Top Christmas Movies

By Sharon Naylor

September 25, 2013 4 min read

Part of what makes the holiday season extra-fun are all of the Christmas movies that are played on television during the weeks before Christmas. For many families, it's a tradition to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" or perhaps "Elf" together. Everyone has their favorite Christmas movies, but when it comes to which feature films made the most money when they were originally released in theaters, the results can be surprising.

Box Office Mojo, a website reporting the all-important box-office receipts for current and past major motion pictures, reports the top earners at the box office when it comes to Christmas movies are the following:

1) "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," $260,044,825

2) "The Polar Express," $183,373,735

3) "Elf," $173,398,518

4) "The Santa Clause," $144,833,357

5) "The Santa Clause 2," $139,236,327

6) "A Christmas Carol" (2009), $137,855,863

7) "Four Christmases," $120,146,040

8) "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," $84,500,122

9) "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas," $75,082,668

10) "Christmas with the Kranks," $73,780,539

11) "Fred Claus," $72,006,777

12) "Christmas Vacation," $71,319,526

13) "Jingle All the Way," $60,592,389

14) "Scrooged," $60,328,558

15) "Bad Santa," $60,060,328

16) "This Christmas," $49,121,934

17) "The Preacher's Wife," $48,102,795

18) "Arthur Christmas," $46,462,469

19) "The Nativity Story," $37,629,831

20) "Deck the Halls," $35,093,569

21) "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," $35,061,031

22) "Jack Frost," $34,562,556

23) "Ernest Saves Christmas," $28,202,109

24) "The Muppet Christmas Carol," $27,281,507

25) "Santa Claus: The Movie," $23,717,291

Those are the top earners reported in Box Office Mojo's statistics of movies made after 1980. Many people are surprised that their favorite, classic movies like "It's a Wonderful Life" aren't on the list, but that film was made in 1946, and it wasn't a big hit in its theatrical release. Films made many decades ago, including 1947's "Miracle on 34th Street" and 1954's "White Christmas" cost far, far less than $12 or so it costs for a moviegoer to see a movie now. So for those films' box office earnings to reach the over $260 million that "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" made, it would be quite difficult.

What about "A Christmas Story"? When it came out in theaters, it's run earned just over $20 million, which wasn't bad for a 1983 movie. That film is No. 26 on the Box Office Mojo list.

The total for all Christmas movies in the Box Office Mojo report adds up to $2,242,046,321 -- that's $2 billion, with a "b." That's for just the in-theater ticket sales, not DVDs or merchandising. So if you're at a Christmas party and want to have some fun with a quick trivia question, ask which recent Christmas movie is a higher-earner in box office sales. Your friends and family might also be very surprised at the earnings of some of their favorite holiday movies.

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