North Carolina’s Favorite Christmas Movies

Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

It is the time of year when families gather around the TV to watch the angel Clarence help George Bailey realize “It’s A Wonderful Life,” so took a break from covering NC sports betting to research the most popular Christmas movies in the state and found they’re newer and in color. And unlike most states where “Home Alone” tops the list, Carolinians are heading further north for their top choice.

Utilizing Google Trends, — your source for North Carolina sports betting apps — analyzed the most popular Christmas movies of state residents. We did so by looking at the search results of each movie over the past three Christmases. The movies included the 40 most popular Christmas movies over the past year based on global traffic from

Favorite Christmas Movies of North Carolina Residents

Rank Christmas Movies Interest Over Time
1 The Polar Express12
T-2 How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)9
T-2 Home Alone9
4National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation7
T-5A Christmas Story6


North Carolina Goes ‘Polar Express’

It’s “The Polar Express,” a 2004 animated film featuring the voice of Tom Hanks as a train conductor leading a Christmas Eve excursion to the North Pole, and the boy passenger who learns about the true meaning of Christmas on the trip. There’s a lot of learning about the true meaning of Christmas in Christmas movies. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future”), the technologically advanced movie never had a day in which it topped the box office charts, as it came out the same time as Pixar’s “The Incredibles.”

Tied for second are “Home Alone” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” two films synonymous with the holiday season.

“Home Alone,” released in 1990, was directed by Chris Columbus and written by the prolific John Hughes, whose “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” in fourth position, was a hit Christmas movie the year before. “Home Alone” is the story of Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) left home, uh, alone, when his family forgets him as they rush to the airport for their holiday trip. When two cartoonish crooks (Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci) try to break into Kevin’s house, he uses his wits and virtually everything he can grab to keep them out. What follows is slapstick that would make the Roadrunner proud and Wile E. Coyote wince, as Kevin devises ever devious and painful ways to block the thieves, while his family rushes back to be with him at Christmas.

The feature-length, Jim Carrey version of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is based on the 1957 book, which was first adapted by Looney Toons legend Chuck Jones into a terrific cartoon in 1966 (Boris Karloff voiced the Grinch). This live-action fantasy film in 2000, is directed by Ron Howard — Opie brings hope-y. The story is about the Scrooge-like, small-hearted Grinch, who hates the Christmas celebrations in Whoville, and sets out to ruin Christmas by stealing the Whos’ presents and food. But instead of ruining Whoville Christmas, the Grinch, of course, ends up learning the true meaning of the holiday. And the Whos? Well, they won’t get fooled again. Seuss originally wrote the book to decry the commercialization of Christmas and not only ended up creating a favored Christmas product, but bringing “grinch” into the vocabulary — a Christmas word to partner with Charles Dickens’ “scrooge.”

In fourth is the previously mentioned “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989), in which the Griswold family’s Christmas plans turn into a comedic disaster. This was the third entry in the Griswold saga, with Chevy Chase as star. Personally, I’d rather watch “Miracle on 34th Street,” or that charming new Amazon commercial in which the elder women sled down a hill, but everybody has their favorites.

In fifth place is “A Christmas Story,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. A flop when it was first released, perhaps because director Bob Clark was mostly known for the horror film “Black Christmas” and the teen sex comedy “Porky’s,” VHS, DVD and now streaming, has made this sweet 1940s piece a holiday perennial. Based on the story by radio personality Jean Shepherd — yes, radio used to have personalities — it’s the tale of a boy who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. But you guessed it, the true meaning of Christmas gifts him with a more important present.

Tied for fifth-place is “Elf,” the 2003 comedy directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “The Mandalorian”) and starring Will Ferrell as a human-sized elf in search of his real-life Manhattan-based, grinchy, Scroogy father (James Caan), who badly needs a Christmas lesson. A true elf out of snow story, filmed long before a Christmas elf was mostly known for sitting on a shelf, the comedy comes from an innocent 6-foot-man, raised by elves, navigating modern-day New York. Although these days, grown men dressed like elves are common in the city.


Howard Gensler
Howard Gensler
Journalists / Reporter

Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist covering the North Carolina sports betting market for Before his focus on US sports betting, Howard worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard is also a founding editor of

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