Most popular Christmas movies in the U.S.: A ranking

Linley SandersData Journalist
December 19, 2022, 3:10 PM GMT+0

The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes the tradition of watching festive movies.

To determine a list of Americans' favorite Christmas movies, YouGov first created a list of holiday films based on IMDb's list of the most popular Christmas movies, prior lists based on open-ended responses, media lists of controversial Christmas films, and other sources. After we had our list of 50 contenders, we asked people whether they had seen each movie; if they had, we asked them to rate it.

Since a few holiday movies on our list are part of a franchise or have remakes associated with them, we asked respondents to consider all versions of the movie, including sequels and remakes, that they had seen. In the survey — conducted over two polls, each of 1,000 U.S. adult citizens between December 2 – 8, 2022, we asked 2,000 Americans about a randomly selected subset of the 50 movies: The genre is so extensive, it was too much to ask anyone about every film.

The survey finds that the most popular Christmas movies in the United States include How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Home Alone, and The Grinch.

Which holiday movies have Americans seen?

The five most-watched holiday-themed movies that were asked about — many of which have been available for decades — each has been seen by at least four in five Americans. The most-viewed holiday movies we asked about were Home Alone (87%), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (82%), A Charlie Brown Christmas (81%), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (81%), and Frosty the Snowman (80%). The movies that had the smallest viewership are newer releases, including the 2018 movie Return To Christmas Creek (17%), the 2021 animation 8-Bit Christmas (16%), and the 2020 movie Happiest Season (16%).

Some classic movies are more likely to have been seen by older Americans than by younger adults: Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Scrooge, and White Christmas. Americans under 45, on the other hand, are more likely to have seen some newer films, including Last Christmas, Love Hard, 8-Bit Christmas, Holidate, and A Bad Moms Christmas.

Which holiday movie is Americans' favorite?

There are a few ways to measure the United States' favorite Christmas movie. If you simply care which holiday movie is the most loved, then the 1965 animated special A Charlie Brown Christmas wins with 52% of percent of people who have seen it saying that they love it.

If you'd rather know how many people who saw the movie liked it — the sum of the shares of Americans who saw the movie who love it or like it — then How the Grinch Stole Christmas (91% love it or like it) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (91% love it or like it) are co-winners. They are followed by A Christmas Carol (90%), It's a Wonderful Life (89%), A Charlie Brown Christmas (89%), Frosty the Snowman (88%), Home Alone (87%), and The Grinch (87%).

A third way to assess favorites could also take into account how many people have seen each movie. In this case, the word is out about all the most liked films mentioned above — they're all in the top 10 for most viewed.

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

For this poll, YouGov asked people whether they had seen each movie without classifying it as a Christmas or holiday movie since there are heated debates over whether many movies deserve to be categorized as a Christmas movie. YouGov asked Americans who had seen each of nine widely debated films whether or not they consider it to be a Christmas movie.

Die Hard is one of the most widely debated movies of this category. In the film, the main character tries to save his wife and several other hostages from terrorists who have taken over a high-rise building in Los Angeles. One of the main arguments for this action film being considered a Christmas movie is that it takes place on Christmas Eve and features some Christmas music, decorations, and other elements of the holiday.

The 1988 movie lands in ninth place for most-liked by viewers and 11th place for most-loved movies of the films that were asked about; it's also the 13th most watched film on the list. But, Americans are slightly more likely to say Die Hard is not a Christmas movie (47%) than to say it is one (42%).

Other controversial Christmas movies that more Americans who have seen it say is a Christmas movie than say it is not include The Nightmare Before Christmas (64% say it is one), Love Actually (48%), and Just Friends (46%). People who have seen Serendipity are split on whether it's a Christmas film (41% vs 40%). Other movies with holiday themes that more often are categorized as not a Christmas film are the animated movie Frozen, Silver Linings Playbook, Little Women, and Edward Scissorhands.

— Carl Bialik and Taylor Orth contributed to this article

Related: Ranking Americans' favorite horror movies

See the toplines and crosstabs from these YouGov polls conducted on December 2 - 8, 2022 and December 5 - 8, 2022, each among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: These polls were conducted on December 2 - 8, 2022 and December 5 - 8, 2022 each among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 2%.

Image: Adobe Stock (JenkoAtaman)

Explore more data & articles