The 10 Best Christmas Movies of the 90s, According to Rotten Tomatoes

Common Nightmare Before Christmas prequel comic slated for release in 2023, it looks like nostalgia for the film has reached a peak. It’s one of those few films that has remained perennially popular at both Halloween and Christmas, and as winter approaches, other Christmas classics from the 1990s are sure to be phased out.

While the decade didn’t have as many critically adored Christmas movies as the 1980s, the 1990s still boast some iconic features that remain in heavy rotation on television. As can be seen from the highest rated Christmas movies on Rotten Tomatoes the best movies were those that subverted the trappings of the genre in one way or another.

Home Alone (1990) – 67%

Kevin Harry Marv Home Alone

Macaulay Culkin’s signature film, home alone sees the child star play Kevin McCallister as he struggles with the responsibility of being left home alone at Christmastime. It seems like a wish come true until Kevin must protect himself from a pair of thieves played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

Despite early reviews of the film being mixed, home alone has cemented itself as a Christmas classic thanks to its deft blend of comedy and warmth. Even after thirty years, the jokes and antics still elicit laughter from audiences, and the narrative surrounding Catherine O’Hara’s character is bound to melt hearts.

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) – 68%

Geena Davis in The Long Goodnight Kiss

Written by Shane Black, The long goodnight kiss is an action thriller about an amnesiac teacher named Samantha Caine who tries to learn about her past with the help of a private investigator. As they discover more about Samantha’s identity, the pair find themselves embroiled in a plot involving a secret criminal organization.

While some would argue that The long goodnight kiss just uses the Christmas setting as a backdrop in an attempt to replicate the success of Hard to kill, the film is perfect for the holiday season. The plot is driven by Samantha’s desire to protect her family, and a key subplot involves Samuel L. Jackson’s character trying to reconnect with his son.

Die Hard 2 (1990) – 69%

McClane in Die Hard 2

Set two years after the original film, Die Hard 2 sees John McClane uncover a terrorist plot at Washington Dulles International Airport while waiting for his wife to arrive. Teaming up with the airport police and a skeptical military commander, he must work to stop the terrorists in order to save everyone in the air.

While Hard to kill has always been a controversial film when it comes to its status as a Christmas classic, Die Hard 2 is undoubtedly more bent in the spirit of the times. The Christmas setting is more open and campy due to the music and the snow-covered setting, although the themes of camaraderie and reconciliation are lacking due to the standardized storyline.

Santa Claus (1994) – 73%

Tim Allen in Santa Claus with Santa's Jacket Outside

The Santa Claus is one of Tim Allen’s signature films and sees the famous comedian take on the guise of Santa Claus after having accidentally killed Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Most of the film is then devoted to Allen’s character struggling with his newfound responsibility as he fights for the right to raise his son.

Nonetheless The Santa Claus it’s not a very deep film, it’s an unmistakably charming film that skillfully blends comedy and family drama. Tim Allen is funny throughout, and the ending where he gets arrested while delivering presents is a joke.

Ref. (1994) – 73%

Denis Leary holds Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis hostage

Trying to balance a family drama tale with a crime comedy, The Ref. sees Dennis Leary play a thief who kidnaps a couple on Christmas Eve as he tries to skip town. Trapped in the couple’s home, he is forced to intercede in their domestic disputes while waiting for his driver.

The Ref. is an intriguing black comedy that takes the dysfunction of A Christmas Storyand christmas holidays to the next level. Although it sometimes leads to jokes that seem very mean, the film generally manages to elicit laughs, thanks in large part to Leary’s performance.

The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992) – 75%

The Muppets A Christmas Carol cast

The first Muppet movie to be produced after Jim Henson’s death, The Muppet Christmas Carol finds Kermit and company steeped in the history of A Christmas Song, with Michael Caine as Scrooge. The film closely matches the original Charles Dickens tale, although it replaces many of the main characters with the Muppets.

what differentiates The Muppet Christmas Carollike so many other adaptations of the classic story is the added whimsy that the Muppets provide. Their presence gives a more comic take on an old classic, but the humor never gets in the way of the story’s emotional plot (which Caine sells in his performance).

Batman Returns (1992) – 81%

Selina Kyle aka Catwoman looking up at the Bat-Signal in the sky in Batman Returns (1992)

One of several Tim Burton films set around Christmas time, Batman Returns focuses on the Penguin’s exploits as he tries to gain favor with Gotham City while blackmailing the evil Max Schreck. It’s up to Batman to put an end to the Penguin’s machinations, even as he struggles with being in love with the vigilante Catwoman.

While it’s a much darker movie than most Christmas movies, Batman Returns works as a good commentary on the nature of the station. The themes can be a little confusing at times, but at the film’s core is its three main characters’ desire for connection, an idea that works wonderfully with the Christmas setting.

While You Were Sleeping (1995) – 81%

Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping as Lucy

While you were Sleeping is one of Sandra Bullock’s best films, and finds the star playing a lonely chip collector who ingratiates herself with the Callaghan family after saving Peter from being run over by a train. Despite pretending to be engaged to a comatose Peter, she soon falls in love with his younger brother Jack.

While the premise has all the trappings of a Hallmark movie, While you were Sleeping it’s more than just a simple Christmas cheese. It’s a legitimately compelling novel, full of holiday cheer, a heartwarming family dynamic, and an endearing performance by Bullock, who lends every scene she’s in a certain awkward charm.

Little Women (1994) – 93%

The cast of Little Women

Although it is one of several adaptations of Louis May Alcott’s magnum opus, Gillian Armstrong little women 1994 is among the most notable. Like the source material, the film focuses on the lives of the four March sisters as they grow from childhood to adulthood and documents the conflict that comes with losing loved ones.

What makes the Gillian Armstrong version of little women a welcoming addition to the Christmas canon is the use of its setting to elevate the story. The first third of the film is resplendent with Christmas imagery and heightens the March sisters’ altruism as they try to give to others despite the misfortunes that beset their family.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – 95%

Nightmare Before Christmas

Often cited as Tim Burton’s best film (much to director Henry Sellick’s chagrin), The Nightmare Before Christmas tells the story of Jack Skellington as he tries to master Christmas after growing bored with Halloween. The results are utterly disastrous and leave Jack with no choice but to return the holiday to Santa Claus.

What does the The Nightmare Before Christmas such an enduring classic is the sheer passion behind the project. The stop-motion animation is beautiful, the music delightful, and the characters iconic in their aesthetics and motivations.

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