There’s simply something magnificent about those old, classic Christmas movies, and the vibe that comes with them. They just feel like home to me, and I love revisiting them every holiday season. Sure, we have some lovely modern classics that we rewatch every year, like Elf, or Home Alone, but if you’re looking for something new, but old – you’re in the right place.
And, when I say old, I mean almost a century old. I’m taking you all the way back to the 1930s, and the ten best Christmas movies of that decade for you to watch these holidays, or the next, or every other year after that. The list is ranked based on IMDb rating. Enjoy!
10. Alias St. Nick (1935)
IMDb rating: 6.3/10
What it’s about: Mrs. Mouse, a mother mouse, reads a story called ’A Visit from St. Nicholas’ to her little mice children. Suddenly, a cat tries to break into their home to eat them. She hears the story, and the mice arguing about whether Santa exists or not, so the cat takes the opportunity and dresses up as St. Nick, coming right back at their door…
Why you should watch it: This short, 10-minute movie is a great warm-up to get you into the festive mood, and into that 1930s cinematography vibe. The animation is quite rustic, and the plot unravels rather quickly, but it’s one of the sweetest Christmas-related shorts of the decade – and there were many.
9. Scrooge (1935)
IMDb rating: 6.5/10
What it’s about: Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been a favorite story to adapt into movies since forever, and that includes the 1930s. This was one of the first versions of Scrooge on screen, where Ebenezer Scrooge gets visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to show him the error of his ways and change his heart for the better.
Why you should watch it: Everybody loves the story of the old geezer Ebenezer. This one is as rustic as they come, but I love the way the story was told. There are some added plot lines that make Scrooge a much more relatable character, but overall, it’s still the story we all know and love, told in a classic, rustic, 1930s vibe.
8. The Night Before Christmas (1933)
IMDb rating: 7.0/10
What it’s about: As the narrator sings the classic poem ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ in the background, we see Santa Claus land on the roof of a house, go down the chimney, and as he opens his bag, toys come out to decorate a Christmas tree. The little toy soldiers shoot baubles out of their cannons, while an airplane leaves garlands behind instead of a trail.
Santa laughs in joy, which awakens the kids who try to get a sneak peek of St. Nick, but he escapes through the chimney in the final moments while the toys nest neatly underneath the tree. The music from Walt Disney’s Silly Symphony is included throughout.
Why you should watch it: It’s yet another short movie (only about 8 minutes long), but is one of the loveliest takes on the well-known classic poem. I loved the animation and the simplicity of the story that still manages to deliver that wonderful Christmas spirit. I am positive your kids will love this one as well.
7. Christmas Comes But Once a Year (1936)
IMDb rating: 7.1/10
What it’s about: In this animated, 9-minute short film, you get to follow the story of an orphanage, and the children living there. They are sad at Christmas because the toys they received are all broken. Professor Grampy passes by in his motorized sleigh and hears the children crying.
Instantly, he puts on his thinking cap and finds a way to solve the issues with the toys and make the children as happy as they come.
Why you should watch it: It’s funny how such a short, old-time, low-animation-quality movie can make your heart melt in a matter of minutes. There are some funny moments in this film, but make no mistakes – it honestly makes me cry every time I see it. If you’re looking for a 1930s Christmas film, this one should definitely find a spot on your list!
6. March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
IMDb rating: 7.1/10
What it’s about: Originally titled Babes in Toyland, this family comedy follows Stanley Dum and Ollie Dee, two boys who try to borrow money from their toymaker boss so that they could pay off their mother’s mortgage. When they fail to do so, the evil Barnaby is tricked into marrying Stanley Dum instead of his wife-to-be, Bo Peep, to erase the mother’s debt.
Barnaby gets insanely angry and sends some cave bogeymen to destroy Toyland in an act of vengeance.
Why you should watch it: Now that I read what the movie is about, it sounds like something dark and quite cray even. In reality, it’s the exact opposite – it’s a family comedy that will have you giggle half the time, and your kids rolling on the floor laughing at some of the jokes.
5. Santa’s Workshop (1932)
IMDb rating: 7.2/10
What it’s about: In this Walt Disney classic short, we follow Santa Claus on the North Pole, trying his best to finish all the toys before Christmas, when it’s time to deliver. Luckily, he has Santa’s little helpers to hurry up the production.
Why you should watch it: I find this to be the greatest Christmas short of all time, simply due to its utter simplicity, joy, and laughter, it brings to the whole family. It’s Walt Disney at his finest, purest self, with hand-drawn animation that might seem rustic by today’s standards, but still takes your breath away – even if it’s for only about seven minutes.
4. Bachelor Mother (1939)
IMDb rating: 7.5/10
What it’s about: A young woman, Polly Parish, works as a clerk at Merlin’s Department Store. One day, David Merlin – the owner of the store – makes a mistake, believing that a baby is actually Polly’s child when it really isn’t.
Throughout the film, he’s appalled by her non-motherly behavior (because she’s not actually the mother) and does everything he can to keep the baby and its ‘mother’ together.
Why you should watch it: This one might not be a classic Christmas movie, per se, but it happens around Christmas time and has strong connections to the holiday season. You should watch it because the story is incredibly funny, heartwarming, and beautiful, and I’m positive you will love it.
3. A Christmas Carol (1938)
IMDb rating: 7.5/10
What it’s about: Another classic representation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, portraying Ebenezer Scrooge and his path to redemption that happens during a haunting on Christmas Eve. The stars of the film are Reginald Owen, along with Gene and Kathleen Lockhart.
Why you should watch it: This film came out in 1938, and is still, to me, one of the best adaptations of the most-adapted Christmas stories ever. I know, we say that a lot, but this one, from 1938, has everything you need – nice acting, not too many complications – just a simple, straightforward, beautiful story of the old miser and his journey to kindness.
2. Holiday (1938)
IMDb rating: 7.7/10
What it’s about: Johnny Case is betrothed to a daughter of a millionaire. However, Johnny is a free spirit who wishes not to be married to someone he doesn’t love. He wishes to spend his early years of life on a holiday, which he eventually does with the help of his friends Nick and Susan. He meets a girl there, and now has to decide who he wants to spend his life with…
Why you should watch it: Do you know what’s the only thing that’s close to the awesomeness of Audrey Hepburn? Well, Kathleen Hepburn! The IMDb rating says it all – you got comedy, romance, great acting, a Christmas-time theme, and a whole lot of cult-classic fun you just have to watch!
1. The Thin Man (1934)
IMDb rating: 7.9/10
What it’s about: A retired detective Nick Charles gets convinced by his wife Nora to take on an investigation of a murder case that’s closely related to one of their friends. The main suspect is the friend’s rich father, Clyde Wynant, while the victim is his mistress and former secretary. The Thin Man solves the mystery and reveals the murderer at a party, in front of everyone.
Why you should watch it: One might not classify The Thin Man as a Christmas movie – at least not the subsequent sequels – but this first one is heavily based around Christmas time. Even the soundtrack includes Jingle Bells! It’s still one of the coolest detective mystery comedies of all time, and the film that started the legendary series of The Thin Man movies. It’s a must-watch!