a “contemptible movie.” 

Mickey Rooney submitted a protest letter calling the filmmakers “scum” Tri-Star Pictures confessed the film was manufactured for shock value and removed it from cinemas after one week.

Nevertheless, the film was a commercial success, spawning four sequels and a remake.

10. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

  • Director: John R. Cherry III
  • Cast: Jim Varney, Bill Byrge, Douglas Seale, Noelle Parker, Gailard Sartain, Oliver Clark, Billie Bird
  • IMDb rating: 5.6/10

Jim Varney’s second movie as Ernest P. Worrell, a character he made famous through commercials, was called “Ernest Saves Christmas.” Ernest and a runaway teen try to find Santa to return his magic sack, which was left in the back of a Florida taxi. 

This is the thin plot. But it’s the best of the Ernest movies, and it only takes a little time to watch. So even though there are better 80s Christmas movies on this list, “Ernest Saves Christmas” is good enough to keep kids busy while their parents wrap gifts.

11. Trading Places (1983)

  • Director: John Landis
  • Cast: Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Ameche, Ralph Bellamy, Denholm Elliott
  • IMDb rating: 7.5/10

The best 80s Christmas movies are sometimes the inflammatory ones, which aren’t about Christmas but use the spirit of the season in clever and unexpected ways because they take place in December. 

When some old coots at a Philadelphia brokerage firm decide to settle the nature vs. nurture debate by toying with the lives of street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) and family heir Louis Winthrope III (Dan Aykroyd), the survival-of-the-fittest set-up sure doesn’t sound like the true meaning of Christmas. 

Trading Places shows that the only way we can all succeed is by giving and getting help from other people. Also, since the story takes place around Christmas and New Year’s, we see Aykroyd in a Santa suit.

12. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

  • Director: Burny Mattinson
  • Cast: Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Dick Billingsley, Clarence Nash, Hal Smith, Will Ryan
  • IMDb rating: 8.0/10

This long-running animated classic is one of the best versions of Charles Dickens’s work. Scrooge McDuck plays Ebenezer Scrooge in it. 

If you enjoy 80s Christmas movies purchased as DVDs or Blu-ray discs or streamed on Disney Plus, watch this movie where Ebenezer Scrooge meets the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future on a fateful night.

13. Babes in Toyland (1986)

  • Director: Clive Donner
  • Cast: Jill Schoelen, Keanu Reeves, Drew Barrymore, Richard Mulligan, Googy Gress, Pat Morita
  • IMDb rating: 5.2/10

The NBC original musical is one of many adaptations of the operetta with the same name, which tells the story of a girl who confronts a villain with the assistance of some enchanted companions. 

Some of the actors who are in the musical are Keanu Reeves, Drew Barrymore, Pat Morita, Eileen Brennan, and Richard Mulligan.

The plot of the operetta is about a young woman who defeats a bad guy with the help of some magical friends. 

If you are a fan of 80s Christmas movies, you can watch this one whenever you want thanks to Amazon Prime Video.

14. A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)

  • Director: Henry Winkler
  • Cast: Dolly Parton, Lee Majors, Chad Sheets, Rene Auberjonois, Dan Hedaya, Gennie James
  • IMDb rating: 6.9/10

Dolly Parton had a role in the first production of a story that was aired on ABC about a mountain man and a country singer who teamed up to rescue several children from a witch and a corrupt sheriff. 

This was before Dolly Parton became famous for her Christmas specials on Netflix and earned the title “Queen of Netflix Christmas.”

To get the catchy tune associated with the title out of your head, you’re going to need all the luck in the world. 

A Smoky Mountain Christmas is currently available to watch on YouTube as well as a number of other streaming websites.

So, If you are a fan of 80s Christmas movies, this holiday film is available anytime you like, perfect for those who love the genre.

15. Rocky IV (1985)

  • Director: Sylvester Stallone
  • Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Carl Weathers, Brigitte Nielsen, Talia Shire, Burt Young
  • IMDb rating: 6.8/10

In the most famous Rocky movie, which came out after the first one and starred Dolph Lundgren, and Brigitte Nielsen, and montage scenes, Rocky fights his most dangerous and tense fight to date during the Christmas season. 

The film takes place after the first Rocky movie. Rocky IV grossed more than $300 million throughout the globe, which is more than 10 times the amount that was spent on its creation. 

However, the picture was met with a variety of reactions from critics. Enjoy this seasonal classic whenever you want if you’re a lover of 80s Christmas movies.

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