The 12 Most (and Least) Family-Friendly Christmas Movies

Like the Advent Calendar of the MPAA, we are counting down the days until Christmas with the most and least appropriate Christmas movies. We begin with the most wholesome family entertainment, and end with films that would make a gynecologist blush. Please join us on our journey into the land of no-nos.

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12. WINNIE THE POOH: A VERY MERRY POOH YEAR

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A darling tale about the classic characters who grew up in our hearts, this is a sweet and endearing story for everyone from the youngest to the oldest in the family.

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Buena Vista Entertainment/Walt Disney Pictures

It is a story about how it feels to give rather than receive, the challenge of trying new things, and the value of friendship. It's everything we want from our animated friends, full of hope and charm and sure to recharge your holiday spirit.

11. THE POLAR EXPRESS

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Based on a children’s book, this is a story that takes believing in Santa Claus to the next level. After all, only those who truly believe get invited to ride the Polar Express and meet the real Santa.

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Warner Bros. Pictures/Castle Rock Entertainment

The movie has something of a mystical quality to it, not the quirky magical fairyland we're accustomed to from the typicaly classics like "Rudolph." Instead, it offers a darker and spookier vibe. For the little ones, this could mean nightmares may follow. And one other word of warning: This 2004 film crosses into Uncanny Valley territory, with notoriously dead-eyed animation that didn't look great when it hit theaters and hasn't gotten better with the passage of time.

10. RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

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A wonderful story for a growing child, this is a tale about following your dreams no matter who tells you that you can’t. As an adult, it's also apparent that Santa is kind of a jerk.

NBC/Rankin/Bass Productions

But let’s talk about the scare factor. That stop-motion abomination is just about the most terrifying thing I have seen, or will ever see. Many preschoolers have emerged from this movie in one piece, but please know what you are getting into. You'll want to watch this with your young kids; it's simply too much for them to watch alone.

9. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS

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How did no one realize the one thing that Christmas movies are missing? Sure, there are already cookies and presents and jolly good cheer, but the creators of Arthur Christmas figured it all out when they added one final ingredient: an invisible airplane the size of a small city.

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Columbia Pictures/Aardman Animations

Aside from the tech upgrade, it is a story of bravery, self-worth, and standing up for what really matters.

8. DR. SEUSS’S HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

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Not quite the original Dr. Seuss story, this live-action spectacle adds heroics and slapstick to shape the original book into a more typical Hollywood storyline.

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Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment

Featuring an adorable Whovian named Cindy Lou Who and a quirky, lonesome Grinch, it managed to preserve at least the bare bones of the original story within 2 hours of silly entertainment. It can be a little crude but was written with kids in mind--and for the adults, it features a Jim Carrey who was arguably at the hieght of his career.

7. A CHRISTMAS STORY

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This is a tale everyone can relate to, but mostly in a disheartening way. Mall Santa is cranky and rude. Mom and Dad are bickering. The spirit and wonder of Christmas seem too far away to be real.

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MGM/UA Entertainment Co./Metro-Goldwin-Mayer

That said, this classic film is a staple in many homes at this time of year, and for good reason. A growing child can learn a few things about life from this movie--first and foremost, “Do not lick a metal pole in the middle of winter.”

6. JOYEUX NOËL

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A bitter, painful, yet heartwarming story, this film is about real events from World War I. Soldiers from England, France, and Germany laid down their arms to celebrate together on Christmas Eve, but with individuals in the higher ranks still demanding blood.

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Sony Pictures Classics

For you and for your more mature offspring, this is an important and bittersweet film for understanding the complexity of war. More importantly, it's a holiday film you've probably never seen, so it might make a great alternative to the usual Christmas movie.

5. SCROOGED

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An arrogant TV executive wants to put on a large, raunchy Christmas special live on Christmas day. The idea promises wealth and success but also means thousands of employees will be away from their families on the day when family time is the most important.

And instead of spending time at home, they'll be putting on a show that their children won’t even be allowed to watch. Luckily the three ghosts of Christmas are there to punch him back into shape.

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Paramount Pictures/Mirage Productions

This film features so much slapstick your knuckles will feel sore, but it delivers the lessons of Charles Dickens' orignial 1843 story, and Bill Murray is simply perfection. There's no reason to kick the teens out of the room for this good-natured holiday romp.

4. DIE HARD

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This film nails all the key ingredients of a Christmas movie: Presents, mistletoe, and a family coming together. Oh, and it also has guns. Lots of guns. Perhaps every teeneage boy's favorite Christmas movie, this film wraps up everything that makes action movies amazing, and leaves all the boring action movie clichés at the door.

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20th Century Fox/Gordon Company

An ordinary cop without ninja training or superpowers manages to bring down a massive scheme in a bloody yet believable way. This is a great film for people looking for a break from Christmas without straying too far. And it's got a full dose of holiday music, including Run-DMC's Christmas in Hollis and a somewhat more traditional Let It Snow.

3. THE REF

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When couples therapy doesn’t work, try armed robbery. When the angry arguing of a couple is enough to drive the police away, only a Christmas miracle has a chance to bring them together.

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Buena Vista Pictures/Touchstone Pictures

Or maybe kidnapping at gunpoint. Perhaps both at the same time. Keep the kids away.

2. A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS

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Did you know Generation Y gets its own coming-of-age stories for turning 25? This is a tale of growing out of smoking marijuana, or not. It is about the struggle to gain the respect of the in-laws, and to avoid false allegations.

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Warner Bros. Pictures/New Line Cinema

The story does include the the flesh-and-blood Santa Claus and a real Christmas miracle, though this is definitively not a movie to invite your children to.

1. THE NIGHT BEFORE

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With a classy limo and a cocktail of drugs, three friends search for a legendary party called the Nutcracker Ball.

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Columbia Pictures/Good Universe

If you have ever seen the actual Nutcracker Ballet, it is a series of loosely related dance numbers in colorful costumes with the same mind-numbing sound track throughout. The Night Before is the same deal. Don’t worry about whether to let your teen see this because it puts viewers of all ages to sleep.