11 Best Holiday Movies (& Their Subtle Green Messages)

By Blythe Copeland, TreeHugger

You might not realize it when you watch them again and again year after year, but some classic holiday films are sending messages above and beyond ‘don’t be a Scrooge.’

If you look a little closer at these 11 great films — from “Gremlins” to “A Christmas Carol” — you’ll see subtle green messages on invasive species, over-the-top electricity usage, public transportation and more.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

Whether you go real or fake Christmas tree, Charlie Brown makes it clear that spending more doesn’t mean a better Christmas: “I won’t let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas,” he repeats.

His little tree might have seemed a bit sparse at first, but nothing that a little goodwill couldn’t fix.

Related: Give Experiences, Not More Stuff

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

When it comes to Christmas, Clark Griswold doesn’t do anything halfway — and that includes their lights. With “250 strands of lights, 100 individual bulbs per strand, for a grand total of 25,000 lights” adorning the outside of their house, the Griswolds are an energy-conservation nightmare (especially since they’re decorating pre-LED).

Related: Love Your Light Bulbs: Easy Greening

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

Dr. Seuss’s environmental feelings are clear from his deforestation classic The Lorax, but the brightly-colored Grinch comes with just as important a message.

After an unsuccessful attempt to steal joy from the Whos down in Whoville by taking everything from their toys to their roast beast, he sums up an anti-consumerism position in one succinct rhyme: “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags…What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

Just something to think about on your next trip to the mall.

Related: Do Something, Give Nothing: The Economics of Holiday Gift Giving

“Home Alone”

Was there ever a kid with a better grasp on the idea of reusing and repurposing than Kevin McAllister? After his family forgets to wake him for an 8 a.m. flight to Paris for Christmas, he’s home alone — and left to defend his ridiculously beautiful house from two not-so-smart thieves.

Using paint cans, Matchbox cars, old mannequins, leftover tar, randomly-sized nails, a pile of feathers, and other items that most of us would consider junk, he saves the day without spending a cent.

Related: 8 Ways to Inspire Re-Use in Your Community

“While You Were Sleeping”

The Polar Express may be a more kid-friendly ode to the benefits of public transportation, but we’ll always prefer the sweet story of Sandra Bullock as a sans family token-taker in Chicago, Peter Gallagher (and his eyebrows) as the rider she saves from the tracks, and Bill Pullman as the brother she was meant to be with. It’s full of good intentions and family misunderstandings — with a happy ending brought to you by the El.

Related: How to Travel Green

“Four Christmases”

It’s just not the holidays without plenty of travel — and in Four Christmases, Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon try to make the most of those miles by getting as far from their families as possible. But a canceled Caribbean flight leaves them stuck on the road for most of the holiday — and with the drama that ensues from a day with all four of their parents’ new families, they would have been better served by a staycation at their own home.

Related: 4 Ways to Reduce the Impact of Your Holiday Travel

“A Christmas Carol”

“A Christmas Carol” may be the most re-made Christmas film of all time, and whatever your favorite version — George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, Jim Carrey, Kermit the Frog — it never gets old. And while Scrooge is more concerned with his health and happiness than with the environment, the last-act epiphany that turns him into someone who cares about others is exactly the kind of wake-up call that inspires people to save the Earth for future generations.

Related: 5 Environmental Crises to Care About

“Miracle on 34th Street”

This holiday classic finds Santa on trial — and though Macy’s figures heavily into the story, the focus is elsewhere…Santa sends customers to other stores that have the gift they’re looking for (instead of working with from a “buy more” mentality), and his court case inspires the people in his life to realize that the “lovely intangibles” of the world — love, joy, peace — matter more than any wrapped gift.

Related: 10 Simple Ways to Maximize Your Joy

“Frosty the Snowman”

Two words: Global warming. Imagine the effect on this snowman-come-alive classic with a dramatic change in weather patterns: Either it would be too warm to make him in the first place, or too cold to stay outside long enough to play with him.

Either way, Frosty‘s temperature requirements might not survive the change.

Related: The Best Explanation of Why We Need to Address Climate Change


When Buddy the Elf travels from the pristine North Pole where he grew up to meet his real human family in New York City, he runs into plenty of not-so-green elements — cars, trash, consumerism. But when Santa’s unable to finish delivering his presents on Christmas Eve, it’s because his sleigh runs on an entirely-renewable alternative energy: cheer. If only we could get our cars to run on song, too.

Related: 6 Ways to Be Joyful for the Holidays


From Caribbean lionfish to Asian carp, invasive species can wreak havoc on their non-native ecosystems — much like the tiny Gremlins, who aren’t nearly as adorable when they’re fed after midnight.

More Christmas:
11 Magnificently Ugly Christmas Sweaters
12 Unhealthiest Holiday Drinks
Top 10 Terrible Toys


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sheri J.
Sheri J5 years ago

How about "Scrooged" with Bill Murray and "A Christmas Story" with that little boy who wants a BB gun for Christmas?

LMj Sunshine
James Merit6 years ago

Great Movies, "Its a Wonderful Life."

Cynthia Nelson
Cynthia Nelson6 years ago


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran6 years ago


Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

I can't go a Christmas w/o watching dear old Scrooge.

Tatjana C.
Tatjana C6 years ago

I like 'Home for christmas' and the Czech Version of Cinderella... It's no christmas without these movies.

Natasha L.
Natasha L6 years ago


Shirley E.
Shirley E6 years ago

Green, authentic, caring - these are humanity's feel good factors, which is what makes these films caress a common nerve.