The best Christmas films of the 21st century

25. Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)

Scottish director John McPhail delivers a Christmas movie, a high school musical and a zombie apocalypse tale all rolled into one. It's gloriously gory and surprisingly sweet, with killer tunes. (Vertigo Releasing)

24. A Christmas Carol (2009)

Jim Carrey gurns his way through a performance capture suit in this cinematic experiment from Robert Zemeckis. It's the story everybody knows, with some visuals that are as technically impressive as they are oddly unsettling. (Disney)

22=. A Boy Called Christmas (2021)

A Boy Called Christmas imagines the origins of Santa Claus, adapted from a 2015 novel by Matt Haig. It's a fantastical ride through a world of elves and pixies, featuring an all-star cast including Toby Jones, Sally Hawkins, Kristen Wiig and Dame Maggie Smith. (Sky UK)

22=. The Grinch (2018)

Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the green grouch in this reimagining of the Dr Seuss story. It's by far the biggest box office hit on the list and has displaced the make-up heavy Jim Carrey version in the minds of a whole generation of kids. (Illumination)

21. The Night Before (2015)

The frat boy world of Seth Rogen meets the festive period, as he joins Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie as buddies in search of a quasi-mythical Christmas Eve party. (Columbia Pictures)

20. The Polar Express (2004)

Before Zemeckis made his take on Scrooge, he cast Tom Hanks alongside Tom Hanks, totally understandably. This is the first film made entirely through digital performance capture, and it's unintentionally creepy beyond belief. (Warner Bros)

18=. Better Watch Out (2017)

This enjoyably nasty Christmas horror plays out as a pitch-black twist on Home Alone, anchored by Levi Miller shedding the squeaky clean image of his role in the derided Pan. (Universal)

18=. The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Kurt Russell plays a rock n roll Santa trying to save Christmas, with a couple of unruly kids in tow. Netflix's first foray into the festive is worth watching for the Elvis-inspired musical number alone. A disappointing sequel arrived a few years later, but the original still shines. (Netflix)

17. Last Christmas (2019)

The internet told everybody the twist on the day the trailer came out, but Paul Feig's Wham-inflected romcom still soared at the box office thanks to the undeniable charm of Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding. Critical raspberries were duly ignored and, three years on, it's a festive favourite for many. (Universal)

16. Last Train To Christmas (2021)

Featuring Michael Sheen as a man experiencing Christmases past, present and future as he moves through the carriages of an apparently magical train, Last Train to Christmas delivers laughs alongside emotional gut-punches. For fans of Michael Sheen's prosthetics transformations, it's a proper delight. Nathalie Emmanuel co-stars. (Sky Cinema)

14=. The Holiday (2006)

Festive sweetness is in ample supply in this starry film from romcom maestro Nancy Meyers, which features Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black. (Universal)

14=. Love, Actually (2003)

Its detractors are loud, its fans are equally loud and, yes, that placard scene is awful, but there's no denying that Richard Curtis' multi-stranded romcom is a stone cold Christmas classic. (Credit: Universal)

13. Happiest Season (2020)

There are very few LGBT+ romcoms set around Christmas, but that will hopefully change in the wake of Happiest Season. Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis's lead performances are part of a killer ensemble, also benefiting from the considerable talents of Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie and Dan Levy. (eOne)

10=. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Scandinavian folklore tends to see Santa Claus as something less cuddly than we've come to expect in the English-speaking world. If you've seen this one, you won't have forgotten it. (Icon)

10=. Spirited (2022)

Apple's first major foray into the world of Christmas movies is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-fresh spin on A Christmas Carol, in which Will Ferrell plays a jaded Ghost of Christmas Present alongside Ryan Reynolds as a Scrooge-like ad exec who puts up a real resistance to change. (Apple TV+)

10=. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

Bored of reading about adaptations of A Christmas Carol yet? This one is another slightly different slant, in which Dan Stevens plays a Charles Dickens visited by some very familiar ghosts while trying to write a successful, Christmas-themed book. I wonder how that'll turn out... (Thunderbird Releasing)

9. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Netflix's big, colourful Christmas musical is a feast for the eyes and for the heart. The wholesome tale of a curmudgeonly inventor being reminded of his former glory by his precocious granddaughter has already won over many as a future festive classic. (Netflix)

7=. Boxing Day (2021)

British actor Aml Ameen writes, directs and stars in this festive romcom following a British writer who returns to the UK for his family celebrations, along with his new fiancée (Aja Naomi King). Matters are complicated, though, by the arrival of his ex — a music superstar played by a music superstar, as Little Mix singer Leigh-Anne Pinnock makes her acting debut. (Warner Bros)

7=. Bad Santa (2003)

Billy Bob Thornton plays a boozy, sweary shopping mall Santa in this Christmas crime tale. It's crass, politically incorrect and consistently funny. As with many successful festive stories, a sequel failed to recapture the magic. (Columbia Pictures)

6. Violent Night (2022)

A brand new Christmas movie and one which would no doubt be higher on this list if it had time to really soar at the box office, Violent Night takes Christmas and injects blood and sledgehammers. David Harbour plays a version of Santa Claus who gets brutal to protect a family targeted by money-hungry mercenaries on Christmas Eve, (Universal Pictures)

4=. Carol (2015)

Charting the forbidden relationship between Cate Blanchett's glamorous married woman and Rooney Mara's shopgirl, Todd Haynes' 50s-set romance is a dreamlike, sepia-toned treat of a movie. (StudioCanal)

4=. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Shane Black loves the Christmas setting and he gave Robert Downey Jr. a killer lead role, three years before Iron Man assured his career reinvention, in this snarky, self-referential crime comedy. (Warner Bros)

1=. Klaus (2019)

It's a three way tie at the top! And the most recent movie in the wining trio is a Netflix gem. JK Simmons as a grumpy, reclusive woodsman Santa? Sold. This charming animation was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars and, but for the continued dominance of Pixar, it would have emerged victorious. (Netflix)

1=. Arthur Christmas (2011)

Perhaps the most recent film that can call itself a bona fide festive classic, Arthur Christmas is a UK success story. Aardman brought their consummate sense of British silliness to Christmas with this story of Santa's son, desperate to prove himself by delivering a girl's missing present in time for the big morning. (Aardman)

1=. Elf (2003)

Will Ferrell has never clowned better than he does in his absurd green outfit as Buddy, who has journeyed to New York City in search of his biological father and as much sugary food as he can get his hands on. It's insanely quotable, charming to a fault and still the (almost) undisputed champion of modern Christmas movies. (New Line Cinema)

Christmas lends itself very nicely to movie watching. Everyone has time to burn and the entire family is far too full of mince pies and lukewarm leftover turkey to actually muster the energy required to leave the sofa.

With that in mind, Christmas films are an indispensable part of the cinema landscape. These are movies people often watch every single year and fall in love with over the course of time. The 21st century has yielded its fair share of festive classics, which already feel as essential to the Christmas experience as trees, presents and the year's most depressing episode of EastEnders.

Read more: Michael Sheen and Nathalie Emmanuel reveal favourite Christmas films

But which is the best Christmas film of the 21st century? It's time to crunch the numbers. From a longlist of the major festive releases since 2000, we ranked them three times — based on global box office (with a slight statistical fudge for streaming movies), Rotten Tomatoes critic score and the same site's audience score — and awarded points for the rankings.

The result is a (theoretically) definitive list of the best the 21st century has to offer when it comes to Christmas viewing. So settle down with that advent calendar you promised yourself you wouldn't entirely consume before December even starts, and dive in.