People might say such a list is subjective, but when it comes to the number one spot, it is decidedly not.
1) A Christmas Carol, the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim. This is the greatest Christmas movie ever, the only version of the Dickens tale you need watch. Any other is inferior. This is so. There is no debate. If you disagree you are wrong. There is a colourized version which I would suggest avoiding.
2) Whistle Down the Wind. 1961. Young Hayley Mills, youngish Alan Bates. An unusual tale, very beautiful, about children and their ability to believe. Bonus marks for use of “We Three Kings,” an under-used carol and a brief role for Richard Attenborough (un-credited, I think).
3) The Bishop’s Wife. 1947. What is not to love? David Niven, Cary Grant, Loretta Young, Monty Woolley, Elsa Lanchester. A Bishop, an angel, faith, love and sacrifice. Sophisticated, smart, with plenty of humour.
4) Miracle on 34th Street, 1947 version. Wee Natalie Wood (her best role!), Maureen O’Hara and a wonderfully sophisticated look at marketing. The only good thing about the remake is Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle.
5) For this spot I’ll give a short list of honourary mentions: Three Godfathers – a John Wayne directed by John Ford Christmas tale, unusual, clever and quite touching; It’s a Wonderful Life (a movie one doesn’t really “get” when one is young — you need to have failed a lot to appreciate it!); I’ll Be Seeing You (I find this to be a major tearjerker); Holiday Inn/White Christmas (if only for the song and dance); Christmas in Connecticut (with a very funny Barbara Stanwyck and the ever pill-ish Dennis Morgan); The Sound of Music (yes, I know it isn’t a Christmas movie and it even has Nazis in it, making it extremely unfestive, but I love to watch it at Christmas).
And thus ends my list. I am certain I have forgotten some, but I urge any of you who have not seen the top three to do so, pronto.