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Top 10 Christmas Movie Characters

By Noelle Buffam · December 17, 2010

Being that my name is a source of Christmas puns for the entire month of December, I feel that I have some sense of authority over all Christmas movies. Speaking of authority… I would like to take this moment to publicly declared that, even though John McClane is not on this list, Die Hard and Die Harder are indeed Christmas movies. Give up the fight, ladies.

Anyway, as a child my Mother told me that because my name is Noelle, I could wear Christmas sweaters any time of the year. In retrospect, I see that this was simply a tool she used make me wear an embarrassing reindeer sweatshirt… but at the time I took that tidbit to heart.

Yes. I am one of those people that listens to Christmas music in July. I watch holiday movies whenever I want to, and I start decorating for Christmas after Halloween. Hate me if you want to, but I look at it as compensation for all the "First Noel" jokes I hear.

But for most people, the end of Thanksgiving marks the time when they can finally break out their favorite Christmas movies. More so than regular movies, Christmas movies tend to be associated with tradition. Because of this, Christmas characters are some of the most revered and celebrated film Characters of all time. This list puts together the Top 10 Christmas Characters in film.

Not only will this list provide an insight into character development, but it may provide some film alternatives in case you are in the inevitable Die Hard-Christmas-argument. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Honorable Mentions:

Del Griffith (John Candy) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Okay. Technically, it's a Thanksgiving movie. Nonetheless, John Candy stars in this 1987 comedy about the lovable Del Griffith. And yes, Due Date totally copied the storyline and wasn't nearly as funny as the original Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Cousin Eddie Johnson (Randy Quaid) – National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

Christmas just isn't complete without Cousin Eddie. Dressed in a dickie, Cousin Eddie lights up the Christmas season each year with that metal plate in his head.

10. Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger) – White Christmas (1954)

I'll be honest. White Christmas is my favorite movie of all time, and I just couldn't put together a Christmas list without mentioning it. White Christmas was the largest grossing film in 1954, pulling in $12,000,000, and has since become a classic Christmas film. Accompanied with music by Irving Berlin, Bing Crosby graces the screen as Bob Wallace. As a hard-hearted entertainer, Wallace pulls together a musical production at his former Army General's Vermont ski lodge. He eventually puts on a great show, saves the lodge from impending doom, and falls in love. Though Crosby (with his crooning voice) is the main protagonist in White Christmas, I would argue that it is the character of Major General Thomas Waverly that makes this film especially memorable. Proud, strong, and determined, the Major General represents the WWII generation of men. His story echoes thousands of other men during this time of history, as he faces the civilian world after years of war. The character of General Waverly is memorable because of the social commentary associated with him. Not only that, but the General finally accepts help in the end. This acceptance of help leads to the ultimate Christmas celebration, where the sacrifices of General Waverly are saluted and everyone enjoys a white Christmas.

9. Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman/Chris Sarandon) – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

When Jack Skellington arrived on the scene, he almost went unnoticed. The Nightmare Before Christmas had a limited opening in the United States and grossed only $191,232. But soon enough the film became a cult classic, having a domestic lifetime gross of more than $75,000,000. With the success of Tim Burton's film, Jack was propelled into Christmas movie stardom. In the film Jack is a citizen of Halloween town, but finds a portal to Christmas Town one night. Jack becomes obsessed with the holiday, and thus begins his journey to overthrow Santa and take Christmas as his own holiday. Jack's personality and character break the mold from the traditional Christmas character. Although he is a skeleton, Jack shows the earnest need for something more than his world can offer him- a sentiment that resonates with many people. With all his success, Jack has people all over the world joining him in saying, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good fright!"

8. Buddy (Will Ferrell) – Elf (2003)

You know it is the season of love when two misfits (a unsatisfied skeleton and a man who believes he is a giant elf) become two of the world's most beloved characters. In 2003, the world was introduced to Buddy in Elf. As a misplaced orphan, Buddy is raised in the North Pole by Santa and his elves. Eventually Santa tells Buddy the truth, and Buddy sets out to find his biological father. Elf proved to be a box office success, making over $220,000,000 (far surpassing the $33 million it cost to make the film). Much of the film's success is found in the character and humor of Buddy. His childlike (or elf-like) demeanor paired with his ridiculous appearance makes him a source of endless humor. However, the best part about Buddy may be his quotability: "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup". It's this kind of Christmas spirit that makes us all wish we were a little bit more like Buddy. I know on many occasions I've been tempted to answer the phone with, ""Noelle the Elf, what's your favorite color?" Whether you've laughed at his antics or quoted him directly, Buddy the Elf has becomes a staple in the Christmas movie lineup.

7. Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) – Home Alone (1990)

By the time Home Alone left theatres, it had been number one in the box office for 12 weeks and grossed over $480,000,000 internationally. It's no doubt that a Christmas movie of this magnitude would create one of the best Christmas movie characters of all time. Kevin McCallister is a spunky eight-year-old boy, who comes from a big family. One night he gets in trouble and wishes that his family would disappear. He wakes up to find that his Christmas wish has come true. He is home alone. Eventually, he realizes that being alone isn't all it's cracked up to be, as he defends his home from burglars. Kevin lives out every person's childhood dreams. He jumps on the bed, shoots his brother's gun, eats junk food, and watches scary movies. Even when things start to go awry, he lives the dream by concocting a series of booby traps. When Kevin does the traditional "things you are not supposed to do when you're a kid", it's a victory everywhere for kids (or for the kids at heart). Don't lie. You know you want to stand in front of the mirror, grasp your face, and scream "Ahhhhh!"

6. George Bailey (James Stewart) – It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's amazing to think that Frank Capra's film It's a Wonderful Life was initially considered a flop at the box office. After being nominated for five Academy Awards, it now holds the title of one of the greatest Christmas films ever made. It's a Wonderful Life centers around the imminent suicide of George Bailey. George is saved however by an angel, who shows him what life would look like if he was never born. But after visiting moments throughout his life, it's clear that he cannot die. George utters the famous words "I want to live again" and it transported back to real life. In this story of second chances, the true meaning of Christmas is reflected. Audiences identify with his Christmas spirit of selflessness so much, that George Bailey has become an iconic character in Christmas film.

5. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) – National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

The charm of Christmas Vacation is wrapped up in the simple line: "I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas, and we're all in misery." The film captures what Christmas is like for millions of Americans, and is home to the ultimate family man: Clark W. Griswold. As the protagonist in Christmas Vacation, Clark is bound to remind you of someone in your life. He wants the best Christmas experience for his family and will stop at nothing to get it. His character nails the traditional American dad during the holiday season. More so, his physical comedy and dialogue make him on of the most memorable movie characters of all time. With lines like, "Burn some dust here. Eat my rubber", it is next to impossible not to like the head of the dysfunctional Griswold family. I know that out of all the movies on this list, Christmas Vacation is my favorite to watch no matter what time of year. Forget the Jelly of the Month Club, Christmas Vacation is the gift that keeps on giving all year round!

4. Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) – Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle of 34th Street is one of the most famous Christmas movies of all time. In this film, Kris Kringle is persuaded to play Santa Claus in the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. Unbeknown to everyone, he is indeed the real Santa Claus. He is then hired on to the Macy's store in New York City, where he transforms the spirits of everyone around him. Edmund Gween won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Kris Kringle. In this film, Kringle embodies Christmas spirit even though cynicism surrounds him. When Kringle is persecuted, Doris tells the people, "Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial; it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles." It is this notion of what Kris Kringle stands for that makes this character, and this movie, a staple of the holiday season.

3. The Grinch (Boris Karloff) – How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 animated)

He's a mean one, Mr. Grinch. With a heart two sizes too small, the bitter Christmas character is infamous in his own right. He is so disgusted with Whoville and the idea of Santa Claus that he decides to steal every single Christmas thing in town, right down to the last can of Who Hash. Yet, even with nothing, everyone in Whoville still celebrates… singing their little Who song. When the Grinch hears the song, his heart grows and grows. He brings all the presents back and celebrates Christmas with everyone in town. The Grinch is a great character because he is a creature of extremes. His transformation from the beginning of the film to the end is incredible. He goes from being a "three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce" to a citizen of Whoville who has the honor of carving the Roast Beast. His journey is so memorable, that his story has lasted almost 50 years. While at one time you may not have touched him with a 39 and ½ foot pole, he is now a member of the family and one of the best Christmas characters ever created.

2. Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) – A Christmas Story (1983)

"An official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time." That's all Ralphie Parker ever wanted. A Christmas Story centers around Ralphie's struggle to obtain his ultimate Christmas gift. Although it was considered a sleeper upon it's release, television airings and sales have made A Christmas Story a Christmas classic. Ralphie's trials and tribulations as a child at Christmastime are portrayed throughout the film. What makes Ralphie a great character is that every person who watches this film can relate to him in some sense. You no doubt had that one special gift that was the most important thing in the world. You're mother probably told you that you would shoot your eye out…and you probably didn't listen either. When Ralphie unwraps his final present of the rifle, the audience celebrates too.

1. Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) – A Christmas Carol (1951)

It is the ultimate Christmas story with the epitome of an excellent Christmas character. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge has been told for over 150 years through literature and films. His name has even been added to the dictionary to describe a miserable person. In 1951's A Christmas Carol, Scrooge isn't just miserable; he is old, unpopular, grumpy, and alone. He has no sense of sympathy and doesn't even know what "Christmas spirit" means. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who show is past, present, and future. More so than any other character on this list, we get a full understanding of who this character is in essence. We see who he used to be, how he got to be so decrepit, and how his life will end if he continues on this way. A Christmas Carol revolves fully around the morality and personal character of Ebenezer Scrooge. Redemption is a theme throughout most Christmas films, and in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge gets the ultimate redemption by being saved from going to Hell. Alastair Sim's portrayal of the transformation of Scrooge is critically acclaimed. All these elements together create an iconic character that has been passed down from generation to generation…and if anyone disagrees? Well, Bah Humbug!