Movies

The top 10 most commercially successful Christmas films

Home Alone (1990)
20th Century Fox

Along with shopping trips, visiting relatives and lots of food, watching Christmas movies is one of the holiday's unbreakable traditions. Old standbys such as "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Miracle on 34th Street" are bona fide classics yet a crop of modern films have emerged to challenge the status quo. More so than the films of old, holiday movies of the new era have become defined by star power and their box-office success.

Using data from Box Office Mojo and adjusting for inflation, CNBC compiled a list of the 10 highest-grossing Christmas movies of all time. Spoiler Alert: "Die Hard" is most assuredly not on the list (with pre-emptive apologies to those who argue it's a holiday movie).


10. Tim Burton's 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' (1993)

Buena Vista Pictures

Domestic box-office gross: $75 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $125 million

Despite a few ghoulish scares, this story of Christmas in a spooky town has remained popular with kids, and enjoys the rare prestige of being a movie that's equally popular at Christmas and at Halloween. Tim Burton has steadfastly refused to make a sequel, in effect guaranteeing "Nightmare" will retain its cult classic status.


9. 'Four Christmases' (2008)

Four Christmases (2008)
Warner Bros. Pictures

Domestic box-office gross: $120 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $135 million

"Four Christmases," a romantic comedy about a couple who visit all four of their divorced parents separately on Christmas Day, received mostly negative reviews. Still, there was enough star power among the cast to attract ticket buyers, and it ended up being profitable enough to land a place in the top 10.

The movie was the directorial debut of Seth Gordon, who would go on to direct "Horrible Bosses" in 2011 and the "Baywatch" movie that's scheduled for release in 2017.


8. Disney's 'A Christmas Carol' (2009)

A Christmas Carol (2009)
Walt Disney

Domestic box-office gross: $138 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $155 million

"A Christmas Carol" has been adapted for the screen multiple times, in iterations featuring everybody from George C. Scott to Jim Henson's Muppets. In 2009, it was given the 3-D computer-generated imagery treatment, courtesy of "Forrest Gump" director Robert Zemeckis. The Jim Carrey vehicle received so-so reviews, but got a warmer reception at the box office.


7. 'The Santa Clause 2' (2002)

The Santa Clause 2 (2002)
Walt Disney

Domestic box-office gross: $139 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $186 million

The sequel to 1994's "The Santa Clause" starred Tim Allen of "Home Improvement" as a man obligated by force of law to suit up and become Saint Nick. The sequel did not make as much money as the original, but with a budget of $65 million, its 2002 box-office take of $139 million made it a success.


6. 'Elf' (2003)

Elf (2003)
Warner Bros. Pictures

Domestic box-office gross: $173 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $227 million

Comedian Will Ferrell starred as Buddy, a human being raised among Santa's elves who journeys to New York City to meet his real father. It garnered mostly positive reviews and has gone on to become a minor holiday classic since its release.



5. 'The Polar Express' (2004)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Domestic box-office gross: $184 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $235 million

Based on the 1985 Chris Van Allsburg book of the same name, the Zemeckis-directed film featured Tom Hanks. It is notable for being a 3-D film based on motion-capture CGI that graced theaters — a full five years before "Avatar" came along and made 3-D CGI a mandatory attribute of blockbuster films.


4. 'The Santa Clause' (1994)

The Santa Clause (1994)
Walt Disney Pictures

Domestic box-office gross: $145 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $236 million

Featuring Tim Allen as a man who suffers the indignity of having Santa Claus fall off of his roof, this movie was successful enough to inspire two sequels, each of which received a more lukewarm response than the original. While the first film didn't end up on many lists of the greatest Christmas films of all time, it was hard to deny its naive charm and sincerity.


3. 'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York' (1992)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
20th Century Fox

Domestic box-office gross: $174 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $299 million

The sequel to 1990's "Home Alone," the movie featured Macaulay Culkin's return to the role of Kevin McCallister, which made him famous. "Home Alone 2" was the second most financially successful movie of 1992 — with only "Aladdin" earning more at the box office.


2. 'Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas' (2000)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Universal Pictures

Domestic box-office gross: $260 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $364 million

Based on the classic children's book, the 2000 movie starred Jim Carrey as the titular Grinch, and had no trouble finding an audience. To this day it remains the second-highest grossing Christmas movie of all time.


1. 'Home Alone' (1990)

Home Alone (1990)
20th Century Fox

Domestic box-office gross: $286 million

Inflation-adjusted gross: $528 million

Shot with an $18 million production budget, the 1990 film is the highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time and is a staple of holiday moviegoers everywhere. Had it not been for Patrick Swayze's "Ghost," the Macaulay Culkin vehicle would have been the highest-grossing movie of 1990.


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