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A Vintage Christmas – 19 Classic Holiday Films to Make You Feel Nostalgic

Here are some classic holiday films to watch when you're in the mood for some nostalgia!

There is something inherently nostalgia-laden about classic Christmas films. They hearken back to what we perceive as the simplicity and warmth of earlier times.

It's a Wonderful Life for vintage christmas list

These vintage movies celebrate the best things about the holiday – love, family, peace, and joy. Not to mention, they generally are accompanied by our favorite Christmas carols sung by names like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Tony Bennett, which only enhance the images onscreen.

Christmas just happens to be my favorite time of year. In fact, I start my holiday countdown in October. I also happen to be a classic film aficionado.

So, I am combining my two favorite things today to bring you a list of vintage Christmas films for your enjoyment. Some of these are famous classics, while others are more obscure. But all of them should leave you filled with the wonder of the season.

Note: Availability in the where to watch sections are for the US and is subject to change at any time. The availability information was last updated in December 2022.


(in no particular order)

1. The Lion in Winter (1968)

Vintage Christmas -The Lion in Winter (1968)
Katharine Hepburn & Peter O’Toole as dueling spouses. Photo Credit: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Featuring a tour de force performance by the great Katharine Hepburn, it also stars Peter O’Toole and Timothy Dalton and features the debut of Anthony Hopkins.

Henry II gathers his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his sons, Richard, Geoffrey, and John, to celebrate Christmas. He also plans to choose who his successor should be. You’ve never seen a dysfunctional family Christmas quite like this one.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

2. Remember the Night (1940)

Vintage Christmas -Remember the Night (1940)
Fred MacMurray is stunned to be given custody of this beautiful thief.
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Barbara Stanwyck is a petty thief who is remanded into the care of the city’s prosecuting attorney (Fred MacMurray) for the holidays.

He takes her to his family home with him for Christmas, where she experiences the warmth and acceptance of a family for the first time.

Where to Watch: Buy on DVD.

3. Come to the Stable (1949)

Vintage Christmas -Come to the Stable (1949)
Celeste Holm and Loretta Young star.
Photo Credits: 20th Century Fox

Two French nuns travel to the town of Bethlehem, Connecticut, where they plan to build a children’s hospital.

They run into all sorts of obstacles but manage to lovingly coerce many eccentric characters to assist them in their efforts. Loretta Young stars.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

4. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Vintage Christmas -The Bishop's Wife (1947)
Cary Grant at Christmas. What more do you need? Photo Credit: RKO Radio Pictures

Cary Grant plays an angel sent to help a minister discover what is truly important in life. What more do you need to know than that?

Except this heavenly angel begins to feel some rather human romantic emotions towards the minister’s lovely wife.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime Video, Roku, Tubi, Plex, Kanopy, Watch TCM (you need a cable subscription for this one), and Pluto TV. Buy on DVD or Amazon.

5. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Vintage Christmas -Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Barbara Stanwyck & Dennis Morgan
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

What if Martha Stewart was a fake? Well, our heroine is a Martha Stewart-type character who is the furthest thing from a domestic goddess.

But when her publisher decides she needs to host Christmas for himself and a wounded sailor, she is left scrambling to create the homemaker illusion she has become famous for.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max, Rent/Buy on Digital and DVD.

6. White Christmas (1954)

Vintage Christmas -White Christmas (1954)
Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye & Rosemary Clooney Photo Credit; Paramount Pictures

One of two Christmas musicals starring Bing Crosby and set in an inn. This one has him and his partner falling for sisters and trying to save the lodge, which belongs to their former commanding general.

Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix. Rent/Buy on Digital and DVD.

7. A Christmas Story (1983)

Vintage Christmas -A Christmas Story (1983)
Ralphie’s favorite Christmas present
Photo Credit: MGM/UA Entertainment

Though this film is much more recent than others on this list, the time setting is the same. This is a good example of a more modern movie that still retains the nostalgia of an earlier era.

Ralphie’s daily adventures and quirky family feel familiar to many people who enjoy this modern classic.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max (the sequel is there now, too) or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

8. Holiday Inn (1942)

Vintage Christmas -Holiday Inn (1942)
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire woo the same woman
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Beloved by many, it stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire doing what they each do best while competing for the same woman.

It also features a country inn which is only open on the holidays, so you will see some festive song and dance numbers.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

9. Holiday Affair (1949)

Vintage Christmas -Holiday Affair (1949)
Robert Mitchum & Janet Leigh
Photo Credit: RKO Radio Pictures

A widowed mother costs a sales clerk his job. But her young son thinks the now jobless clerk would make a much better dad than the man his mom is currently dating.

This film is famous for being used to restore Robert Mitchum’s public image after he was arrested for possession of marijuana. And it really is a sweet, wholesome film. It also stars Janet Leigh prior to her famous role in Psycho.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

10. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Vintage Christmas -Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Natalie Wood & Edmund Gwenn Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Although this film has been recently remade, nothing compares to the original starring Maureen O’Hara, the young Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. A cynical woman and her daughter befriend a man who claims to be Santa Claus.

Eventually, he must prove his claim in court. But more importantly, he must prove himself to a young girl who has closed her heart to the magic of Christmas.

Where to Watch: Stream on Disney+, Peacock, and Prime Video. Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

11. It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)

Vintage Christmas -It Happened on 5th Avenue(1947)
When there is no room at the inn…
Photo Credits: Allied Artists

Every winter, wealthy owners of a New York mansion move south for the season. Shortly after, a kind but homeless man moves in for the season as a squatter. His generosity leads him to invite others who are suffering to move in with him in this house he does not own.

Unbeknownst to him, however, the owners have discovered his residency. They move back home under assumed names to find out what is going on in their house. An underrated Christmas feel-good comedy.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max. Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

12. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Vintage Christmas -It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Photo: Liberty Films

What list would be complete without this perennial Christmas classic about George Bailey and the angel who teaches him the value of a well-lived life?

Although it flopped upon initial release, its important message has made it a holiday favorite over time.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime Video, Plex, and Hoopla. Rent/buy on Digital and DVD. Check cable listings as it plays on multiple channels in December.

13. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Vintage Christmas -The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
James Stewart & Maureen Sullavan. Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Are you a fan of You’ve Got Mail? Did you know it was based on this film starring James Stewart about a couple of pen pals in Budapest?

(This film was based on the Hungarian play, Parfumerie by Miklós László.) The two just happen to be co-workers who can’t stand each other in real life.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max, Watch TCM. Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

14. A Christmas Carol (1938)

Vintage Christmas -A Christmas Carol (938)
Reginald Owen will always be my idea of Scrooge
Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

There are many different film adaptations of Dickens’ popular story of the irascible Scrooge and his three ghostly visitors. This version is my favorite.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max, Paramount+, and Roku. Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

15. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

Vintage Christmas -The Man Who Came to Dinner(1942)
Monty Wooley with Bette Davis to his right.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Have you ever had an unpleasant guest who just didn’t know when to leave? That is the premise of this holiday film. A famous but cynical theater critic breaks his leg while visiting the home of an Ohioan family.

The doctor insists he cannot be moved. He then moves in with this family and proceeds to create havoc in their lives.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max or buy on DVD.

16. Meet John Doe (1941)

Vintage Christmas -Meet John Doe (1941)
Walter Brennan, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck & Edward Arnold
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

A reporter prints a fake letter from an anonymous man threatening suicide to protest the state of society. Her ploy hits a nerve with the newspaper readers.

She must then hire a man to play this fake letter writer. His real everyman opinions make him famous and start a political movement.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime Video, Paramount+, Hoopla, Kanopy, Roku, and many more free streaming sites like Plex and Pluto TV. Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

17. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Vintage Christmas -Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Judy Garland sings to Margaret O’Brien Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

This follows the antics of sisters at the turn of the century in St. Louis. Although the events of this film take place over the course of the year, a part of those events occurs at Christmas.

This movie will also always be remembered for Judy Garland’s emotional performance of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

18. Bachelor Mother (1939)

Vintage Christmas -Bachelor Mother (1939)
David Niven and Ginger Rogers are stumped on how to feed a baby.
Photo Credit: RKO Radio Pictures

When a young saleswoman is mistaken as the mother of a baby left at her doorstep, it threatens her job. Her boss and the son of the store’s owner has a compassionate heart. 

However, his efforts to help her leave people believing he must be the father of the woman’s child. Things become even more complicated when the store’s owner decides his playboy son needs to settle down and marry the mother of “his” child.

Where to Watch: Stream on Watch TCM. Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

19. Never Say Goodbye (1946)

Vintage Christmas -Never Say Goodbye (1946)
Eleanor Parker just can’t resist the charming Errol Flynn.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

An underrated romantic comedy Christmas film. Never Say Goodbye is the story of a precocious young girl attempting to reunite with her parents, who are secretly still in love with each other.

You may recognize the stunningly beautiful actress who plays her mother as the Baroness from The Sound of Music. This picture has many laugh-out-loud scenes, including one with double Santas.

Where to Watch: Buy on DVD.

Do you have a favorite classic Holiday Christmas movie? Let me know in the comments!

Featured image credit: It’s a Wonderful Life (RKO Radio Pictures).

A Vintage Christmast: 19 Classic Holiday Films to Make You Feel Nostalgic; pinterest image with It's A Wonderful Life


By on November 28th, 2017

About Brittaney B.

Brittaney has had her head in the clouds ever since she first fell in love with books and film as a young child. She's a firm believer in the power of story to transport us to new places while also transforming our hearts. She tends to favor historical fiction and classic films since they also allow her to feel like a time traveler. Brittaney is a native resident of Texas and has been honing her own ability to write and tell stories for many years now. You can find more of her wordsmith skills at her website www.storyenthusiast.com.

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