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15 New York Christmas Movies to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

There's nothing quite like celebrating the holiday season in the Big Apple. There’s the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the dazzling window displays at Macy’s Herald Square and, of course, the Radio City Rockettes. But even if you’re unable to experience these iconic traditions in person, you can live vicariously through your favorite characters in the best New York Christmas movies.

Join Buddy the Elf as he travels the busy streets of Manhattan to find his father, or watch Kevin McCallister as he effortlessly cons his way into the famous Plaza Hotel for the holidays. Either way, these movies will make you feel like you’re celebrating the season in the city that never sleeps. Keep reading for 15 New York Christmas movies to get you in the holiday spirit.

1. Elf (2003)

  • Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Edward Asner
  • Rating: PG

Arguably Will Ferrell’s best movie ever (we said what we said), Elf follows Buddy, a boy who’s raised as one of Santa’s elves after he’s accidentally sent to the North Pole. However, he doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the workers. Determined to find his real father, Buddy leaves the North Pole and ventures to NYC to search for him. But when Buddy finally reunites with his dad, chaos ensues. 

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

  • Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard
  • Rating: PG

Kevin McCallister is at it again in this sequel to the classic Home Alone—but this time, he gets separated from his family after boarding a plane headed for New York City. Who knows, you may learn a thing or two from Kevin’s booby traps.

3. It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) 

  • Cast: Victor Moore, Ann Harding, Don DeFore, Charles Ruggles
  • Rating: NR

When the O’Connors, one of the richest families on 5th Avenue, head to their mansion in Florida for the holidays, a homeless man named Aloysius T. McKeever takes up residence in their home. He gets quite the surprise when one family member turns up and keeps her real identity a secret.

4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) 

  • Cast: Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn
  • Rating: NR

When an old man named Kris Kringle gets hired to play Santa Claus at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, he does such a great job that he gets hired to work at the store, too. He starts to claim that he’s the real Santa, causing others to question his motives and even his mental state. So, he decides to take the matter to court. Will this prove he’s the real deal?

5. Serendipity (2001) 

  • Cast: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Molly Shannon
  • Rating: PG-13

Jonathan and Sarah have a chance encounter at Bloomingdales in New York, and there’s an instant spark, but Sarah is hesitant to take things further because she wants to leave it up to fate. Fast forward ten years later, and they still can’t stop thinking about each other. Will fate bring them back together?

6. New Year’s Eve (2011) 

  • Cast: Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin
  • Rating: PG-13

Think Valentine's Day, but during the holidays. The film follows the lives of multiple couples (and singles) in New York City—all of whom are somehow connected. These stories range from a chef having an awkward encounter with her ex to a man going through the final stages of cancer. You’ll take a liking to this if you’re into feel-good, star-studded rom-coms.

7. Scrooged (1988)

  • Cast: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait
  • Rating: PG-13

Inspired by Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, Scrooged revolves around Frank Cross, a selfish and bitter TV executive who gives the Grinch a run for his money. After firing one of his employees on Christmas Eve, Frank gets a surprise visit from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, causing him to re-evaluate his life.

8. Mistletoe Over Manhattan (2011)

  • Cast: Tricia Helfe, Greg Bryk, Tedde Moore 
  • Rating: G

Santa Claus appears to be losing his holiday spirit—and he’s even considering retirement. But Mrs. Claus isn’t letting him give up that easy. Determined to reignite his spark and find the spirit of Christmas, they head back to the place where they first fell in love: New York.

9. A Little Princess (1995)

  • Cast: Liesel Matthews, Vanessa Lee Chester, Rusty Schwimmer
  • Rating: G

A young girl named Sara is sent to a boarding school in New York by her single dad when he gets drafted to fight in World War I. Her world is turned upside down when she gets news that her father was killed in combat. (Fair warning: There are some tearjerker scenes, so you might want to keep a box of tissues handy.)

10. The Family Man (2002)

  • Cast: Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni, Don Cheadle, Saul Rubinek
  • Rating: PG-13

Jack, a successful Wall Street executive, wakes up on Christmas day and discovers that he’s been transported to an alternate universe. Instead of living as a rich and carefree bachelor, he’s now residing in New Jersey with a wife and two kids. As he struggles to get used to this new normal, he must make an important decision. Should he follow his heart or his career?

11. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

  • Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
  • Rating: PG-13

George Bailey is at the end of his rope. Right when he’s nearly had it, he receives a visit from his guardian angel, Clarence, who decides to show George the impact of his good deeds. The Oscar-nominated film touches on deep themes like the importance of community, loyalty, sacrifice and commercialism. 

13. A New York Christmas Wedding (2020)

  • Cast: Chris Noth, Nia Fairweather, Chris Trousdale, Otoja Abit
  • Rating: TV-MA

As Jennifer prepares for her Christmas Eve wedding, she gets visited by an angel named Azrael. She starts to reconsider her choices when the angel shows her what life would’ve been like if she pursued a romantic relationship with her best friend and secret crush, Gabby. 

14. The Night Before (2015)

It’s tradition for these three BFFs to celebrate the holidays with a wild party in New York City. But now that one of them is about to become a father, they realize that their upcoming celebration will be their last. Determined to make it the most memorable night ever, the friends embark on a mission to find the exclusive Nutcracker Ball—aka the holy grail of Christmas parties.

15. The Apartment (1960)

  • Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen
  • Rating: PG-13

It’s not exactly a holiday movie, but most of the drama unfolds during the Christmas season, which earns it a spot on this list. The Apartment, which won five Oscars (including Best Picture), follows a lonely insurance worker named C.C. Baxter. In an effort to climb up the corporate ladder, he starts to lend his Upper West Side apartment to company bosses who are having romantic affairs. However, things get complicated when Baxter learns that his own manager is hooking up with the woman he has feelings for.