15. Frosty the Snowman (1969)
The song “Frosty the Snowman” may have been first recorded by Gene Autry in 1950, but the version that plays in our heads is Jimmy Durante‘s from this 1969 animated classic by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. Durante narrates as a group of school kids witness Professor Hinkle’s magic hat bring Frosty to life one day. Karen leads Frosty to a colder climate to prevent him from melting, but Hinkle is right on their heels trying to steal back his hat. When Frosty turns “wishy washy” in a greenhouse full of poinsettias, it’s up to Santa to save the day.
Best Scene: Frosty and Karen escape Hinkle by Frosty’s belly slide “over the hills of snow.”
Best Line: “Happy Birthday!” –Frosty’s first words
14. The Santa Clause (1994)
On TV’s Home Improvement (1991), Tim Allen always delivered best around the holidays, whether it was watching a church choir misspell “NOEL” or battling Doc Johnson in neighborhood decorating contests. It was only fitting that Allen’s first foray into the movies — a year before Buzz Lightyear — would be called The Santa Clause. Here, the grunting Toolman plays single father Scott Calvin, who accidentally kills Santa on Christmas Eve. To please his son, he puts on Santa’s suit, but he forgets to read the fine print, thus falling victim to “the santa clause.” It’s a magical pact that forces him to assume St. Nick’s identity, freaking out his boss and ex-wife, but bringing him immeasurably closer to his son. With a supporting cast that includes Judge Reinhold (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond), The Santa Clause trilogy grossed more than $473 million in worldwide box office and countless more in home video sales.
Best Scene: A doctor’s stethescope hears “Jingle Bells” from Scott’s heartbeat.
Best Line: “Who gave you permission to tell Charlie there was no Santa Claus? I think if we’re going to destroy our son’s delusions, I should be a part of it.” –Scott Calvin
13. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a better film than most on this list, but I couldn’t resist putting it at #13. Tim Burton’s stop-motion classic tells the tale of Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), King of Halloweentown, who stumbles across Christmastown and doesn’t understand the concept. That is until he wins the love of Sally (Catherine O’Hara) while thwarting a Santa kidnapping attempt. Thus Jack and Sally became the antithesis of Jack and Rose for ’90s youth looking to choose sides — the type of differing tastes between Celine Dion and Fiona Apple, who covered “Sally’s Song.” Other homages followed — Amy Lee, Blink 182, Korn and Marilyn Manson — but nothing compared to Danny Elfman’s vocals on the insanely catchy “What’s This?” The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects and would have surely won if it weren’t the year of Jurassic Park (1993).
Best Scene: Jack and Sally realize they are “simply meant to be.”
Best Line: “What’s this? There’s children throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads?” –Jack Skellington
12. Elf (2003)
The very same year Will Ferrell went streaking in Old School (2003), he donned a green suit and pointy shoes as Buddy the Elf. In a classic “fish out of water” story, Buddy is an adult-sized elf who literally doesn’t “fit in” at the North Pole. He packs his bags for New York City, but has trouble adapting to the real world. Ferrell plays the part with superior innocence, backed by a stellar supporting cast: Ed Asner (Mary Tyler Moore), Bob Newhart (The Bob Newhart Show), James Caan (The Godfather) and Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer), who recorded her own duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for the soundtrack. Director Jon Favreau later reunited with Swingers co-star Vince Vaughn in Four Christmases (2008), but couldn’t quite recapture the magic of Elf.
Best Scene: Buddy freaks when he learns Santa is coming to the department store.
Best Line: “It’s just like Santa’s workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they wanna hurt me.” –Buddy upon seeing the mail room
11. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)
After landing hits with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and The Little Drummer Boy (1968), the legendary stop-motion duo Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. followed up with another Christmas classic. Narrated by Fred Astaire, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town tells the origins of so many Santa traditions, including how the big man got his name, his “Ho Ho” laugh, his flying reindeer and his stocking-stuffer habit. Along the way, Kris Kringle (Mickey Rooney) wins the heart of schoolteacher Jessica (Robie Lester), melts the frozen heart of the Winter Warlock (Keenan Wynn) and routinely outsmarts the toy-banning Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees). Featuring some fabulous tunes, including “If You Sit on My Lap Today,” “Put One Foot In Front of the Other” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the film was so successful that Rooney reprised his role four years later in The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974), where the Winter Warlock was reincarnated as the legendary Snow Miser.
Best Scene: The Kringles discover baby Kris on their doorstep and refer to each other by their rhyming names: Ringle, Dingle, Zingle, Tingle and Wingle.
Best Line: “Toys are hereby declared illegal, immoral, unlawful and anyone found with a toy in his possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon!” –Burgermeister Meisterburger