10 of the funniest old-school Christmas movies

10 of the funniest old-school Christmas movies
Copyright by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists and other relevant production studios and distributors. // Moviestilldb.com

Grandma's getting hammered, that weird uncle is about to start going off about his new importing/exporting business, and somewhere a child screams — that's right, it's the holidays!

At a certain point, someone just needs to put something on the screen to shut everyone else up — and folks probably could use a laugh.

These Christmas comedies may not always have the most holiday spirit or dig deep into the true meaning of the season, but they will make you laugh out loud. Here are 10 old-school movies to watch this Christmas that will improve the mood and raise your spirits, made all the better with a couple of those spirits in hand.

Christmas Vacation (1989)


Just when you think you know everything John Hughes gave to cinema, you find out he wrote and produced this National Lampoon-backed all-time great holiday comedy.

There's just the right amount of realism sprinkled into this absurdist chucklefest, and anyone who doesn't like it should have their gifts rescinded. It's required viewing — which shouldn't be hard since it seems to be on a constant loop across multiple channels starting December 1.

>>Watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story GIF

This one gets double points because it's both old school itself and about even older-school times — also because we're making up the rules, so we get bonus points whenever we want.

Every year since TNT started the Christmas Story marathon in 1997 I've tuned in and been able to get at least one full viewing, and every year I think I'm going to get sick of it, and every year I just end up laughing my ass off.

Scene after scene after scene of pure comedy gold, all set against a holiday backdrop. It's honestly kind of hard to go through a full day and not reference this movie in your head at least once. Try it — I triple dog dare you.

>>Watch A Christmas Story.

Elf (2003)

Will Ferrell Santa GIF by filmeditor

It's hard to believe that Jon Favreau's directorial breakout is now 20 years old.

Back in 2003, it felt like all the great classic Christmas movies had already been made. Boy were we wrong.

I dare you to name a single movie that's a better fit for Will Ferrel's style of child-like comedy. His portrayal of Buddy the Elf (who is actually an adopted human) provides multiple laugh-out-loud moments. And rather than getting tiresome after multiple viewings, it's one of those movies where you anticipate each scene just as it begins.

Plus, it features legends Bob Newhart, James Caan, and Mary Steenburger in supporting roles. Go watch it already, you cotton-headed ninny muggins!

>>Watch Elf.

Home Alone (1990)


Alright, now John Hughes is just getting greedy. But hell, it's another undeniable Christmas classic that he wrote and produced.

It's a deceptively simple story of a kid enjoying Christmas without any of the constraints of the real world — until the Wet Bandits show up, of course. But that's when the laughs get even better with some throwback physical comedy that is actually among some of the best stuntwork you'll ever see in a movie.

Home Alone is going to keep making it on pretty much any list where it would even be a remote option, and for good reason. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!

>>Watch Home Alone.

Jack Frost (1998)


File this one under being hilarious on accident, even though it was trying to be funny on purpose for different reasons.

This 1998 Michael Keaton flick tells the story of a dad who gets killed (great for family viewing!) but whose soul is then transferred to the snowman his son built. This leads to numerous utterly ridiculous moments, puns, and quotes like this one: "Snow-dad’s better than no dad!"

Hard to believe it was a box-office bomb, eh?

Jack Frost is best enjoyed with a rich sense of sarcasm, some spiked cider, and a group of people who are willing to pull a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style jokefest.

>>Watch Jack Frost.

Trading Places (1983)


Trading Places isn't the first movie you think of when picking out Christmas movies, but it really should be among the options.

This movie finally answers the question of what happens when two rich dudes want to play with people's lives. Thank goodness it's fiction, right?

For their bet, they take the successful Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and switch up his life with street hustler Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) — and it all gets started right before Christmas. From there, hilarity ensues.

Just remember, this came out 40 years ago, meaning some of the jokes could be a little problematic today. Just explain it to little Timmy and I'm sure it will all work out fine (and maybe cover his eyes for a certain Jamie Lee Curtis scene).

>>Watch Trading Places.

Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)


We're not gonna lie (trying to stay on Santa's good side here) — this movie is dumb. But it's dumb in the best way possible.

I mean, you have Jim Varney portraying the classically stupid yet unintentionally brilliant Ernest P. Worrell once again, so I'm not sure what else you expect. Take Ernest, have him save Christmas, drink some eggnog, laugh, repeat. It's that simple. Also, the fictional movie being made called Christmas Slay == brilliant. (Not to be confused with a 2015 horror movie of the same name.)

This movie was also number two at the box office when it came out, which is kind of incredible.

>>Watch Ernest Saves Christmas.

Fred Claus (2007)


While not quite as old school as some of the other movies on this list, it's been over 16 years since this Vince Vaughan-led comedy first hit theaters. So, hey, it counts.

And you know what? This was better than I expected. The entire premise is pretty silly — Santa has a brother named Fred who is a total loser — and in general, we're fans of silly premises.

Seeing Santa lose his crap and try to attack Fred is good stuff. And there's just enough sentiment to put you in the yuletide spirit and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

But also, Vince Vaughan at the height of his Vince-Vaughan-ness. Don't overlook this one.

>>Watch Fred Claus.

Better Off Dead (1985)

Movie gif. John Cusack as Lane in Better Off Dead sitting in a car with the window rolled down, pulls down his aviator sunglasses and winks.

Is this truly a Christmas movie? We'll admit, it's a little bit of a stretch, but it does take place right before Christmas and includes ski racing, so it just depends on how loose your group is.

All that said, this surprisingly-not-written-by-John-Hughes comedy features John Cusack in his first true leading role and some classic '80s tropes that only became tropes because of this movie. Plus Curtis Armstrong (aka Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) constantly treating everyday items like drugs.

>>Watch Better Off Dead.

The Ref (1994)


Remember when Dennis Leary was the edgiest comedian? Yeah, he looks like Dave Coulier in comparison these days.

Still, this is one that's best saved for after the kiddos have been put to bed with visions of sugarplums, etc. It tells the story of a heist gone wrong, as cat burglar Gus ends up taking a bickering couple hostage — which turns out to be a much worse situation for the criminal than the couple.

This isn't going to be on anyone's all-time classics list, but it's pure '90s and still good for some smiles.

>>Watch The Ref.

Honorable Mentions

These don't quite fit the bill for different reasons, but here are a couple of others to consider if you need some laughs.

Eight Crazy Nights (2002)


There aren't a ton of classic Hannukuh movies out there to choose from, but just as Adam Sandler brought us "The Chanukah Song" so doth he bringeth this animated comedy.

Everyone basically hated this movie when it first came out, maybe because on the surface it looked like a fun animated holiday family film, but it's actually a crude and somewhat bizarre movie based largely on grief. The animation is legit, though.

It's since built a bit of a cult following, but is another one best saved for after little Timmy has gone... to bed! Sheesh, what did you think we meant?

>>Watch Eight Crazy Nights.

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

star wars holiday special wtf GIF

This one doesn't make the official list, because it's technically not a movie. Instead, it's the product of what anyone in the position of George Lucas and crew would do following the monster success of their movie — a made-for-TV holiday special!

It's also not really about Christmas, because it all centers on the Wookie holiday of "Life Day." In addition, we find out that Chewbacca has a wife and son, so just think about that when watching all of the movies he's a part of — yeah, he's kind of an absent father.

Despite the fact the special featured almost every single one of the main original cast and introduced a new original storyline, it was deemed so awful that it was never aired again and never released on home media. C'mon Disney+, you know what you need to do...

In the meantime, someone out there managed to get it on YouTube.

What classic Christmas comedy will you be watching this year?