"It's a Wonderful Life" is top Christmas film with critics

LOS ANGELES Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:04am EST

NBC television network will air director Frank Capra's classic movie ''It's A Wonderful Life'' starring Jimmy Stewart (C), shown with the film's cast in an undated publicity photo, on December 25, 2000 (8-11p.m. ET). REUTERS/Handout Old

NBC television network will air director Frank Capra's classic movie ''It's A Wonderful Life'' starring Jimmy Stewart (C), shown with the film's cast in an undated publicity photo, on December 25, 2000 (8-11p.m. ET).

Credit: Reuters/Handout Old

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When it comes to Christmas films, "It's a Wonderful Life" can still melt critics' hearts nearly 70 years after it was released, according to a survey of the best-reviewed Christmas films.

The survey, to be released on Friday by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, found that the 1946 redemption story starring Jimmy Stewart edged out the 1942 Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire musical "Holiday Inn" and Tim Burton's 1993 stop-motion fantasy "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

World War Two drama "Stalag 17," released in 1953, and 1947's "Miracle on 34th Street" round out the top five.

"It's a Wonderful Life" vaulted to the top spot from No. 5 in 2009, when the list was last compiled, bumping "The Nightmare Before Christmas" from its best-reviewed status.

Films that use the holiday as a backdrop for the plot such as 1988's "Die Hard," which was No. 6 on the list, and 1983's "Trading Places" at No. 9, were also eligible, the website said.

Rotten Tomatoes, which analyzes film reviews and assigns a score based on total critical reception, applied that same formula to Christmas films for the list, Matt Atchity, the website's editor in chief, told Reuters.

"You look at the list and it's all the classics ... the cream floats to the top," Atchity said, adding that the rankings were weighted to reflect the amount of reviews a film received, which could artificially boost or decline a score.

Films from the 1960s and 1970s were notably absent from the list. Atchity said studios were more focused at that time on work by big-name directors than on seasonal films.

Here are the 25 best-reviewed Christmas films of all time, according to website Rotten Tomatoes:

* "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)

* "Holiday Inn" (1942)

* "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993)

* "Stalag 17" (1953)

* "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947)

* "Die Hard" (1988)

* "Arthur Christmas" (2011)

* "A Christmas Story" (1983)

* "Trading Places" (1983)

* "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" (2010)

* "Lethal Weapon" (1987)

* "A Midnight Clear" (1992)

* "A Christmas Tale" (2008)

* "While You Were Sleeping" (1995)

* "Scrooge (A Christmas Carol)" (1951)

* "Elf" (2003)

* "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" (2005)

* "Gremlins" (1984)

* "The Santa Clause" (1994)

* "The Bishop's Wife" (1947)

* "Bad Santa" (2003)

* "8 Women" (2002)

* "Batman Returns" (1992)

* "White Christmas" (1954)

* "The Ref" (1994)

The full list can been seen here

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey, editing by Jill Serjeant and Stacey Joyce)

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